April 24, 2011

SAUDI ARABIA: Marriage after 50 a unique challenge

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JEDDAH / Arab News / Life / April 24, 2011

By Diana Al-Jassem, ARAB NEWS

Marriage is a wonderful experience that every person wants to have when he or she is young. But not only youngsters want to get married, more and more older people also tie the knot, even beyond the age of 50. However, for women these late marriages constitute a considerable challenge. Some even fear they are going to end in a catastrophe. Arab News talked to the women who took this step late in life about the problems they faced.

Getty Images/ Illustrative photo courtesy: themuslimwoman.org

Buthina Mansouri, an Egyptian medical doctor, who got married at 48, faced major problems adjusting to her new life.

“Getting married at this age completely turned my life upside down. I quickly realized how much time my husband wanted to spend with me. As a result, I lost almost all of my leisure time I had spent before. To be honest, it feels like I lost a lot of my freedom,” she said.

According to Mansouri, she was working for 12 hours a day when she was single. After her marriage, she was forced to sell her own business and was just left with her job at a private hospital in Jeddah.

Khaidja Al-Hamden, a Saudi woman, got married when she was 55. She said she was forced to leave the school where she learned to read and write. “I went to adult school for five years. When I got married, my husband asked me to quit and devote all my time to him. I took this step, although it was very difficult for me.”

But soon she regretted this decision. “After one year, my husband married a second wife. Now, I had a lot of spare time again so I went to my literacy school to continue but they wouldn’t let me.

They said I had to start again from scratch,” she said. She added, “I took a risk and now I regret it. I believe that my marriage was a mistake. By getting married to this younger wife, my husband destroyed my old successful life.

Um Mohammed, a Saudi widow who got married at 52, warns that when tying the knot after 50, women should expect a hostile reaction from society. “When I got married for the second time, I wanted to be loved unconditionally. I wanted to share my life with someone who could shield me from life’s difficulties. But I faced a lot of criticism from my friends and relatives, and my son was furious,” she said.

Her critics have not quieted down and her son has not reconciled with her, she said. “He believes I got married because I was looking for sexual adventures. That is a great source of shame for him.“

© 2010 Arab News