To love or not to love? This is the question! [Archives:2007/1101/Community]

November 8 2007

By: Majed Thabet Al-kholidy
Love is a basic requirement for good human relations. In marriage, it's essential for establishing happy and stable families and, in many cultures, is considered the basis for marriage. This sometimes occurs in our society, but oftentimes, due to social conventions, it isn't considered a criterion, and subsequently, love-based marriages fail. This has caused many youths – both male and female – to doubt the role of love as a bridge to marriage, strongly questioning whether to love or not.

In a conservative society such as Yemen, many social customs restrict people from behaving like those in other societies. I'm not saying these customs are good or bad, but I am commenting on how some members of society unwittingly pay the price for these traditions and customs.

Regarding love before marriage, not all families in Yemen accept it. Although the reasons differ from one family or area to another, it's mostly a matter of customs and traditions.

Some families refuse their sons' marriage to non-related families for financial, social and moral reasons. Financially speaking, according to them, marrying relatives means there will be some available means in terms of the dowry and other demands.

Socially, they believe that marrying among relatives reflects the strength of such families' relations. Morally, they claim to know well and leave no room for doubt about the bride's morals and behavior, unlike if she was from an unrelated or unknown family.

On these bases, such families don't care if their sons and daughters love – or even like – each other or not.

Other families have no objection if a son takes a bride from an unrelated or unknown family; however, they have a huge objection if a daughter is proposed to by a suitor from such a family.

Additionally, some families reject marriage if a couple knows each other beforehand because to them, it's shameful if there's any type of relationship between them. For this reason, they fight and may create huge problems, especially for the bride, to stop this type of marriage.

In some cases, families will accept potential husbands from non-related families, but in return, they impose many conditions and make many demands, claiming that they want to guarantee their daughters' future. Because such suitors often don't want any conditions, they end up giving up and marrying one of their relatives.

On the other hand, some families do allow their sons to take brides from unrelated families; however, before accepting the match, they absolve themselves of any responsibility by stating emphatically and repeatedly, “This is your choice and your responsibility.”

Thus, when problems subsequently arise, the family amplifies them in order to show the son that he was wrong in choosing his wife. This doesn't happen if parents choose their sons' wives in the traditional manner.

In such cases, families also don't help pay the wedding costs, using that as leverage to manipulate the son into returning to them, as well as a lesson for their other sons; thus, their sons don't even attempt or think about marrying for love.

Some couples realize this only at the end, i.e., at the time of engagement or marriage. They either fight the family, which costs them a lot in terms of time and money, or they surrender, giving up the idea of marriage based on love.

There are some cases in Yemeni society where love isn't considered at all and many couples, youths, husbands, wives and even children are the victims of such social traditions and customs.

This issue has become a crisis in our society, particularly for youths who still are not having love relationships. They consider it as something in their future, but then end up hesitating or sometimes giving up the whole idea of love, since it will be of no use in their marriage.

Anyway, the entire issue revolves around how social customs, which seem good to older generations, shake the younger generations' self-confidence in making such a critical and personal life decision. Such youths wonder from time to time whether to love or not due to the unknown consequences they may face.

We should respect such customs and traditions; however, it's the duty of every one of us to change only those concepts and ideas that may harm relations between society members, as in the case of unstable or broken marriages. Such change can be achieved gradually, not by force, but convincingly, asking those who are against the idea to view the matter through their mind's eye.

Majed Thabet Al-kholidy is a writer from Taiz, currently doing his M.A. at English Dep, Taiz Uni. He is an ex-editor of English Journal of the University.