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More Omanis seek counselling to save their marriages

As more cases of divorce emerge, authorities launch services to coach young couples on how to avoid conflict

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Gulf News

Muscat: More young Omanis are seeking marriage counselling amid an uptick in divorce rates in the country.

A total of 3,619 divorce cases were registered in Oman in 2015, compared with 3,622 cases in 2014, with an average of ten divorce cases being filed every day, official figures indicate.

Even though Oman usually has the lowest divorce rate in the GCC region, authorities were worried about the increase in divorce cases and decided to take action.

The Ministry of Social Development launched marriage counselling services in 2014 to offer Omani couples advice on married life and to educate them about potential challenges. Since then, more than 8,000 couples have sought and benefited from the provided services.

“Through this platform, they get a good understanding of what to expect from a relationship and the basic requirements of marriage,” Ahmad Al Beloushi, an official at the Ministry of Social Development, told Gulf News.

Ahmad Al Batashi, a 26-year-old newly-wed, is one of the thousands that have used the services.

“My wife and I learned techniques on how to communicate better, how to discuss things without arguing and the importance of using appropriate language,” he told Gulf News.

He said one of the arguments he had with his wife was over dinner.

“When I came home she hadn’t yet prepared it, and I got so angry that I didn’t speak to her for an entire day,” he said.

“Later I realised I was being too demanding. So, I brought her flowers to make it up to her.”

His wife accepted his apology.

Juma, a 32-year-old teacher, signed up for classes even though he was divorced.

“I do not want to re-live my past experience when I marry again. I should have joined before I married the first time,” Juma said.

“We were unable to solve our differences due to the lack of experience and knowledge about marital life,” he said.

But, some Omanis are reluctant to join the programme.

Nasser Al Zidi, a 34-year-old banker, said that he has been married for the past five years and lives a stable family life.

“When we face a problem, I turn to my parents for counselling,” he said.

He added that others may be reluctant to seek counselling because they are afraid of social stigma. Mohammad Baraka, a psychiatrist at a private clinic in the capital Muscat, counsels dozens of couples. “Every couple is a unique case, but typical problems involve a lack of communication or infidelity,” he said.

Substance abuse is also a significant problem and often drives couples to divorce.

“One client used to fight with his wife on a daily basis until she left the house and went back to her family,” he said.

“He came to my clinic for counselling and after one month he gave up alcohol and now they are back together and happily married.”

Communication is key, Baraka explains to Gulf News.

“If you are able to listen to your partner and understand what they need then that is half the battle won,” he said.

Salim Al Noamani, a noted religious figure, says many young couples do not understand that marriage comes with responsibility.

“Many divorce happen after a few months because of immaturity — they simply do not have the skills to deal with marital pressures or if things don’t go their way,” he said.

In figures

More than 16,000 children are affected by their parents’ divorce, according to figures in the past three years.

Oman grants monthly stipends and houses for divorced women who have children.

Oman spends more than 14 million riyals annually on stipends for divorced women, according to the Ministry of Social Development, and the Ministry of Housing spends more than 200 million riyals every year to build houses for the divorcees.

Fewer Omanis married in 2015 than the previous year.

Around 27,000 married in 2014, and 25,652 married in 2014, according to the Ministry of Justice.