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Manama: Electronic infidelity is emerging as a major cause of divorce in Qatar, a family expert has warned.

“Modern technology has had a negative effect on several families,” Hassan Bin Salem Al Buraiki, the head of family reconciliations at the Family Consultancy Centre in the Qatari capital Doha, said.

“Smartphones have become the means for illicit relations. We have seen numerous cases of divorce from the first night of the marriage because of the phones. The spouse discovers unwanted pictures of past relations on the spouse’s mobile and asks them to delete them. Arguments and fights ensue, followed by calls to get rid of the phone. However, some spouses refuse to change their mobiles and prefer to sacrifice their marriage instead. The mobile has thus become for some couples a source of miscommunication, not of communication,” he said, quoted by Qatari daily Al Arab on Wednesday.

Al Buraiki suggested a better education of people on the disadvantages of “misusing mobile phones.”

“The best solution is to make spouses understand the dangers of electronic infidelity and that women can take revenge on their men and men on their women if they persist on ‘cheating’ on them through the phone,” he said.

The expert said other reasons of divorce in Qatar included the inflexibility of the spouses, the interference of the families and the lack of understanding of the significance of marriage.

“Many young people get married without being fully aware of the significance of the institution of marriage. They are confronted by responsibilities and challenges they never expected to see and they decide to break out of the union and become single again,” Al Buraiki said.

“We have also noted a high incidence of family interference. The family usually sides with their son or daughter regardless of the issue, which makes communication and understanding impossible. We also have a problem with spouses sharing secrets with friends or relatives, which often causes embarrassing situations and ultimately result in divorce.”

Lack of communication and dialogue was also cited as a cause of divorce in Qatar.

“Quite often, there is no meaningful discussion between the spouses and whenever there is some sort of a dialogue, it is usually to assert oneself and impose a specific point of view. The husband often sees himself as the leader and there should be no discussion of his views. Wives at times opt for the same approach and refuse to compromise or to listen.”

Studies have shown that around 81 per cent of the divorces were caused by the lack of communication and the inflexibility of the spouses.

“Unfortunately, they see compromises as a failure and a devaluation of their status,” he said.

According to Al Buraiki, people planning to get married should join special workshops to train them and inform them about their responsibilities as married adults.

“It is highly deplorable that couples are not interested in pre-marriage workshops. They are good opportunities for them to get some important insights into marriages and to avoid problems that could lead to divorce. We have often heard feuding couples telling us that they were not really ready and that they had rushed into marriage.”

He said the Malaysian example of pre-marriage workshops was a highly successful programme that should be emulated.

“When divorce rates there reached an alarming rate of 47 per cent, the state stepped in and imposed workshops ahead of being granted the licence to get married. Such workshops have reduced the divorce rate to four per cent,” he said. “I hope that a similar approach can be achieved in Qatar, especially that several institutions generously offer such workshops.”

Al Buraiki said that some people needed to adopt themselves to the new realities in the country and elsewhere.

“It is highly inappropriate for a husband to treat his wife like his father treated his mother and for a woman to apply the way her parents lived. They must not be frozen in a traditional mould. Once we had a husband who complained about his wife’s lack of emotions.

"He said she never expressed any feelings or uttered sweet words. When we asked the wife, she said her husband should consider himself lucky he gets to see her face, arguing her father never saw her mother’s face for 48 years. We told her she could emulate her parents’ example and warned her she was putting her marriage at risk,” Al Buraiki said.

The expert said that a culture of showing feelings and emotions should be spread in society.

“Children need to see affection between parents who should set positive examples for them,” he said.

Studies have shown that the UAE topped the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in the rate of divorce with 40 per cent, followed by Qatar with 38 per cent, Kuwait with 35 per cent and Bahrain with 34 per cent.