Monday, May 28, 2012

Can You Hear it Ring....Ka-Ching!

Finally back to the 5 pillars with number 4: Financial.

This is a bit of a touchy subject among people in general, anything concerning money tends to be. But let’s face it, some problems in a marriage could very well be money problems which could blow up and lead into bigger problems. Needless to say we all know how marriage is costly on both sides at first (wedding preparations and what-not), but we all have this notion that from then on the husband is fully responsible. A few things I have to say about that:

  •       Assuming that is the case, it is pretty clear that this man who is looking to marry should be financially capable of taking on the responsibility of his spouse. Providing a place to live, food to eat, way to get around, etc. A concern that is multiplied with the addition of each new family member. If said man is not financially ready to do so, that could cause problems. Also, if said man is doing so while relying on daddy, you may survive for a while, you may survive forever, but do you really expect someone who isn't capable of standing on his own two feet to be able take care of you?! And vice versa, how can you expect to take care of others if you can’t even take care of yourself. Plus, being reliant on the in-laws gives them the power to intervene on your life together. There will always be the threat of ‘do it our way or else’ and you could very well remain at their mercy. Of course that’s not always the case, but these are very probable situations and I for one won’t risk the chances of that happening. We are part of a culture in which by and large we continue to live under our parents’ roof until marriage, meaning we don’t have much expenses to worry about other than our own, it’s all pocket money and savings more or less. So going from that to not just being on your own but having someone with you is a huge step, and we must make sure we are prepared for it.
  •       Ladies, ease up on the men. Don’t expect the high life from the get-go. Very few women are lucky enough to get it, and even less want it after they realize that they’re not happy and it’s not what they wanted out of a marriage. Don’t be so demanding at first, grow into your life of luxury, at least it is a life you built together (again, not at the mercy of in-laws). You’re part of this marriage too so you need to start doing what’s best for you as a couple. If that means settling for the BMW rather than the Rolls Royce (I know, the horror!), it may well be a sacrifice you have to make. Whatever financial decisions you have to make, it is important you at least discuss it if not make the decision together as a couple. Whatever prudent decision you land on, you have to support your spouse. This goes for any financial problems you may come across (God forbid) as husband and wife. Even if he is the primary bread-winner, don’t make it so damn difficult for him to please you. If things get rough, make sacrifices and stand by him. He will love you eternally for doing so. If he doesn't, wait till he builds his fortune again, dump his ass and leave with half!
  •       I think I've already pushed it too far with the concept of the man being the primary bread-winner (I feel the burn of frustration exuding from feminists everywhere). Particularly in the Middle East, that notion is standing strong. Believe it or not quite a few men are too proud to accept it otherwise. The truth of the matter is, among the middle class especially, with rising costs of living, there is a growing need for some households to depend on two incomes rather than just one. From my experience, I found this point is especially harder to swallow among men! If the man is happy to provide and won’t have it any other way, so be it. But if need be, don’t be too arrogant and refuse any help from your wife. Remember this is your life together, if it’s needed she should help out too, and neither one should be ashamed to do this! This is the reality of the situation sometimes, and you have to face it together.

Finally, we come to a great misconception among society. People choose to believe that only those from the same social class (i.e. similar financial standing) should marry. I ask, why? Fair enough, those from a similar background/upbringing are likely to get on and lead similar lives. But marriage should in no way be restricted to this. More importantly a marriage should not be refused solely for this purpose! If all other measures of compatibility match up, don’t let something this silly ruin it. As long as both parties know what they’re getting themselves into (one party will always have to make adjustments for the sake of the other). This is in no way a measure of a successful marriage. However, realistically, it isn't something to be ignored either.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Things That Make You Go Green

When getting married, your partner becomes everything to you; a spouse, a lover and a friend for starters. That friendship could be built on or integrated to strengthen the bond and relationship between husband and wife. But then, does that mean your spouse will be your only friend?

I’ve seen it happen a lot; one gets married and cuts off any and all friendships with the opposite sex. Although it has yet to happen to me personally - at least not with someone close enough to matter - I fear the day it does happen. It all just seems so sad. You’ve been friends for x amount of years and suddenly, nothing? I mean the friendship is expected to experience a shift in boundaries once one or both sides are married, that’s normal with any friendship of any gender and any culture too. But cut off altogether? It makes me feel like the friendship was cheap and meaningless, feels like it wasn’t supposed to happen or it was wrong to be friends in the first place.

I don’t know if this cutting-of-the-ties is done on the spouse’s request or it’s some sort of unwritten rule. If it’s the latter, I wish someone would go ahead and just write a rule stating otherwise to cancel out this unwritten version. But like I said, with the start of any serious relationship one does naturally step back a bit with friends, and that’s usually if they consider their partner separate from their friends. Couples who socialize together and have the same group of friends could be either very lucky or unlucky (more on that later).

Do people really discuss this though? When a couple starts to get serious do they discuss who they will and will not continue their friendships with? I know in some cases there is always that jealousy from friends, especially if your partner does not like your friends. And in those cases sometimes there is a clear and resounding “them or me” ultimatum. I can never picture myself in such a situation and God forbid I ever find myself in one. I would hate to have the person I love ask me to cut ties with the people I’ve been close to probably and most likely far before he was ever a part of my life. And vice versa, I would hate to ask that of anyone.

The idea just makes me sad. I don’t want to have to say goodbye to any one of my friends, and I don’t want to lose any one of my friends for this reason. One may be willing to do this for a partner at first but that might breed resentment further down the line. Of course this applies to close friends; I’m not talking about people you merely know. For those you just ‘know’, if you’re partner just does not want you near them for whatever reason no matter how ridiculous, they’re not worth the battle, regardless of 'principle'. So in cases like this I would understand how it's best to respect your partner's wishes at least to some degree. But with close friends, it boggles my mind how people let go so easily without a fight. If crazed jealousy is to blame here, the friendship can be a bit more limited without total destruction. If you genuinely feel or even notice that a certain 'friend' is being a little more than friendly, consider just talking about it. Mention it once, twice, 10 times. Actually discuss what you see/feel and let your feelings on the matter be known. Let the decision to deal with this person be their own. If they sense discomfort from your end, give them a chance to do something on their own accord. As long as they do so with conviction and not simply to shut their partner up!

"....the demon of jealousy, that dragon which slays love under the pretense of keeping it alive." 
- Havelock Ellis, On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue (1937) 

Jealousy is a monster I have yet to meet. I have met envy, boy have I met him! We are very well acquainted. But jealousy, especially the irrational kind that pushes one to unthinkable lengths, has never stood before me. To me jealousy is a mythical creature, sort of like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. I don’t believe in mythical creatures beyond the realm of myth. Which is why I cannot comprehend how one could allow something not real to cloud their judgment time and time again? You tell me your spouse is jealous of your friend. Pray tell me dear spouse, why are you jealous of this friend when it is you who are envied for being lucky enough to call your other half your own? Why are you so worried you will lose your love to this friend when your love has chosen to be with you? He/she could have chosen the friend, but they didn't. If fear of losing them is due to lack of trust, that’s a whole other ball game here. The question you should be asking is why would you be with someone you fear will leave you (again?) so easily if you didn’t keep them on a short leash? Forgive me but I see nothing loving or romantic about having to keep tabs on your spouse to keep them from slipping through your fingers. And keeping them from friends to avoid them slipping away will only delay the inevitable, not prevent it. Although I can't deny that people do feel jealousy, I can fault them for how they choose to act on it.

“Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy - in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.” 
- Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
Jealousy and trust cannot coexist in a single relationship. Oddly enough just as some might see jealousy as a clear indication of lack of trust, others see the absence of jealousy indicative of lack of love! My partner is not jealous ergo he/she does not love me. Wow, some logic! Don't try and convince me there is a healthy kind of jealousy because it will never stay 'healthy'. As soon as it rears it's ugly green head even slightly, it will drag the rest of its ugly body around with it, and it will grow and fester within your relationship. However, I do believe one can be protective of their spouse, now that would be out of love in my opinion. But the minute you allow jealousy in, it will slowly but surely chase the trust out and eat at a once healthy love.

Since when does your partner micro-manage your social life and dictate who you may and may not befriend? When did love give them the right to do such a thing? Where’s the trust in all this? You want to be a part of each other’s lives, be a part of it as it is. Do not try to bend it at will to fit your liking, and that goes for the people in their lives, regardless of gender. Even worse still is when a spouse urges the other to cut ties with family members. The audacity of such requests drives me mad! That is genuinely how I see the issue, I do not see anyone has the right to tell me who to keep in my life and who to kick to the curb. But alas, not many people share this view.

People may believe that in a relationship, sacrifices such as this must be made for the sake of compromise, to please their other half. If and when the sacrifice is constantly going both ways - a two-way stream – I could perhaps say that’s fair. Foolish, but fair. They wanna play the sacrificial lovers that will do anything for each other, I get it (not really but I’ll let it slide). However I for one strongly believe there is such a thing as too much sacrifice and it leads to resentment. You shouldn’t need to give up so much for someone who supposedly loves you for who and how you are, not how they expect you to be. I’ll reserve this theory of mine to discuss in a later post in more depth.

Until then, if anyone has any pictures of 'jealousy' sightings as proof of existence, please share!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Always More Than Friends?

It has been argued the world over: can men and women be friends and keep it strictly platonic?
There are those who answer yes (myself included), and there are those who answer no.

Some people believe it’s not possible and would say so for one of two reasons:

  •        Every connection with the opposite sex carries with it some form of sexual tension. Now let’s think about that statement for a second. It seems that there are people in this world who actually believe they are so irresistible that every person of the opposite sex they meet actually wants them (and vice versa of course). How lucky are you that you are able to be attracted to (and also attract) such a wide range of people!  People like that are quick to ‘fall in love’ and just as quickly fall out of it. My advice, if someone believes men and women can’t be friends for such reasons, don’t waste your time, platonic or otherwise.
  •       There are others who don’t believe men and women could not be friends as much as they believe men and women should not be friends. Those who are a bit more traditional and/or conservative view such casual relationships as not so casual. Whether they feel it inappropriate, unnecessary or even forbidden. Some go so far as to firmly believe that any contact with the opposite sex under any circumstances will lead to indecency, or is in fact indecent. I guess this has a lot to do with the culture/faith as well as upbringing, and despite my disagreement with the idea as a whole I have to respect people who have such limitations.

Why the limitations though? I think such limited contact with the opposite sex is unhealthy and has adverse effects. Why lock yourself up and allow the opposite sex to be seen as such a foreign creature? They won't bite, I promise! We already know that men and women behave differently. Not just that, but within the gender group there are differences in behavior. This knowledge only comes with first-hand experience. Only by experiencing this would one then be able to handle themselves around them. Not just that, but also knowing what kind of guys/girls are out there will help you form a clearer picture of what it is you want in your future partner. Without this exposure the image of perfection in your head - which bears no resemblance to reality - will only set you up for disappointment. Know what's actually out there. Find out what are the qualities you've actually seen in people; which ones you liked and which ones you didn't. 

Being told how men/women think – whether from books, music, TV, grandmothers or any other medium – is usually a rash generalization that rarely tells you much about the people you are actually surrounded by and dealing with. It is only through being exposed to the opposite sex do they appear less foreign and unfamiliar, hence they become less of a mystery. This exposure does not necessarily have to be through actual relationships (be it romantic or platonic), any sort of interaction even in academic or professional settings eases the mystery of it all. At least you are able to interact on some level to get used to the fact that they are people too, there's no need to be so nervous or anxious or cold, find a way to be yourself around the opposite sex and it will do wonders to your self-esteem and self confidence. 

Although you do learn much more through relationships, do whatever you find comfortable, nothing should feel forced.  And I’ve seen a lot of examples of strange relationships and limitations. I’ve seen those who befriend but don’t date, those who date but don’t befriend, those who tag along with a sibling/friend but only observe from the sidelines (third wheel), those who date and/or befriend everyone under the sun but will never allow their sibling to do so or live freely till that ring is on their finger and it’s game over (hypocrisy at its best!). As long as people do it out of their own choosing and they did what they felt was right, total respect. I just think one shouldn’t underestimate the advantage of such exposure in the long run i.e. marriage. The more insight you have on the opposite gender, the more you can focus on what really counts.

My answer to the question is of course we can be strictly platonic. The more the issue is over-hyped, the more it becomes an issue when it doesn’t need to be. Of course if someone is just plain shy by nature and doesn’t see themselves being friendly around guys/girls, that’s a different story, it’s part of their character. I suppose it does require a bit of maturity and perhaps even some modesty! One must be humble enough to accept not every guy/girl they meet is a potential. I see that is the case with many people more often than I care to admit. Just by getting along with someone, people might imagine sparks where there are none. To these people I say be honest with yourselves, do you genuinely feel the chemistry and is it mutual, or are you just over-excited you hit it off so well? I even saw cases where the sparks were a hallucination from both sides, plain disastrous. I do believe that the key to keeping things strictly platonic is respect, and lots of it. Both parties must behave respectfully in order to be deserving of respect, it ain't given away for free. I don't mean be stiff and frigid, just know where the lines are and draw them firmly.

This does, however, present another concern….
What about friends of the opposite sex while married?

Later addition (10/12/2012). Nicely said! Just get over yourself...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

With a Little Help from Marvin and Barry (Part 2 of 2)

'Bride & Groom/Female dominance' - from the series, An Intimate Geography. 
by Aziz Qahtani © 2010 - 2011
From the brilliant work of the young artist Abdulaziz Qahtani, the boundaries of social taboos in our region have been tested. Each and every piece in the series entitled An Intimate Geography speaks volumes, very bold, daring and thought provoking to both Middle Eastern and Western minds. This particular piece is one of my personal favorites. I look at this and cannot help but find it humorously ironic how despite the clear sexual connotations, they stand up straight, indifferent, side by side, not even touching. How very Arab! The shock and awe induced by the imagery is a testament to how we have been conditioned to denounce any connection between culture and the mere essence of sexual activity. So much so that for some people it's hard to shake that idea off when the time comes to do so. Change the cultural background of the subjects to something more Western and it would not have made nearly as bold a statement. But beyond the shock and awe, I wonder if this depiction is more true than we care to believe. Maybe, just maybe, appearances really are deceiving and things aren't as they seem. I admit it is a tantalizing thought; that behind our high walls and closed doors it is in fact the man who submits to the woman (if the woman is smart enough, she could do so and make him believe he's the one in control). Are we that good at keeping up appearances?

We all know that appearances do make a difference to some extent. We tend to analyse things based on appearance and from that form a first impression. The way you present yourself does indeed say a lot about you. This applies to nearly everything from job interviews to the people we meet on a daily basis. But there's a difference between general appearance and looks. There are those who judge potential partners based on looks; either they want someone good-looking or surprisingly they don’t (they know themselves to be the jealous type). To those who insist on a pretty face I tell you looks will fade. looks mean nothing. A message perhaps Disney failed to deliver. From experience I believe that when you get to know someone even as a friend, and you like their character and personality, you somehow get drawn to them and in time they become beautiful in your eyes. You see every imperfection is perfect. It’s an unexplainable phenomenon in my eyes; how genuinely loving a person lets you see them in such a different light. Even with someone who is pretty, with little to no substance beyond it you tend to get bored; what once dazzled you will eventually appear lackluster over time.

Meanwhile, those who deliberately dodge people who are good-looking I find are equally judgmental.  Pretty people need love too. If it’s a matter of jealousy, I commend you for knowing yourself well enough not to put yourself in that position, knowing you will be insanely jealous if you were with someone beautiful. But at the same time, come on! Beautiful or not, it’s the character and conduct of the person that you should judge not their looks. You might be with a total ugo (ugly one) who instead of attracting attention from the opposite sex, would go after it (tends to be the case with ugoes, insecurity issues coupled with the need for validation). How would that be any better?!

Save your impression on their looks, and just go with it. You might be surprised who you end up connecting with, it might not be what you have imagined her/him to be like at all! Don’t put extra limitations on yourself, you’ve already got limited room to maneuver as is.

Equally problematic though, is having insane chemistry or attraction towards someone and not much else. That kind of animalistic, primal attraction is fleeting, not to mention potentially destructive. It’s usually the young and foolish who tend to believe this kind of thing is the real thing. That level of passion could so easily flip into passionate hate and even flip back and forth again and again. This is the kind of chemistry that is what they call unstable. Now let’s go back to the labs; what happens to an unstable chemical compound? When shocked, it leads to a reaction, possibly (likely) an explosive reaction. That kind of explosive attraction will make everything else explosive. We don’t want that now, do we? But if that attraction is there (explosive or not), and everything else seems to have fallen into place also, congratulations! You have won the marital jackpot! But being caught up in a whirlwind of passion is downright dangerous to me.

Now it’s no big secret that ideally, our culture does not condone premarital sex. Because of this ban some people rush to change the pre- to post- to avoid eternity in hell (forgive the bluntness, I mean no disrespect just trying to get to the point). At this point I am left confused though. Because some people really just can’t keep it in their pants, and their religion dictates they do so until marriage, I can’t help but feel sorry for them because that surely is one big moral dilemma right there. Hence they are quick to bind themselves to a partner for life just to avoid sin. This kind of thing makes sense one second and then it just makes no sense the next. So let me get this straight; you decided to make such a monumental life decision and choose your life partner just so you can bump uglies with divine consent, completely neglecting what it means to take on another human being to join you on life’s journey? What about all the other aspects of marriage; is your partner merely a play thing strictly for your pleasure? But then again, it’s either that or premarital sex (or maybe a little self restraint, although easier said than done I’m sure), hence my confusion and sympathy. What I have always wondered though is that if we are a part of a society which does not publicly condone premarital sex, and some people go ahead with it anyway, what happens if they finally do get married? Do they fess up to their soon-to-be partners about their previous sexual 'experience' or do they build the marriage on lies?

The solution to some [Islamic] religious folk is: Muta’a (temporary) marriage. A marriage tailored for those who cannot keep it in their pants, do not feel prepared to embark on a full-on marital life and just do not want to burn in hell. In a nutshell, basically it entails paying a women a dowry to enter a marriage with a predetermined expiration date, she has no rights in this arrangement as the average wife does e.g. not included in his inheritance, not expected to be provided for and any children born will go to him no questions asked. Oh ok, that totally makes sense. Totally. Also another alternative which also acts as a remedy for spinsterhood is Misyar marriage where a woman gives up more or less all marital rights owed to her in a traditional marriage. All she gets is regular visits (at her own home) from her 'husband' who does no provide for her in any way or even live with her. Most of the men resorting to this convenient set up do so to take up a second wife in secret. 

(The term ‘dickheaded’ suddenly holds a whole new meaning in this context)

Now you can agree with this or not, but I personally find that idea revolting. In my eyes it is a legitimized affair or contractual prostitution with consent of a cleric. Concepts such as this are ruining the image and sanctity of marriage; a quick fix to avoid commitment and damnation all-in-one! With such a tempting offer why would anyone settle for an old fashioned marriage, eh? Even more worrying is what happens to the 'wife' after this arrangement is over? This is clearly designed with the male in mind. This type of religiously-condoned thinking is producing a social disease instead of addressing the root of the problem. If our society is having trouble with marriage, there is clearly a problem in how we socialize. Therefore it is a social issue, not a religious one.

It’s about time we briefly address those who simply cannot wait till marriage. Without even thinking twice about it, they just go for it (and go for it, and go for it, etc). I may come off a little self-righteous here but abstinence really is the way to go, one thing Bush Jr. actually got right (a message which fell on deaf ears). Yay abstinence! Some may think saving oneself until marriage is for religious purposes only, completely oblivious of the negative impact it may have on your sex life and sex drive once you do get married. An experience you are only meant to share with your other half you have already shared with someone else (or multiple someones), consequently tainting what should be a unique experience between husband and wife. 

And girls don't think if you spread your legs it's a done deal and he WILL marry you. The definition of gullible right there. If you do it just for the heck of it, hey, power to ya! Just don't think for a second that doing so will guarantee a ring. That is literally all I'm willing to say on this point, it's just that stupid. 

So consider saving yourself for your first, your last, your everything. Now with the help of the one and only Mr. Barry White....let's boogie!