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Is the UAE a melting pot for expats’ marriages?

The United Arab Emirates has the highest divorce rate in the Gulf region. Last year in Dubai, 1,129 divorces took place – more than three every day. One Gulf newspaper decided to investigate and has compiled a list of the top ten reasons for divorce in the UAE.

Gulf News, the Middle East’s biggest-selling English newspaper, has drawn up the list following interviews with relationship experts and estranged couples. It has pinpointed the pressures faced by expat couples in the country as catalysts for marriage breakdown.

Its top ten reasons for divorce in the UAE are as follows:

1. Infidelity. In the UAE, extramarital relationships are the most common cause of divorce. According to the newspaper, the relative “anonymity” enjoyed by UAE residents has turned the country’s cities into “fertile grounds” for adultery.

According to Dr Rima Sabban, a sociologist, “many extramarital relationships happen ‘underground’ as there is a large number of expat workers whose circumstances prevent them from bringing their families here.”

2. Poor communication. “Communication breakdown leads to differences among couples”, notes Norma Cairns of the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology.

3. Loss of job. Unemployment can affect family relationships anywhere in the world, but in the UAE the loss of a job can have a more dramatic effect upon family life because of the country’s strict visa regulations. Visas can be revoked, bank accounts can be frozen – and havoc can result.

“The loss of a job in Dubai could lead to one half of the couple having to leave the country”, says Dr Lavina Ahuja, a psychologist. “If the other half doesn’t want to leave, that would lead to a breakup. I’ve seen this happen many times.”

4. Religious and cultural differences. “Nearly 80 per cent of couples who turn up for counselling at my clinic are of different nationalities”, reports one Dubai-based counsellor.

5. Lack of support system. “Not every couple can cope with life in a foreign land without the support of family and friends”, notes the newspaper, which reports that when a partner is the only support system, taking on a variety of roles, this problem can be aggravated.

6. Unrealistic expectations. Apparently, many couples who relocate to Dubai expect to lead a life of luxury – only to drift apart when their hopes are dashed.

7. Social networking. In the UAE, as elsewhere, counsellors are reporting that some marriages have been affected by a partner’s use of social media sites.

8. Sexual incompatibility. Somewhat bizarrely, the newspaper claims that the notorious traffic jams in UAE cities can hamper sex lives. “Being stuck in traffic for hours can cause people to lose their sexual desire.”

9. Financial negligence. When one partner earns more than the other, money can become a contentious issue.

10. Child-rearing issues. Without a family support network, working couples can “struggle to share responsibilities” when they have children.

The full list is featured on the GulfNews website.

It is worth noting that not all UAE divorces are between expats. Emiratis make up less than a fifth of the population, but account for more than a third of divorces in the country.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. JP says:

    Dubai is a grave yard for what were previously very happy stable and long term marriages(35Yrs plus!) in home countries.
    The tens of thousands of predatory Asian women desperate to improve their standard of living and security at any cost are a temptation for lonely western men who forget their loving wives and families back home and leave their morality at the airport on entry back to Dubai. Anything goes in the western expat community in Dubai. These women will stop at nothing but sadly and tragically when they have got what they wanted( which doesn’t include the wealthy western male only his money ) they depart at a phenomenal rate ie 97% leave these men. I have experienced this for the past three years and researched it widely. In the final wash up, the men are stunned at what they have done and what has been done to them! I could write more than one book on my intimate experiences on this subject. JP

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