Saudi Arabia: Married Out of Duty


The tradition in Saudi Arabia is for marriages to be arranged between families.  In most cases, a young man or woman, will express a desire to be married.  The family members will then start to seek (quietly) for a suitable match either within the immediate family, extended family or tribe.

Given today’s technology, social media and some lessening of restrictions, there are young Saudi’s who have found their own match.  Yet, even these cases of “love marriages” usually follow a traditional pattern.  The young couple may have seen or met one another in an independent manner but for the relationship to pursue to marriage, the family would become engaged and make the overtures.

Once a couple has agreed to be married, with the family’s approval, the couple may see one another and get to know each other better.  However, in most cases, the couple are chaperoned in accordance with Saudi Arabia’s tradition and culture.

A young man or young woman is supposed to have the choice on whether to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to marriage.  Yet there are cases where a couple feel a familial obligation or duty to agree to a marriage.  There are also some conservative families which will continue to prohibit a couple from seeing one another or communicating until their wedding has taken place.

In these cases it is easy to envision awkwardness or stiltedness among a couple and especially on the wedding night.  This would be the first time for the couple to ever be alone by themselves.

It’s natural to have questions and wonder how such a relationship progresses.  How prepared is the new husband or new wife for marriage let alone how to build a relationship with someone who is still a stranger.

I’d like to believe that both the young man and the young woman approach their new union of marriage with love, hope, excitement and commitment.  They are also relying for their family to know them and understand them in finding the right partner.

A reader sent me the following questions which I can only speculate rather than answer with assurance.  As a result, I thought I’d share her questions in the chance that someone may wish to respond who can answer with more authority.

“I do not know if you’ve posted something talking about it, but would like to make a suggestion to post on your blog. I’m soooooooooooooo curious to know what they think, feel, Saudi women who marry in arranged marriages about the wedding night, and the first intimate contact with her husband who often only know his name.

About men, we know they can separate sex from love, but we women don’t. It is very difficult to find women who know how to make that separation.

I wonder how they prepare, what they think, how they behave, imagine how difficult it must be to be him right now her husband, but how difficult is to be the first moments of intimacy when you do not have any feelings for this man.”



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