With money pressures weighing heavily on many young Saudis, some are stepping away from the tradition of marrying young until they achieve financial independence.
Financial stability plays a key role in ensuring long-term social and psychological needs are met in marriage, experts say.
The younger generation, facing a world of uncertainty and family pressure to marry early, have begun to rethink this dynamic.
Research claims that waiting until 25 to marry reduces the chance of divorce by up to 50 percent.
Theresa DiDonato, a social psychologist, said: “The idea that getting married older is less predictive of divorce also makes sense: It’s likely that couples are more financially stable and have a clearer sense of self and goals.”
Shellie Warren, a life coach writing for Marriage.com, said money problems are the second-most common cause of divorce after infidelity.
“Everything from different spending habits and financial goals to one spouse making considerably more money than the other, causing a power struggle, can strain a marriage to breaking point,” said Warren.
Many Saudis are now embracing this idea, choosing self-fulfillment and sufficiency over settling down early.
Amjad Al-Harthi, an IT specialist, told Arab News: “Self-sufficiency, fulfillment, financial stability and independence are important to both genders. My significant other isn’t Aladdin’s lamp to fulfill my wishes. I fulfill them myself.” Finances are not the responsibility of the husband alone, she added.
“If he is pressured by those responsibilities, the relationship will be affected.”
Al-Harthi said the material needs of the young generation have increased dramatically. With women having access to greater career and education opportunities, their desire for self-fulfillment has increased.
On top of that, Al-Harthi’s exposure to women who did not work and others who did let her see the pros and cons, and helped her grow past her childlike idea of marriage. “Emotional and financial availability are important. Once you’ve created everything for yourself then you can settle down. You can be financially stable, but not emotionally available, and that’s a really dangerous trap to fall into,” she said.
Hanaa Al-Abdali, 28, said compatibility in her marriage set them up for success.
“Having similar principles, lifestyle and background matters. I work in a very demanding, stressful job and it’s somewhat prestigious. I don’t like to admit but it matters to me to have a partner from a similar circle.”
Al-Abdali, who works at a managing consultancy in Jeddah, said that when she was younger, financial stability did not concern her.
She said people could be delaying marriage because they are unable to find the right person or have yet to meet the financial cost.
“Marriage is expensive. Once you’re past the wedding and all the expenses that come with it, the new responsibilities of rent, bills and so on are costly. Part of the population, especially males, are unwilling to let go of their previous lifestyle — living in their family home, free of bills and responsibilities — because it’s just not worth it for them.
“They could also be worried that a woman will not marry if the husband is not of a certain financial status,” she added.
Waad Abdullah, a 25-year-old account manager at a medical equipment firm, said women feel less inclined to marry early because there are more opportunities for self-sufficiency.
“Women are more involved than previous generations. They know what they want and what they have. They’re aware of their need for an independent income and their own stability,” she told Arab News.
Abdullah said her peers say they have seen the mistakes made by older generations.
“We’ve learned to separate marriage from financial issues. This generation prefers to be financially stable because we’ve witnessed the world economy go up and down. We know that no one is safe, and that some emergencies need us to be aware of our savings and future planning.”
The coronavirus pandemic has only added to that sentiment, with lockdown pressures and financial woes playing a big role in how younger people weigh up financial decisions, save and prepare for emergencies.
“I refer to marriage as a project/institution. In order for it to succeed, it needs all the pillars to be fully realized.
“I cannot commit to this project without knowing I am fully capable of dealing with emergencies and supporting another person emotionally, intellectually, socially and financially. If you’re feeling vulnerable and cannot support yourself, how will you support someone else?” Abdullah said.
Marriage requires both partners’ involvement in expenses, and realistic plans to avoid conflict and misunderstanding, she added.
Hussam Jaber, an IT manager in his early 40s, said financial stability is crucial in marriage, even if both partners come from wealth.
“A man must be independent from his family before he can start his own and save up for a life with his wife.
“Honestly, in this age, wherever you go, women are working. Not to say that women who don’t work can’t get married, but if I were to get married, I wouldn’t mind my wife working. Not to support me, but for herself.”
Times have changed and life has become more financially demanding.
“When I started my first job, I used to fill up my car tank for SR15 ($4). Now you pay up to SR120. Real estate is expensive and if you want to buy a house you need over SR1 million. Paying for that alone would break my back,” Jaber said.