No doubt American and Arab societies vary greatly, but what I am finding is that no matter what the differences, the same elements, such as love, trust, and friendship, remain the same.
I will explain the process of courtship in Syria that may seem a little different than the process of courtship in the United States. I find that in America, people “accidentally” get married- if I ask many of my college friends now, very few have the intention of getting married in the near future. Indeed most of them will, but perhaps sometime down the road. Most are focused on educational advancements and their careers. Marriage is some thing that comes along later, after we’ve “found “ourselves, we seek to find someone else.
But in Syria, the process is different. Whereas in the West the person is the most important factor in marriage, in Syria the family can be just as important as the girl herself. Many families also work hard to earn a proper reputation, and families with the best reputation, best connections, best morals and principals are sought after. When a well educated,financially stable man is ready to wed, he goes to the family of bride he seeks to marry.
Sometimes they are close family friends, sometimes neighbors, or classmates from college. He has a meeting with family (if he doesn’t already know them), and voices his intention to marry the girl (not girl as in 15 yrs old what I mean here is an unwed young woman in her 20s). If the family sees that he is good, then they allow a period of courtship between the two. Sometimes these little escapades continue for two years, sometimes they marry within two months- of course it varies from person to situation. If it is a good match, then the families throw an engagement party.
Engagement- the couple remains engaged for a period of time ( sometimes for 2years and more) while the family prepares the wedding. Weddings are a booming business here in Syria, and it is unbelievable how much effort, attention, and money is spent on these parties. Once the couple is married, they are expected to be married forever… well at least until they die. It is the biggest commitment for both man and women, and the vows should be taken seriously.
Divorces are available, and women do receive protection and monetary compensation from the husband. However, splitting apart a marriage, therefore splitting the family ties, is highly frowned upon, and whatever problems exist between the couple are expected to sorted out privately at home. In America, the process for marriage is a little less clear and the methods differ greatly from cultural groups. Some Americans date with the intention to marry for a period of time before agreeing to meet the others’ parents. Other couples stay boyfriend and girlfriend for years before they decide to marry. And still others choose not to have their union on “paper” and simply move in together as a committed couple.
There is much less tradition, the path to marriage is a little more muddled and relaxed, and thein-laws- though an important part of the family- are not completely encapsulated into everyday life.But as I am finding now, does it matter how people marry (or even if they do)? What matters is the love and trust that exists between two partners. In both the East and West, love is universal emotion and language.