Husband Wife Relationship

Generally brides were one or even several decades younger than grooms. The sexual initiation on the marriage night often left brides shocked and traumatized. Subsequent sexual initiatives by their husbands were distressing. Unless the two were close relatives, they did not really know each other, and might well never have seen each other before marriage. The bridal couple, and married couples in general, did not show affection for each other in front of other people and in fact could hardly talk together in the company of others. Most contact took place during the night hours while others were sleeping. Given the fact that they barely knew each other and yet were abruptly thrown into physical intimacy, both partners, particularly the bride, felt awkward and uncomfortable. Many couples lived with the groom's family for at least a while after marriage. A bride spent much more time with her mother-in-law and other female family members and relatives of the groom than with the groom. Generally, after a few days, if not sooner, he returned to his work. A bride frequently felt alone among watchful strangers waiting to find fault with her. She had to learn to work with her mother-in-law. Conflicts often arose between bride and mother-in-law as they jockeyed over loyalty and support from the groom. Husbands wanted others to realize that they kept their wives under control and that their wives were obedient, hardworking, and competent. The husband's own reputation and that of his family rested on his ability to maintain authority over his wife and children; he needed to exact deference from them.

Producing children, especially sons, gaining household competence, and showing loyalty made her in-laws think better of a young wife. Sometimes affection and respect might develop between the couple. People viewed marriage not as an institution to give companionship and intimacy, but rather for the formation of a household and child-rearing team in order to continue the family line. People favored marriage between cousins so that they could feel more knowledgeable about the potential spouse and family, and the bride more comfortable in her new home. The groom's family had to give a stipulated amount of the mehr upon marriage. In theory, the bride could demand the remaining part of the mehr whenever she wished. If the groom decided to divorce his wife, he was supposed to give her the remaining part of the marriage settlement. However, brides often did not receive the mehr upon divorce (Mir-Hosseini, 2000). A husband who wished to divorce a wife might make her life so miserable that she finally consented to divorce without receiving the mehr. A wife found it humiliating when her husband married a second wife, forcing her to share her husband and his resources with a second younger wife and their children. Wives were afraid of divorce because of the shame and because the mehr, even when they obtained it, did not support them for long. An unfavorable marriage was sometimes the only defense against poverty. Upon divorce, the father retained custody of the children; often women stayed in unhappy marriages partly because they did not wish to leave their children. When wives divorced, they frequently cited difficulties with mothers-in-law as a main reason. Husbands or in-laws frequently abused wives physically or emotionally. The Qur'an allows husbands to chastise disobedient wives physically. However, somewhat reminiscent of the English "rule of thumb," the physical chastisement of wives should not be so severe that it leaves a mark on their bodies.

When marriages survived into middle age, they sometimes became partnerships of two people concerned about their children and family interests. As men aged, they often became more dependent on their younger and more socially engaged wives. Therefore women might gain de facto power in the marriage. Even if the husbands had been domineering and self-centered, wives typically nursed their husbands in sickness and old age.

The thought of their husband taking another wife or a sigheh (temporary wife) frightened women dreadfully. Women might threaten or even attempt suicide. After Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi's Family Protection Act, men were required to obtain their first wife's permission to marry a second wife, although not to take a sigheh. Men might find ways of evading this requirement. Especially with sighehs, wives might not be aware of the other woman. Generally, cowives felt angry and suspicious of each other, resenting attention and resources which the man gave to the other wife and her children. Wealthier men might provide different houses for each wife and her children and so keep more of a distance between them. If they lived in the same home, each wife usually had her own room.

The average age of first marriage for females has increased to 27, and the age disparity between bride and groom has decreased. Because young couples are now much more likely to live on their own, the nuclear family has become a more significant unit. For many Iranian wives, these changes translate into a more equal relationship with husbands. However, in other cases, couples left to their own devices feel their dissatisfaction more. Divorce rates have risen.

Defeating Divorce

Defeating Divorce

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