Psychologist Aya ElGammal Shares Her Insights on Why People Get Divorced And How to Avoid It

Mariam Youssef
6/1/23, 12:00 PM

We always get all excited and hyped up when our friends, relatives, acquaintances, and even celebrities get married. It is always satisfying to witness a loving couple get united and live their happily-ever-after moment. Contrastingly, it breaks our hearts when a seemingly happy couple gets divorced, which is something that happens very often nowadays. Because of the excessive number of divorce cases and the fact that we need to understand what’s happening, we had the pleasure of talking to the psychologist and couple therapist, Aya El-Gammal and asking her some questions about common reasons behind divorce and how they can be avoided. Whether you’re divorced or thinking about getting a divorce, read this interview as it will help you a lot pass this tough phase and deal with the problem correctly.

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1- Tell us more about yourself, your education, and your expertise.

I graduated from the Faculty of Art, Psychology Department in 2011 and obtained several diplomas, such as Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) diploma, meta health, psychodrama, and more; all of which are techniques that help me create plans for my sessions. I started working at Dr. Ahmed Omara’s academy as a specialist until I became the branches’ manager. After that, I opened my own center, Khan El-Hekma 7 years ago. I’ve been trained by Dr. Yahia El-Ahmady and I worked at Abbaseya Medical Center, elderly homes, schools, and many other places. I also am the owner of a workshop called “Wa’y” that aims to qualify and prepare psychology specialists to do one-to-one sessions and how to work and deal with clients. Finally, I work as an adult psychologist, but I am not a doctor and I don’t prescribe medications.

2- It's always shocking when a couple decides to get a divorce, whether they've been married for a year or over 25 years. Why is divorce such a traumatic experience?

People are programmed to stress themselves instead of being honest and true to themselves. Society's restrictions and boundaries scare people to do the right thing. Something that makes everyone obsessed with achieving the perfect image of having a stable married life and being happy. They don’t take enough time to know their true self to understand their needs.

Moreover, when couples fight over something, they only make up because they have to so that life can go on. They don’t identify the reason behind the fight and set rules and boundaries to fix it so it won’t happen again. And that is one of the main reasons behind divorces of long marriages. That’s why divorce is traumatic because we finally get out of our comfort zone and decide to change everything in our lives.

Our subconscious mind’s main job is to protect us from pain. That’s why people, unknowingly, develop defensive tricks to face or deal with pain. Usually, an unhappy married couple tends to ignore their problems for a very long time by taking other approaches to run away from their problems instead of facing them. Swamping themselves at work, investing in their kids, or getting addicted to the gym are some examples of how people escape their problems.

To deal with this problem, a person needs to be positive and listen to their self-talk, which enables them to ask for help to get out of their problematic situation and finally deal with their pain.

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3- What do couples need to do before they get married to avoid divorce?

A couple needs to be honest and true. Every individual should talk to their partner about their needs, ambitions, and expectations clearly. Men and women have to know themselves. If they don’t know themselves well enough, they won’t love or appreciate themselves. Everyone has to know their limits to allow the other person to see and respect them.

Another thing all couples should do is witness how the other person deals with their relatives, parents, and poor people. They should watch and assess their social abilities. That’s why it is important for them to take their time while doing so to get to know the other person before committing to marrying them.

One more thing; find a trustworthy source of information to learn from instead of asking other people like your aunts, friends, or work colleagues. Asking people about personal experiences, like sex or finances is not recommended as it may ruin your own.

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4- "Marriage is pure luck, but divorce is a decision." To what extent do you believe in this saying?

Marriage and divorce are not luck; both are decisions. Everyone has the tools to choose the right person. It takes an effort to get to know the other person really well so you can decide to marry them. In marriages, people have to deal with problems instead of running away and avoiding facing them. Because even if a person gets a divorce, they’ll still have the same problem that hasn’t been dealt with and can happen again when they decide to remarry. Couples who have successful long marriages do have fights but they know how to deal with their problems and how to fix them so that life goes on.

Moreover, people should know that whatever they believe in, they’ll receive it. If they believe that they don’t deserve something, they won’t get it. If they believe that they don’t deserve happiness or that it's impossible to find, they won’t get it. Before getting married, people also have to be convinced that marriage is something they truly want, not something they have to do because of their family or societal restrictions.

Even when someone gets a divorce, it’s never considered a failure. It’s a step forward to learn from mistakes. If an individual doesn’t make mistakes, they won’t grow or develop.

5- Can the lack or the excess of sexual intimacy lead to divorce?

In the Middle East, people get married mainly for sex. It is, undoubtedly, the main reason why couples get married. So, if a partner is not sexually educated or someone in the relationship is affected by a traumatic sexual experience like rape, circumcision, or harassment, the marriage will be negatively impacted. Moreover, women are allowed to leave and get an immediate divorce when their husbands aren’t able to please them sexually.

6- Many people have several compelling reasons to get a divorce. But, in your professional opinion, when do you consider divorces valid?

Since this is an educational and instructional article, I would urge women to leave when being physically or mentally hurt or abused. A woman should also get a divorce when marriage is truly affecting her children badly or changing her personality for the worst.

7- To what extent should a married couple’s parents interfere with their married life?

None at all! They cannot interfere with their married children’s life no matter what because they have a separate life that they’re leading with their partner.

8- We witness many young couples get divorced just a few months after their marriage. What's the reason behind this?

This generation is in a hurry. They have needs so they go ahead and get married to fulfill and satisfy their needs, be it physical or emotional, but they don’t do what couples need to do before getting married. They simply regard their needs as more important than themselves and tend to care about people’s opinions in which they have to look perfect regardless of their needs.

That’s why they leave within a few months. They discover that they’re too different and that life is impossible together, so they get a divorce. Had they appreciated themselves and taken enough time to know what they really wanted, they wouldn’t have divorced (or got married in the first place).

9- When is it absolutely essential for a woman to get a divorce? And when should she wait and rethink her decision?

As mentioned earlier, a woman should get a divorce when she’s being abused or hurt. However, she should stay only when she’s leaving to stay away from the marriage’s negativity.

When you want to leave because you hate your married life or escape the responsibilities and boredom of marriage, your subconscious mind will make you experience these feelings even after divorce. But when you leave to start a new happy life, focus on your well-being, or start your own business, your subconscious then acts accordingly and makes you feel truly content with your decision. So don’t leave or get a divorce when you’re having negative feelings or thoughts.

Naturally, once a woman makes the decision to get divorced, her feelings can be negative because obviously, she’s not happy with her current situation. However, she can manage to turn these negative feelings into happy or positive ones while still married. Once she feels good about herself and her decision, she can go ahead and leave. This includes having a reliable source of income, having her own home, training herself to live without him, setting her own boundaries, facing problems, and becoming strong.

10- How and when should a couple tell their children about their divorce?

When people decide to get divorced, they can tell their kids about it according to their age, circumstances, and way of living. But in all cases, it is advised to visit a child psychiatrist whenever there’s a divorce to ensure that the kids’ mental health is stable. It’s normal for kids to see their parents fight, but it is crucial to see them make up too.

11- What can divorced women, especially moms, do to get back to their normal lives?

She needs to take her time to cry and have a breakdown. That’s all normal. Then she can start her psychological treatment. Divorce is just like any disease; it takes time to heal from it. She should learn from her mistakes so she doesn't repeat them with a new partner or with her kids.



Mariam Youssef

Growing up, I've always wanted to become so many things: a fashion designer, painter, singer, actress, and anything that revolves around art. It wasn't until I watched "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" t...

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