By America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts.
For the past five days we have been in two remarkable cities – Tangiers and Casablanca, Morocco. We came to Morocco by boat from Tarifa, Spain – a distance across the Mediterranean Sea of just nine miles. In many ways, however, the short distance in miles between Spain on the European continent and Morocco on the African continent belies the “world’s apart” they are when it comes to culture and religion.
As many know, well over 90% of the Spanish were raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. Some 98% of Moroccans are Muslim. Spain and Morocco have different traditions, different cultures, and different religious practices. The question we had in our mind when we arrived was our usual one – “Are they alike or different in terms of what they value when it comes to successful marriage?”
Our trip to Morocco is part of our continuing quest to identify the best marriages around the world. We have been to Spain several times, but never to Morocco.
Those who follow our work as the Official Guides to Marriage on SelfGrowth.com know that we have interviewed successfully married couples on six of the world’s seven continents and frequently report about our findings in a variety of venues including our new book coming out in January, 2010 entitled Building a Love that Lasts (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2010).
The trip across the channel from Spain to Morocco was a bumpy one. The point where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean meet the warmer waters at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea makes for some pretty high waves that tossed about even the big boat we were on. But trust us when we say this – the ride was well worth it! Tangiers and Casablanca are remarkable places and the people even more so.
Since Morocco is almost exclusively a Sunni Muslim country – peaceful, loving, family oriented, and religious people – we were curious about whether the “secrets of successful marriage” we have found around the world apply to couples married in the Sunni Muslim tradition. If the lessons we have learned from couples in Morocco are any indication, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
To begin our adventure in Tangiers we ask our guide and interpreter, Allal, if the oft-quoted notion about marriages being “arranged” in Morocco was true. He laughed and then said something like this – “Well, a couple hundred years ago that was true!” He went on to remind us that in most cases the man and woman entering a marriage in his country make their decision to marry much like their parents did – by freewill and personal choice. Man chooses woman. Woman chooses man. This is a tradition most of the world now follows. Morocco according to Allal is no exception.
As we interviewed Allal and his wife, Amina, we were immediately struck by their true love and affection for each other. They smiled and laughed a lot and were constantly touching each other with their hands as if to say, “I love you so much I must touch you!”
They are most proud of their 17 year-old daughter, who Allal teasingly calls, “his precious one.” And Allal glows when he tells you of his “family tradition.” Allal is a tour guide, as was his father and his grandfather. His occupation has afforded he, his wife, and his daughter a “comfortable living” over the years, according to Amini.
Allal and his wife have been married for 35 years. As we probed deeper and deeper into their marital relationship it became increasingly clear to us that what made their marriage successful was not much different than the other couples we have interviewed around the world. The recurring themes of their marriage were togetherness/oneness, truthfulness, respect and kindness, focusing on healthy living, sharing important financial decisions, tactile communication (frequent touching), and surprise and unpredictability (never stale or boring).
What we learned in Casablanca from Kamal and his wife, Raja – married for 17 years – was very much in synch with what we heard form Allal and Amini. According to Kamal, well over 90% of Moroccan men and women want to choose their own spouse and confided in us that the only families that still choose mates for their children are those Muslims who live in the Atlas Mountains and in the Bedouin Tribes of Morocco.
The hallmarks of a successful Moroccan marriage that Kamal and Raja reported were very similar to what Allal and Amini shared with us in Tangiers. They, however, highlighted that they thought the most important contributing factor to the success of their marriage was “talking about financial decisions” before they acted on them. Raja indicated that many Moroccan’s borrowed too heavily early in their marriage and had trouble getting out of debt along the way. Their finances caused great strain for their marriage. According to Kamal, couples should avoid borrowing too much money at all costs because it can “hurt your loving marriage.”
Another couple we interviewed on our trip was Muhammad and Kameela. Muhammad is a third generation cab driver in Casablanca. He prides himself on being the “chief driver” for a very “important” hotel in his city. He worked his way up to this very trusted role over the years and tells us that many of the businessmen and women he has driven over the years ask for him by name when they come to Casablanca and need a driver.
Muhammad and Kameela reminded us during our interview with them that while Muslim religious traditions are different in many ways from Jews and Christians, the hallmarks of a successful marriage are very, very similar. When we shared with them a summary of our findings across the world they were not surprised by any of them. We were relieved!
The other couples we interviewed in Morocco reported similar stories. The simple truth is, what makes for a successful marriage is much the same around the world. All too often, we the people of the world, highlight the things that divide us, not those characteristics that unite us. But let’s face it – people around the world are much more alike than different. And while Muslims, Jews, and Christians have different religious beliefs, the “secrets” of successful marriage are, based upon our research on six continents of the world, quite universal.
What we know is this – love and marriage are goals to which most humans aspire. To be in love and to be in love for a lifetime brings us together as people, irrespective of the country or continent upon which we live. In the end, the simple things matter in love and marriage. Love well!
By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz
Authors of the best-selling book and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
2009 Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships
As America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts and award-winning authors, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz help international audiences answer questions about love, marriage and relationships. With 26 years of research on love and successful marriage across six continents of the world and their own 43-year marriage, the Doctors know what makes relationships work.
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