What does working with Rural Somalis taught me about marriage?

Abdirazak Mohamed
7 min readFeb 28, 2023
Somali traditional wedding dress

Regardless of race or culture, marriage is among the most wonderful experiences that people have in common. It is that link that unites two contrasting people. In certain cultures, it also unites two dissimilar families to form a single large family that shares joy, grief, happiness, and all in between

Marriage Is well-regarded practice around the world. It is one of those few things that connect humans.

But, how the marriage in rural areas differ from the ones in urban areas? which one is more likely to last long? do marriages in urban areas better than the rural areas?

These are the question I had in mind ever since I start interacting with rural people and here is what I have found out.

Before I answer, let me tell you about myself and what I knew about marriage.

For the majority of my life, I lived in an urban region where I saw families go through difficult times in their marriages. My married relatives used to fight constantly until their marriage finally broke down. There has been a worldwide divorce catastrophe happening around me LOL.

These days, it seems like marriage is no longer cherished, sought, wanted, or respected in urban regions. As a result, marriage today is challenging, tense, and frightening. Due to the fact that the most desired outcome (marriage) for young single people ends in divorce and people hate each other so much, this condition would cause you to experience extreme emotional distress. This eventually causes ambiguity for young people who want to get married and start a family.

Marriage can occasionally turn people who once believed they were in love into enmities who just want to kill one other. eerie, huh? I assumed so…

I don’t know about you but, for me, this was hard to take on for someone who values healthy marriage, family, and community as a whole.

When I started working with rural Somalis, on humanitarian projects, I had a great time working with them, particularly in their cultural context, family structure, community functions, and how they live individually and as a community.

Truly they’re simple yet interesting people.

One thing that strike me most of the time was their strong marriage, the unbreakable bond that holds couples together.

99% of the families I come upon in rural places are still married, despite leading lives that are difficult for anyone, let alone married people, in terms of finances, culture, and the environment.

fascinating, why is that?

We used to do registration, which required us to ask people about their marital status. This process has introduced me to a variety of young, adult, and elderly people who claimed to be married rather than single or divorced. The majority of those I registered were married, with widowed being the second most common marital status among the elderly.

I started to get curious and begin asking personal questions, however, this seem weird to them, as though, it was the first time someone asked about their private life. firstly they were skeptical and hesitant, however, some were friendly and happy to share what works for them.

After questioning, listening, observing, analyzing, and connecting stories, here are three main important points why rural marriages sustain longer than urban ones.

1. Their marriage is more cultural than love.

Everyone's dream is/was to marry the love of their life. We all wish that we get married to that special person.

We seek fairytales, unique experiences, and perfect relationships, and expect much more from our marriage life.

However little do we know that reality is way too far from that.

Marriage is considerably more difficult in practice than we had anticipated. I haven’t been married, but from what I’ve heard, seen, and noticed, marriage is quite difficult and comes with a lot of responsibilities.

Urban educated people are exposed to, fed on, and told by peer pressure and the media what a perfect marriage looks like, what they should anticipate from their partner, and much more.

This has created unrealistic expectations that majority of the time create problems in the marriage.

But marriage life in rural is far from that.

In rural areas, people marry with the goal of starting a family, having kids, and finding partners. They want to imitate their parents’ proper family management and have their own offspring.

They get marriage inspiration from their parents and those who live next to them, not from movies, media, or urban peer pressure.

The majority of them have realistic standards not list of unique requirements like people in urban cities.

They solely base their marriage on bonding with other families, extending their alliance and simply having a home to rest as they finish their hard work during the day.

Finally, they get married for cultural purposes, like if you are a grown person you must probably get married despite analyzing or questioning any part of it.

2. rural life is less involved in marriage life

Rural residents follow a set daily schedule. Their everyday chores include making sure everyone has their daily responsibilities in the morning and protecting the livestock from predators. They are naïve to education, but typically, from a very young age, children are given duty after duty to keep them occupied and get them ready for adulthood.

Little boys help their father herd camels, take them to the grass area, and take camels to the wells and wet area that has water to feed the camels.

Camel herding is a difficult task that calls for a lot of dependability, willpower, and patience. When the boys are too young, dads must go with them to train, apprentice, and guide them in camel herding.

But once they reach a certain age then boys are exposed to the full camel herding responsibility. and then the father has to shift his role to more leadership and community engagement activities like conflict resolutions, and development engagement.

On the other hand. The mother at home has to take care of the house, and the children, and guide the girls to learn and develop for their future roles. They are not just sitting around doing nothing.

In addition to caring for their children, elders, and household duties, mothers also cook food. The mother’s schedule is just as hectic as the father’s. The family has become more task-oriented than relationship-oriented as a result of these two divergent lifestyles.

This can be unhealthy and can create an unaffectionate marriage where personal needs are being neglected. But it keeps the family functioning.

Both genders must perform particular duties in order for their marriage to function, which forces them to be disciplined and overlook the small disagreements that strain marriages.

3. Starting a family and getting married is easy in rural.

A simple existence entails focusing on what is necessary for survival, ignoring unnecessary obligations, and taking on only the most important obligations.
In rural areas, marriage revolves around that.

Getting married in rural is easy, girls have to be old enough to be married, nothing else, not like certain beauty standards, level of education, family wealth, or anything that is being valued in urban life.

Note: sometimes family backgrounds affect rural marriages.

The family, on the other hand, provides their sons with all they need for marriage. The housing, the livestock, and the wedding costs.

Weddings outside of cities are less expensive. The families from both sides construct a home for the newlyweds. For the newlyweds to live comfortably, the family sends necessities like livestock, household goods, and everything in between.

Like both, the boy and the girl do nothing to get married. They just have to agree on the marriage. And families will do the rest.

How does this makes marriage in rural strong you may ask?

Contrary to what happens to urban married couples, rural wedding expenses have no negative cost effects.

People in urban spend so much money on marriage that they can’t keep up for months.

I’m not claiming that rural marriages are better, stronger, or more rewarding than urban ones; they have their shortcomings. But, there are so many lessons to be learned from the rural marriage that we may apply them to our urban unions.

Wouldn’t it be better if we base our urban marriages on realistic standards but not based on emotions, Based on individual responsibilities rather than what we need to get from one another?

Wouldn’t it be much better if we focus on creating family, connecting families, and raising future generations in the best possible way rather than nagging and accusing one another of our shortcomings?

Wouldn’t it be much better if we plan a simple marriage in that we no longer care about impressing others who care little about our life and expenses, who will rather have negative opinions whatsoever?

Sometimes society’s emphasis on the breakdown of the marriage is the main factor. Like, you must leave your marriage if you are dissatisfied. But we failed to remember that we are accountable for our pleasure.

Yes, divorce can be a solution for abusive, toxic marriages.

But will you be married to the person you want to marry if you guys will end up in divorce?

I don’t think so, Me either.

but statistics say otherwise. 50% of marriages in civilized nations end up in divorce. Half of the married couples end up in divorce in countries which economically, socially, and educationally advanced.

That proves that marriage is difficult and that it depends less on meeting a lot of arbitrary social norms and more on realizing your own needs and your obligations to your partner.

You don’t need society to define for you what ideal marriage is. But, having high self-awareness and being able to communicate your personal feelings, needs, and desire for the person you want to marry is the first step and as well as encouraging the other person to talk and communicate about everything between you before you commit to them, can safe you from a lot of future frustrations, misconceptions, and misunderstandings.

As I have never been married, my opinions about marriage may be inaccurate or irrelevant, but I believe there is much to be learned from rural marriage.

Thank you for reading.

Please comment and share your thoughts about this.