It’s not ALL sunshine + flowers

Navigating relationships in Lebanon

During my MBA years at LAU Beirut, I enrolled in a Financial Management course despite being warned by two friends of mine (both girls) that it was a difficult and tricky course. Financial Management consists of creating wealth for a certain business through proper planning and control. It requires strong decision-making skills to maximize the Return on Investment (ROI) for every dollar spent, bearing in mind the external and internal risk factors. You’re probably asking yourself why the hell I’m talking about a finance course to explain matters of the heart, but the truth is that this course has given me a new insight on handling relationships.

It was far better than everything I’ve experienced or learned prior, whether through readings or from friends and family. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that handling a relationship is very similar to handling a finance portfolio as it requires a certain amount of time and energy that are bound by the nature of the relationship one is seeking or in financial terms, the ROI percentage that this person wishes to achieve. “The higher the risk, the higher the return,” a statement used to define risky investments can also be applied to relationships. All types of relationships are in effect investments that a guy makes in exchange of a desired return. If you’re just after sex with a partner or want to fool around, you can either invest in safe areas (in other words interact with people open to such arrangements), or put in an incredible amount of energy seeking sex with a girl, let’s say, who is a full member in the Society for Preserving Chastity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s like investing nowadays in MySpace thinking it will stage a comeback and take down Facebook. Of course Lebanon is not the ideal place to be seeking such relationships as sex is still considered a societal taboo and the myth that all Lebanese girls are virgins while all guys have had sex with at least 5 girls still lives on until the present day. This being said, many “Westernized” Lebanese men find it easier to “diversify their investments” by looking into other markets, meaning they befriend European and North American tourists and residents in Lebanon.

Away from the short-lived and unpredictable relationships, the long-term relationship is the most demanding and time-consuming one, yet it is the one that poses the highest accumulated return if handled properly. If a guy thinks he’s found The One and wants to keep her, he’ll need to assess all the internal and external risks surrounding this choice and invest heavily to keep this relationship going. He’ll be hoping for a return equal or higher to his early investment: to be loved back. You hear many so-called relationship experts give advice on both long and shortterm relationships and how to preserve and handle them, and what one has to do to keep please a partner, but in my opinion they’re as reliable as financial companies making recommendations for the stock market. You cannot accurately predict the behavior of a stock or a bond, even if you’ve extensively studied its past performance, the risks surrounding it and computed various forecasts.

A serious relationship is one that needs to be handled on a daily basis, and it requires a lot of commitment and hard work. It also encompasses several uncertainties and could crumble at any second for many plausible reasons, just like an 80 year-old well-established company could collapse within a few weeks if its stock drops drastically. Last but not least, Lebanon’s conservative society makes it even harder for guys to handle serious relationships as there are many unexpected factors that could come out of nowhere to mess things up! Indeed, it’s not just the girl’s immediate family that you have to worry about, but factor in the grandparents, aunts, cousins, extended family, the rich uncle living in the U.S., the town Priest or Sheikh or wise man, peers at work, her boss, her best friends, the “Bossara” she visits each week, her ex-bfs and the list goes on and on.Some Lebanese take pride in how our society is a conservative one and still has values while in reality it’s asking guys to have Superman-like skills to navigate a relationship and make it endure.


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