Saad El Refaie is a Kuwaiti author, life coach, and relationship consultant. He gained massive popularity through his online videos where he shared insightful thoughts and methods on how to start and maintain healthy relationships. Prior to his online fame, El Refaie had been known as an author with a special take on relationships. His books Khod Biadi (Take my Hand) and Hatta Matlaa Al Fagr (Till Dawn) shed light on the importance of love and the right way to maintain and grow it. Most notably, El Refaie’s support for women, encouraging them to own their power and to value their worth, have made him widely popular among proponents of women’s independence. We asked El Refaie to be our relationship expert of the month, and here is some of what he told us…

What do you think an ideal relationship between a man and a woman looks like?
An ideal relationship is one that is easy. All it takes is appreciation. When talking about relationships there are four things that you should never accept. Never stay in the relationship if you’ve been cheated on, if you’ve been insulted, if you’ve been hit, and if you’ve been abused mentally or physically. In our society, women tend to be more abused mentally because men have more power over them. Also, physical abuse of a woman doesn’t necessarily mean just being hit; it also means exhausting a woman with housework, exhausting her with the kids’ upbringing, even though marriage should be a partnership. If people believe in the idea of partnership, life would be so much easier.

What is the one thing that threatens a relationship most?
Misunderstanding. Life is ever-changing, and people also change. For example, in strict cultures a woman has no other place than her father’s or her husband’s home. This is different in many other cultures, where that mindset has changed. Women are independent and have their own life, and men should accept that and be supportive. So, a man can’t treat a woman the way his father treated his mother. A man can’t go into a relationship with a woman who already has a job and tell her that she should no longer work. The woman should never accept that; she already has a structure built for herself; he can’t go in and destroy it. That’s the thing that ruins relationships the most.

You tend to direct most of your advice to women. Why do you think men don’t usually seek a life coach for relationship help?
Women are usually the ones that want to fix the relationship. God created us with emotions similar to each other, but women are the ones who show their emotions. Men show their emotions only when things become too much for them. For example, if a man loses someone, he breaks down, but in everyday life he seems to have everything together. Also, a man, especially an Arab man, enters a relationship with the mindset that he is a king, and he wants to have fun. Not every man is like that, but it’s mostly true. On the other hand, 99% of women enter a relationship looking for love and they envision themselves wearing a white dress and getting married.

What is your advice to women on being independent and finding the right partner?
First, I would tell parents to shower their daughters with love and affection so that they don’t end up falling for the wrong man. Most women who fail in relationships have been deprived of passion and love. When a woman feels deprived, she rushes into things. I always advise women to aim high, to be ambitious, and not to accept less than what they deserve. I tell them to educate themselves, take care of themselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and professionally. Women should look at themselves first, before getting into a relationship. If a woman knows her worth, and sees herself as amazing as she is, she will never accept a man who is not perfect for her.

What is your advice to someone being abused in a relationship and is afraid to end it?
A woman who is afraid of divorce because she doesn’t know what will happen to her life after that, must know three things; first, you must know the reasons why you are making that decision. Second, you have to know that you’re going to experience mental pressure. For example, people around you may keep telling you that no one will be interested in you after you are divorced, or that you will face a lot of problems in your life. Third, you must have a clear plan on what you’re going to do after making that decision. Everything is in your hands, if you decide that your life will be worse because of that decision, then you shouldn’t do anything, but also be prepared to handle all the consequences.

If a woman supports her significant other financially, when does it become too much?
Even if it’s not about money, if it’s just about showing emotions, there must be a limit. Everything has a limit, money, emotions, love, or anything that one person gives to the other with nothing in return, otherwise the relationship will automatically come to an end. I always say that unconditional love doesn’t exist. I make a distinction between love and obsession. When someone is in love, it’s usually a two-way feeling. But obsession is a sickness, it’s always one-sided. We should never blame our significant other; we should make the right decisions that we feel are best for ourselves and our life.

Why do you think people look at men and women differently when they get into a relationship? How do we change that?
It all comes from tradition. People grow up believing that men and women aren’t equal, but that is not true or fair. If a man goes into many relationships, then ends up getting married, people will say that he changed for the better and settled down. But if people find out that a woman has been in any relationship, she becomes unsuitable for marriage. There is nothing more biased than that. No one knows the intent of the man or woman who enters a relationship. The woman’s mindset is always purer, but she ends up getting blamed either way. It all has to do with culture and upbringing; usually the man is never blamed for his actions and is protected, but for a woman, it’s not the same. There’s no justice.