Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Courtship Interrupted/Family Permission Denied: How do you mend a broken heart?

By Chiara

A woman who left a comment on Ahmed's Saudi Jeans post “Want to Marry a Foreigner? Over Their Dead Body” kindly agreed to share her story with us here. While most who commented there were struggling with the marriage permission process for Saudis marrying non-Saudis, this woman made other very valid points about Saudi culture, courtship, and law; and how they complicate loves and lives. As for others who have shared their stories, family permission denied has aborted a relationship, or required great courage in seeking alternative solutions. Please read this woman's story, and reflect on her analysis of how her courtship was interrupted, or even pre-empted.

My story is a very complicated and sad one, to say the least. I met my Saudi boyfriend through a mutual friend of ours, and we got to know each other through the internet at first. I have to admit, I wasn't even thinking of him as more than a friend. However, despite knowing enough about Arab charm to be wary, somehow his charm eventually won me over. When your heart is on a roll, it sometimes can't be stopped. So, after about 8 months of talking, he visited me in another Middle Eastern country.

Although not Arab myself, I have become quite knowledgeable of the Middle East and Arabs. I have been living here for more than 5 years as a student, and have graduated with an advanced degree on the region. I have taken the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and way of life. Also, I have lived briefly with an Arab family.

My Saudi and I had so much in common--we shared many of the same interests; he made me laugh; he was quirky, had his own unique way of thinking; he was intelligent, and cute. He kept his word and his promises; and never missed a phone call, or chat; and he came to visit me many times. It was the first time in my life someone respected me for me, and treated me like a princess and not as an "opportunity."

Fast forward to the Summer of 2008. He graduated college, and needed to find a job. Worried about the prospects of being unemployed, he joined the military to become an officer. We didn't know if he would make it in or not, so we continued our relationship, despite being aware that his being in the military would preclude marriage to a foreigner. This makes no sense to me, as other countries’ military services, including that of my own, have no problems with officers marrying foreigners. I believe the law in Saudi Arabia was brought about not too long ago after they realized that the number of “spinsters” in the country was increasing.

Nevertheless, when on my birthday, a couple of months later, he called me and told me he had made it in. I was completely devastated. While I was celebrating my birthday with friends, my shaky smile was hiding tears and disappointment. But he said, “We will still meet again.” We had to meet each other again.

So he kept in touch with me--every break, every weekend; was supportive of me even at a distance despite our difficult circumstances. Before he joined the military, we even talked of possibly getting married, but we eventually realized that his parents would most likely not agree. However, being accepted into the military just turned any tiny glimmer of hope into complete darkness.

However, we pressed on. We loved each other immensely, and wanted to enjoy whatever time we had together. Well, after he graduated from officer training this year, he visited me--for what would be the last time. No one tells you how much the military changes you. It changes how you think about your future, about the people in your life, and any current and future relationships. You are expected to "get tough", and that sweet gentlemanly disposition starts to fade. We enjoyed our time anyway, and did our best to make the most of the time we had together. The latest news is that his parents have announced to him that he is ready to get married, and they are now searching for a girl for him. Within the next year, he will be married.
My Saudi will marry a girl much younger than me. Most Saudi families will match their sons with younger women anyway. Anyone over 28 or 29--or even over 25, the official “spinster” age for Saudi women wanting to marry a foreigner--is not preferred. She'll likely become a second wife. So how is that fixing the “spinster” problem? This is the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia. The girl must be able to have many kids, I guess. If people were allowed the choice to marry whom they wanted, these problems of unmarried Saudi women would be fixed.

What can he do? He will go on with his new life in accordance with his family’s traditions. What can I do? I will mend my broken heart, InshaAllah.

The message I want to give to both foreign men and women is that 95% of Saudis will not go against their family’s wishes. No matter if s/he loves you or not, Saudis are weak against what their families want. Tribal/familial ties always win over everything else. Some Saudis intentions are true, others are not. I was fortunate to have someone who was always honest with me. It is a shame that Saudis, particularly men, who know they are not strong enough to fight for their foreign girlfriend, put her through hurt, or even start a relationship in the first place. As for us foreigners, even when we may know the outcome, many times we think with our hearts before we do with our brains.

My story is not about permission from the government. Even if my Saudi had not joined the military, we would still have had to face the obstacle of his family, determined like so many for him to marry a Saudi. Yet, we foreigners are humans too, and many of us understand very well the cultures and traditions, and would have no problem adapting.

Moreover, how can one judge my willingness and adaptability, without getting to know me first? I cannot help where I was born. God chose my parents (and blessed I am to have them), and where I would end up when I was born. I try my best to be loyal, respectful, loving and kind. But to no avail! It's a very exclusive society. I compare it to a country club: You can work for them, befriend some members, be a guest, do business with them...but you will NEVER be a member of the club, no matter how much you deserve to be. I applaud the Saudi men and women who do fight to marry their love. May God always bless your relationships. True love is not defined by nationality, race, family, or religion, but by the heart and character of the person.

However, many Saudis are content with their way of life. That's why most Saudis don’t have the compelling desire to change anything. They don't want to do what the rest of the world does.
For Saudis who do want change, they must fight for it, or not complain when things do not go their way. Have the guts to stand up to your family (while not losing them), and fight for the things you want and people you love, as long as you are doing right and not hurting anyone else. After all, marriage is a lifetime commitment. One must be sure of the one they are marrying.
I hope things will open up one day in Saudi Arabia, InshaAllah. In regards to the marriage permission process, laws won’t change unless society does first. It happens all too often: Saudi society is exposed to a whole new world, which they are encouraged to learn from, and to bring their experiences back to their country. However, in the process, naturally, they will meet people from other countries and cultures.

For sure, some will want to marry this new love. Again, the problem is not just created by the government permission process. It’s created by the Saudi families themselves--the pressure they put on their family members-- and by the children who are afraid to go against their parents’ and families’ wishes. Furthermore, it’s the broad xenophobia that exists within the country; and, the fear of change--the fear of being like “the rest of the world.” Nothing will change until Saudi society can first embrace cultural differences, and judge a person from the inside rather than where they come from (none of us can help where we were born, can we?).

It’s not fair to so many young foreign women out there, who fall in love with a Saudi man, when he knows the end result. I applaud the Saudi men who fight to keep their foreign loves, but they are rare. So, until Saudis change--and men in particular get the guts to fight for what they want, no matter how difficult--nothing will change, and everything will remain the same; and more and more young, foreign, intelligent, and loyal women like myself will end up broken-hearted.

For the foreigners, I would like to reiterate the point that people should not go into a relationship with a Saudi blindly. People see things through rose colored glasses like I did, and don't see the reality in Saudi itself. No one can say that my Saudi won't do that, he/she loves me too much... The system is bigger and stronger than they are. It's nice to be hopeful, but have a cautious hope. Chances are a relationship with a Saudi is a dream not only for you, but for them as well. It's a dream they know has almost no chance of coming true. You, as the foreigner, are a life they wish they had....being able to date, choose what you want for your life, have fun, not have a care in the world, no pressures. You are a dream and an experience and not to mention, a secret from the rest of the family in most cases. In other words, don't get too attached.

Thank you for posting my story, which I hope will be of help to others in similar situations. It is very sad indeed, and I'm struggling to somehow survive without him. It's difficult as we became very close to one another. He was not only my love but one of my best friends. It is difficult to move on. I know it will take some time, but I am keeping the faith that God will find someone for me one day soon.

I pray that God will give me and anyone else in a similar situation the strength to persevere.

Sad Girl

I would like to thank “Sad Girl” for sharing her poignant story, and her unhappy experience, that others who are unfamiliar may better understand the implications of the marriage laws and customs in Saudi. No doubt there are many Saudis who suffer from feeling forced to leave a beloved and marry another, as well as non-Saudis, men and women, who must put together a life after having a courtship end unhappily. Such loves as these are not forgotten.

Please share your sentiments, thoughts, experiences, and comments.


Chiara said...

On whether Saudis more than others have poor intentions when dating:

In my experience it is not just Saudi men, but men from traditional cultures, and often foreign students who believe they can go against their families but then find they cannot, or in some cases have longterm relationships for the time of they are abroad with every intention of marrying within their own home culture. Often both sides know this but find their emotions very entangled anyway.

This was not the case of Sad Girl but is another variation on the challenge that family poses to cross-cultural relationships, with denial of marriage permission being the final painful step.
September 30, 2009 3:18 AM

Chiara said...


It seems true that there are some extra challenges with Saudi men, because as Sad Girl relates so well, it is not certain that family permission will be forthcoming, or that the particular individual would challenge the authority of the family. Still on top of this the legal marriage hurdles in Saudi make marriage prospects even more daunting than for other mixed couples. I agree that Sad Girl has done a service by warning all of the hurdles and the heartbreak as others have as well in other posts.

I do think that often even the person who gets involved in a relationship expecting it to end finds themselves more in love and committed than they had planned and is hurt even though instigating the break up.

Cruzbaby said...

I cant help but comment on this post, as mention by chiara- In my experience it is not just Saudi men, but men from traditional cultures.
Totally agreed, from my own experience coming from a modern country singapore, i was in a long-term relationship with a guy of indian-muslim background while im of a mixed asian parentage.After 4 years of courtship, a year ago he left me without a word and to my horror i found out thru mutual families that he's engaged to his 18yr old cousin! As expected parents decision overrules and i was in dismayal that he wasnt brave enough to fight for us and our love.FYI He's getting married this weekend!

With Allah's grace, time does heals all wounds and i eventually did moved on, but the path sure wasnt an easy one....To sad girl, u will eventually heal :) inshallah
October 1, 2009 8:41 AM

Sad Girl said...

Sorry, this is Sad Girl, I was following the comments and trying to figure out how to respond. I guess looking in hindsight, I could have avoided getting into this relationship. I knew what could happen. However, he and I still had hope. There was always this "maybe." So we went off of that. After he was accepted into the military, we then realized by that time we were in too deep. This is why it was so difficult.
I once read a quote that said...The love that you can't have is always the hardest and most painful to get over...sometimes you never quite get over it. I think this quote is applicable to many people involved in similar stories such as mine. The whole situation in Saudi Arabia is very frustrating, and makes it even more difficult to accept.
October 1, 2009 2:01 PM

Chiara said...

Cruzbaby--thank you for sharing your experience. What an awful, yet common, way to learn about the end of a relationship, and why. As you stated,it often comes as a shock to others that a family can hold such sway over someone who seems in other ways to be so independent. I have seen young men in therapy who were consulting me about their distress that "Mama" was immigrating to join them and live-in Western girlfriend (for years) had to be hidden, handled, whatever. As torn as they have been, the thought of "Mama's" reaction won out. A Moroccan friend's cousin has been in a relationship with a Latina for 3 years, and she must feel integrated into family events, etc. He has no intention of marrying her or any non-Moroccan for that matter. Sad. This also happens to men, who are left by women afraid to challenge their family's wishes, and leaves them broken hearted too.

If you are still living in Singapore, visit the orchid gardens for me! I loved them when I was in Singapore, and the very impressive very contemporary zoo. I also saw a play in all of Singapores non-English languages. Good thing there was a lot of action! LOL:)

Do spend the weekend with friends and doing something you like.

I would like to ask the men readers (and the women) to comment on the hypothesis that men leave relationships without stating directly (though kindly) that they are doing so, which frustrates women immensely as they prefer "closure". Men seem to think the women want to talk about it ad nauseum (and some do, but not all). This difference in gender behaviour seems universal enough to speculate encoding on the Y and X chromosomes.

Sad Girl--thank you for your comment. It is very understandable how you entered into the relationship, and how both of you continued it. It is also understandable that right now it would seem better to have not become involved. I am sure with time you will be able to see the more positive aspects of this chapter of your life, probably after you are well into the next, and happy chapter. I agree that the quote you referenced is very appropriate for a number of losses, romantic and otherwise.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by "The whole situation in Saudi Arabia is very frustrating, and makes it even more difficult to accept."?
October 1, 2009 3:59 PM

Coolred said...

We cannot choose whom we love thats for sure...and the consequences of loving the "wrong" person can be devastating in so many different ways. I find it equally abhorrent that the Saudi govt and the culture create such obstacles when it comes to marriage to foreigners...apparently NONE of them have heard the Prophets last sermon. Whatever.

Its easy to tell people while standing a safe distance away (not involved emotionally) NOT to engage in a relationship with a Saudi...or Arab...or Muslim (who have very strong traditional marriage precepts) but once your inside the circle and emotion has been fully become deaf to all the warnings...forge ahead with full times KNOWING nothing good will come of it.

We humans are nothing if not tenacious...we hold on to LOVE long after we should have let go..simply to maintain our own sanity and keep the heart from disintergrating...but we prefer to delusion ourselves into believing that We will be different...WE will make people change their minds...WE will persevere and stand firm and everyone else will be amazed by how much our love withstood their interference.

Unfortunately..they dont call it a tradition for nothing.

Sad Girl...having been married to an Arab (not Saudi) for 20 of the hardest parts about the whole thing was his family not really accepting me. He knew ahead of time they would be like that...but chose not to tell me assuming they would "come around"...20 years later...I was still waiting...but got divorced instead. Hope you find your solace. Be Well
October 1, 2009 6:34 PM

Chiara said...

Coolred--welcome as a commentator (and not just featured in posts! LOL :) ), and thank you for your kind and comprehensive comment. It is so true that as both you and Sad Girl described the heart makes choices the whole person has to live with, and one can be very tenacious and loving yet "fail" to achieve certain goals. The lack of family acceptance in a culture that values it so highly is truly difficult, as are the legal obstacles in a different way. Thanks again for your comment, and I hope you will comment on newer and older posts as well.
October 1, 2009 6:42 PM

Anonymous said...

I guess no matter how long I live in the Middle East, I will never quite understand or accept the traditions of Saudi Arabia. It goes beyond logic and even Saudis themselves don't understand the reason they do the things they do. Some have told me, "It's just the way it is. What can we do?" Many want a change but feel powerless to do so. And in the mean time, they get involved in situations where people get hurt. Usually the foreigner...

With this attitude of not trying or making an attempt to change things...this behavior and mentality continues. It is destructive both to themselves and to others involved with Saudis.

Also, I have heard others say, love is silly; it's a sin. And it leads to destructive behavior and away from people concentrating on their religion. God gave us a heart to love and to have compassion towards others. It's sad and a trajedy that love seems to elude many in that country. I believe if it existed more and compassion towards others different that them was followed...a lot of these problems would not exist to this degree. What does everyone else think?
October 1, 2009 8:23 PM

Chiara said...

Anonymous--thank you for commenting. I would also be interested in what others think, as based on my (admittedly limited) experience I wouldn't have described Saudi culture as you did. It seems love does play a big role, which tradition does not preclude, and there are many Saudis who love their country yet want it to change in certain ways. Perhaps what you are describing is more the institutional side of Saudi life which does seem to remain static or change only slowly. It seems to me that the "love is an impediment to religion" attitude is more that of extremists whether home grown or reverts, or that of Roman Catholic orders!

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment, and I would also be interested in others' opinions on the topics you raised.
October 1, 2009 8:56 PM

Sad Girl said...

btw...the anonymous comment was by me Sad Girl...I don't know why my name didn't appear..ooops!
October 1, 2009 9:59 PM

Chiara said...

Sad Girl--thanks for clarifying. I thought so but wasn't sure. The comment jinn must have eaten your name LOL! :)
October 1, 2009 11:16 PM

Sad Girl said...

I'm doing my best to get over it....but it's easier said than done. I know Saudi Arabia is a difficult place to live. I was prepared to deal with the complexities if I was to marry a Saudi. None of it would come as a surprise to me like it would to some who don't know much or anything about the Middle East or Saudi in particular. I agree with you, it is much easier when the family supports your marriage and is accepting of you. I'm sure it makes like a bit more bearable. He told me at one time, I wouldn't make many friends if we did get married, as his family is very closed minded. But he assured me he's be my best friend if it ever happened. Looking back, I don't regret knowing him. As the saying goes, people come into your life for a reason and a certain period of time and are there to make an impact good or bad. His impact was good. I'll remember this.
October 2, 2009 11:39 AM

Sad Girl said...

I had a conversation with a Saudi man from Jeddah and I think what he said would be relevant to add to this topic.

We were talking about marriage. He is 30 years old. He told me he didn't like the way society in Saudi Arabia was headed. He told me, he is 30 years old and wants to find a wife but has no money. His father was married at age 35 and also has no money to help him.

He also added, he speaks to girls who are between 25-30 finished with school, and some are working and they are living in their parents home bored. And as a result are doing "bad" things and working in jobs they don't need.

His solution to this societal problem was to do what the prophet did (pbuh) and marry children at age 12 or 13. I was dumfounded. I knew people thought this way, but it was the first time I spoke with one. He said that at this age, the parents can help the young newlyweds financially and control that man--I'm sorry boy--in how he treats his wife. He also added that he will be a better Muslim and more responsible in life if he marries at this age. He plans to do this with his sons and daughters in the future. Really...I think he is not alone in his thinking...but I hope he is in the minority. I think a mature minded person is capable of knowing what they want for their own can a parent determine that for them,unless it is in their own interests...especially child marriage. What are everyone's thoughts on this?
October 2, 2009 3:38 PM

A European Man said...

salam alaykum to you and all your readers.
I have been reading Sad girls comments and my heart bleeds for her ,it is very difficult to get over a relationship like this .This i know myself.
Everyone tells you that time is a good healer and you will eventually move on ,but i disagree, depending on how much that person means too you and how you feel for them stays in your mind and in your heart and i dont think you ever forget them.
I find the hardest part is the ever tightening knot i have in my stomach,no matter how many times i pray it does not go away .
i found some of the comments written helpful ,but although these may help ,they are no medicine for a broken heart ,my own relationship with a saudi girl is evidence of this ,i can only say to sad girl i feel for you and insha allah you will be able to move on ,some people will tell you to find someone else and this will help you to forget ,but i say dont not yet.,Because as i have found if you try to move on and this person you have loved is in your thoughts still ,it is not fair on the other person in your relationship,you need to get your love out of your mind before you consider meeting someone else and forming another relationship,then and only then can you put your heart and soul into making someone else happy .
The only other thing i can say too you is that as the days go by and different things happen to you in your life it does make the hurting go away slowly.
keep your mind occupied and try to think good thoughts ,try not to ponder on things you used to do ,but thoughts of new things thast could happen in your life .
This is what i am doing :)
Insha allah you will be happy again.
October 2, 2009 4:24 PM

Chiara said...

Sad Girl--I have no doubt you would have coped better with the cultural differences than most, because of your knowledge and lived experience. It is wonderful that he offered to be your best friend, as all spouses should be to each other ie the most trusted, the most altruistic, the most supportive. However, over the course of a marriage and family life it becomes very hard on the couple if they do not have other supports, especially when they are at times of difficulty within the marriage itself or other factors are demanding the spouse's attention, or the stressor is out of the spouse's realm of competence.

Regarding the comment of your Jeddan, it seems he is in a period of discouragement and radical solutions. It is very sad that Saudi men experience difficulty marrying because of prohibitive costs. Saudi women should bear this in mind and be reasonable about their financial expectations for the wedding and the marriage.
I wish Saudi would change its Islamic Family Law, Moudwana, to be in line with that of other Muslim countries, and fix minimum ages for marriage at 18 for both genders as a lowest figure. 21 for both would encourage both to finish a Bachelor's degree first, or for the man to be established at work.
This fits with the young bride/ many children theme you raised in your post, and with the older (though not old) man and the younger (though not child) bride: he because he needs to save money, she so that she can have a larger no of children.

I hope others will contribute their thoughts to this part of the discussion. Thank you for raising it.
October 2, 2009 9:24 PM

Sad Girl said...

Thank you coolred, cruzbaby, and Chaira, and the anonymous commenter on your comforting words for my situation. It feels better to know I'm not alone in this situation.

To the anonymous commenter...I agree with all you say and can completely and whole heartedly identify with you on the hurt part as well. I cannot think of another man right now. In fact, I think it is better to leave everything in God's hands.

At least writing blog comments have seem to become a new hobby :)
October 2, 2009 11:41 PM

Puça said...

Oh Sad girl, I understand how you feel.

But the lack of guts is not only of Saudi man, a lot of man suffer from that “disease” in the same situations.

But it’s true that by the way Saudi society is built, it’s very difficult to escape to traditions or contravene family’s will in there, the percentage is higher than any other place.

Yours is such a beautiful and at the same time sad story!

I can’t understand how one can accept family impositions on who you shall marry, when love is so important to keep up a marriage.

I mean maybe some big family’s, royals… need to marry for alliance purposes … but the rest?? What about love?

I agree that if they know from the beginning they are not going to be able to marry you, they should not enter into a relationship and after blame it on tradition.

If you start and the story does not continue because you don’t match, great, but cutting it for external reasons is not fair, is a shame. No guts= no relation!

Because if you are even “aware” of that, woman always tend to think love will overcome anything, so expectations on both sides are very different.

Don’t let that spoil your happiness, is just that was not meant to be.

Soon God will send you the appropriate one. But hey, I’m 37 and still waiting, so the definition of soon can be wiiiiide.

October 3, 2009 1:13 PM

Broken Heart said...

I do sympathize with sad girl, losing someone you really love can be devastating and you never really get over it is always on the back of your mind. I was deeply in love with a Saudi girl for 4 years, mind you we were both Saudi, we dreamt how our life going to be together, planned everything, even the color of our future house, at the end all our dreams were dashed with a simple no from her father. His reason you might ask, he just said he did not feel right about the whole thing. Can you believe this, two consenting, educated adults getting their heart broken with just one word.
October 3, 2009 1:20 PM

Sad Girl said...

To Puca: It is sad. Love should be important. But I guess there, love comes after marriage. Most frown on relations outside of marriage this idea that we have of falling in love is silly and a sin to many there (something that comes from foreign cultures). I believe there was one guy that said on this same blog but a different post, that all that love and energy should go into following your religion...this is true...I don't think love is a sin...depending on what kind it is and if it doesn't distract you from following your faith. But tradition has taken love and compassion out of life..and seems life is just about duty and loyalty and not much enjoyment or happiness.

To Broken heart:
Your story is also very sad and I feel for you. You both are Saudis and cannot be together. When can people choose who they want? What is the definition of choice there?
Can I ask you? In general, are people in Saudi Arabia happy in their marriages? Since many perhaps have gotten married under pressure to someone who was not their "choice"? What are Saudi's views of marriage and family acceptance? I hope God is with you and will help you heal and find happiness.
October 3, 2009 6:02 PM

Puça said...

Yes, sometimes after an imposed marriage love can happen. But most times does not. Is really a sin to love someone and start a family toegether?

brokenheart, your story is sad also, feel sorry

Chiara said...

Puça-thank you for the lovely and thoughtfully supportive comments. You make impassioned pleas, and cases, for a love match, no matter the national identity of the chose one.

Broken Heart--I was thinking just last night of the similar challenges for Saudi-Saudi marriages so I was very glad to read your comment, though very sad for your situation. It is supremely ironic, but terribly unhappy, that such life commitments to each other can hinge on a 3rd party's single syllable, 2 letter word, "no" or in Arabic "la" (almost a one letter word). Thank you for sharing, and you have my sympathies and best wishes for a happier future as well.

Sad Girl--you continue to raise interesting nuances to this experience, including contemporary, cross-cultural recastings of the classic themes of love vs duty, and choice or free will vs fate or predetermined.
I hope others will also comment on these themes as they relate to the cross-cultural Saudi/non-Saudi marriage.
October 4, 2009 4:48 AM

Broken Heart said...

Thanks all for your words of encouragements.

To Sad Girl, there are two ways in which people get married in Saudi Arabia, the arranged one, and the other type where you pick your own pride by falling in love before marriage. Even arranged marriage fall in two different categories, one in which the ultra conservative families don't allow the couple to interact until the wedding day, but in most cases especially in the western province, the couple do have about to 4 to six month during the engagement period in which to know each others, mind you that during the engagement period the couple are actually married during religious ceremony, it is just that the marriage has not been consummated, and the big wedding party has not been arranged yet. Some people fall in love during that period, and life goes on, other don't and they go their separate ways. The problem is when people fall in love beforehand, and then they decide to get married, one of the biggest obstacle they face is the fear of the parents rejection.

I can never understand how can one man decide the fate of two people, especially if the girl agrees to the proposal, of course in most cast the girl don't fight hard for her the love of her life for fear that her father discovering that she already knows him.

Anyway sorry for the rambling, and sorry for your lost Sad Girl, I tell you one thing, I would stand against my parents wishes for the person I love, oh well I guess sometime love is not enough…what a pity…
October 4, 2009 11:56 AM

Sad Girl said...

Broken Heart: You are a rarity it Saudi. To fight for the one you love is a risk that I think most Saudi men and women won't take out of fear. One question I have is why should someone fear their family? Family is supposed to be your soft place to fall...the place where you find refuge. You shouldn't be afraid of your parents or family. Also, I do not understand the pressure parents put on their children to marry certain people. Who's life is it? Furthermore, I don't understand when I hear that people's parents tell them,"you're not my son if you marry so and so from that tribe!" What ever happened to unconditional love?

Is love about just following that status quo? What is love? Love is for a parent should be about making sure your child will be happy with who they will choose...give the person a chance...sometimes a parent is not always right in their choice...I know friends who have brothers and sisters that are married and their parents made terrible choices...and now the children are miserable. It's really sad and selfish. That's why so many grow up not knowing the value of a marriage and's just something "you do." :(
October 4, 2009 2:31 PM

Chiara said...

Broken Heart--thank you for the overview of marital options for Saudis, which help better frame the experience of the non-Saudi and Saudi. The intra-Saudi novelty and riskiness of trying to make a love match works against both their love matches and those of non-Saudis with Saudis.

In my experience of marriages in Morocco, which is of course more liberal than Saudi, there is a range from arranged(usually via the mothers' efforts starting at weddings, followed up with family visits and concluded with the groom and the bride's father agreeing on terms for the marriage contract) with formal chaperoned courtship following to the student who spent 5 years in Europe and returned for a summer vacation after graduation and announced about the visitors with him; "This is my wife and this is my (2 year old) daughter". In between are the "I want you to marry me to my friend's brother" (the father did), or "A guy is coming to ask for my hand and I want you to give it to him" (the father did). Then off to the side are the female "friends" from Europe/North America who visit multiple times and eventually marry the Moroccan in question. Most who have received a parental refusal get married anyway and let the families reconcile later.

Sad Girl--your comments reflect to me the difference between Western romantic love choices and Eastern romantic love obligations where family and duty count for more than personal preference. A rather simplistic division on my part, but basically accurate.
October 5, 2009 12:22 AM

Maha Noor Elahi said...

I just have one thing to say to Sad happy because you've experienced love...many people live and die without having this nourishing experience ...
As for your boyfriend...I have to be honest...he is either very weak which doesn't make of him a good future husband or father....or he might have not loved you strong enough to defend your right to get married...
Life is a great teaches us that real and genuine human beings are the ones who take action in tough situations!

I love this post and i hope it increases the awareness among young girls...before being involved in a relationship, you must know if he is real man or not! It is not enough that he loves you; he must be strong and reliable...

However, not all Saudi men are that weak...

October 5, 2009 11:53 PM

Chiara said...

Maha--excellent points.

Broken Heart--If you would like to share your story as a post, in order to better help all understand what marrying in Saudi is like, and to help distinguish what is the "foreigner factor" and was is regular reality, please contact me and I would be pleased to help you work on it. The process might help you put your thoughts and feelings in order and ease your pain. Of course you could be anonymous rather than Broken Heart if you prefer, and I guarantee confidentiality.

My email is: chiaraazlinquestion AT

I hope you will agree to share your personal story, but please feel free to comment here and on newer and older posts no matter what you decide.
October 6, 2009 10:51 PM

Sad Girl said...

Hello, after reading everyone's comments, again I have to thank you for your comforting words. Come to find out...he will marry his cousin, who he will not meet or talk to until the wedding night. I'm not sure he even knows what she looks like. I guess he has come to terms by now with the situation and has accepted it.

I just pray to God I find a man who thinks that I am worth fighting for and wants to marry for the right reasons.
October 7, 2009 2:03 PM

Chiara said...

Sad Girl--Thank you for the update. What a predictable outcome. It seems he was far more traditional than he thought. I'm sure he loved you very much but wasn't sufficiently mature (no matter what his age) to handle negotiating his family's plans for him. I have no doubt you will find another love, and one hopefully where all families are on side, or if not, one with greater maturity in facing this type of situation.

While it may seem trite to say so, a marriage to a man whose family influences your couple unduly (even within a traditional extended family context) would be fraught with ongoing battles: where and how to live, you working/studying or not, chilren--how many, what gender, how to raise, etc. In other words, you may have cut your losses.

I hope this news brings a sense of resolution and speeds the healing of your heart. Please continue commenting here and on other posts, with a different blogonym if you prefer.
October 7, 2009 4:19 PM

Sad Girl said...

Well Chiara, the whole situation at this point leaves me speechless. I'm not sure what to say at this point. I guess it is what it is.
October 8, 2009 6:52 AM

Chiara said...

Sad Girl--I'm sure the news was shocking indeed. For some reason it reminds me of an extended family member, who more than the usual is very much in line with the cultural expectations and social norms, to the point where I don't even feel I know much of who she really is. I have met her as: the fiancee, the wife, the mother, the manipulating for inheritence inlaw, etc.
I'm sure your fiance was/is not like that, but in marrying in the way he is he seems to be doing the standard: study, get job, marry the "cousine germaine" ie the designated cousin as determined by the family/culture.
I do hope you continue to share your feelings here as you have them.
October 8, 2009 9:41 PM

Chiara said...

Murthada of Saudi Alchemist quoted Sad Girl's advice rather extensively and linked this post in his Aug/Sept 09 Panorama:

I do hope Sad Girl will update us further, and that she is coping as well as possible with this new, and disappointing news of her Saudi's planned marriage.
October 15, 2009 6:26 AM

Benty said...

My heart goes out to you, Sad Girl! Really and truly.
I've been with my wonderful Saudi man for almost two years- living in USA. Family obligations took him back to Jeddah last week. He is my best friend and the love of my life!
His family is not against us getting married--they just urge us to think deeply about it. Likely, we would be living in Jeddah. The fear is that in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years I would leave him and [try to] take our children with me out of unhappiness living in KSA.
That being said, his mother loves me deeply and has also been struggling with our current situation. But she fears for the future, like his father...
I always say our love is too big to just throw away! I know we are so lucky to have found each other, and many people never experience the happy love we have shared. But, typically, my Saudi as in love as he is answers that love is sometimes not enough. Its true what someone wrote in an earlier comment- Saudi's believe that love comes after marriage. Some also believe that "respect" are more important than love- I use quotations because I often question a Saudi definition of respect in a marriage or relationship.
So, here I am with nothing but reminders of the life I have shared with him. I live for our Skype video chats, and all I can do is pray that somehow Allah will find a way for us to be together inshallah.
October 20, 2009 10:08 PM

Chiara said...

Benty--thanks for your comment and welcome. Thank you especially for sharing part of your own joy and sadness.
Will your Saudi be separated from you geographically for a long time? or does this represent a different type of separation?

If you would like to share your personal story as a post here, please email me at chiaraazlinquestion AT I would love to help you with it and confidentiality and anonymity,if you prefer, are guaranteed.
October 21, 2009 6:01 AM

Chiara said...

Benty--I should have added to my comment that there is no pressure for you to share your story, and that I hope you will continue to comment here and on newer and older posts.
October 23, 2009 3:57 AM

Benty said...

Thank you for welcoming me, Chiara. I will begin to work on my story for you to post- though as things are very hectic right now, I'm not sure where the story will end. Our geographical separation time is uncertain...It doesn't seem my Saudi feels he is able to move back to the USA. He is only speaking of us having a future in Jeddah or Dhammam. I want nothing more to be his wife-- but I have to say that my fear lies more in the future of our potential children. For me to make the choice to move to live in the Saudi society is one thing. To force my daughters to this life hardly seems fair...And if God forbid something happens to my Saudi, am I really just property to his brother? Who is to say that he will not send me away from my children. Or refuse us the right to visit my family here? Its so worrisome, I'm really confused. I trust and love my Saudi 110%, but it is the things that even he cannot control that I fear.
October 23, 2009 7:12 PM

Chiara said...

Benty--Thank you for your comment and preparing your personal story. That will make such a great post on an important topic!

The short answer is that your Saudi can do a lot to protect you and the children you have together, and you can too to protect yourself. It depends in part on what both of you are willing to do as compromises, and how you envisage your lifestyles and raising children. It will be great to explore this in more depth when we do your post. I look forward to your email. Thanks again.
October 23, 2009 10:35 PM

Sawar Jamal said...

Thanks True Heart (i refer Sad Girl) for sharing your life (not story). God has HIS own plans. I m going through the same but minus country rules. So, I can understand the 'mending the heart' part of your life. And Insha Allah you had done that till now. Its true when u r in love, u see through rose colored glasses, it is not that you don't think about practical things but your love diminishes that reality and you tend to see the brighter side only. This is human nature. But one day practicality strikes back with vengeance and you have to accept it. One thing I got to know that whatever HE (GOD) does, it happened with a reason. So, its good to accept what had been done by HIM. May be someone will come to your life one day and will fill your life with colors and joy once again. Insha Allah and Amen.

Take Care
October 27, 2009 2:28 PM

Chiara said...

Sarwar Jamal--thank you for your lovely comment to Sad Girl and for being so sensitive to her true heart. I am sorry you are experiencing something similar, yet glad you have found comfort in your faith. You raise an important point about story/ life. Though told here in narrative form this is indeed Sad Girl's life and we wish her all the best in healing her broken heart and finding joy again. I will let her know there are further comments.
October 28, 2009 6:16 PM

Sad Girl said...

I know it has been a long time since I have responded to any new comments that were left. Writing about what happened has been a bit painful in that it reminds me of the situation which re-opens wounds. Thank you everyone for your kind words and encouragement.

I am not mad at my Saudi but more disappointed. I know people will disagree with me, but he has tried to keep in touch...which in a strange way helped me to at least function again. The only difference is I have in my mind the reality and that it will end. I know people will say don't contact him again...but everyone has their own coping strategies.

Also, I want to mention, not only do non-Saudi men and women have problems with Saudi marriage laws and traditions...Saudis themselves also have it. Saudi women many times are treated well....but funny (sadly) enough in his own family his sister is being abused by her husband. She is the 2nd wife and had a baby by him. Now the husband is threatening to take the child and is demanding to be given back the dowry he paid for her in turn for a divorce. His parents set this marriage up. What match makers they are! And they are setting him my Saudi up with a girl.....

I wish him happiness whether it is with me or with someone else. That is what real love is, you never stop loving a person even if they are not with you. I'm not sure if one day he will realize what he is walking away from, I hope he does...but maybe he won't.

I guess God has been good to me in that my situation could have been a lot worse although despite that fact, it doesn't make the situation any less painful to me.

For the woman who wrote on Murthada's blog, I agree with her in that this situation changes your personality. My friends notice I am very melancholy and lack the spark I once had. When you invested so much of you heart, happiness, and being into a person, you don't realize how much you lost when it is gone. This is something that Saudi men or any man should keep in mind when dealing with a woman. God will judge those who hurt those who were true in their actions and purpose. This judgment may not come now, but eventually it will.

Lastly, I just want to say, I am doing my best...I still remember the wonderful times we had and I know that God put him in my life for a reason..There is a saying that sometimes God puts people in our lives for a short time, and their impact is always very poignant (negatively or positively).I know he didn't want to hurt me, but it happened. He really made me happy and all I can hope is that he will not forget me and at least keep in the back of his mind that I had a positive impact in his life.
October 29, 2009 6:58 AM

Chiara said...

Sad Girl--thank you for responding and updating us, as painful as it is. The choices you make to help
your own healing are ones that concern you primarily and I am sure we all respect that. It seems that by keeping in contact with him you are learning more about the type of family environment you would have entered into had you married, and especially had you move to his region in Saudi.
It seems as if you are coming safely out the other side of the depth of your pain,and I wish you well with that continuing journey.

Your story has helped many others including the woman who published her story on a post at Murtadha's blog, Saudi Alchemist, and which I would encourage everyone to read:
October 30, 2009 4:03 PM

Anonymous said...

Hi all, I am new to this blog, my heart goes out to you sad girl. I have a male arab friend who fell in love, but did not date the women-being aware of the complications lying aheaf. however they are best friends and love each other immensely. He told her from the beginning he could not marry her, although this is what he really wants to do. Reason being, he believes marriage is about extending the family and he believes both families should feel happy about their children's marriage. The women should have her family's support and the the mans family should support her too. Also how could you trust a man who leaves his family for a woman? his loyalty must be questioned, does he not love his family too?. It is true we cannot choose who we fall in love with, but should a man fall in love, he is only worth it, if he is willing and ready to fight for his love, if not, he is only the man you love with the support of his family and would change if he was to lose them. a real man whatever his religion, culture or status should be able to stand up and defend his love to anyone, anywhere at anytime. A man such as this would not lose anything but i feel he would receive support from all directions including family that is worth knowing. I should be telling this to my arab friend, but this is someting they should realise and come to this decision on their own accord.
November 7, 2009 3:45 PM

Chiara said...

Anonymous--welcome, and thank you for sharing your story and views. It does seem that your Arab friend needs to hear though not have preached to him. Often a man who is sincere in his feelings and follows through on them realizes that his family are willing to accomodate him even if it is after some resistance. It takes a certain amount of current, resolve, and knowledge of one's family to have everyone recognized the way things are and adapt. However, some families are more intransigent and then other solutions including "the geographical solution" become the only option.
November 8, 2009 4:33 AM


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