Monday, December 21, 2009

Dear Susie ...

I hope you don’t mind me emailing you, but I wanted your opinion about my situation. I am a 28-year-old American woman and I met a Saudi guy I really like. The problem is he wants to go back to Jeddah once he's done studying here in the US and he wants me to go back with him. I want to know from your experience if I would survive in his different culture and community. Also, how hard is it to adapt to this new type of culture and living situation? I am also used to working a lot of hours and focusing on my career and my concern is if I did go to Saudi Arabia, I would not be able to find a job since I do not speak Arabic and would lose all the skills I have worked so hard for. Also my other fear is if he was working all the time and gets back into the swing of his normal life there, I will be lonely and just get lost in the shuffle and not be able to find my own thing like I have in America. By the way, I am Catholic and this is obviously a concern for him as he would like to have Muslim children, which I am not opposed to. What would be your suggestion regarding the difference in religions? I would truly appreciate your opinion and answers to my questions. My boyfriend and I are at the point in our relationship that if we break up it is going to be very difficult or impossible for both of us so now we have to deal with the reality of the differences in our cultures and the best way to make it work. Also I didn't mention that him staying here is not an option at all.

Thanks - M
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Dear M -

I don't mind at all that you emailed me to ask questions - I wish that years ago there would have been someone I could have asked many of the same questions you have. I'll try to answer as best I can, but my situation may be different from yours and from other women who are in relationships with Saudi men.

I cannot tell you whether or not you will be able to survive in this culture and environment. Many women that I have met have been here for 20, 30 or, incredibly, even more than 40 years. Most of those women have converted to Islam, live in villas where they can spend some time outdoors if they choose, have maids and drivers, have raised their children here, and are able to travel freely. Many of them also work, usually in education or the medical field. As far as not speaking Arabic, I haven’t encountered much a problem with it since just about everyone here speaks some English. In fact if you are a native speaker of English, you would have no problem finding work in a school or tutoring English. Some women have carved out their own niche, in art or photography or such. Obviously I cannot speak for all Western women who married Saudis, but I get the distinct feeling that most of these women would actually prefer to live somewhere else if given the choice - but they have tolerated this place out of love for their spouses and children and have tried to make the best of it. And looking back, if asked if they had a chance to do it over again, would they? I truly think that the majority of women who have married Saudis and moved here would likely say "NO!" - if they were being perfectly honest.

The expat wives of Saudis all have different situations and circumstances. My husband and I lived for thirty years in the states, and the thought that he would ever want to move back to his homeland was far-fetched because that's what he had always led me to believe. The first decade or so of our relationship, my hubby wasn't particularly religious, but that eventually started changing. Even living in the states, there were times when I found it difficult to be married to someone from such a different culture and religion. This was especially noticeable after our son started school. If there was a school function, parent-teacher conference, a band concert, or a sporting event my son was participating in that interfered with prayer times - and almost inevitably they did - I usually ended up going alone and often felt like I was a single parent. Honestly I began to resent it and wasn't happy about it, and I felt cheated for myself and my son. I felt that God shouldn't mind if you did your prayers later if you were attending a function where you were showing support for your own child. But my husband didn't see it that way, and his prayer times almost always won out.

There were other times when I felt cheated, like around holidays that I was used to celebrating. Never being a deeply religious person myself - I consider myself spiritual but shy away from manmade interpretations of religions - what I always enjoyed most about, for example, Christmas, was the fluff and the spirit of the season - the lights, the music, the decorations, the smells, the foods and special treats, hearing from old friends, the generosity toward those less fortunate, the sentimentality of remembering Christmases past, the joy of giving, the smiles on people's faces, the children's excitement in anticipation of the big day. As years went by, my husband withdrew from participating in any of the preparation or the festivities. This applied to other typical holidays too, like Easter, Halloween, or the 4th of July. When we were invited over to friends' homes, if they had a pet dog, my husband would either refuse to go or insist that the dog be locked away. Muslims are taught that dogs are filthy animals, and my husband has been deathly afraid of even the smallest puppy since I have known him. I know that in America some women call themselves "Football Widows," when it's football season, the wives feel like widows because the husbands are totally focused on football games. Well, I started feeling at times like a "Muslim Widow,” for lack of a better term.

Adapting to this new life and new culture has definitely been an exciting learning experience, which is not to say that it has been easy. I honestly think that moving here is much easier for Western women who are NOT married to Saudis and who come here to work for a specific time frame, live in compounds where activities abound, and have very busy and full lives, with many more opportunities to enjoy all that this place has to offer than I have had. Life inside the compound walls is much like life in the West. There are parties, sports, classes, more freedom for women to participate in sports and to form friendships, and a sense of community that you just don't automatically get outside those walls. But on the flip side, many of them have never been inside a Saudi home and they don't develop friendships with Saudis, so even though they are living in Saudi Arabia, they are in reality living in this little protected bubble and not really experiencing living in "the real Saudi Arabia." Being married to a Saudi and living in an apartment building or a villa is a whole different story. I haven't really been able to join clubs and develop friendships with many ex-pats whether they live in compounds or not because of my transportation limitations. I have to rely on my husband to take me where and when I want to go, and you can imagine what a problem that can be. And everything revolves around prayer times - everything comes to a halt then and every business shuts down for prayer times. When you live out among Saudi society, it is so very different from the Western way of life because the Saudis are so very private and men and women do not mix socially. This is one of the worst things for me that I dislike about being here. To come from an open society like America, and then suddenly you are expected not to speak to men, to dress like a nun and cover your hair, and where you can socialize only with women, and you are not free to come and go as you please... it almost feels at times like you are in a prison of sorts.

For me, there are very few activities, few friends, and lots of boredom. I have described my life now as just an empty shell of what it was before moving here. There are days on end when I don't see the light of day because I am stuck in this flat with nothing to do, nowhere to go and no one to take me anyway. Not being able to just go outside for a walk or to get some fresh air or to work in the garden is a big problem for me because of where we live. Doing things here on the spur of the moment is not an option any more. Fortunately I have a friend who invites me to do things with her once in a while, and she usually is able to send her driver to pick me up and take me back, so I don't have to ask my husband for transportation. One of my hobbies is photography - I would love to be able to just go out when I want to and take photos, but I can't. Usually I have to settle for trying to capture photos from a car zooming by, so for every one good shot I get, there are at least 50 that are just too blurry to use. Thank God for digital technology! In the more than two years that I have been here, my husband has taken me out specifically to take photos on maybe three or four occasions, not nearly enough to satisfy my desires. Even then though, I always feel rushed because of the bad traffic or because it will soon be prayer time, and there are many areas of the city I have not had the chance to photograph yet.

The first few months after arriving here, my husband went out quite frequently in the evenings several times a week, often until 2 or 3 am. That has tapered off to where now he might only go out like that once or twice a month. I don't really mind, as long as I am able to spend time with my own friends also maybe once or twice a month too. We are both older and not into partying like we used to when we were younger. I do feel lonely many times and I do feel that I am lost in the shuffle and left out. When I first arrived here, I guess I was somewhat of a new novelty and I was constantly invited by various family members or other women to do things with them. But now I guess the novelty has worn off and life has become a humdrum routine with far fewer invitations. I don't feel sorry for myself and I am glad that I have hobbies and interests that I can keep myself busy with, but for me there is just not that much to do outside or inside these walls and it gets old. If I were younger, I would probably be demanding more and having hissy fits over the general lack of activities and boredom. I love my husband's family here and they have been very good to my son and me, but when the only outings we go on just about are to visit family all the time, that too gets old.

As far as my son being raised as a Muslim, I am not opposed to my son being a Muslim, as my husband wishes. But this is his department and his responsibility. My husband started taking Adam to Islamic classes in the states when he was younger, but that didn't last long. Consequently my son doesn't embrace the faith wholeheartedly like my husband would prefer. The Saudi schools here indoctrinate the students into Islam. So from an early age, the kids learn about the religion and are totally receptive to it. But taking an American teenager who has no real understanding of the religion and plopping him down in Saudi Arabia and expecting him to just swim with the fishes doesn't work. If you're planning on embracing Islam and giving up your religion, I'm sure that will make your husband and his family happy. Good luck with that. But I would recommend doing it before coming to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis' version of Islam is not how Islam is practiced in most other Muslim countries.

Many of the Saudi men who take Western women as their wives change once they get back to the Kingdom. My husband has gotten much more jealous and protective of me since we moved here. And he has gotten much more conservative and thinks that the way things are done here is the law of the land and should not be questioned or challenged - a far cry from his rebellious youth when we first met. Despite having spent thirty years in America, now he seems to be even more conservative than many men who have been in Arabia all their lives! I don’t know if he is just trying to overcompensate for being away for so long, to prove to his family and friends that he is still just as Saudi as he ever was or what. I was a very independent woman in the states and now he often makes me feel like I cannot do anything on my own without his approval or direction. This is not the same man I married.

I remember what it was like to be that young and idealistic, madly in love and feeling that I would follow him to the ends of the earth, if need be, just so we could be together. That no matter where we were, we were in love and we would be happy and nothing else mattered. But the reality is that it takes a whole lot more than love for a relationship to survive, especially in this country. And now, I find myself asking, “Why couldn’t he have been from almost any other country in the world besides Saudi Arabia? Why not Morocco, or Italy, or Australia?” Things would have been so much easier…

I think one of the hardest things to do is to maintain who you are and to be true to yourself once you move here. You will be expected to change and adapt to life here, but losing your identity - those things that make you YOU - is a mistake that I think many Western women who come here make. The way I feel is, if my husband had wanted a Saudi wife, he could have easily married one. Instead he fell in love with me, and just because I am now living on another continent, doesn't change me inside as to who I am. It is very difficult to maintain respect and appreciation for this totally different culture and way of life when there are things you may not agree with or understand. And sometimes it's hard to find the right words so you don't sound like you're complaining or criticizing or offending. I try my best to understand the way they do things here, but it is not easy because it doesn't always make sense.

I hope this has helped. I have tried to be as open and honest as I possibly can. It's no bed of roses coming here. I don't know that there is any one perfect place to live - there are pros and cons to everyplace I guess. It took me a long time to adjust to life in South Florida too - and many people consider that place paradise!

Good Luck to you in whatever the future holds for you.
Best Wishes and Warmest Regards -
Susie

121 comments:

  1. Wow, Susie, this is quite a piece. Thank you for being so honest about what it is like to be an American woman in Saudi Arabia.

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  2. M--while I can't speak to life in Saudi from personal experience, as Susie has done so eloquently, I do have experience personal and professional with the type of questions you are asking about.

    From reading what you wrote, I would suggest that you look into what the realistic career possibilities are in your field or a related one, and go about doing now what is necessary to make that happen, eg licencing exams, Arabic lessons, building contacts, contacting expats in Saudi working in your field to get a sense of what it is like there in your field and how to orient yourself now for what you would want to do should you go. It is also important that your Saudi be very clear and honest about his feelings about you being a career woman in Saudi, before and after children, and that he try to project himself forward realistically and see if he would be supportive, and how he would help your dual-career household function there (eg household help, family support etc). It is most important that you realize that a woman cannot work in Saudi without her husband's permission. If he decides he doesn't want you to work, or not after having kids, or not until the youngest is 10, or whatever, that is what will happen legally, ie you won't be working until he says so. It is imperative to have your own reason, beyond being with him, for you to live in Saudi, and something that gives you a meaningful life there outside of your marriage, to occupy the time and mental-emotional space that no marriage ever fully fills.

    Regarding religion I would expect him to become if anything more concerned about religion, and certainly that the children be raised as good Muslims (perhaps battling the stigma of having a non -Muslim mother). Who is going to teach them how to perform and say their prayers, and the ablutions beforehand? What is your boyfriend's attitude to your religious belief and practice? Okay as long as you keep it private? Okay as long as no one outside the family knows? Okay, but you are on your own? You do realize that you will not be allowed to practice your faith by law in Saudi, except in the privacy of your home, and preferably a home on a compound. Also, technically it is against the law to bring Bibles, crucifixes, prayer beads (rosaries), scapula, Catholic religious images, prayer books, missals, etc into Saudi. Religious sacraments will not be available unless you go outside of Saudi to a nearby country. If this is important to you, you might be interested in these websites:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Vicariate_Apostolic_of_Arabia
    http://www.catholic-church.org/kuwait/mideast.htm


    Your husband (because you wouldn't allowed to be not married in Saudi), would have final decision-making power on all aspects of your life (work or not, study or not, specific medical interventions or not,etc), by law, although he can choose to make your life more independent, but again that is with his permission. This makes it more important to be clear about a number of issues before you decide to marry, and before you decide to move there. Much of your social interaction will be with family, and your MIL and SILs will have more power over your life than most Western women expect. Should something happen to your husband your FIL or BIL will take over his role as mahrem (ie give all the authorizations).

    Should something happen custody of the children would automatically go to their father, and physical residence to you if the children are young enough, and you are deemed fit, and allowed to remain in Saudi; or to his mother, if not.

    In short, when contemplating this commitment you have to think of everything other couples contemplating marriage do, and factor in life in Saudi, the laws their, and the customs there.

    All the best.

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  3. Susie--what wonderful pics of you and your 2 men! Every time you write more about your life in Saudi I can only hope for a break through that changes the key challenges of these first 2 years. I do hope you achieve greater happiness and fulfillment there.

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  4. @M

    I don't think any man is worth forfeiting eternal life for. It's a serious issue...converting. You may find it impossible not to give in to the pressures posed by not being Muslim in his family and society. If you were to marry him and move there...and you didn't end up converting...your child would most likely have to be brought up as a Muslim. These issues, among other information concerning housing, social life, etc, are covered on page called "Marriage to Saudis." Read the information on this link...http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_931.html ...from the US Department of State...hopefully this will help you understand the reality of living in Saudi for a Western women. I commend you for seeking help. Susie's blog, as well as Carol's (AmericanBedu) helped me to make a crucial decision about my own future. It is important that you sit down to think of the life you want for yourself and whatever children you bring into this world. My mother likes to say, when it comes to men..."You know what you've got." Meaning...if we really sit back and think...we aren't in the dark at all about the person we love. Sometimes it is inconvenient to acknowledge who that person really is. We'd rather dance in our fantasy of who they could be and what we could be with them. But this situation and others like it call for truth. Ask yourself the most important question, "Could he really make me happy?" If you're dream is to live as a Western expat in Saudi (which for some- it turns out great) then "yes he can." Best wishes!

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  5. Hi Dimple - Sometimes feel like I hold back or bite my tongue, but this time I didn't - and it felt good!

    Hi Chiara - Thanks for your helpful input. Maybe there should be a manual for this? lol

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  6. Oh Susie. You sound so unhappy, despite your obvious love for your husband. Do you ever think about coming home? It's your decision but I wonder if it might be best.

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  7. Hi CultureWatch - Great advice! Thanks so much.

    Hi Caitlin - I think it's good that women are asking questions, and then they can decide whether it might be right for them or not. But I'm okay, really. I am not miserable here by any means - it's just that things can be frustrating. Plus I think I get a bit more touchy around the holidays because I hate being here then. Please don't worry about me though - I'm fine.

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  8. Hi Susie,
    I very much enjoyed your blog, and the honesty with which you answered the email. I do so much look forward to your blogs!
    Have a very merry and blessed Christmas!!!
    Love, Linda

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  9. Oh Susie! You break my heart. I worry about you all the time. Don't stay in a situation that is unbearable. Life is too short. I finally made that decision and it was very difficult. But I am better now and it was the right decision. As you know, I did not ask any questions when I got married. I was too young to ask or even know what i should be asking. And so was John. He is happier now. Stay happy if you can.
    Presha

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  10. All so very well said Susie and I hope the young woman takes the time to read your blog in its entirety.

    To her I would say personally I could not do it. That it is fine to love someone but to know she will be moving to such a country where her husband will hold ALL the cards.. the country and customs so different. Would be too much for me. I could not do it.

    Your situation is different Susie in that you have been together so long and so much of it in the US. You have much invested in your husband and family, and have for many years before moving to SA.

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  11. Fantastic, Susie. Listen, I've got 2 spare rooms: one for you and one for Adam. Get yourselves on a plane and come over to the UAE for a visit!! Abu Dhabi has some fantastic cultural events going on now. Popular performers from back home are playing here regularly (I think Rhianna is performing on NYE). The Emirates Palace hotel often has art exhibits on. You name it...bring your short sleeves and capris and make a long weekend of it. I'd love to have you both, and that is a sincere offer.

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  12. i really enjoyed this post..along with the photos....
    thanks for allowing us a little glimpse into your life :)

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  13. Susie it makes me sad that you are unhappy even though you love your husband. But you will know when enough is enough. One can only be frustrated and bored for a period of time. Life is too short. Take care and I think of you often. Merry Christmas!

    Irene

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  14. Wow Susie, that was one heck of a post. I like that you can Be so honest and provide these kinds of answers for others considering your, can I say plight. I don't think I could make this kind of sacrifice for a man. At least not at this point in my life. Yet things and people change, and that's OK as long as there is still honesty. I too have concerns for your welfare. And I know the holidays can be hard for many, especially far from home, family and tradition. I sure hope you get to celebrate Christmas in your own home, even if hubby doesn't join in. Take care my friend. Have a Merry Christmas in your heart. Hugs.

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  15. It's obvious when reading that you wrote from your heart very honestly which is very refreshing to hear. I hope this woman truly thinks this decision through, because although I have lived in the UAE for 28 years and it is a lot easier living here than in Saudi and I love my Palestinian husband, I don't think I would have made the same decision to marry someone of a different culture. I still know in my heart I would love to move back to the U.S. I think that if the internet had existed back in the 80's alot of us would have been privy to much more information and wouldn't have made the same decision of living our families and countries.

    AnnMarie-Abu Dhabi UAE

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  16. To the woman who wrote the letter, I know you didn't ask me, but I had to respond. As a woman who married a Muslim man outside my culture (not Saudi), I have to say, it's very very difficult. I now have a child and if I try and step back and reclaim any part of my old life I will lose her. The fairytale we lived in the beginning has turned into a nightmare. All I can say is run, run away as fast as you can. Love isn't enough, and you will have nothing left, no freedom to come back home (unless you leave your child), he will be holding all the cards. Don't put all your eggs in one basket!! I wish to God someone had warned me and I had listened. My life is a living hell now and I never would have believed it would have turned out this way. He was my Prince Charming, once upon a time.

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  17. Hi Susie, It must really be hard at times to stay with your Husband, but I can understand that you would always want to because of your love for him, your son and the extended family.
    Believe it or not, I live a very similar existence, (ok maybe I can go out freely and do a lot more things) but always feel that what I do must be of the approval of my husband and sometimes feel suffocated. We are from a free Christan country but even here men can still be hard work at times. The thing I always try to put into perspective is a lot of the time we have a very happy family life with just a bit of the bad thrown in and sometimes by suffering the bad, it really makes you appreciate the good. My husband is a very kind, considerate man but just thinks his way is the only way, I on the other hand am open to lots of opinions and will express them when I need to. My husband I am sure would wish I did not, but I feel that I need to be true to myself to be a complete person.

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  18. Its such an honest post Susie and while reading it, I couldnt help but think' Love is such a strange thing' I am a Muslim from Turkey and we suppose to believe in the same book but such a different interpretation of life.. I wish you all the best and Merry Christmas..
    Love,

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  19. Susie--regarding a manual: oh, lead me not into temptation, for mine is the tendancy to write and publish, and the to be done pile is about to collapse. LOL :) Since my blog deals with these issues, maybe more there... LOL :)

    CultureWatch--excellent advice about getting informed and thinking this through, and especially being honest with yourself about the person you are in love with. I would add that it is important to know yourself well, and to be honest about your own limitations too.

    One correction, if you marry a Muslim your children will be Muslim, whether you convert or not, whether they are raised Muslim or not, whether they or anyone else thinks they are or not. By law, in Saudi, and other Muslim countries, a child born to a Muslim man is a Muslim. Where differential laws apply based on religion eg family law in all Muslim countries, whether they use European criminal law or not, the children are Muslim, and it is one of the reasons, legal and social, that custody will go to the father over the mother, converted or not (she will have a better chance at physical custody, but not legal custody, when they are young if she is a Muslim and a citizen, though). It is in the Islamic marriage contract that the children are to be raised Muslim (not so unusual, it is part of the agreement to have a marriage blessed by the Catholic Church, that the children be raised Catholic).

    To give you an example, I was recently discussing a related issue with a Palestinian-Jordanian acquaintance and as an example he said "Your father is Christian, right". I replied "Father and mother both, and both Catholic". He waved his hand and said, "Doesn't matter about your mother, pretend you have no mother...I mean pretend your mother is atheist, your father is Christian, right?" "Yes" "Then you are Christian. His father is Muslim, he is Muslim". Hand wave to close discussion.

    Susanne--so true that patriarchies are not limited to Islam or MENA. I am glad you have preserved your open and caring nature to all!

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  20. First I would just like to say that this has been one heck of an honest post, and everything you wrote is right on the spot.
    It does feel sometimes that expats here who are not married to Saudis have a much easier life than us women married to Saudis, atleast they have the opportunity to socialise with other expats and enjoy freedoms offered by compound living while we struggle hard to make friends and it is frustrating because sometimes we strive for friendship of other expats (like minded people) but the reality is that most friends you make will not always be in Saudi like you, they are only here for a certain period while we are facing a life sentence ...lol
    there should be a social club for women like us, women married to saudis who are desperate for atleast a once a month meeting with other women here to offer each other support and friendship.

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  21. Hi Linda - Thanks so much - and I hope you have a wonderful holiday too!

    Hi Anon/Presha - Honestly I am not miserable - it's just that I would much rather live somewhere else because of all the restrictions placed on women here. The women who are born and grew up here, most of them love their lives and wouldn't want to live anywhere else. My husband DOES try to do what he can for Adam and me - just this morning he took me out to take photos! Please don't worry about me... I'm okay.

    To Amy - I guess we all have to make decisions in our lives - it's just best to be armed with all the information before one decides. I'm glad this young lady wrote to me and I could tell her my perspective. Thanks for commenting.

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  22. Hi M,
    Putting it straight after reading your email...

    you must understand the real victim would be your children, you may try to adjust your life and move on. But the fact that you may not relish your life here would surely affect your children.

    And yes if you are depressed that would surely reflect on your children even though you may try to hide it.

    Also your children would eventually suffer an Identity Crisis.

    For many Muslims and especially more so in Saudi Arabia, Islam is a complete way of life which defines ones entire life style along with spiritualism, and i too believe in that. But as i understand you see religion more from the spiritualistic point of view only. Now there lies the problem.

    There have been many Muslim/Non-Muslim couples but they see each others religion from purely only a spiritualistic point of view and hence they live a easy and good life in this world.

    Also as Susie pointed out ladies who convert to Islam make it fine here but again if you would like to become a Muslim, don't do so just to marry your husband and be accommodative. Rather become a Muslim only if you really understand and like the religion. If you convert to Islam just for the sake of your husband, you would eventually not be happy, sorry for being blunt.

    Any way at the end of the wishing you all the best.

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  23. Hello Susie...How clever you are to have chosen love and not only to a man but to his culture. I see that it has really enriched your own life. Congrats! Cecilia

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  24. Hi AbuDhabi/UAE PHoto - Wow - thanks so much for the invite. My son was so excited when he read your comment!!! He is off from school right now - hmmmm...

    Hi Angie - You're most welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Anon/Irene - I agree that life is too short not to be happy. Thanks for your concern - and Merry Xmas to you too!!

    Hi Gaelyn - I do get sad around the holidays, remembering the wonderful ones I used to spend with my family... We DO have a little tree this year that I fit into my suitcase, but we won't be doing much - Adam and I will probably watch Xmas movies and sing carols! Thanks, my friend.

    Hi AnnMarie - Thank you for your honesty about marrying a man from a different culture and where you would really like to live. I really think that most of us feel the same way. That's why I wrote this post.

    Hi Anon - I'm sure M will take your words to heart. I appreciate your piping in with your story. I'm so sorry you are not having your fairy tale happy ending. My best wishes and prayers for you...

    Hi Suzanne - I like that you have pointed out that marriages can be similar no matter where in the world we are living. You sound a lot like me and your hubby sounds a lot like mine!!! Thanks for commenting.

    Hi TurquoiseDiaries - Indeed, Love is very strange! Thanks for stopping by & I hope you have a wonderful holiday too.

    Hi Chiara - Thanks again for pointing out more important info to be considered before making any decision about this life altering possibility.

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  25. Wow! Susie, it's like you took the words right out of my mouth. My situation is a lot different than yours in that I am Muslim and I've lived 17 of our 21 years of marriage in Saudi Arabia. While I was gung ho to move to Saudi in the beginning, over the years, the desire to move back to the US has only increased. For some reason, I just do not feel like I fit in here. I've not found my niche. I've ended up neglecting myself and I have lost my identity. It's been all about my husband and children for the last 17 years, and I'm not happy. If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely have not married a man outside of my culture or country. Even after 17 years, I have very few friends, few social outlets and I'm bored out of my mind. I married my husband because I loved him; but you are right . . . it's hard for a marriage to survive based on that alone. Thank you for being so honest.

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  26. Susie,
    This post was really eye opening and I think you did a wonderful job of answering the young lady. Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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  27. Hey Susie,

    Great response to her email, mashaa Allaah.

    I think it might be a good idea to tell her that in Islaam, God is one and we pray to Him alone, not Jesus.

    If she agrees to raise her children as Muslims (which she will probably have to do anyhow once they begin school), it is really important that she learns what Islaam is all about before she comes to Saudi. If her children do become Muslims and she does not, many problems could arise .... and she might feel very, very alone.

    If she converts to Islaam, it should be because she believes in it and its teachings. She should not be forced to do so.

    Just some thoughts....as my heart goes out to her, mashaa Allaah.

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  28. Dear Susie,

    I really have enjoyed, appreciated, and loved your posts and the trajectory that they have taken over time. I recall that for a while, the tone of the posts was very excited and you shared so many positive things, and over time, I think your posts have come to be more inclusive... not more honest, that is not the word I would choose, because of the obvious implication!... simply more inclusive, and I have loved that part too. I don't feel "bad" or "sorry" for you. I think you're wonderfully strong and perfectly aware of the choices that you make, and I'm so glad you can include the elements of frustration or boredom in your life on your blog. We all have those, don't we? And why shouldn't you write about them?

    There have been moments in the last few posts where I thought "if only she could volunteer her time, I bet she'd be a whirlwind of energy," or "if" this or "if" that, thinking over your posts, and the conclusion I came to is that your husband and son are so very lucky that you have chosen to give your energy and time to them. You've made the choice, and you're doing fine. You have interests. You don't need anyone's oh noes....

    I think you're quite an example of good living and life choices. I feel lucky that you share all this with us, your readers. It's always a read I look forward to. Thanks, and may you have a lovely Christmas, and mutlu yillar! (Happy New Year, that is, from an expat in TR!)

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  29. Susie, this was a great post! I have been following your blog almost from the beginning and I've observed the change in you. It's good that you've been so honest.
    I'm Christian married to a Muslim man. We will not have children and I can honestly say that if there had been a possibility I doubt I would have married him. I respect Islam but I also respect my own beliefs and I would want my children to be able to make up their own minds as I was able to do.

    Culturewatch... you wrote "My mother likes to say, when it comes to men..."You know what you've got." Meaning...if we really sit back and think...we aren't in the dark at all about the person we love."
    I would like to say that I don't absolutely agree with that statement. People do change and grow. We do not always end up with the same person we married. I divorced my first husband after 25 years because of changes so we don't always know what is down the road. Remember Cool Red? I'm sure she didn't realize her husband was going to become and abuser. We don't always know what we're going to get.

    Also, many people become much more entrenched in their religion as they age. This could be very critical for someone moving to such a restrictive country like Saudi Arabia and one that makes practicing a religion other than Islam almost impossible.

    Love can be blind so Susie, you've done a good job here!!

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  30. This was such an extraordinary post, Susie. My heart ached for you while reading it. I only hope that your husband understands that the very things he loved about you in the begining,the things that drew him to you, are the things that he now wishes to erase.
    You are so strong, much stronger and more commited than I could ever be. Warm wishes for the Holiday.

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  31. Dearest Susie:

    What a wonderfully insightful article! As a women from three generations of working women, it is difficult for me to imagine the restrictions you deal with daily. I am sending my best wishes for a fruitful year for 2010 in whatever form that takes. Your friend Lawana

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  32. I would seriously consider visiting Saudi Arabia and meeting his family before you decide to get married. This way you can experience life there first hand and know exactly what you are getting yourself into! For a lot of women marrying a Saudi can be a nightmare! Many women have no idea what they are getting themselves into and the issues they will face! I would do a lot of research on Islam and I would definatley read all of Suzies posts! Also take this mans advice and visit this website (link...http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_931.html ...from the US Department of State). Saudi culture is very very different and most western women do not adapt very well to living there. I know arabs from other middle eastern countries that don't even like Saudi Arabia, its that restrictive! If you get divorced your husband will probably get custody of your kids, which means that if you leave Saudi Arabia you won't get to see them much, if at all. I don't know about you but when I consider getting married what pops into my mind is my kids! I personally could never marry a muslim because Christianity and my salvation means far too much to me. It would be like I was condeming my kids to hell for all eternity and the thought of this kills me, as well as the thought that in reality they are his kids if we get divorced. It is a fairly tale in the beginning but once reality sets in you could be in for a night mare. I know that breaking up is difficult, but it is even more difficult to lose your kids and your identity. Take these peoples advice to heart and please visit Saudi Arabia before you make your decision, and don't let him persuade you not to visit. If he tries than I would say you have some issues to deal with anyway. If he does not want you to visit before hand than something is up! Beware! Please do your research! I sincerely mean this! Fairytales fade and reality hits hard! Use your brain and not just your heart!!!!!

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  33. Susie, you have once again proved to be most eloquent in your response. Although we have never met, as fellow Arizonans we do share some common ties and I've sensed from reading your blog over the months that you've made an uneasy but healthy truce with your feelings -- a truce that allows you to have tremendous love for husband and family while not completely forsaking your ability to think independently.

    Alas, I do not see such happy prospects for the correspondent who prompted your response. I hate to be a cynic, but there are just too many red flags along her road (not that any one asked a guy's opinion.)

    I would like to offer a point of possible correction to one of the remarks about lack of ability to attend Christian services. While I don't partake myself, I have a few friends who advise that there are venues for those who wish to go to church. Of course they can't be too choosy about denomination.

    Regards from Riydadh during what our friends back home call the Holiday Season!

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  34. Susie - Such an honest outpouring of personal wisdom!
    To sum up your advice - "It's complicated".
    Knowing you and Adnan over the years you have both struggled with having love and culture clash. Perhaps you should have added, having relief breaks to your country of origen will help with living in KSA?
    Happy Holidays and continue on with this excellent blog!
    Lucinda

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  35. My Dear Susie,

    You have such a gift with words that allows one to so clearly see a snapshot of your life and the sacrifices you have made in the name of love. I do understand how the holiday season impacts the emotions. I wish that you were in Riyadh as it sounds like it is much easier to get out and about. I'm not as familiar with Jeddah but it seems if you do not have your own driver or live in an area of town where many other Saudi wives live, life can be lonelier and for you, as such a social and outgoing person, that cannot be easy.

    Just a thought but since your photos and the accompanying prose are so magnificent, perhaps a magazine would commission you for a monthly article and photos and costs include providing you a driver to go out for the photos?

    And in regards to the young woman, one thing I picked up on immediately is the age and that he is a student. Is she aware of the requisite approval process for marriage? And if he is a student sponsored by the government or under the age of 35 that they may marry while in the States but she would not be immediately joining him in Saudi. Also equally important is whether his family is aware of his plans and intentions?

    And back to you Susie, you're right...we are a "new attraction" to our extended Saudi families on arrival and also to be fair, they want to show us their best sides but after time, they prefer the opportunities visiting among themselves and in their native language. We as part of the family are welcomed but we are also expected to learn the language and learn it fast!

    As always, your posts are so welcomed to read and written from your heart.

    Lots of hugs,
    Carol

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  36. Generally speaking I can agree with most of what Susie has said about living in a foreign country...especially an Arab country...but something is bothering me and Im not sure I should express it but I suppose I wont feel calm until I do.

    1. Apparently his family accepts you as family (from what I understand)...so for the most part you dont have to deal with female family members (for the most part) who do their damndest to make sure you dont feel at home. Something many of us DO have to live and deal with. Makes day to day living that much harder.

    2. While your husband seems cultural to a certain extent...he doesnt sound abusive, controlling, excessively jealous and restrictive of you beyond what culture demands. Not like some of us who were or are married to extremely abusive arab men who make life a living hell...and refuse divorce or threaten divorce on a whim...using the children as objects to wound and dangles that ever present "I will cancel my sponsorship and you will be deported at once" B.S. every time they want to prove how much control they have over you.

    3. While Im sure your not living in the lap of luxery apparently you not living in poverty either. You have a reasonable standard of living...which many people do not have...as well as dealing with the abuse they suffer etc. (myself included at the time). So that makes living there just a little bit easier compared to not having that sort of benefit.

    4. Obviously your missing home, family, the american lifestyle etc...but you apparently are CHOOSING to remain in Saudi as opposed to choosing to go home..to be with your Saudi husband. Some of us did not have that choice and were basically held hostage in a country we did NOT choose to be in but could not get out of without losing a great deal...the most obvious being our children.

    So while I sympathize with your feelings...they seem just a tad superficial compared to my own and other womens ordeals that are living or have lived in an Arab country.

    Susie...you're a very sweet and honest woman who has a lovely blog and a big heart...but you sound bored and homesick. Go home and take your son with you...most likely your husband will follow from what you write about him...it seems you have that choice ...many many of us do not.

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  37. My advice to the young lady read "Cool reds" blog too! You have no idea what you are in for!

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  38. Hi Maria - Are you in Jeddah? We do have a small group that tries to get together about once a month.

    Hi AbuAbdullah - I agree, the children of Saudi-Western unions do seem to suffer, as they are torn between one culture or the other. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

    Hi Cecilia - Thanks!

    Hi Anon - I'm not happy that you feel the same way, but it is comforting to know that I am not alone. I hope you find peace with all the sacrifices you have made for your family.

    Hi Sheri - Thanks so much - I hope you ahve a great holiday too.

    Hi PB - Important information for her to know - thanks for your input!

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  39. Hi Jess - I did feel like I was holding back for a while. I really appreciate what you said. In Florida I did lots of volunteer work, but here it's a problem because of my transportation issue. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Happy, Jolly, Merry!!!

    Hi Anon @8:30PM - Wow - that's a bold decision to agree on not having kids. I really like what you said about Islam and your own beliefs. And it's true that sometimes people DO change and we don't see it until it's too late.

    Hi Jarart - Your comment made me feel good - thanks so much.

    Hi Anon/Lawana - My appreciation to you for your comment... I like fruit, so I'm hoping your wish for me comes true!!!

    Hi SanAntCicily - It is a good idea to visit somewhere before moving there, but that's not always possible to do here in KSA. If someone is considering accepting a job here, they might be able to check the place out first easier. We should always consider the affect on the kids in all our decisions, but then we can still miscalculate that too.

    Hi Veeds - I always welcome guys' opinions! I've heard that about possible services but don't have any firsthand knowledge or experience with it either. Wishing you a peaceful holiday...

    Hi Anon/Lucinda - Great summary! It IS complicated and what may be right for me may not suit everyone else and vice versa. The relief breaks do help, but the holidays are a rough time for me here...

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  40. Hi AmericanBedu - I actually just met an American woman who lives fairly close to me! Your idea about a magazine sounds interesting - hmmmm... Thanks for pointing out about the student situation. I know that it was easier to get me into the country at 55yrs than it would have been had I been of child-bearing age. Great point. XOX

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  41. Dear M....I find my self in the same situation as you. But I have made my desition and I'm waiting for a job contract in order to move to Jeddah... I will be working in the medical field and I'm exited to move there.

    But before I made my desition, I told my fiance exactly what I wanted to do and he told me what he expected from me and we both agree that we have to make the necessary changes in our life in order to adjust to each other. Life is all about sacrificing some thing in order to achive the important things that really will make us happy.

    Like many say LIFE IS TO SHORT and if you think his love is going to make you happy and if you feel that no matter what you are willing to build, adjust, change and move on in order to be HAPPY...GO FOR IT!!!!

    Are you happy here? Do you think that you can give up (with out being your self) some things in life? Are you willing to adapt to a new language? culture? religion? ...

    I been around the Islam and I'm not Muslim (yet) but there are something about the religion that i find fascinating. And I don't think I will have a problem converting and accepting Islam in my life. As I told my fiance... I'm not planning to go and convert tomorrow ...but maybe in the future and when I feel it and for our happyness and MY happyness i will. (INSHALLAH).

    You must do what your heart and your feelings tell you to do, no matter what people tell you or what you read LIFE is what you make of it and its about the experiances we live in our live...

    If you want to contact me you can write me at aima1214@hotmail.com. I will be more then happy to be your friend. :)

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  42. Hi CoolRed -

    I'm afraid you missed the whole point of this post which was to try to provide information from my personal experience to someone considering marriage and a move to Saudi Arabia, so she can weigh the options and make an informed decision based on what she thinks might be best for her.

    My post was in no way meant to diminish the hardships and horror stories that you and other women have suffered at the hands of bad husbands. Bad husbands come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and religions and are not limited to just this part of the world.

    Heaven knows I don't have a bad life and I have said repeatedly that I am NOT miserable, but to use the word "superficial" here is to attack the intention of the post and I feel you are way off base. Even with my situation likely being one of the better case scenarios, there are still drawbacks that should be considered before moving here.

    I didn't write this post to try to get sympathy for poor little ole me. I merely laid out my reality for someone who asked and tried to give her an idea of what she might expect. I made it clear that my situation is different from others.

    But --- Do I have a full life now compared to before I moved here? No!
    Is my son happy here? No!
    Is there plenty to do socially and workwise? No!
    Is this really where I want to live? No!
    Is it easy to adapt to living here and do I feel like I fit in or belong here? No!
    Has my husband changed since we moved here? Yes!
    Is my life boring here? Yes!
    Do I love my husband? Yes!
    Is my marriage important to me? Yes!

    I stand by the focus and the intention of this post and sorry if you took it as me trivializing your horrific nightmare of a marriage. THAT was NOT my intention.

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  43. Hi Anon @3:05AM - Exactly! We all have to decide what is best for ourselves and what we can live with or live without. It important to arrive at an educated decision together and not just rely on hormones. Thanks so much for your comment and I hope you hear from M.

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  44. Susie,

    I really, truly think you have a book in the making here.

    Self publishing has become so much easier with the Internet. Heck, a relative of mind did, and I'm now challenged to do the same "just because".

    However, your book would be a resource for many women, and a great use of your time.

    Please... think about it seriously, you could write a book, and also be editor of the advice/stories of other expat women in the KSA. Listen to what Carol says (Carol, you and your beloved are in my prayers.)

    And, to M...

    You're a career woman, that's apparent. So, do not marry your boyfriend/fiance. You won't be happy over time, and you'll have many regrets.

    And, that has nothing to do with the KSA or him being Muslim. I'm a career woman, I love what I do, and my husband does too. It's such a joy when you can do what God/Allah created you to do (gifts and talents), and then share that with the man you love.

    Find a man who will love you 100%, as you are, and who wants you to grow in your chosen career. You could end up making amazing contributions to society.

    ~Anon/Career Woman

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  45. Just in case I don't get to check in the coming days, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. Wishing for you much love, health and happiness.

    You gave very sage advice to this young woman and I think she would be wise to examine it.

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  46. Hi Susie,

    Great post, your writing is so powerful and always strikes a chord.

    My few short months in Saudi are just memories now, but I will never forget how I just felt like a non-person there and how upset I was with myself when I realized I had given up my freedom and my liberty for a j-o-b, of all things.

    In my opinion, the only thing that could even begin to be a reasonable trade-off is the reason you did it, for love.

    Hope your holidays are happy, Susie!

    ch

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  47. It was a journey of life extraordinary. But rest assured that after the difficulty was easy. We just do not know when it will come easy to us. May you be a lucky person. Hopefully you can reach all your life dreams.

    I am from Indonesia, and I'm sorry if my english not good.

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  48. I think there is something that noone has mentioned here, and I think it is very real.
    The questioner is saying how her boyfriend wants Muslim children and how they r way too into the relationship to break it off.
    I need to tell u the very REAL reality of Arab men (course not all of them).
    When they are abroad, they may take girlfriends. Now by you saying the relationship is so deep, I am just assuming that includes being sexual. Although you as a westerner may say well yeah of course we r both adults, his view of you and premarital sex could very well change after he gets back home.
    It is very likely he will regret that part of his life and start accusing you of being easy and not fit to be a wife, this is how most Arab men think. If you were w/ him w/out marriage then he cant trust you. It doesnt matter that you love each other right now!
    Also many Arabs feel the need to take on a wife of their own culture, alot of times because of pressure from the family. Or simply perhaps they want pure Muslim children.
    And btw Susie you did a wonderful job of explaining so much about your life and I commend you for being able to put your love for your husband before your own need for perfect comfort in this world, that is some old fashioned values that you just rarely see anymore. And p.s. your pic of you two being young, him with that big afro and you with that gorgeous smile is absoluetly adorable!
    UmMuhammad

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  49. I married someone from Ohio - That's a different enough culture for me.

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  50. Hi Anon/CareerWoman - I actually started writing my story shortly after 9/11 when my husband and I went thru the worst time of our lives. I'm seeing my life here as the second half - I just don't have an ending for it yet and I don't know whether it will be a happy one either! Thanks for taking the time to comment - much appreciated.

    Hi Yoli - I wish you the same! Any news on the new addition to your family yet?

    Hi Anon/CH - Great to hear from you! Many people don't realize everything that we give up to come here. I'm hoping you have a greater appreciation and satisfaction with your life now - and that your experience here helped to clarify that.

    Hi Makna - Thanks for your comment - I hope I am lucky too!

    Hi Anon/UmmMuhammad - Your points are indeed important. I guess every man is different and sometimes we don't really know the "real" person until he's back in his element. Thanks for the compliment about the photo - it was taken shortly after we first met. I was 26!

    Hi Anon @11:23AM - Too funny!!!

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  51. Susie...this is quite a post. What important information you have provided. It must be difficult for YOU, losing so much freedom. Sounds like women are secondary. I give you a lot of credit for being able to do this. Your site is amazing.

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  52. To Cool Red- I think you need to cool your jets- things aren't always about you. Suzie was just tryin to help somebody and wasn't tryin to get us all to feel sorry for her like you seem to think. What she wrote here isn't superficial at all- it's real and it's important and your comments were off topic. I remember a while back she even asked people to donate money for you- there's something wrong with you. It seems like you're the one with the poor-me complex.
    Suzie - another great post. I'm sure your candidness will help "M" in her decision.

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  53. Wow. A VERY honest post. One of the most honest I have read in the blogging world. You state you aren't miserable, but one wonders how long that will last when you list a litany of things that make you unhappy about living there:

    "But --- Do I have a full life now compared to before I moved here? No!
    Is my son happy here? No!
    Is there plenty to do socially and workwise? No!
    Is this really where I want to live? No!
    Is it easy to adapt to living here and do I feel like I fit in or belong here? No!
    Has my husband changed since we moved here? Yes!
    Is my life boring here? Yes!
    Do I love my husband? Yes!
    Is my marriage important to me? Yes!"

    I understand and respect the last two portions of this, but even the marriage will start to have issues if you are forced to live in a place that you don't want to just for the sake of the marriage. Eventually all of those "NOs!" above will impact the relationship with your husband and your marriage.

    Your situation is very common. Arab/Muslim man comes to the West when the religion means very little to him. As he gets older he realises he is getting closer to the day in which he will have to meet his maker. So his spouse, often a Christian, suddenly feels very confused when the husband suddenly becomes a little fanatical about Islam when he drank, had sex outside of marriage, celebrated Christmas and the like for years, even decades before and during the marriage. Obviously when he got married he didn't think too much about Islam. Most Muslims who are really devout will not marry someone who isn't a Muslim.

    It is unfair for the man in such a situation to decide to change the rules of the game, which is often what happens. You stated in your interview at Ghada's site that you and your son were free to leave, but that your husband wants to stay. It seems like to me that this is an ultimatum......either you stay, or your marriage is over.

    See, as a Muslim, I have a problem with what seems to be some basic assumptions being made by your husband. First is that one cannot remain in the West and still be a good Muslim. Such a comment is usually made by those Muslims who are on the more extreme end of the religion. The West has a large and thriving Muslim community, and having traveled the Muslim world and the West, I can state that many Muslims in the West are just as devout, if not more so, than their religious brethren "back home".

    As to prayers, one can make them up later if you miss them, and more to the point, the Sunnah is that there is a rather wide space of time to make your prayers. They do not have to be said in the space of a few minutes, depending on the prayer there is a window of a few hours in some cases. Seeing how far your husband has been from Islam for years it seems like he might not be that familiar with the religion himself. Going back to Saudi means he is going to pick up the most fundamentalist view of it. That is NOT good news for a Christian wife and a son who really isn't interested.

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  54. Your son is the real issue, in my opinion. As he isn't an adult he doesn't really have much in the way of choices. Unless he speaks Arabic very good he will not be able to finish his schooling in Saudi. Without schooling and good Arabic he will have a VERY hard life in Saudi. If he hasn't finished school in the US then every day spent away from school and the US is a wasted day, a day deferred from the rest of his life. If he hasn't finished high school in the US he will then have to return to the US and get a GED and attend school without a chance of entry to a university.

    We know this very well because my step son is in the same situation, but we sent him back to Saudi because he was failing school and getting into trouble here. He had multiple chances to change and didn't. In effect this stay in Saudi is delaying your son's future and is going to harm him in the long run. Even if he comes back to the USA now he will have to live with people besides his mother and father and start at a deficit, let alone having to pay for his own school and bills.

    Sorry to say this, but in the situations I have seen like yours the worst is yet to come. Often the Muslim husband, will at some point, decide that because of the years he spent outside of the religion (Islam) he will have to get more extreme to "make up for it". The pressure will mount on your son to become more religious, as well as other things which will be a more fundamnental threat to your marriage.

    Anyway, I think you should look at your own list of "nos" above and see if you think your marriage can last with these "nos" for another 20 years.......especially when it is likely that the number of these "nos" will increase.

    Thanks again for the post. It was brutally honest. It seems to be that you havent yet reconciled what all of this will mean in the long run.

    It is a great post for someone to read who is considering marrying a Muslim from the Middle East and what that might mean for their life in the short term as well as the long term. Your situation is actually very common. You marry one man and find years later that the man has changed, agreements and understandings in place at the begining of the marriage no longer are valid.

    Someone stated that Muslim wives of Saudi have it easier in Saudi, that is something I would have to contest. Not all convert wives of Saudis are happy when they move to Saudi. Many never wanted to move there in the first place. Often they quickly realise that what they thought was a "Muslim" society is deeply dysfunctional and often looks nothing like Islam. I am married to a Saudi lady, with an education and well versed in her religion who would NEVER move back to Saudi for all of the reasons you have talked about AS WELL as the fact that Saudi is a deeply cultural society and much of that culture goes completely against Islam.

    So the issues with Saudi men and their Western wives will exist whether she is a convert to Islam or not.

    Thanks again and all of the best to you and your son.

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  55. Anon/Career woman is right. A man who loves her should accept her the way she is and not try to change her according to his perceptions of how a woman should be - regardless of country, social group, religion and more so when he is a Saudi man marrying a Western woman.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Susie and to all others here!

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  56. Regarding living in Ohio--I have taught at a liberal arts college in a small rural town/village there for a professional seminar; lovely place, wonderful people, living there more than 1 week in the summer as I have would be major culture shock and worse for being insidious, ie it looks similar but is sooo different. On the other hand I could grow fabulous rhododendrons. LOL :)

    Makna Hidup--I understood you very well, and your sentiment was as beautiful as your lovely country

    Susie--while I think Coolred's tone was rather tough love to M, I appreciate your rundown of your current decision making factors. I think the use of the word superficial here was unfortunate, as it is easily misunderstood as dismissive of your challenges which are real, and about which you have been very honest regarding your own suffering. Hopefully all will take away a lesson that one is still better off with a good guy (mostly not abusive, but including good provider) no matter where you are living, and poorly off with a bad one no matter where. It is important to know that if one is in a bad situation that the law becomes your best friend, and the laws in Saudi are not as friendly to divorcing expat women with children as the ones in the US are. ie if you are lucky and the divorce is granted, most likely you won't get your children, and you will be caught with a difficult life with your kids in Saudi, or a difficult life without your kids in the US. Poor choices both. UmMuhammad pointed out another aspect of "an unpleasant marriage" in any culture, ie infidelity (whether he seemed like the type or not)--again where you are conditions what you can do about it.

    Anonymous To Coolred--as someone who also wrote a number of stories about her situation and plea for airfare to help her and 3 of her children rejoin the 2 she got to the US the year previously, I can assure you she is not a "poor me" type, and as she has twittered and blogged about, she is working 16 hrs a day (2 different jobs no time and a half or double time), often walking an 1hr to work in a northern state. I've forgotten how explicit Susie's excellent post about her was, but mine (written with her permission) made clear that the only reason she got her kids is that her husband was found legally guilty of sexually abusing their 2 daughters, which is where she found the courage to leave the man who had been abusing her for years, and with whom she stayed thinking she was protecting her kids.

    http://www.chezchiara.com/2009/12/ramadan-zakat-sadaqa-charity-when-mixed_01.html

    I am hoping M is not involved with anyone remotely like Coolred's ex- husband, but M should be aware of the family law where she is going because many marriages break up for much less, including at the man's instigation.

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  57. I hope M takes notice of this wonderfully informative post. Thanks for your honesty.

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  58. Susie, I seriously hope that you thinking about publishing a book, and not only with your stories, but pictures as well. You can change many women's lives. I will be one of them very soon. Merry Xmas from an Eastern European. You deserve the best.

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  59. Susie...possibly I chose the wrong words to express myself...I was rather agitated at the moment. I didnt mean to make it sound as if YOU havent suffered...or YOUR feelings etc dont matter...that wasnt my intention and Im sorry for that misunderstanding. Mostly what I was going for is to say something along the lines of...it could be so much worse...but its not...so be happy about that small blessing.

    Your post in and of itself was just fine...just rubbed me the wrong way...I suppose it would have been better for me to wait awhile after reading it to formulate my comment. My apologies.

    Anon...thank you for your comment and for pointing out my "poor me" attitude...are you assuming that because someone wrote a helpful post about me and my kids...or possibly donated some money to my cause...such as it was...that Im now not allowed to voice a contrary opinion to theirs? Susie was very kind indeed to post about our situation...of which I thanked her for that...but Im sure even Susie doesnt expect people she helps to spend the rest of their lives kissing her back side and biting their tongues while around her.

    I apologize for my choice of words...but not for the way I felt about it in general.

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  60. A Canadian ReaderDec 23, 2009, 6:51:00 AM

    What honesty! I admit I was a bit surprised to see you talk so candidly about the difficulties you experience. Up until now, I had the impression that you were relatively happy with your life in KSA.

    Personally, I would never in a million years agree to live in KSA. Women aren't treated like sentient human beings there--and I am basing this opinion on what I've read in your blog.

    Interfaith marriage is difficult, even under the best of circumstances. Although love is a wonderful thing, I couldn't imagine encouraging an educated Western woman with a career to move to Saudi Arabia, a place that is nothing more than a prison for women.

    The young woman who wrote to you should run not walk away from this relationship. You are probably an example of the best one can hope for as a Western woman living in KSA. You have a loving husband, good in-laws and a wonderful son. But happy?--I think the lady doth protest too loudly. I have the impression that you are valiantly attempting to do your best in a hopeless situation. As a human being--a talented, articulate one to boot--you deserve so much more.

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  61. The photos in your latest blog are great. Seems like you and your husband had a great time being together while you were here in the US and WOW what a handsome young man you are raising.
    I hope that after reading your letter this young lady will be able to decide what is best for her. It’s not an easy life and not a life for everyone.

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  62. This is an excellent piece of writing, Susie. It was good to hear the truth and I bet it felt good to write it.

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  63. Hello there Susie,

    Love the post! It's very honest and giving an insight tho those who plan to marry a Saudi man and live in KSA.

    Life is all about a choice, and it's always wise to make an informed decision and you have helped M to do so.

    And for you Susie, I really think you can turn the boredom of your KSA life becomes an opportunity. From your previous post - I learned that Saudi women are very particular about their beauty treatment and cosmetics. I don't know if you have interest and flair for business, but perhaps you can consider to become a distributor of spa products (traditional body scrubs, essential oils, traditional body masker etc) that have potential to be loved by KSA ladies and even a small beauty salon that offers spa treatments?

    Well this is just a thought. If you are interested, you can email me on my private email ...

    Marry x-mas and happy new year:)

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  64. Merry Christmas Susie, Come visit me in Beirut if you want a few days to decompress and just to breathe(just us girls too). I'm not kidding either. Beirut is just a few hours from you, easier than a trip to the US. I'm waiting for you.

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  65. In addition to what has been said- so many things look different when you are in your 40's not your 20's. Retirement plans? I believe as a Christian wife you can not legally inherit anything from your husband. Even as a muslim one it is minimal. Also, you will not get custody of your children in almost any situation- unless your husband or his family decide to give it to you.

    Then there are the things you never consider. For me, the biggest problem and strain on my marriage was the indocrinating, crappy (can I say that?) educational system. I may accept certain things for myself- but not for my kids. Getting this resolved was a major, major issue.

    Second wives- it seems to be the educated Saudi's version of "mid-life" crisis. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it- except leave- without your children of course.

    This may sound mercenary -but here it is. A certain degree of money is important. It buys you 1) a driver- 2) private school for your children- 3) tickets home to visit your family on a regular basis. A house with what constitutes "normal" life. Right now I want a private tennis court. This would NEVER occur to me in the states. But where else does a woman play here? You need one of your own (don't think I'm getting one, but I can dream!)

    Myself, I was fully accepted by my husbands family, and I have a wonderful network of friends and a rich social life. I work in education so I have career options- though I find working in an all-woman environment stiffling.

    Overall, I am quite happy- but really feel I was damn lucky. And there have been some very rough patches over the years.

    Also, can you really see your children raised Muslim if you are Catholic? And more importantly, there is often the expectation that the Christian wife will convert after a certain amount of time. As time goes on- if she hasn't converted "yet" it is because she is "rejecting" Islam. People generally assume a good person will convert.

    Ask how the women in your friends family live. This will give you a big clue on the expectations. Do the women go out of the house? Work? How do his sisters and mother live?

    Good luck. Overall- I'd say probably best not to do it. Love is not enough, so carefully access everything.

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  66. Thank you Susie for am amazing and honest post!

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  67. Sandy--an excellent summary and perspective. As mid-life crises are univerals--even Stephen Hawkings had one and dumped his wife for his nurse--all women should have a lifetime strategy, and know their rights on divorce, and widowhood, in the place they are living or may live, and for their category: Sharia family law makes separate provisions for different religions. Also, in both divorce and death, people get very nasty about money, children, rights of abode, sometimes in character and sometimes not. Ideally a couple plans for this together when things are going well and makes it legal for all relevant countries (an international family lawyer with knowledge of the specifics for the countries involved) is an asset, if not a necessity.

    You are right about looking at how the women of the family, and the friends are treated and their lifestyles. This will give clues to mentalities that might be reverted to, and to the women's attitudes towards you (often, as the transmitters of culture and religion, less accepting).

    Regarding being a Catholic and raising children Muslim, this happens routinely in French-Maghrebi marriages. I have never heard of it being an issue. By the time of the nikah most women expect exactly that. There are Lycee Francais throughout the Maghreb with numerous families with just such a constellation, and they are accepted fully. In the public schools, it is not an issue either that I am aware of.

    The expectation to convert is really familial and societal. Another reason to pick the family carefully (something Westerners often don't think of). I have been under none, from any family member, or institution. The adouls,went out of their way to guarantee my Roman Catholicism was written in to the marriage contract and that my "mahrem", was a Roman Catholic man, who was backed up by a letter from my father.

    Since we are discussing Saudi here, based on the information I have, and the confidences of women in this position of contemplating marriage with a Saudi: what is his family like (and what evidence do you have for it)? What tribe is he from? where is his tribal base? What city/region would you be living in? What is the city/place his family lives in, where you might spend a lot of time, or even move back to for whatever emotional/material reason?
    Life on the east or west coast of Saudi is different than in the middle, and life in a major centre with a high expat population, and higher educational institutions, major health care facilities, cultural sites, stores, etc is different than life in his home village where you are the only one not related genetically to the rest of the population, and not known ie not know personally for multiple generations of your family.

    How foreign are you, and how far off Islam? WASP Christian? South Asian Hindu? East Asian Buddhist? If you are Christian are you the same kind of Christianity the others are familiar with? eg Catholic, or Protestant? Mormon? Jehovah's Witness? Salvation Army?

    Love is never enough, and there are always rough patches. Is this one worth making the effort for? What is your back up plan?

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  68. Susie, whatever.. the last photo is so cute! Loved it! Thanks!

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  69. Hi Lori - Thanks very much!

    Hi Anon @4:53PM - CoolRed's story is tragic and she has struggled for such a long time to make a better life for herself and her children. She's a courageous woman. I understand where she was coming from. I think what I said in this post struck her wrong at the time and she spoke up which she has every right to do.

    Hi AbuSinan - There were several reasons why my hubby wanted to move back to KSA after so many years. One of them could have been to be a better Muslim, but it wasn't one that he shared with me. I know that prayers can be made up later if they are missed, but my husband is adamant about being on time. I hope your stepson is doing well over here now. My son will likely not choose to live here once he is on his own. And the end to my story has yet to be written...

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  70. Dear M, You have no idea what you are getting into, and you can't have until you are actually there.
    You will have no freedom but what your man gives you, no leaving the house, no medical care nothing unless your husband allows you. Do you understand that as a woman you will have no rights at all? really none?
    What about his family? Saudi families want Saudi wives for their sone, if not preferably cousins.
    They will kae life hell for you and there will be no escape in divorce for you unless your husband allows it.
    You will loose your children forever.
    He can take a second saudi wife like a snip and there is nothing you can do about it. You will be the inferior wife. You can only work (if you can find it) if your husband allows it. You cannot go anywhere without a driver. etc. etc. etc.
    You should really listen to the advice: RUN!!!!

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  71. Hi Daisy - I agree too. Thank you.

    Hi Chiara - Divorce anywhere is very difficult for anyone, but here in KSA, it always seems to be the woman who gets the shaft. Thanks for commenting.

    Hi Susanne & Anon @11:32PM - Thanks so much!

    Hi CoolRed - I understand your frustrations - we're cool.

    Hi CanadianReader - I feel like I am giving life here an honest shot. I'm learning that I'm not as flexible as I used to be when I was younger...

    Hi HC - Thanks! My hubby and I have enjoyed many wonderful years together. Every relationship has ups and downs and challenges.

    Hi Anon @12:53AM - Yes it did. I am trying not to hold back like I did for a while. Thanks.

    Hi Online - Women here in KSA DO love to be pampered. I know there are lots of products on the market already. Since my husband is not working here, I draw the line at working myself too! If he was working, I might feel differently...

    Hi BeirutDriveBy - Gee, thanks! I have always wanted to visit Beirut! Who knows?

    Hi Sandy - Great points. Money certainly helps make life more tolerable here. I'm glad you are happy - one of the success stories.

    Hi Chiara - Thanks again - there are so many things to consider. It's such a major decision.

    Hi DeepDowne - Aw shucks - thanks!

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  72. What an incredible post, Susie. I think your blog should be required reading for any woman wondering if they should marry a man a Middle Eastern man with different religious practices and traditions. You can't go into this with rose colored glasses and think everything will be fine so long as you have love. You need more than love. I imagine you need patience, tolerance, understanding and a whole lot of sacrifice. You're amazing!

    Have a peaceful, happy Christmas!

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  73. Susie, thanks for your thanks and you are welcome.

    I didn't realize that your husband was not working there. Frankly all that comes to mind on that one is OY VEY!!!!! OY GEVALT!!!!! and the like.

    Truly stunned, I am. Hub home full time ie not working--a frightening prospect just in itself. And his family so close. More Yiddish expressions of shock and awe! LOL :)

    But then I was raised from pre-school (literally) not to live with in the inlaws, and my mother, the teacher, would make us repeat: If you have to live with your MIL, don't get married. And then the pop quiz, What do you do if he says you are living with his family? Answer: Don't marry him.

    This was drilled only less than: If he hits you once leave him; and what do you do if he hits you, how many times does he have to hit you, etc.

    I am happy for Adam that university or shortly thereafter will be a chance for him to live where he chooses. On the other hand you will lose a driving mahrem. At least you have a couple of years to plan for that eventuality.

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  74. Yes Susie, I do live in Jeddah and i would be very interested in meeting up.
    if you could please send me the details i would really appreciate it.
    thank you

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  75. hi susie

    it was very nice to read your post.
    it made me think of many things.

    i am now in relation with saudi guy. and things are getting a little serious between us.

    i really love him and dream of living a life with him. but on the other hand, i cannot imagine myself getting adjusted to saudi. (i am Japanese = non native english/arabic speaker and holds no religious belief)

    i wonder if you have met any Japanese married to saudi men...

    your blog is a great source for me to make my decision, and encourages me that there are people with similar feelings.

    like you said, i wish he was from any other country besides saudi arabia...

    i really appreciate you for sharing your experience.
    thank you.

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  76. Dear Susie,
    Each one of us who has married or was married to a Saudi national has had their own unique experience. They simply cannot be all lumped into one-either good or bad, or inbetween for that matter. The thing that is most important in my mind are not the laws of KSA but the FAMILY that one marries in to. Sure there are laws in KSA-but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, it totally depends on whether or not the husband wishes to use those laws to exact control in all areas on his wife and children or not, in other words, there are extremely conservative Saudi families, middle of the road, and yes there ARE very liberal Saudi families. I think that point may be missing here, not to criticize, but just to point that out to other readers.
    Susie, your experience is very diffent than mine in that there was only one year out of the five that I was married to my ex-husband that we actually lived in a house all on our own. Either someone was living with us (mother-in-law, sister-in-laws)or we were living with them (myself alone in Beirut 1975-beginning of Lebanese civil war-with MIL and SIL's) or with his father with other family members in the same sort of quasi compound. In other words,in five years there were different living arrangements. Plus, it was 34 years ago, when believe it or not, things were much much more liberal than they are today in KSA. OK-but that was then and now is now. I just want to take a moment here to say that even in my own former family there are mixed marriages that have lasted for years-long years,also friends in the same situation. BUT, these marriages are those where the husband is very liberal-and yes even though there is a metamorphisis before your eyes when you have only known a Saudi outside KSA go home-not everyone of them all of a sudden becomes what people think of as "Saudi". No one can lump all Saudis into one neat package, tie a bow on it and say, "Here, this is what to expect". We all speak from our own experience. You have written a beautiful response to "M" because you have told her what COULD occur and yet at the same time shared your own heartfelt experiences. I admire you beyond words for your dedication to your husband and son despite your own loneliness at times. Your entire life and every emotion you have from moment to moment can never be put on a blog post, nor should it ever be. There are ups, there are downs-they are yours Susie, yours alone and no one else is living them. I just want to send you warm wishes of mostly times of happiness for your own sake. No one can be there in your shoes, each one walks in their own. Thank you Susie.
    When I read your posts my memories come back-maybe if I had been older and wiser? I will never have the opportunity to know the answer to that now. My life has gone on, I am AMICABLY divorced from my ex-husband and we lovingly share our 31 year old daughter. I am still on very very good terms with my former family. I am blessed. So I guess what if's should be tossed out. Blessings to you on Christmas Susie, it is of the heart, and can be experienced in many ways.

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  77. Hi Susie,

    I am in Jeddah. I'd love to join your monthly meeting.

    NAA

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  78. Once again, your honesty and candor are to be admired. No one but you knows how much you can handle and we are no one to judge or make you feel it's too much. May God Bless you and your family! :-)

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  79. Speaking from experiane I advise you don't doit ... don't married arab's man and stay in KSA and converting to islam, It's not worthed at all.

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  80. @ M please don't doit It's not worthed

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  81. Wow, great reading. i am curious what the author of the original email thinks of all the comments and of course of Susie's story.

    I hate to sound negative but unless you have really put a lot of thought into it and you are willing to make most of the changes and sacrifices then walk away now.

    My story is a very kind and gentle one and i have very few gripes for now but all that can change in an instant and it is not easy to walk away when kids are involved.

    Over the years I changed who I was, and have now spent alot of time trying to "find myself" again.

    Think long and hard ...

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  82. somebody earlier made a comment about possessiveness on the part of the husband. it's the hardest part for me about being married (my husband's jealousy)although when i first encountered it, i was flattered and found it attractive, never having been much sought out by boys in my youth.

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  83. Hi Susie,
    I was wondering whether your husband is reading your post. if so, what is his reaction! if not, don't you think it would be a good idea to share with him some of your concerns so he might be able to do something to make more happier.

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  84. @ Susie, I was very interested to read your story and to see the cute pictures. It is at once a romantic, but also a sad story. I am sorry but I do not think your husband is fair to you. To even insist in private company you are to wear hijab is silly. And especially in Jeddah!
    He acts as if he comes from Qassim!
    I would be worried about education for your son!
    My husband is very clear on the issue of marrying a foreign wife. He says: ''If a Saudi man truly loves a woman who is brought up free he has to do the right thing by her and never take her to Saudi. If he trul;y loves the woman he has to make his life abroad. A man who bring a woman used to freedom to Saudi must be either a sadist or very stupid and selfish.''

    @ M and the other women who are contemplating a relation with a Saudi man:
    Don't do it!

    And never, ever let him take you to Saudi Arabia! Once there, no promise he made is to be trusted for you will have no power, no rights, no freedom. Women are nothing in Saudi Arabia. They are slaves to men. They really are, by all intends and purposes, SLAVES!

    If your husband does not stand up to his family and protects you (and they won't: they always obey The FAMILY) you are going to be in hell. No matter what he says to you now: as soon as he has you in Saudi Arabia he will change completely. And a wife comes a long way behind the FAMILY!

    As a student they can't marry you anyway, not legally. They can also marry you and divorce you when they go back home. Bin Baz has given out a fatwa that this is a good idea. What happens to you doesn't matter.
    You will need government approval to get married.
    Saudi is very reluctant to give approval as they don't want Saudis to marry foreign wives. Unless the man has a lot of Wasta you may never get approval or wait 5 or 6 years. And his FAMILY will be pressing him top marry his cousin or at least a Saudi woman. FAMILIES don't like foreign wives. The mother wants to choose the wife for her son. She will make the life of a foreign wife hell if she's against the marriage.

    Women have only those freedoms which their husband gives them. You will be totally dependant on his goodwill for every single little thing of your life!

    And if he doesn't love you anymore he will either divorce you and you will loose your sponsor and be kicked out of the country without your children. (Children are property of the man) Or: he will marry another wife and push you away to live a lonely life with or without your children. He can take them away whenever he wants. If he dies his family can force you to live how they want you to live, they can take away your children too, as they now belong to the FAMILY. They now have the right to make all decisions for you and your children.

    And what of your children? Especially if they are girls? Your children will be taught their western mother is a whore, at school. They will be indoctrinated to despise their mother. They will have to go to Saudi schools which are horrible, and the girl's schools even worse. Do you want your children to suffer this?
    If you have daughters they can be married/sold off to a fifty year old man at eight years old and there is nothing you can do about that!
    Your daughters will grow up in a culture where they are slaves for all their lives, they will be taught they are second class. They will be under the rule of a man at all parts of their life. They will probably be married off by the FAMILY to a man they don't know and have never met.

    I have only one advice: RUN!!!!!

    I agree there should be a guide towards dealing with Saudi men, and I have started my own, with the help of my Saudi husband:
    http://aerinndis.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/of-western-women-and-saudi-men/

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  85. Susie, the fact that your husband isn't working, is becoming increasingly conservative, in other words...changing.. is a big red flag for me. If you were in the US, would you tolerate your husband's current behavior? Yes, the culture is different in Saudi, but that should only change things outside of the home and your marriage. If you're noticing changes within your home and within your marriage, maybe it's time to think about coming home. I didn't say divorce, I just said come home, hopefully with your husband as well, but without if he won't come.

    You say you're not unhappy there, but you seem very unhappy. Sometimes, we try to make a thing true by saying it often enough. Repeating "I'm really not unhappy" doesn't make it so.

    If I'm wrong, then I apologize. You just seem so very sad when you write about your life over there.

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  86. Hi Susie,

    I am an American born muslim born and raised in Chicago. I just love your blog and I adore you and admire your courage because even though I am muslim I don't think I could ever have the courage to move to the middle east. My husband is from Jordan and I have yet to visit my arabic isn't very good and I worry about the language barrier amongst other things. You really inspire me! I want to visit my husbands homeland but am very nervous about going I have never met his family and they want to meet our children. Perhaps one day I will go when the children get older, however I don't think I could ever move there indefintely you are really couragous to have moved to foriegn country for your husband. Keep writing your blog is wonderful!

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  87. Opulently I agree but I think the brief should acquire more info then it has.

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  88. I fell deep in love once with an American woman back in 1982,when I was there for a visit ,,but I knew deep in my heart that bringing her to Saudi will be unfair thing to do ..I had to break the relationship but not without tears and cries..I don't regret what I did..She would have really suffered as well as me..I long to the liberal kind of character lady in the west has , but my Saudi wife is catching up really well..Wish all lovers happy life..One Saudi

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  89. Susie..
    I Know you had much freedom to go about in states than in Saudi,,but what is that thing in Saudi found better than in Sates ,,just a curious Q..?

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  90. Susie!
    Awesome post, I am missing the states a lot right now too.
    I really loved the pictures of you guys, the hair was amazing!

    When you feel like you have to get away from it all just come for a short trip to Okinawa. You can stay with us. Your son can learn to surf, and we can snorkle and talk about Arizona.
    Then back to the ole KSA.
    With a tan.

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  91. Susie, could I ask you a question? Why can't you just walk out your door (fully veiled, even) and walk around taking photographs if that's what you'd like to do?

    Is it so shocking and impractical for a woman to be out and about alone?

    I'm only asking because I've heard it's a myth that Saudi women are literally not ~allowed~ (legally) to go out unaccompanied.

    But then, when I read accounts of women actually living in Saudi it doesn't seem like they think that's a realistic thing to do.

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  92. Hi Aafke & Kay - Thanks so much for your comments.

    Hi Chiara - We don't let Adam drive here - there's too much crazy testosterone on the road!

    Hi Maria - Please feel free to email me at susieofarabia@gmail.com

    Hi Anon @8:27PM - Honestly I have not met any Japanese women married to Saudi men, but I'm sure there must be some. I would imagine their situations must be similar. Thanks for commenting.

    Hi Robin - You are so fortunate to have a good relationship with your ex and his family. So many marriages like ours do not end amicably. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Hi Anon @1:11AM - My email address is susieofarabia@gmail.com

    Hi Cheela - Love u 2!

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  93. Hi Angel & Anon - Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Hi Anon @8:18PM - I did hear from M and this is what she wrote:

    "Thank you so much for your response - it has really helped and answered a lot of questions and concerns I have had. I read the post and it has given me a lot of insight as well. My boyfriend read it and I think this has given him a wakeup call. Now he is beginning to realize that it’s not only his family that would have to accept me, we would also have to be on the same page about maintaining our relationship the same way whether we are here or somewhere less free for women. The relationship behind closed doors should not change whether it is here or there and I am glad you brought that point up - because I have heard stories about that as well and that is a fear of mine. Also within regards to holidays, the points you brought up really hit home. For example, this year we celebrated Ramadan however now that it was Christmas he was ready to go away with some friends, and of course said that it is not his holiday. We fought about that for two weeks until he finally realized how much it meant to me. Then I showed him your blog pointing out that this is how someone feels when he/she has to do things alone and I did not want to live life like that, esp. if there were children. I think that just reinforced point I had already made. He realizes now how important it is to me to share my family traditions with my significant other. In addition to that, I am happy to report that he seems to be getting in the spirit now and adapting. We have even gone out Christmas shopping and he hates shopping! Your post has helped us both so much and he is going to make more of a concerted effort to mesh both cultures so I will not have to feel alone or lose myself in general."

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  94. Hi Anon @11:21PM - The jealousy thing has really caught me by surprise because my hubby just wasn't that way in the states all those years. I am now 58 so it just strikes me as a little wierd...

    Hi Sami - My husband doesn't really read my posts, but he is fully aware of my feelings, so nothing I have said here would surprise him. He does try to do what he can to make things that bug me better, but there is just so much he can do.

    Hi SaveTheWomen! - I agree about the hijab and I'm hoping that one day he will come around. Your husband sounds like a very wise and fair mean - lucky you!!! And I love your blog - thanks for the link. And thanks for adding your advice for M - I hope she takes it to heart.

    Hi Lindsey - I appreciate what you said. My husband worked very hard in the states and with him not working here, he just seems to have more free time at home which is new for both of us. I seriously doubt that he would ever go back to the states to live - he keeps saying that he got out of there just in time, regarding the financial crisis. healthcare, and cost of living. So this is my dilemna now and I still don't know what I will do...

    Hi Anon @10:12AM - Thank you. Jordan is a lot more liberal than KSA. I hope you get to visit there one day.

    Hi FreeSpirit - I always appreciate your comments. I wish my husband were more like you in his thinking! My husband is the oldest son in his family and was gone for 30 years. His family wanted him back so much that he doesn't have to work here and is happy to be back assuming his role as head of the family. My son and I are here only because this is where my husband wants to live. There is no other reason why I would choose to be here.

    Hi HowesFamily - This time of year is tough for us Americans and other expats who are away from their families and remembering the holidays. Okinawa - wow!!! You never know...

    Hi Anon @9:27PM - I have seen women out by themselves. My husband has become extremely protective and fearful for my safety here. He will not allow me to go out by myself - period. It's not a control thing with him - it's a safety issue. It was not an issue when we lived in the states. Once I went out for a walk with my son here and I can't tell you how many men in cars stopped to try to pick us up. I don't get it. I would never get in a car with a strange man in the states - why would I do that here, with a language barrier to boot? Men who see women out for a walk here automatically think she's out for more than just a walk!!!

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  95. Allow me to say how selfish your husband is. I just read your other post about your son's struggle with school in Saudi Arabia and I can't imagine why someone would put his family in such a hellish situation. and the fact that he didn't express his wish to return to his country from the start just makes it worse !

    My heart really goes out to you and your son. Wish that you could find a way out soon.

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  96. @ A Free Spirit,

    What a wonderful sacrifice you made. Not many people are able to care enough about the future, its all about what feels right in the moment.
    I hope your ex love found happiness and I also hope you did with your Saudi wife. You sound like an amazing man!
    @M please please realize your comments, you said after u fought for 2 weeks he went shopping.Honey you shouldnt have to fight, please please let him go. You are still young and have so much you can do. In saudi you will fight and the end result will not be you going shopping for Christmas, I PROMISE YOU THAT!

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  97. @ M, Please read your own ketter again, this man needs two weeks of convincing before he will even consider your culture having some claim on your life as well as his.

    Now this is bad enough in your own country, when you go with him to Saudi you can forget about ever getting any respect, let alone consideration for your culture, your believes, your holidays, etc. Your culture will be inferior, your familuy will be inferior, and you will be so inferior you will be a non-entity.

    You have problems making him see further than his own culture now. You have no idea what happens to Saudi men when they get off the plane in Saudi: they change 180 degrees! The become complete strangers!

    Get out now!

    Please read my series on Western women and Saudi men. I am stuill working on it but you should know that I will be writing about the reality of relationshuips with a Saudi men. These are different from any other relationships with people from other cultures.
    These posts will be written with the collaboration of my husand, a saudi man who is unlike other Saudi men in that he is strong enough to escape the straightjacket of Saudi culture.

    http://aerinndis.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/of-western-women-and-saudi-men/

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  98. Susie--regarding not letting Adam drive there: no wonder he "likes" the place so much! LOL :)
    Thanks for the follow up from M, I hope their relationship continues to evolve toward greater mutual understanding in their particular cultural context.

    Regarding safety and walking that is a legitimate concern, but:
    1) is this something that Adnan needs to learn to do? ie how to help his wife walk safely in Jeddah?
    2) would certain favourite routes lead you to being known as a local and not responding to the "interest" so it would decrease?
    3) is there a way to walk differently than you do that would reduce it ie more like a local. I realize that Morocco is not Saudi but I had to learn to walk without looking around so much, and my family helped me with routes and accompanied me until I insisted I could manage certain ones alone. When I was working my husband took me by car once, and made sure I knew the safest route and wouldn't get lost (forgetting that all gas stations look alike to me, but remembering I can recognize a specific Laurier Rose (Pink oleander) from afar). If you walk together some of the times, would you get a halo effect for the other times? ie maybe there are ways to get more flexibility on this.

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  99. Anonymous Married to a Jordanian--I hope you do find the courage to go to Jordan. I would go in a heartbeat, and you have family to receive you, which I don't. I wouldn't worry much about language, many Jordanians speak English, and a few words of Arabic are helpful for the rest. My experience elsewhere(Morocco, Iran, Canada with immigrants) has been that people are generally kind and very happy with one's Arabic efforts. It would be wonderful and important for your children to have such an experience, so they are more aware of that 1/2 of themselves, and have the love of more family members. I do hope you go, and let us know about it.

    I am assuming your husband's family are normal ie like the vast majority of families, with the occasional crackpot the rest keep in line. LOL :)

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  100. When I asked if Susie ever thought about going home, I said nothing about her leaving her husband or divorce. Why does everyone assume that here husband would not return to the US with her? I would think/hope that when Susie agreed to go to Saudi Arabia with her husband after many years together in the US, that it was a trial and she negotiated an exit strategy should it not work out for her.

    Susie, I understand that your husband tries hard for you and Adam but it pains me that he still wants to live there when it's obviously so far from ideal for his family. He is the one who wants to be there but he is not the one who has to make all the trade-offs and sacrifices in order to be there. You may not be miserable, but it does sound like your quality of life is severely compromised. And do you ever worry that Adam is absorbing all the institutional sexism and will come to think of it as normal?

    @Chiara said: "One correction, if you marry a Muslim your children will be Muslim." According to the laws of some countries. Not according to the laws of some other countries. It's a relevant point depending on nationality and where you live.

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  101. Caitlin, we assume that because Susie has told us many times that her husband is very clear on that point: he will not go back with his family.
    Which either means virtual divorce or actual divorce.
    No pressure of course.

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  102. Free Spirit--I found your comments compelling. You may find interesting the personal stories on my blog of 2 Western women whose relationship with a Saudi ended when the Saudi's time in the West did. Although it sounds as if you had a more mutual decision-making process, their stories indicate the pain of these breakups:

    http://www.chezchiara.com/2009/12/courtship-interruptedfamily-permission.html

    http://www.chezchiara.com/2009/12/courtship-at-home-sweet-home-consumed.html

    Also, please contact me at chiaraazlinquestion AT yahoo.com
    I have an offline question. Thanks!

    Caitlin--thanks for referring back to my comment above. If you read what follows, I believe I made it clear that the legal aspect is valid for Muslim majority countries only; and, that socially the child of a Muslim father would be perceived as Muslim by other Muslims regardless. Of more immediate consideration is that for the Muslim father (and his family) his child is a Muslim. I haven't met a Muslim yet, even the most non-praying, pork eating, alcohol imbibing ones, who would accept a different religion for a child, although many are happy that their child would be knowledgeable about other religions. The same goes for "I'm not really Jewish" Jews: a bris or brit millah is still the beginning of their child's life.

    Regarding place of residence vs divorce--there are many marriages where one spouse spends some time outside the country, often because of work considerations or family, or retirement projects. Of the ones I know personally often the woman is still working while the husband is retired, or they have family and aging parents in 2 different countries and actually live in a a 3rd one. Eg: wife in Hong Kong except for summer academic break-husband 1/3 of the year each in Hong Kong, US, England; both in Canada during the uni academic year-wife in France summers, husband in England; husband in Hong Kong & wife in US during academic year-summers in Germany together; both in Hong Kong-wife in England with kids for all school holidays.

    Whether Susie and her husband (and Adam!) want to do something like this is a separate question.

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  103. @Aafke Perhaps you have been paying closer attention than me. I have been reading this blog a while but I don't remember Susie saying that. I must say, that if this is true, it's profoundly selfish of Susie's husband. Without such an absolute statement, I would say it's a difficult situation with many perspectives and shades of grey. If he has indeed made such an absolute statement then I have absolutely zero sympathy for the man and I will endeavour to keep the relevant unsavoury adjectives to myself, purely out of respect for Susie. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he has said no such thing until Susie tells me otherwise.

    I also don't think Saudi Arabia and the USA should be the only two choices available for Susie and her family. Perhaps neutral territory would be in order. Even Muslim neutral territory. What about Syria or Dubai? Or Indonesia?

    @Chiara You sort of referenced this being a factor primarily for Muslim countries but it wasn't 100% clear that was all you meant. I don't belive it's true that your statement is valid in all Muslim-majority countries. I believe it's only true in those Muslim countries where it's a state religion. I'm talking about legal status (which is what your original point referred to) rather than social perception (which in your original comment you said didn't matter).

    >>The same goes for "I'm not really Jewish" Jews: a bris or brit millah is still the beginning of their child's life.

    Not true. I know plenty of secular Jews who have dispensed with both traditions and are content for no religious upbringing whatsoever for their children. For whatever reason, I know more secular Jews in Australia than in the US.

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  104. Caitlin--I still think what I wrote was clear, but I will state it again: in a Muslim majority country the children will be considered Muslim by the legal system, and by the society, and both are important. Very few countries use full Sharia law, eg criminal law, although Saudi does, but all the Muslim majority countries that I am aware of use the Moudwana, ie Sharia family law on marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, whether or not they use any other aspect of Sharia or Islamic law: criminal, civil, commercial, real estate, intellectual property, etc.

    That is the reason they have not ratified the Hague convention for the protection of the child, or have done so on the proviso that it is not used to contravene Islam, ie they don't want to sign something that will give custody to the Western mothers rather than the Muslim fathers. Of the majority Muslim countries only Bosnia and Turkey, both wishing compliance with European norms in order to be part of the European Union, have signed.

    It is also the reason that without an Islamic marriage a Moroccan Muslim woman, for example, cannot travel to Morocco with her French husband (who must convert if not already Muslim in order to have an Islamic marriage) and their children. She can be arrested for fornication and her children are considered illegitimate and will be taken from her. It is a serious and well known problem and a topic for feminist lawyers in Morocco. Most,if they do want to bring their family to visit family in Morocco, pose as the maid/ nanny.

    All "my secular Jews" are Canadian doctors and they all do a bris, even if they never set foot in a synagogue. I guess they are more traditional than your Australian ones. No matter, it was a side point, to this discussion for the benefit of Susie's correspondent anyway.

    I hope that is clearer. Otherwise check online, the information is readily available, including Western countries giving Muslims the option of Sharia family courts within their system, eg England

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  105. Susie reading your post made me sad…maybe because it invoked so many memories of my own childhood. When we lived in Saudi my mother was in her early 20’s and I watched her just waste what I thought would be the best years over her life locked away behind four walls. My mother tried to hide her deep sense of isolation and sadness from the family but even at a young age it was so evident to me. Till this day I experience bouts of resentment when my father fondly thinks back to the days in Saudi and I can’t begin to imagine what my mother feels.

    When we returned back to the States my mother had been out of job force for so long that it was hard for her to get back on her feet and for a while it got so bad that it started eating away at her selfesteem, because she had to take on jobs that I never thought living back in my desert cocoon I would see my mother do. Living in the desert for as long as we did left my mother without a sense of direction she was left dependent on my father for the smallest of things, she became insecure of her abilities and she had for so long abandoned her dreams and plans and for a while she constantly ran around in circles trying to make decisions as to what to do with her life once we returned home.

    My father had a hard time understanding all of this; and this in return it made their relationship very tense and today they are separated. And I for one, being the closest to her of all my siblings constantly felt guilty for how her life turned out. My mother made a huge sacrifice for all of us when it would have been easier to just pack up and move home and leave my dad behind. Sometimes I wish she had done that especially now that we are all grown and living away from her (that is except for me) it makes me wonder if it was all worth it.

    Susie thank you for being so open and I will be sure to share your blog with my mom.
    And to M, if you had asked me the question- I would simply tell you not to do it, you are young and in my opinion no man is worth it.

    Lara

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  106. Dear All,
    this post and all your comments were absolutly interesting. My question is very simple: how can accept to complete cancel yourselves (studies, hobbies, work, carrier) for another person? Doesn't matter how old are you, do you think it is worth to keep yourself apart? Can love be so strong to win all this negative element?
    then, aren't you upset with your husbands when they seems to not understand your needs and behave in a selfish way?
    thanks

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  107. Dear All,
    this post and all your comments were absolutly interesting. My question is very simple: how can accept to complete cancel yourselves (studies, hobbies, work, carrier) for another person? Doesn't matter how old are you, do you think it is worth to keep yourself apart? Can love be so strong to win all this negative element?
    then, aren't you upset with your husbands when they seems to not understand your needs and behave in a selfish way?
    thanks

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  108. Thanks to all the commenters and sorry to be so behind in my answers. Forgive me for not addressing each one individually at this point.

    Hi 2cents - Although I may sound like I complain a lot, I don't really feel like we are in a hellish situation or that my husband is selfish. He is very generous and thoughtful and is always trying to make our situation more palatable for my son and me. If it gets unbearable for us, we are free to go any time. Neither one of us is miserable here - it's just that this is not our first choice of where we want to live...

    To Chiara - Thanks for the suggestions. Actually Adam and I have been going walking in our neighborhood lately at around sundown, and we have not had any problems. I just wish there were a nicer area close to home for us to walk in...

    Hi Caitlin - I seriously doubt that my hubby would ever return to live in the US. He has said that after his mom is gone, he would consider moving to another country, but whether we could agree on a mutually suitable place together remains to be seen.
    As far as Adam absorbing the sexist cultural attitudes here, I don't worry about that happening at all. I have no doubt that my early influence in his younger years will prevail. He decries the inequities of the sexes he sees. He thinks similarly to Free Spirit.

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  109. Hi Enrica,
    Well i can't talk about from a lady's point of view simply because i am not a guy.
    But however answering your question:
    " how can accept to complete cancel yourselves (studies, hobbies, work, carrier) for another person? Doesn't matter how old are you, do you think it is worth to keep yourself apart? Can love be so strong to win all this negative element?"

    My Answer is YES, it is ok to loose everything in this world for the sake of your loved one.

    But you did ask a valid and a good question though, but i guess your question should be rephrased as:

    "Is this person I love, worth loosing everything?"

    There is nothing wrong in sacrificing things for a relationship but we must ensure that our sacrifices are acknowledged by the one we love and that the one we love always loves us till our last breath, no matter what. And also the one we love should also be willing to make sacrifices when required.

    Again its a question of how one defines themselves. For example, i got friends who love to define themselves as a "Top world class engineer, doctor, etc." and some who like to define themselves as a "Party Maniac, Mall Rat, etc.", and some would like to define themselves as a "Worlds greatest Father/Husband or Wife/Mother". So the point here is people priorities differ from person to person. We must respect everyone's priorities in life.

    But of course if one would marry the wrong person they would naturally feel bad for the sacrifices they make.

    Like i know my father (from India) throughout his entire life never bought a car though he can afford a BMW, instead he spent away all his money in providing for my education, buying real estate for me and also a Jewelery stash for my wife. And if i am a successful professional in my field its because of my dad. In fact i feel guilty for not having given him any thing in return for what he did and I feel guilty and depressed about it. But my dad never expects anything in return from me and he is still happy feeling accomplished in raising me up!!!.

    And in marriage even i sacrificed a lot for my wife and my wife also did much more, but we have never felt sad about it and in fact we never even think about it. If at all we are happy to have sacrificed a lot to just marry each other.

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  110. Hi Anon/Lara - Thank you so much for your comment. There is no doubt that women who come here for the love of their husbands and their children truly make supreme sacrifices for the sake of their families. I think coming here in my mid-50s, although certainly not being any easier, is likely a far different situation for me than it was for your mom in her 20s. I made all my own decisions, traveled the world, and was a career woman. Even though now I feel very dependent on my husband because of the way this society is, I'm ready for the perks this lifestyle can afford me, like no stress, not working, etc. My husband now sees it as I am pampered, though I may not see it that way. His stress level is greatly reduced and he's actually become much more attentive and relaxed, like when we first met.
    I wish you and your mom the best and hope that life improves for her and she finds peace within herself. A woman who sacrificed, as she did for her family, has every reason to be proud of what she did.

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  111. Hi Enrica - There are many women who have made their lives, raised their families, had careers, and who consider this their home now. I've even heard a few of them say they don't even care to visit their original countries anymore. They take their marriage vows very seriously and have done what they need to do to make their lives and their marriages work. Granted, this is not the life for everyone. And certainly there are many sacrifices a Western woman makes to live here. Many take classes, pursue hobbies, start businesses. Yes, there are men here who are real jerks, but you can say that about ANY country. I think the men here who have married Western women obviously wanted something different for their lives. My husband knew me very well when he married me. What you see as selfish behavior, he sees as for the good of our family. Just because I can no longer drive, have to wear a piece of cloth on my head to please him, and my social life is curtailed dramatically - these are not adequate reasons for me to throw away our 30+ year relationship. Yes, there are things I would like to see changed here that would make a positive difference in my experience of living here, but how important are those things in the big scheme of things? I love my husband and I know he loves me. My son can choose where he wants to live in a few short years when he is out from under our wing. In two years here, I have already taken three trips back to the US to see my family. I would love to be on a 4month here/2 month there schedule - I think that would be perfect for me. Hopefully it will happen...

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  112. Hi Abu Abdullah - Thanks so much for your explanation to Enrica. I totally agree with your point of view. Every situation is different and it's hard for someone else to understand if they're not in that position. Thanks again and best wishes to you.

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  113. Susie--I am glad that you and Adam are getting some walks in and "staking your territory"! LOL :)

    Abu Abdullah--your comment is so apropos and well said! I would urge anyone who is curious to learn more of the challenges you and your wife faced to be together, and how successfully you are doing so, including the recent arrival of your beautiful baby Ameena, read the 3 interviews "the 3 of you" provided: yours, your wife's, Ameena's.

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  114. Dear All,
    thank you very much for you kind answers and I apologie if I was not so discreet questioning about your lifes, there was no intention of offence in my words.

    I studied Arabic language many years and travelled in different Arabian countries for my studies, so I am not that far from knowing the culture. However the issue of woman position always interested me, but i've never had the opportunity to discuss with someone living there. This is why I want to thank you all.

    I understand your point of views and obviously I respect them, however as woman I found it difficult to understand your devotion, probably it is just a different perspective of life.

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  115. Hi Enrica,
    To me your comment was not offensive at all.

    And am glad to know that you are open minded to understand others views as well.

    Thanks for visiting my post and commenting as well.

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  116. great blog Susie!
    Sounds like your son is old enough for you to move back home. you seem to love your hubby, so why can't you two agree on your happiness for a while. A long distance relationship doesn't sound that bad when it means you can become who you want to be. don't divorce him, just live your own life for a while. You sound like you need time for yourself.

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  117. "if my husband had wanted a Saudi wife," what defines a Saudi wife in your opinion? Could it be the opposite of Susie?
    I wish every one would stop using the term "Saudi wife" as a synonym of malleable.
    I think you are a lovely person and a great woman and that is exactly what makes it hard for me to find you categorizing me and other Saudi women in this way.

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    1. Believe me I mean no disrespect when I say that. I believe that my husband and I probably would have had a much easier time in our lives had we both married mates with more similar backgrounds, religious beliefs, and cultures. Even after 35 years together, we still face these differences every day, and sometimes it's quite frustrating. My remark was not made in a derogatory way at all. I love Saudi women and I know that they cannot all be lumped together because they are all as different as the colors of the rainbow, as women everywhere are. I'm not one for generalizing. Sorry if you took offense, but that was not at all my intention.

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    2. Thank you for the explanation and I hope your life here gets easier though I doubt it.
      This country still has millions of years before accomplishing any palpable change or reform. And the damn weather is not helping! Though it's a minor issue for some people, I can't stand it and I'm a native so I really can't imagine what it's like for you.

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