By Susie Of Arabia
December 28, 2009
As a result of my last post “Dear Susie…” another Western woman married to a Saudi has given me permission to share her recent emails to me with you. I found it distressing to know that after close to two decades in the Kingdom, she is still not happy living in KSA, and yet at the same time I found it comforting to know that I am not alone in feeling this way. Here is what she has to say…
I was so naive when I made the decision to follow my husband here. I had no idea of how life would be for me as a woman, how dependent I would be on my husband, how I wouldn’t be able to leave the country without my husband’s permission, etc., etc. And my husband did not volunteer any information either. I think he knew I would be hesitant to move to Saudi if I knew too much. My parents have always let me make my own decisions, and I appreciate their trust and confidence in me. But boy oh boy, do I wish they had put up more of a stink with regard to me going off to Saudi Arabia. Back in 1993, there wasn’t a lot of info out there about foreign women married to Saudis. I wished I had had access to all that is available now. My eldest daughter has asked me on more than one occasion, “How could you move to a country you knew nothing about?” I tell her it was because I was young, fearless and looking for an adventure. I believe my faith is what has pulled me through all of these years, and perhaps, I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.
I came here, too, with the bare minimum. I gave up so much, and I put my all into building a life here. But the small things that have bothered me over the years have built up into a mountain; and I’m feeling smothered and simply worn out. I’m just taking it one day at a time. Life here isn’t intolerable (most days), but I’m itching to find out if there is a possibility it could be better elsewhere.
I may feel happier if my husband would take the children’s and my security a lot more seriously should something happen to him. We don’t even own our own home! I do not have Saudi citizenship; but we have filed all the necessary paperwork and my file is pending in Riyadh. I will never leave KSA without having that first. I, too, think I would be happier if we had a driver. But my husband does not want to get one, which is kind of funny because he is absolutely miserable taking us everywhere we need to go. I want to help out, but I can’t. I’m tired of having to schedule my outings around his mood or his schedule. Things got a little better when our eldest son got his license, but he’s away at college now; and our second son, who can drive, will be leaving at the end of the school year for college as well. I just want to do some things for myself. I’m tired of feeling like a child.
My husband has no interest in living elsewhere. It wouldn’t be practical anyway. He can be a much better breadwinner for the family here in his own country than anywhere else. He has no desire to even visit the US anymore. The last time he was there was more than 10 years ago. He does not write, call, email, or do anything to keep in touch with my family which, needless to say, isn’t sitting right with me. They are so good to him. My father sends him a birthday package every year, and my husband doesn’t even thank him via phone or email. I don’t know if he thinks he doesn’t have to keep in touch because they aren’t Muslim; but I know that their lives just aren’t that important to him.
I’ve tried working (teaching English), but I just didn’t like it that much. Besides, juggling a job and family responsibilities was a bit stressful for me. I don’t have a maid because that’s another thing that my husband doesn’t feel is necessary. As long as I’m not working, I don’t mind.
Like you, I think spending more time with my family in the States would make me happier. The norm for me has been a trip home in the summer every other year. My husband says he can’t afford it more often. We are a one-income family, and I understand. The total time I’ve spent with my family over the past 17 years comes to 18 months – yes, 1.5 years out of 17. That’s not much is it? I’ve missed out on so much over the years. I’m not even very close to my niece and nephews because of the distance. I thought I would get less homesick the longer I was away, but the total opposite has happened. I went home this past summer, and it was the best visit ever. I reconnected with long-lost high school friends, traveled out West with my parents, visited relation, and just felt so refreshed and alive while there. Every time I step on a plane heading out of Saudi Arabia, I have passive thoughts of not returning; but I always do. And when I get back, it never fails . . . I always feel down. I eventually get over it; but this last time it took a while.
There are a lot of things going on with me. I’m literally caught in between a rock and a hard place. I’m not going to make a rash decision about my future. I’m taking my time . . . trying to think things through carefully. I am definitely going through a midlife crisis. In early 2009, I had a stark awakening. I decided that I deserve to be happy and fulfilled after 21 years of marriage. I have repressed my needs and wants for so long, that they have come out in a fury of rage and anger. My husband is shocked. He’s worried he’s going to lose me. I just want to climb up on one of the mountains around here and yell out: WHAT ABOUT ME?
All I want to do is think about myself for a change; and because of that everyone thinks I’m being mean and ungrateful. Ahhh, the word “ungrateful” . . . women are so ungrateful, aren’t they? I’ve been told that most of the inhabitants of the hell fire will be women because they are ungrateful to their husbands. But where do you draw the line between being ungrateful and just finally getting fed up with being taken advantage of? When a woman is too complacent, she gets walked all over and her sacrifices are never appreciated. I do not feel like I’ve achieved much over the past 17 years; and I’m very disappointed in my husband’s level of success, especially career-wise. I’m full of anger . . . I’m angry at myself, my husband, my in-laws, the children, my Creator, and especially the Saudi society.
I’m angry at the Saudi society for not providing me opportunities to further my education or work in my field of specialty, for not allowing me to drive, for making me severely dependent on my husband, for making me lose my self-confidence, for placing such high expectations upon me that I now deal with severe anxiety. Do I have the right to blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness? Why can’t I just make peace with what Allah has bestowed upon me? My older kids always tell me: “Mom, you just have to make peace with the way things are.” Is it because I feel like I’ve been used and taken advantage of for so long that I don’t know what to believe? I truly feel my humble and complacent personality has led me to where I am at the moment. If I had stood up for my needs and wants over the years perhaps my current situation would be better.
So, what I’m getting at is . . . If I’m so unhappy, shouldn’t I remove and/or distance myself from the things I feel are making me unhappy? Why do I feel so guilty for wanting to pack up and leave . . . for wanting to try and see if I could find happiness once again? All I know is that I need to resolve the above-issues soon or I’m never going to feel good about myself or others.
I ask myself, “What would I do if I left?” And I can’t answer the question. I feel like I’m not capable of finding a job, finding new love, or continuing my education. I have a total lack of self-esteem. It’s so frustrating to want to try to start over again but at the same time you don’t have the confidence. I blame my husband for my current state because he has not been able to fulfill my needs nor convince me that life in Saudi Arabia is the best for me. Somewhere, somehow . . . I’ve lost track of how to do and experience the things that make me happy. I know I need to work on my own happiness because if I could be happy and have more self-respect perhaps my marriage would be stronger. I do want to create the happy-go-lucky, light hearted version of myself that my husband first fell in love with.
I’ve put little thought into what I want out of life and more thought into taking care of others. I’ve spent most of my days taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning and putting the needs of my family before me. I have no outside interests, no career and nothing to fulfill dreams I have. I also feel guilty for wanting to leave this place, as many Muslims would die for the opportunity to live here. I’ve been told that I have to be thankful and that living in Saudi Arabia is a blessing no matter how difficult it may be. So I’m torn. It just seems so complicated, especially with children in the picture. We have five, ranging from 20 down to 6.
I just can’t believe I’m talking about leaving. I never thought it would come to this. For the longest time, I hid my discontentment from our children, but they know now. I would feel incredible guilt for leaving, but it may be the best for all concerned because my unhappiness is just making everyone else miserable. My family back home doesn’t know how unhappy I am. I’ve sugar-coated everything, and they believe I’m content with life here. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but I don’t want them to worry. I think that if I were to approach them about my desire to come home, they would be supportive of me until I could get my feet on the ground.
I have made some small changes over the past year. They may not seem significant to others; but they are making me feel a little better. One, I started taking care of myself better. I joined a gym and started exercising. I’ve continued to exercise and watch my diet; and I’ve lost 17 pounds over the past year. It’s really lifted my spirits. I’ve also stopped running around like a chicken with its head cut off, thinking that I have to have everything perfect for my husband and children and that I have to be at their beck and call. I do things when I feel like doing them, how I like doing them, and I have accepted that it won’t be the end of the world if they don’t get done. When the kids are off to school and DH is at work, I use my mornings however I please. I’ve just recently started reading novels again and writing poetry. I have a few good friends that I try to see more often.
My new year’s resolution is to find peace of mind. I pray that all of the women in our situation will find happiness and peace of mind.