With Relationships, We Find Happiness In Our Own Way
By Rym Ghazal
The National – Opinion
20 July 2016
“I just got so tired of Arab men and their games.”
This month, a Saudi friend announced that she is marrying an American man. She is one of seven friends who, over the past two years, have found love and the man of their dreams outside their community and culture.
She is the third to marry an American. Two others married Italians, one married a French man and the other married a Canadian.
While we shouldn’t really be making a big deal of nationalities, what is interesting is that all of these women were in their thirties and had been marked “expired” by their families. And, quite openly and rudely, they were told by some Arab men they had met that they were too old to be valued as a potential wife.
Of course, it is more complicated than simple matters of age and backgrounds, and we probably shouldn’t generalise – there are many, many happy marriages between Arabs – but there is something here to explore.
By no means can we say that this is something new, given that older female members of my own family have married European men. At the same time, there are no proper statistics on this for us to be able to make sweeping statements such as “more and more Arab women are marrying non-Arabs”.
The high-profile marriage of Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin to the American actor George Clooney in 2014 brought some of these discussions to light. At the time, she was in her thirties, quite independent and strong – and these were given as reasons why Clooney appreciated her.
Taking a step back, I have heard over and over again that women who have worked hard and are pioneers in their own rights have difficulty finding partners who appreciate them as they are.
“I feel I am constantly being assessed if I am worthy of becoming his wife,” said a friend who ended up marrying an Italian man.
“My husband loves me as I am. And those things my Arab ex didn’t like or took for granted, my husband loves and appreciates,” she says.
She, like my other friends who married foreigners, said that she felt she could be herself around her husband.
What is interesting is that I have also heard this from Arab men who married foreigners. They even admit they treat the foreign women better than they did their Arab exes. Why do that? Why do we put on masks and act out roles when we are around someone from our own nationality or background?
Arab men have been marrying women from different backgrounds for centuries, but Arab women have generally stayed within their own circles. The few rebellious ones who married outside their culture had to make great sacrifices.
I am all for mixing nationalities, because I come from a mixed background. I find that embracing differences and loving someone for their hearts and who they are is more important than how they “should be” or how they are on paper. But each to their own; people find happiness in their own special way.
Last week I addressed the issue of “uqdet el khawaja” (the foreigner complex), referring to how some Arabs appear to prefer to work with and buy from foreigners rather than from their own people. While many hate to admit it exists, it even makes an appearance when we are looking for partners.
It should not come as a surprise, given this phenomenon, that some Arabs seek to marry outside of the culture.
These are sensitive issues and difficult to discuss without ruffling feathers. Whatever the case, it is not only Arabs who think that certain marriages can change their lives for the better. Ultimately, it is really all in our heads and only we can start to change that.
Photo Credit: Fine Art America