Ok girls, It’s your turn.
On average, I receive 7-10 emails a week from usually frantic or confused girls who have found themselves in various stages of relationships with Saudi boys. Every email, no matter where in the world it is coming from, has a similar theme. So this letter is for those of you looking for advice from someone who’s been in your shoes. I get you. I’m here for you.
I could sum this letter up quickly by telling you that when it comes to dating a Saudi boy, the best advice is DON’T. Not because there are not absolutely amazing, caring, passionate, supportive, and trustworthy Saudi men. But because there are so many cultural and religious hurdles to overcome, it’s probably not worth it.
You see, this boy is not supposed to be dating you. Where he comes from, dating is taboo and pre-marital sex is forbidden. As one of the Saudi men mentioned in the comments of my last post: “Do not expect a Saudi guy you sleep with before marriage to respect you-that’s just the way it is.” So let’s get started.
I know how you feel. You met him and knew immediately there was something about him. You loved the way he was different than all of the other guys in class/at the bar/at work/etc. He was polite and a little shy, but really funny once you got him to open up. He probably mentioned to you that he was from Saudi Arabia and you probably Googled it to realize things are REALLY different there, but that doesn’t really matter. You’re open minded. He introduced you to new words, new foods, and new ideas and you were hooked from the start.
You may have been intimate with him, and he may have told you how beautiful you are, what an incredible lover you are, and how he’s always wanted to marry a girl like you. He may have told you that his family couldn’t know about you because in his religion, dating and sex before marriage are forbidden. You thought that was all admirable (and silly), but whatever…you like him and you don’t mind being quiet when his mother calls to talk to him on the phone.
You may have fallen in love with each other. He says he wants to marry you and for you to move back to Saudi with him, but that he is afraid to tell his family about you. He might go ahead and tell them, and when he does, they will likely forbid him to marry you. You tell him that love conquers all and you’ll do whatever it takes to stay by his side. You’ll find a way. He says inshallah, and you continue to dream about your future together. You’ve studied Islam and it sort of makes sense to you. You may have even considered converting, which will make your desire to marry him that much stronger.
I’m here to tell you that you’re walking a dangerous path. This boy that you’ve fallen for might be a good one, but the likelihood of him going against his family, his culture, and his religious upbringing is slim. You’re most likely going to end up with a broken heart and a distant memory of that Saudi boy you once fell for.
Yes, there are girls like you who have ended up marrying their Saudi boy and moving to Saudi Arabia, and some of them are even happy they did so, but that is a very tiny minority. The odds are totally stacked against you.
Now we need to get down to the nitty gritty. As a woman trying to help other women make sense out of their relationships with Saudi boys, there are deeper things I think we need to talk about. There are issues of self respect and self love that disturb me. As women, we’ve got it all wrong, and in the end…especially if you end up in Saudi…no one is going to be there to hold your hand when you figure it all out. It’ll be too late. So let’s discuss.
Firstly, there is no such thing as the love of your life. We are not put on this earth with only one chance at love. I know that in the midst of it all, the one your with feels like the only one, but that’s simply not the case. Heartbreak sucks, but it doesn’t have to kill you. You can and will move on and find someone new if the relationship you’re in comes to an end. If he wants to let you go, let him.
There is no man in the world who deserves to receive more than he gives in a relationship. Not even this one. It’s give and take. It’s about partnership. If you find yourself exhausted from trying to fix things all the time, from trying to avoid his bad side or his temper, from trying to change yourself into someone who fits his ideal, it’s not worth it. If you feel like you come second to others in his life, have to compete for his attention, or manipulate him into loving you, it’s not working. Let him go.
A man who loves you will not expect you to change anything about yourself. If you have male friends, keep them. If you wear shorts, continue to do so. If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, great. If you believe in equality between men and women, stick to that. Do not change any bit of your behavior or beliefs because you think he’d want you to or he’s suggested he wants you to. Yes, he would appreciate you to know the basics about his religion and culture if things become serious between you, just as you would appreciate the same from him. Anything beyond that should be YOUR choice. Don’t swear off your guy friends and start wearing long sleeves and jeans in August just because it makes habibi happy. And for the love of GOD, do not convert to Islam as a way to impress him, make him happy, keep him, or win him back. Stop it.
You should not have to force a relationship to work. You should not have to fight to keep someone in your life. If he wants to break up with you, let him. If he says he loves you but he will never be able to marry you, believe him. If he graduates and has to move back home, let him go. If you mean so much to him, he would be the one to find a way to make it work.
My final bit of advice to you will sound harsh. I’m sorry. It’s for your own good.
If you’ve read all of the above advice and you’ve found red flags in your relationship, you’ve understood the risks, and for some reason choose not to listen and eventually find yourself heartbroken or with a baby to raise all by yourself, you don’t have anyone else to blame but yourself, sweetie. It takes two to tango, as they say. Ask me how I know.
Be smart. Always respect yourself. Protect yourself emotionally, physically, and financially. Do not continue a relationship if there are things about it that make you uncomfortable. If you’re questioning things, there’s a good reason for that…don’t be stupid and ignore your gut feelings. Don’t feel so much for him that you forget to feel love for yourself. And finally, I’ll end with my very favorite relationship quote: Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.