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Relating to the Husband's Family

Another factor is the power that the family of the husband has over acceptance of the wife. Of course, this is something we all have to do in marriage-to work out the relationship with our in-laws, but in this situation there is the added dimension of cultural differences. There is a strong attachment by most of the men to their families of origin and to their homelands, and what that family feels in accepting the wife may be very important. Sometimes it is strong enough to break up a marriage if families disapprove; some learn to live with a poor relationship with the husband's family, but the majority of these women respondents found love, acceptance, and pleasure in knowing their husband's family. They reported good communication between the families by letter and telephone and visits back to the husband's homeland. At times the relatives come to visit or reside in the United States or Canada.

+1 have met my husband's family. I was scared to death to meet them-they had bad ideas about American women. They were shocked to see that I cover my face-they were visibly uncomfortable about it. Not a warm welcome, but no one tried to kill me! We live in my husband's family's home (in his country of origin). I have been here a year, and I have not been accepted-only a few of them have wholeheartedly welcomed me. Most of them have a fear that one day I'll leave and take the kids.

My husband and I truly felt I would be another one of the gang. Well, I'm not even close! I'm not sure I'll ever fit in as a true family member. As we anticipated, we have a lot of problems regarding Islamic practices. My husband's family is very westernized. The benefits of being near them have been for my husband and the kids-a bigger framework to fit into as full, permanent family members. +My husband's family was there when we married. His mother is Brazilian and converted upon her marriage so they are sympathetic to some of the difficulties. They are living in the U.S. now and will probably (when we can afford a big enough place) live part of the year with us. They will help the children and me with Arabic and also Portuguese. The difficulties will be their poor diet and exercise habits. I'm a health food nut (except for chocolate!) and my husband gets tense and weird around his father but this is improving.

We help support them financially and that does make our lives harder, but they lost everything in '67 war and again in the Gulf War. They were in Kuwait. They are simple people and so are we. +My husband's mother is very dear to me and we all cry very hard when the time comes for us to leave. It is like when I visit and leave my own family. Both my parents and his family care deeply for each other and mine sends gifts and calls when we are there.

+I met my husband's family on a trip we made to his country. They are wonderful people, and they have been completely accepting even though I was a divorced American woman with kids who was not even Muslim, because I was important to their son and brother.

There are some areas that I have more or less difficulty fitting in. I'll never get used to having 35 and more relatives who don't think they have to knock, and think our private business is theirs. And I've never gotten comfortable taking off with the women for days at a time at larger gatherings. I made them assign a room to my family at a family wedding so I could get my own husband and children together if I wanted to-weird idea, I know. My husband puts up with my idiosyncrasies fairly well most of the time, and when he doesn't, his mother tells him he had better work out a middle ground with me! The benefits of relating to his family are that they are really a family with all the good and bad features thereof -something I had not really ever had before in my own family.

+I met dozens of relatives in the first few weeks of being in Egypt, and it was a very stressful experience. Now I can say that his family and I get along well, and I am quite attached to them after having lived with them by myself for two months while my husband was in Saudi working. They've also accepted me, and feel comfortable with me, I think mostly because I showed them I was respectful of them and that I loved their son. The benefit is that I'll learn Arabic. The problem is always being aware of the fact that they're wary of Americans in general.

There are those who are even more warmly accepted by their husband's family than by their own. The following letter was written by one woman to her friend in the United States during a visit by the woman and her husband to his parents in Iran. +I've been here about one week now and everything is so wonderful. I have adopted my mother-in-law for my own. She is so wonderful. This first week has been interesting, meeting his family and trying to remember what customs to use and when. So far my husband has said that everyone says they love me, and I feel like I have been accepted. They treat me like a queen. My mother-in-law kisses me all the time and waits on me hand and foot. Not knowing for sure what to expect when I got here, I did a lot of unnecessary worrying. We were met at the airport by a lot of his family and it was a very touching moment, one I'll never forget. Mama is like an angel. I can't believe we waited so long to see her. I have spent a lot of time with tears because of what I see here. The family system here is unique with closeness that is beyond words. Some of my tears are due to the fact that I felt more love in one week from his family than from my own flesh who didn't even bother to say goodbye.

Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"

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