Transformation of the Saudi Man

The majority of westerners who have married a Saudi man usually met and married their husband while in the West.  The minority are those who met and married their husbands in the Kingdom or elsewhere.  Once a woman comes to the Kingdom with her Saudi husband she is not only going through her own adjustment and transition but will inevitably see changes in her husband as well.  As a result, if a western woman wishes to maintain a successful and happy marriage it will take much work and adaptation on her part; do not expect that the husband will or know how to compromise on some of these issues.

  I believe one woman whom I know summed up her experience and philosophy of “making it” well and she kindly gave permission to be quoted here:

“My husband is a good man too….but there are many western women here, married to Saudis, who haven’t been so blessed to have one of them… that’s all I’m trying to say.  And some of the gals that thought they had a good husband, ended up trapped in some very difficult situations. 


I’ve been here in Saudi since most of you were likely in diapers, so I think that entitles me to say that the odds are against any of us staying married, Saudi or not.  (Sad, isn’t it?)   The divorce rate is very high now…. at just over 50% in Saudi. It was extremely low when I arrived here.   As a matter of fact, it has gotten so bad now that the government is having trouble handling all the case loads… the English newspapers say so often. 


My husband is a good man, from a very good family,….but I have seen a lot in 25 years living here, and  I think that entitles me to express my concern about the future for other women like us…. at least to tell them to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.  And if I can save one woman from blindly giving her money away, here or there, that will be a good thing. There’s an Arabic saying…could be Hadith…??…. that says, ‘Tie your camel first, and then put your trust in God.’  


Many may be too young yet to understand what it means to live over here long term…to leave your own relatives behind and all your friends and build some semblance of a life over many, many years.  You don’t know how it is to make lifelong friends here that become like relatives to you.  You don’t know how happy your children are to find others that are like them while growing up here.  


I’m not trying to bash Saudis, really.  I love Saudis.   But, in this part of the world, women need to look out for themselves first……and what scares me more than anything, is the way women always seem to put themselves last….especially the ones that have been here a long time.  If you make sure that you are happy here, then it’s easier for you to make your husband happy as well as your children.  And, if you are prepared for the future, then you can relax and enjoy the days, months, and years ahead. 


My Saudi husband brought me roses and took me out for dinner a few nights ago…. I’ve known him now for over 30 years!  He’s my best friend.  My heart still skips a beat when he walks into the room!  Really!!  Is that sick or what? lol    But, tomorrow, next month, next year, 20 years from now… it might not be like today….so I’m preparing just in case.”


I know she speaks from years of experience and has seen a lot during her time here.  I have also noticed the transition that the man seems to go through.  It is almost like he was “unveiled” when he was outside of the Kingdom where close and extended family and/or friends of the family would not see him routinely so he could be freer, looser, more open.  But like a reverse rose which slowly blossoms open, he will continue to close back up tighter and tighter over time on return to the Kingdom.  There are so many pressures upon him on family honor, dignity, saving face, that rather than buck the system and go against the family, he will gradually yield and conform to their expectations.  And where does the western wife fall into this equation?  She is expected to “suck it up” and adapt.  She is expected to support her husband even if he asks to cover her head or her face where that may not have been an issue before; he may tell her with little to no notice that a large number of guests will be coming for an extended stay and whether they can financially afford it or not, they will beg, borrow and steal to put on the best face and show the finest time.  There may be increased segregation and less and less quality time with the husband.  He will simply say “I am going out” and neither offer nor give an explanation.  These are part of the realities that can and do occur.


So what does the woman do?  Of course that depends on the woman.  She may want and think she can change him and no one wants to discourage her from that.  Concurrently she should have a strong support network of friends who are from her culture, customs, background and can help her through difficult times.  Ideally she should have friends who are in similar situations; not so they can have a group gripe session but to give each other constructive support on getting through those tough times.

  That being said, it does not mean to imply in any way that every Saudi man is a “Jekyl and Hyde” personality.  Not at all!  There are many honest, generous, kind and responsible Saudi men married to Westerners.  However I do believe my friend gave wise advise since the odds for success are so low, the smart woman will prepare for any contingency.

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