Saudi Arabia: The Women Left Behind


The majority of Saudi men are good men who take pride in their wife.  He wants to keep his wife happy and satisfied.  He looks upon his home as a sanctuary and where he can relax with his wife and family.

Sadly, it is the minority of Saudi men who make the headlines and give a bad reputation not only to Saudi men but to the Kingdom.  These are the men who view self-gratification as a given right regardless of who might get hurt.  Such men will marry a woman but when his desire for her slacks he leaves her behind as he goes in search of other pleasures.

There are many categories of women who have been left behind.  She may be a non-Saudi who met a Saudi while he was studying in her home country or in her home country for other reasons.  They meet, fall quickly in love and marry.  This woman is likely unaware of the marriage permission process which is required for a Saudi to marry a foreigner.  She thinks their marriage is solid and that they will live happily ever after.  The man, on the other hand, will return to Saudi Arabia and not be heard from again.  It is very easy for a Saudi to disappear if he chooses to do so.

It is not only the non-Saudi wife who can be left behind.  This happens to Saudi women too.  Like the foreign wife, she believes her marriage is good and that her husband is content and satisfied.  Then, without any indication of a problem, he may either suggest she’d like to visit her family or perhaps she was already visiting family but instead of collecting her, days start to pass without any contact from him.  Or she speaks with him about returning home and he always puts her off.  Eventually it becomes clear that he does not want her to return.  She, too, becomes a woman left behind.

There is little that the woman who has been left behind can do.  In some cases the Saudi family (of a Saudi wife) will exert pressure on the husband to collect his wife.  In some cases he will yield to the pressure but by that time the wife knows he does view her as a true part of his life anymore.

These Saudi men are the ones who will not divorce their wives but unwilling to accept responsibility.  The wife finds herself living in a state of limbo, torn and conflicted.  For the Saudi wife, this situation is held tightly among the family.  It is not a subject that would be shared or discussed yet it is a small slice of Saudi society.


11 Responses

  1. I luckily met a good Saudi and we really truly love each other, but unfortunately, it has been 3 years we are still waiting the marriage permission. We both have met various difficulties in our daily lives, the most killing part is we just can share in cell phone. I don’t know how many girls or women there in the world waiting for being legally recognized by this country. Sometimes I really wonder why the saudi government think the non-Saudi just for acquiring certain benefits to marry Saudi and ironically who hold such patience and endure much distance certainly can make other easy plan for achieving similar objective. They should believe love is greater than other things. Allah encourage people to love without confining region. Eid Mubarak.

  2. Once again, Carol, you have certainly hit a nerve. This topic is outside my experience and knowledge so I will hold my peace.

  3. How can a Saudi woman feel safe, enjoy marriage or home life as long as she knows her husband could easily and legally marry up to four wives while she has no say in the matter or legal recourse? She has to swallow the pain, humiliation and stay in the marriage because there is no other place for her to go other than returning to her family who may not except her, let alone welcome her back. She cannot find a job without male approval and forbidden from renting an apartment or buying a house on her own.

    Two legged creatures are no different than the four legged ones in their natural state. The y have to be tamed. and In this case, non-stifling social contracts, codified rule of law, non-religious and independent judicial system where women can defend themselves, challenge their oppressors, and abusers by themselves.

    Most Saudi men hardly spend anytime with their wives other than in bed when they have the urge. Women can not say no to their husbands demands because they know, men could use that as an excuse to bring another woman whom without any previous warning.

    Defending wrong doings does not make them right, cure the root causes of the problems or help those preyed on by a harsh system and multitude of social illnesses they did not create. Saudi women have and are still paying very high price for crimes they did commit. They are being punished for existing.

  4. Can we get a story on the majority then?

    A muslim woman has the rite to state everything she wants in her marriage contract which is agreed upon before marriage..for example with this topic of more then 1 wife..she can state..that if he does take another wife..she can be automatically be divorced..most muslim women don’t take advantage of their rights within the marriage they need to inform themselves before getting married..especially for converts who are new to the religion and have no idea..and even more importantly for those women who convert to islam on the same day as their wedding which all to common here…i think that is crazyyyy they should have that stopped.i mean seirously ..u would sign anything on ure wedding day its such an emotional and joyous day I’m sure ure not thinking of 10 years down the track in that moment.

    The situation in Saudi is the same has become a common custom around the arab countries were mothers and fathers are more interested in suitors who have the big money and are doctors then pious men who will do good by their daughter and not abuse her rights.

  5. While largely accurate this article misses the main point which is not that the majority of Saudi men are good and the rest are heals- this could be true for any country. But rather that the social and especially the legal system completely support the man in either case. Women are essentially property and the men can do what they want. This makes even he women married to good men degraded. And the women married to heals- well they really have no recourse. And many things that can be put in a marriage contract will often not be held up in a Saudi court of law. And even if the judge decides to grant you your “instant divorce” on his acquisition of another wife- you will still lose your children.

  6. I agree with sandy, the ratio of good to bad men in saudi is probably the same as anywhere in this world ( a little bit higher end where women’s rights are not a high priority and where culture supports men)
    BUT ont he whole i’d say this is the same world over, nothing special to saudi what is real bad is the lagal system in saudi which leaves no recourse for women …

    unless that’s addressed saudi men are KINGS … and can do as they please. especially when they know the law is on their side….

    as for a wedding contract, it’s true you can put a great many things in it, but if you are stuck in saudi with that contract you’re pretty much toast , usually most countries outside saudi try to honor what’s int he contract saudi it all rests ont he whim of a judge and if you get a especially anti-feminist one ..wellthen too bad for the lady..

  7. @Bella

    You say women can guarantee themselves a quick divorce in case of a second wife like it’s a big deal. What happens to a divorced woman in Saudi anyway? Potential loss of contact with children, huge financial impact (3 months maintenance, ridiculous!), and tanking value on the next-marriage prospects. No wonder women stay in bad marriages. There aren’t too many rights to take advantage of, my dear.

    What always gets me about you people is that you paint a rosy picture of women’s financial state under Shariah while completely ignoring the pitiful allowance given to divorced homemaker women who may have shared twenty years with a man, only to be sent off with a 3-month check. This is why I enjoy reminding people that there is no such thing as marital property in Shariah. No thanks. I’ll take my civil code.

  8. I see a marriage contract as a legally binding document, which is only as valid as the laws of the particular country in which it was performed allows (and is only recognized by other countries in accordance with their laws, etc.). As for a marriage of two people before God, each other, their families, etc.- I consider that to be another thing altogether.

    Have any Saudi students ever tried to get a position with a Saudi company that will allow them to live internationally in a country such as the United States, Australia, etc.? I do realize that some have contracts with specific universities, companies, etc. though.

    If you are going to move to a country where you will have less rights as far as child custody, etc. in the event of a divorce, do your best to choose someone who will still act honorably even when dealing with people they don’t like/are mad at/who hurt them in the past.

  9. Laws and customs are important, and knowing your spouse also. Even so, I think that the biggest thing that a woman needs to understand when married to a Saudi male is that in most cases, depending on geography, your children are not YOUR children.

  10. I’m one of those non-Saudi women who met a Saudi while he was studying in U.S. We meet, fall quickly in love but we didn’t marry because he was not “prepare”. After long relationship I got pregnant and he just run away to Saudi Arabia with lying’s and false promises that he never fulfill. I’ll give birth soon, he just don’t care about his child while he is living a great time in his country and hiding the truth that he will be a father soon. So there is other case in this topic the women left behind with her children without any concern from their Saudi parents.

  11. If I did not live here, I do not know if I could possibly grasp the reality of this post. When I first came to Saudi, I was hit on by a lot of Saudi men. Offers of dinner, trips, jewelry, ect. All of them were married. Not that American men are any different, but the men here were shamless. Then I was introduced to a lady who really opened my eyes. She used to work in the same place I worked. She met a Saudi man and married him. She had two children with him. Then out of the blue, he divorced her. He pretty much told her that she could stay in the country and take care of the children if she followed his rules. If she didn’t, she would be on a plane home without her children. She stayed. She is allowed to go out Thursday mornings only. She can not go out any other time during the week unless it is to a function for the kids. She can not go to anyones house to visit them, only public places, and she can not have visitors in her home. And she can not be with any other men. She tested him once, and he took the kids and almost had her sent out of the country. She promised not to do it again, so he let her stay and brought the kids back. My heart breaks for her. She is living her life so she can raise her children, but at anytime, he could send her packing. I wonder when her children are grown what her reflection on her life will be. I am so thankful I will not ever have to go through what she is.

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