Saudi Arabia: Help! My Saudi Mother-in-law Does Not Like Me

A common plea for help I receive from foreign women who have married Saudis is that the Saudi mother-in-law will not accept her or like her.  What should she do?

First, a foreign woman needs to have an understanding about the cultures and traditions of Saudi Arabia.  The Saudi mother is always the Queen and she typically is the one who selects the bride for her son.  In some cases she may not have told him yet that she had a bride in mind for him so when it is learned that he went on his own and selected a foreign wife, she is going to be upset.  She may also be worried about losing some face if she mentioned to another mother that her daughter would be a good match for her son.

So when the Saudi mother learns that her son has selected a foreigner whom she does not know, she’s going to be suspicious and concerned for her son.  Was her son coerced by a foreign woman?  Is her son losing faith or drawing away from Saudi Arabia by marrying a foreigner?  How can a foreign woman know how to be a good wife to her son?

A foreign woman should not try to force or push herself upon her mother-in-law.  Saudi mother’s are pretty smart and will see through these attempts at integration.  However, that is not to say that the foreign wife should not always be polite and respectful to her mother-in-law.  Of course she should!

The foreign wife should not attempt to change herself in order to please her mother-in-law.  That will inevitably cause frustration within the wife.  She should also count on her husband to help facilitate positive relations with his mother.

The most important things which do help thaw a Saudi mother’s heart is for her to see for herself how much the foreign wife loves and cares for her husband.  Seeking out the mother-in-law on how to fix favorite traditional meals for her son will make her happy.

Additionally, simple thoughtfulness and caring goes a long way too.  If the Saudi mother-in-law likes a particular cream or perfume from abroad, get it for her.  If she likes to have a foot massage, hand massage or her hair brushed, do it for her without asking.  Take initiative at her home and see if you can prepare tea or kawa for her.  Surprise her mid-week with the delivery of a lunch or dinner that you made yourself.  Offer to go shopping or to the doctor’s with her.

She may initially resist the offers or overtures of friendship.  Don’t be discouraged.  As others also see the good deeds the foreign wife does for her mother-in-law they will talk positively about her.  This also helps to soften the mother-in-law’s heart.

Although this should not be the reason for having a child, a baby is sure to bring a smile to the Saudi mother-in-law.  Many a foreign daughter-in-law was more accepted once she became a mother.

In conclusion, the foreign wife must have patience and perseverance.


13 Responses

  1. The problem with having a child in Saudia is that if the marriage breaks up, the man always gets the children, and if she wants to return to America it with out the children.

    I try to educate every starry eyed young American Muslim woman about that posibility, but am only one person. Another problem is the temporary marriage. These young women run around thinking they are married, but when their husbands suddenly return to Saudia without them, it is not good.

  2. matter how many times u tell a girl the warning signs, if someone is in love or has made that decision to marry a saudi man or move to one has forced her and she will do what she wants…i think girls need to inform themselves before doing so wether ure moving to saudi or france..i think one should research until there is no stone left understand culture/relgiion/values/attitudes of the people living in that seems like an obvious thing to do…so thats on them…but apart from that ets keep to the post topic.

    I think all mother-in-laws will be protective of their sons no matter what country..its that motherly instinct to always want to protect and care for him and when another woman comes into the picture it can make the mother-in-law feel left out or like her job has finished.
    I think it would help if the saudi husband speaks well of his wife to his mother…it could be as simple as wife tried to make her first kabsa today..and I’m sure his mum wold appreciate the efforts of the wife.
    I wonder how many mother-in-laws refuse to accept the foreign wife even after living in saudi for a while? Does anyone know of any stories? it would interesting but kind of sad for all parties.cos we know when mum’s not happy no one is..and its 10 fold in saudi.

  3. First, I would discourage any woman from marrying a Saudi man as often times they are going to be abused in some form either by his family, the government or the man himself.

    Next, if you marry a Saudi then don’t have kids just to get in good with dear old mum in law. You need to ensure that you can tolerate the Saudi male ownership as well as the restrictions placed upon you as a woman. Remember wait 3 or 4 years before having children so that the novelty has worn off and your are in a position to best judge if this type of lifestyle will work for you. I will tell you that this particular blog has given me great pause on the whole maybe offer up a baby in hopes that the monster in law turns into something different. It actually could make it worse so don’t do it until you know it is workable situation. Next you may have to leave the country and go to your country of origin to make your marriage work or a neutral country. Remember you as a foreign woman stands to lose a lot in the Saudi country if your marriage goes sour including any rights of every seeing your children. So really think about yourself, your future, and your future children.

    Next ask yourself is this the country that I want to raise my children in especially if you have a daughter. Remember this country currently beheaded a witch, has a 5 day training course on how to deal with witches and socerers, believes in Jinns, calls for death of poets, and so many other human rights violations. Not to mention that if you have an 8 year old son that he has more rights than you including driving. Remember you have less right than a lot of animals in the country as they are at least free to go about their own business without harm as the morality police don’t come and beat them for some hair that has fallen out of the covering. Heck how about just escaping from a burning building with out the black cloth.

    Ask yourself is it even worth going to this country? Always met the family before you get married and get to know the enviroment before you get married. Then try to set your emotions aside and actually evalutate the situation before hand. Talk to women who have been in this situation where it has gone wrong. Talk to women who are in the country who can give the best advice on how to protect yourself if you end up in this country. Remember that this country harms men as well as often times they are meant to conform to a certain standard that may be different from what they want but society and family demand it of them making you both miserable.


  5. Yes; I do know of some marriages where the foreign wife has never been accepted by the mother-in-law even after years have passed.

  6. I know some too. It’s really sad.

  7. Thats so sad..especially becos i can imagine the foreign wife going above and beyond trying to impress/conform to saudi ways.

  8. This may be somewhat related since it talks about how much Arab men love their mothers. In fact it was shared with me by an Arab guy studying in the US. He said it is very true that they (Arabs) love their mommas. Nothing wrong with that at all, EXCEPT when Arab Mama hates Foreign Daughter In Law. I can see problems then especially if Arab Son/Husband has no spine.

  9. It sounds best that a foreign wife and Saudi guy, for the sake of their marriage to grow best and for their children… be in a hospitable country….outside (emphasis) of Saudi Arabia.

    I am confident that North America would be a good choice.

    Sometimes people might forget that immigration to North America has served some incredible value for people who need to break out of traditional social systems in certain cultures where the woman is not valued equally by law (no matter how well educated she is).

    It becomes less and less true in the 21st century, as various parts of Asia become more “modern”, where female -male relationships become more “equitable” (not all countries, but many).

  10. First, about the foreign bride/Arab man:
    I think one thing that will have a big impact on the relationship is being able to compromise on cultural issues. This includes knowing when something is important to you (and standing up for it), and when something isn’t as important to you. It also means understanding both cultures from a more neutral point of view. I have seen this problem time and time again with American-Arab relationships.

    It is a big help if the two people in the relationship truly love each other, stand up for each other, and are understanding and respectful of both cultures.

    About the Mother-In-Law:
    I think it depends a lot on the man’s family. I would hope that if the woman truly loves the son, the mother would welcome her into the family. Family approval is important to the man, but some men are willing to stand up for their woman whether or not the family approves (although it will change his relationship with his family, sadly).

    What I think:
    If you and your man love each other enough to know without a doubt you want to spend your lives together, do what you can to be accepted into the family without giving up what is important to you and who you are. That said, you can’t make someone else accept you. If you have done what you can and the family won’t accept you, then don’t give up on your man. Be together in a more accepting environment.

    That said, I can’t wait to meet my habibi’s family in person. They seem to be a very sweet, loving family.

  11. No amount of trying,caring for her son or providing her with grandkids seemed to bend mine . oh well , i tried, lived there and after a while F told me not to bother, she was not changing . so i kept my distance and ignored her , we moved life went on with absolutely no contact with her and after my FIl passed away and she got older , she realized my kids are v close to my side of the family, grand parents and extended uncles aunts etc., so she and her other kids called me. i felt so bad, It was too late for the close bonding, we would not move there they can’t come here and the reason for them disliking me and the kids were greater now…

    what a way to waste a relationship, we live but once, losing out on a whole side of a family is such a waste and tragedy. all for what? religion, being vegetarian, being a diff nationality?

    In this instance i will definetly say older is not wiser, more close minded maybe.

    You consider your son grown up enough to marry then you should also consider him grown up enough to find someone who he thinks will make him happy, being older and more experienced does not give a person mindreading powers or who would suit their child… oh well too much water under the bridge now.

  12. My Saudi husband always says “it’s him who is married to me, not his mother, not his sisters not his family!”

  13. Thank you for your post! Keep up the good job and have a great aloha week!! ^_^

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