The Arab/American marriage six years later

It’s difficult for me to believe we’ve been married for six years. And it’s even more difficult for me to refer to us as the ‘Arab/American’ couple.

Life for T and me is pretty much exactly what it was last year at this time… and the year before and the year before. Our cultural differences are quite minimal at this point. We’re a typical married couple living a very American life. If anything has changed it’s how close we’ve become and how much we rely on one another to truly be there and I like to believe we’re not letting one another down in that department.

Last year was a whirlwind of medical issues for me ranging from a medical malpractice issue (anyone knows a good Attorney?) to almost a year of just not feeling like myself. Like literally, I remembered the old me but had no clue how to find her again. I’m still struggling a bit, but have recently been diagnosed with Post Sepsis Syndrome which at least offers answers. My short term memory isn’t what it was before the surgical fiasco and I struggle daily with anxiety, mild depression, and all over muscle aches, but I am slowly getting better. And best of all, I’m not doing this alone. If it weren’t for the patience of my husband and him reminding me I’m not alone, I would have probably had a complete breakdown by now.

A little over a month ago we had to make the painful decision to have our precious Sultana (dog) put to sleep. She was suffering from a severe case of pancreatitis, diabetes, and a suspected long-term endocrine disorder. Her prognosis was poor. From the day she came to us from Kuwait, we had promised her she would never ever feel pain or suffer again as long she lived. In the end, we knew it was right to keep our promise to her. The decision was heartbreaking for both of us and to this day we still cry. However, we’re both slowly healing, focusing on our other pets (3 dogs/3 cats), and giving them all the love we possibly can.

When I first met my husband years ago in Kuwait our ‘dating’ was very brief at best. There was something about us that clicked. Something inside of me knew he was the person I had always hoped to find and I suppose something about me felt the same for him. Within weeks we were married and neither of us has looked back. We’ve gone through major life changes together; international relocation, families intertwining, cultural differences, home buying, businesses, jobs, as well as the things I’ve mentioned above, but we seem to do it with each other’s best interest at heart. I suppose that’s what any relationship should be, and it’s definitely been one of the things that keep us together.

Our marriage today looks absolutely nothing like it did in the first weeks, months, or even years. It’s ever-changing and evolving like everything else in life. But, for now, it appears as though it’s changed for the better. Don’t get me wrong; we’re not perfect. We argue and disagree like everyone else but we don’t hold onto those arguments. Or at least I don’t. He’s not as expressive so while I assume he’s not holding a grudge he might be visiting with the divorce Lawyer and I’m blissfully unaware.

Referring to him as ‘Arab’ and me as ‘American’ feels a bit silly at this point. I can’t look at anything in his life or how he lives and say, “Yes! That’s the Arab in him” and the same goes for me being an American. Our lives have completely meshed, and what might have seemed like different cultures in the past just feels like ‘life’ now.

For now, we’re both looking forward to Fall weather. I’ve started to invest a lot more time in photography as a way to clear my head. Not sure I’m any better at it, but I certainly enjoy it. As the weather gets cooler we seek out outdoor dining options once a week and find new places to walk afterward so I can take photos. I think he understands it’s therapeutic for me and he enjoys the walk.

Our big holiday of the year is Thanksgiving and we’re already planning for that. We host at our home every year and both his family (brothers studying here in America) and mine come for dinner. He always helps me cook and we always make far too much food, but it’s great to have everyone together for the day. Exhausting but wonderful.

I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll blog again. Sometimes I wish I could get back to it regularly, other times I want to make the entire thing private and turn it into my personal journal. Writing has always been my outlet and has allowed me to vent things I might not otherwise discuss. It’s been a method of sharing, growing, and healing when things were painful. Now, while dealing with my personal psychological changes, I don’t feel I can find words the way I once did. It’s almost a chore to put a sentence together and make it appear coherent. I feel as though my writing has become fragmented and without emotion. Stepping away and giving myself more time to overcome this battle might allow me to find me again. Here’s hoping.

Death; what is normal?

The last time I posted it was about the normalcy of life and how we’re in a simple yet satisfying routine of sorts. And then, because the philosophical side of my mind is always hard at work, I started to wonder what really quantifies normal?

Several months ago I went into the hospital for a minor, planned procedure. The procedure went terribly wrong and I was not only in the hospital for several weeks, but at times, there was the question of whether or not I would actually make it. I recall being transported to the local trauma center where I was certain I was being taken because I was dying. I felt as though I were dying. I can’t think of better words to describe it other than I simply had no energy left to fight. I could feel anything that once resembled me slipping away. I remember telling the Nurse if I were there to die that was fine, I could handle that, but that I needed her to contact my family as I wanted to see them all one last time. It was my way of accepting what I felt was inevitable, but also being allowed to take everyone’s face with me when I left. Several months later, here I am. Home. Healthy. And feeling about 90% ‘normal’ again.

On the left column of my blog home page, I have a ‘blogroll’ or a list of blogs I followed often. I created that list when I first started the blog and haven’t updated it in a few years. Some of those blogs still exist, others don’t.

When a person starts a blog (something that has been replaced by vlogging) we generally do so because we love to write, find our minds are often filled with random thoughts; sometimes important, others not at all. But most importantly, I think many of us started blogs as a way to not just vent our frustrations, but to share our experiences with others. Perhaps it was our way of offering guidance or advice even if no one was asking for it. Either way, blogging allows random strangers worldwide a glimpse into our lives. And when people follow blogs regularly we begin to feel as though we know the writer on some level. We can identify with some of their ideas or thoughts, or even accidentally find solutions to our own problems through their mistakes. We often feel some kind of ‘like’ towards the writer even if we’ve never communicated with them at all.

memory

A couple of years ago one of the bloggers I followed religiously passed away from cancer (Americanbedu.com). She was married to a Saudi man, lived in Saudi for years, and moved back to America once her husband passed away. Neither of them was old or unhealthy. They simply both lost a very long, painful battle to cancer. Carol (American Bedu) had friends and family who attempted to keep the blog alive after her passing, but it just wasn’t the same. I believe the domain has since expired and the content is gone. Every one of her thoughts, memories, and life stories — gone.

Just last week another blogger passed away from cancer. Nicole Hunter-Mostafa (thesamerainbowsend.com) was young, also married to a Saudi, and was pregnant with their second little girl when complications started. Because I don’t know her or her family I can only speculate about details, and, well, that’s just disrespectful. So I’ll share what I do know based on her willingness to tell her story to us readers. Nicole appeared to be a very happy person. Her blog posts were always uplifting and upbeat. She wasn’t one to do much ranting, even if she had things to rant about. She was so in love with her husband and their gorgeous little girl Lavender. She was thrilled to be pregnant again but her blogging slowed down immensely. She had a number of complications which resulted in extensive pain for her. She cut her summer USA trip short to get back to Saudi for pain treatment in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Her last blog post was an overview of all she had endured but no mention of cancer. Her daughter was born not long after and she shared that with everyone on Instagram. Then, suddenly, all of her social media accounts were gone and months went by with no updates on the blog. Obviously, considering we don’t know one another, this shouldn’t have made a difference to me one way or another. But as I said before, we develop a ‘like’ for the writer of the blogs we follow. We wonder about them and hope they’re doing well. Sadly, in Nicole’s case, she wasn’t doing well. And last week, she too lost her battle with cancer.

Perhaps this is incredibly selfish of me, but because Nicole was such a brilliant writer who created beautiful images in my mind with her words, I wish she had blogged. I wish she had shared her last months with us. I wish I had known whether or not she had known. Did she know she had cancer but chose to avoid treatment as a way to save her daughter? I wouldn’t be surprised — she was deeply in love with her babies. Or was the cancer diagnosis as unexpected for her as it was for her readers? Again, I didn’t know Nicole but I am deeply saddened by her death. I loved her style of writing. The way she could create a picture book of stories with just her words. Magnificent. My heart aches for her family.

I’m not going to end this post with a sappy cliché about hugging loved ones, last days, etc. But do that anyway. And do it often. We really never know when our normal may not be recognizable.

Kuwait; racists who can’t hide

More often than not, when mentioning to people from the Middle East that my husband is from Kuwait, I’m told that GCC Arabs are seen as arrogant, prejudice, and pretty much viewed as the armpit of the region. I’m aware of this reputation and I can even understand it to a degree. However, regardless of how they’re viewed, it’s a form of racism. And, well, that’s just nasty.

Even worse than ‘local racism’ are the Westerners who move to places such as Kuwait and take on that mentality. For the most part I like to believe Westerners are raised in a world where racism is only practiced by the less intelligent, not formally educated, culture lacking cretins. Anyone with a sense of self respect is above and beyond disrespecting someone based upon the color of their skin or their nationality.

So what changes? Why do some of the white faced expats move to Kuwait and adopt their entitlement attitude? Well, for the most part they become obsessed with a lifestyle some locals pretend to be living; large villas, expensive cars, and meals at the finest restaurants every day. For the Westerners who grew up thinking Toyotas were luxury cars and Dairy Queen was a quality meal, you can see how the less fortunate could get starry eyed.

But does this also include becoming a shallow racist? It doesn’t have to.

Insecure people have a tendency to treat others in a disrespectful manner as a way of making themselves feel better. It doesn’t make them better people and it really highlights their own flaws. So, when the less fortunate Americans move to places such as Kuwait and realize they too can be racist assholes, it makes them feel better about their real existence.

Recently, in a facebook group I was asked a question about my husband. The other member was incorrect in their assumption but their question was incredibly racist and reminded me of why my husband and I have distanced ourselves from that lifestyle for so many years. We focus on offering support to the less fortunate, rescuing animals in need, and respecting people just because they’re people. We don’t judge people on the color of their skin, where they’re from, or how much money they make. We live a life that we find to be emotionally fulfilling. We don’t compare ourselves to others or attempt to compete. We want to see others be the best they can be and if we can play a role in that then we’re all for it. (sidenote: the woman in the facebook group is divorced, has a number of children, stuck in Kuwait, and is bitter towards others — not just us).

So while Kuwait is viewed as a country full of arrogant jerks, it’s really a misconception. While living there I surrounded myself with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life. Many of who are still my best friends. My husband is from Kuwait and he’s generous, kind, compassionate, and hard working. He’s not dishonest or disloyal, nor would he divorce me with a half dozen kids and offer no financial support. So while it’s always easy to point fingers and make assumptions, rarely are they accurate, and often they only reveal who you really are.

Long weekends, home improvements, and rainy weather

Though I’m fortunate enough to work from home and set my own schedule I still look forward to the long weekends. It’s a time my husband and I can actually plan to take care of a few things we’ve been putting off due to lack of time. Vacations? Not a chance. Our long weekends are often filled with family time and home improvement projects. Sure, it might be nice to get away for a few days from time to time but with the number of pets we have, we’ve decided our time with them is more valuable than travel and the boarding them.

This Memorial Day weekend was rather rainy so there was little opportunity for outdoor time which worked out rather well considering the work we’re doing indoors. My husband, who is starting to embrace being a hands on home improvement guy, spent the weekend replacing all the flooring in our family room and my office. I spent the weekend choosing new paint colors and making numerous trips to and from Lowe’s as he remembered items he had forgotten on trip number one.

My hope is that we build a new house on our land in a couple of years. Right now it’s just the 2 of us and I feel our current house is perhaps a little large for our needs. I long for something a bit smaller with a cozy feel. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of spending the money. His theory is ‘our current home meets all of our needs, why bother with another’? Could be why he’s embracing his home improvement side. He figures if he does everything to our current home I won’t be asking for yet another one. He’s the sweetest, kindest, most generous man in the world until I ask for something he deems unnecessary.

Mexico has their El Chapo, Kuwait has its El Cheapo — and apparently I married him.

 

Intercultural marriages; where to live?

When my husband and I were first married 4 years ago the question of where to live came up… a lot. No, not which city, or which neighborhood. We had to decide which side of the world we were going to call home, settle, and plan our future in. This meant one of us was going to spend much of the year away from the country and culture where we spent our childhood and made a number of memories.

By the time we were married I had already lived in the Middle East for a decade, so in a lot of ways it too was my home. However, all of my family was still in America. All of my memories and childhood friends as well. But, my family is quite small, consisting of only 4 immediate family members. While my husband, on the other hand, has about 25 immediate family members. Then of course there’s the cousins, the aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t have any of those in my family. So staying in Kuwait seemed like the logical choice. But, it wasn’t the the choice we made.

After a couple of years of marriage I started longing for life in America. We visited several times a year, but it just wasn’t the same. And with each visit I was reminded of so many things I truly missed a lot more than I had previously thought. My husband, being one who never meshed with his culture, also started missing things from America. So, we packed up most of our belongings and our beloved cats and made the move.

Should all women married to Arab men expect he’ll be willing to do the same? Probably not. That culture is deeply rooted in family. And for a man to make the decision to move to the other side of the world with his Western wife is a pretty big decision. But, over the past several years I have met a number of American/Kuwaiti couples of have relocated to America together. I’ll admit, I was surprised.

So, how is life now that we’ve been here a couple of years? Well, we’re completely acclimated, have a large group of awesome friends, invest a great deal of time into the happiness of our furry family members, have our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and a solid schedule. We live what most people would consider the ‘typical American life’ and we couldn’t be happier. I’ll occasionally ask my husband how he feels about the possibility of moving back to Kuwait one day and he doesn’t seem to be to keen on the idea. Right now he’s perfectly happy with a few visits a year to spend quality time with the family. And I suppose I’m OK with that too.

The year of me; getting healthy, getting strong, feeling great

At some point last year it dawned on me my entire adult life has been dedicated to others in some manner. This hadn’t been an issue or even a topic of conversation while living abroad because I still found time to travel, spend days at the salon, and submerge myself in luxurious comforts anytime I saw fit. Since getting married, starting a business, adopting 20 additional legs, moving to America, and acquiring a variety of livestock that must be fed on a daily basis, ‘me time’ seems to have gotten lost. Don’t get me wrong, I look around at my current life and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m genuinely happy beyond measure and fully realize how fortunate I am to be afforded this life. But it doesn’t mean the selfish little girl who has always resided within has moved away. She’s still here and she sometimes screams, “Hey, isn’t it pedicure day?”

Several months ago, before the end of 2014, I made the announcement to my husband; the ‘year of me’ announcement. I simply explained I felt it would be a good idea if all of 2015 was dedicated to me, my well being, and the simple pleasures I truly enjoy in life. Of course my plan was to do this without requiring anyone else to sacrifice and without neglecting my responsibilities. I mean, I am still an adult after all. Perhaps not by choice… but, well. My husband, being the kind understanding guy he is, welcomed the idea with open arms which really translated to, “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about but yeah, sure, OK.” Fortunately I had a pretty strong grasp on my plan and felt comfortable with the idea of investing an entire year to me.

Since January I’ve made a number of positive (in my opinion) changes in my life which not only help to boost my self esteem but also play a role in my overall health. I’ve gone on a very healthy diet, lost a significant amount of weight, incorporated regular exercise into my days, and pay very close attention to what goes into my body, ie. vitamins, proteins, etc. I’ve cut out all sodas (including diet drinks) and only drink water with lemon or green tea with lemon and mint when I’m not downing a protein shake. My energy level has increased so much I find that I don’t even miss coffee/espresso. I’ve also decided since I’m working on the inside I also deserve to work on the outside; self esteem purposes. I accept that I’m aging, it’s part of life. But it doesn’t mean I have to look worn out or diminished in any way. So, I’ve opted for monthly IPL laser treatments, chemical peels, micro-needling, and after the summer I’ll possibly do a bit of fillers and Botox. My goal is simply to be a healthier version of myself, not to alter my current appearance.

More recently I’ve also been viewing a few travel options and contemplating some places I haven’t been yet. But, planning travel always leaves us with the question of pet care — a stressful topic — so for now I’ll postpone lengthy vacations and embrace my mini-staycations.

I’ve also decided this is the year I’ll invest more time into my friends. We often assume our long time (or new) friends will always be there when we need them. But if we’re not doing our part as a friend, then perhaps they won’t be. I like to believe I’m a good friend but there’s always more I could do to maintain those truly important friendships.

Then there’s blogging; a hobby I’ve enjoyed for more than a decade. Sadly, it just doesn’t seem I have the time I once had though sometimes the desire is certainly still there. But, as much as blogging has been a part of my life, it’s changed. The format has changed, the ideas behind it, and even the audience. Blogging was once a form of expression and a way to vent for many of us. Sadly most of those blogs are long since gone and we’re left with pages of paid advertisements or dishonest reviews where the effort invested is directly aligned with the money they were paid to write it. Most bloggers have moved on to Instagram, Snap Chat, and other forms of social media. For me… even those became tedious.

I digress…

I’m so fortunate to have a life which allows me to embrace this ‘year of me’ and a husband who supports it… even if he really has no idea what he’s supporting. But one thing I’ve learned these past few months is that regardless of my adult responsibilities genuinely taking some time to invest in my personal well-being is priceless, and well deserved. Sometimes, in everyone’s life, we tend to focus on the here and now and kinda forget that being a little selfish from time to time isn’t a crime. If anything, it’s often that extra oomph we need to get through some of those hectic days. So yeah, I guess we could say my inner child is the healing power my outer adult has always needed.

Respect; the glue which holds a marriage together

I get a number of emails every day asking questions about what makes the Arab/American marriage really work. Some share their own experiences, both good and bad. And others are hoping for just a little insight into a very confusing situation. And though I’m certain I’ve blogged about this before I figured I would cover it again since my own marriage has grown and changed.

Of course there’s no magic answer to any of their questions though I wish there were. I like to think that every now and then I do spout something that provides a little comfort to at least one person needing some peace.

In most cases I find myself looking at my own marriage and trying to identify what really makes it work. Is it perfect? Nah. Are we always running around chipper and happy? Of course not. But are we deeply in love and share a genuine concern for one another’s well being? Absolutely. And then it hit me — respect.

*Google images

*Google images

I know I’ve said this before, but in the few years we’ve been married my husband has never once raised his voice at me in anger or called me a derogatory name. He’s still very protective of my feelings and gets bothered if something upsets me. Not as much as he was when we were first together — he’s learned I’m a bit melodramatic. He knows when I’m really upset as opposed to just being a spoiled drama queen and he reacts accordingly. Yet I always know when I really need him he’s there without hesitation. He doesn’t allow me to worry about anything and he’s always making sure I’m well taken care of.

On the same note I hold him in the highest regard. I have the greatest respect for him as a man and my husband. And though we trust one another implicitly, I could never imagine doing something (especially publicly) that would be shameful to him or put him in a negative light. Not that we care what other people think, but it simply comes down to respect. Especially in his culture. Not that culture should really matter when it comes to respecting another another in a marriage.

Since meeting we’ve faced a number of challenges that neither of us had any control over, yet we somehow seemed to not only overcome, but to come out on the positive end. Our biggest challenge has probably been adapting to life here in America. Something we were both really excited about but hadn’t completely thought through. Yes, we knew it was going to be different but I’m not sure either of us knew exactly how different. Fortunately, and after several months, we created habits and a comfort zone all while growing closer together. We were open and honest about any feelings we had and we were compassionate towards what the other was going through.

And while loyalty, compassion, honesty, and humor are all very important traits, I don’t believe they can exist without respect.

Blogging for closure

I was recently directed to a blog written by an American woman who is seeking a sense of closure regarding a previous marriage to an Arab man. She’s written several entries which outline her entire experience with her former husband as well as the abuse she endured. Her hope is that writing it and sharing her story will bring some closure to a very painful event in her life which ended as quickly as it started and with no explanation.

You’ll notice through each ‘chapter’ of her relationship the changes she points out which I’m sure she would now consider red flags. At one point she mentions smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, sitting and talking with his male friends… only later to be condemned for these behaviors. She also shares the emotional ups and downs so many Western women involved with Arab men complain about.

I found her blog to be very interesting, touching, and filled with raw emotion. I’m sharing it in hopes it might help other women in a similar position,

Remember, women, if something doesn’t feel right then it’s just not right. Don’t allow a man to impose a set of rules on you. Don’t allow a man to tell you what you can or can’t do. If your man is always changing his stance on something (drinking alcohol, certain friends, etc.) then beware. If you find your relationship to feel more like a roller coaster then evaluate the reasons. If you’re in a constant state of confusion and emotional discombobulation, then chances are something just isn’t right in your relationship. Don’t allow a man (or anyone else) dictate your self worth. True love comes with respect, compassion, empathy, and trust. True love isn’t confusing or painful. And true love doesn’t keep you on an emotional roller coaster filled with rules.

Hoping her blog brings her the closure she’s seeking while perhaps helping another woman along the way.

[link]

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a quick update on life in general.

Well hello there, readers! It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve sat down and invested in a blog post and sadly this one isn’t going to be too lengthy either.

First and foremost, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday with loved ones doing something you truly enjoy.

For the past several years I’ve managed to spend my New Year’s Eve in Dubai, London, NYC, and Abu Dhabi. This year, as the date got closer, neither of us showed much interest in going anywhere other than the couch. So we decided to make our favorite snacks and spend the evening watching the Twilight Zone marathon while playing with puppies and snuggling with the other pets. Yeah, we’re those people now but it was really an awesome night.

Speaking of New Years… resolutions. I’m not one to jump on the resolution bandwagon as it’s really just a way to set myself up for failure. Therefore, I’ve decided this year is the year the only thing I change is my outlook. Yeah, I’m quite the positive woman over here, but there’s always something I could see with new eyes and change the way it affects my life. So far so good… day 2! 🙂

There are a number of things I’ve been wanting to blog about, such as; how to really buy happiness, a great new blog I’ve found, the growth of our puppies, and celebrating our 3 anniversary dates (yes, we have 3). Hopefully I’ll have a bit more time later in the week to get caught up.

Perhaps I should have had ‘blogging’ as a resolution.