I stumbled across this article in the Saudi Gazette today and felt it imperative I share it with my readers. Especially since I get so many emails from young American women who have fallen in love with, and considering marriage to Saudi students studying in America.
In the beginning of any relationship we all think our love is unique from others. Where other women might have suffered with their husband, we never will because our husband is so different and our love is so much stronger than others. Being in love is a fabulous feeling, but being realistic is equally important. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the words and feelings and forget about protecting ourselves while believing our husbands will always be our protector. But that’s a terrible mistake. What if your husband doesn’t end up being the Prince Charming you once thought he was? What harm is there in taking steps to protect yourself ‘just in case’?
As much as I love my husband and as wonderful as he’s always been… I’m still very protected by the steps I took. Yes, I love him dearly and trust him more than I’ve ever trusted anyone. But that’s not a guarantee of ‘forever’. Should anything happen and our marriage doesn’t last sure I’ll be heartbroken just like anyone would be at the end of a marriage. But I’ll take great comfort in knowing the only challenges I’ll need to overcome will be emotional. I’ll still own homes, cars, businesses, and be financially compensated. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get over a broken heart while you have a roof over your head and money in the bank.
So, for all of you young women considering marriage to a foreigner, please read the article below. Her situation is not uncommon. As a matter of fact, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard similar stories… and we’ve all seen the movies.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jessica and we hope her children are returned to her soon. I can’t imagine the loss and emptiness she must be feeling.
“My three children, all under the age of eight, were abducted by my Saudi ex-husband on Nov. 24, 2013 and were taken to Saudi Arabia. When I’m asked in America why I married a man from Saudi Arabia, my response is always the same: “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” But my advice to anyone wishing to marry someone from a different country, a different culture, is to really think about how these differences will impact your marriage.
I always tried to look at the positives. Our children had a unique and beautiful opportunity to get the best of both worlds, expand their horizons and be exposed to the rich cultures of their parents’ heritage.
But I never thought about what would happen if our marriage didn’t work out. When you are in love, it’s hard to think: “What will happen to the children if we get divorced?” No one wants to think of divorce.
I became a Muslim in the summer of 2001. I then met and fell in love with a young Saudi student, and we married early in 2002. I thought, as many young women who are in love thought, that we would be able to handle any conflicts together. We discussed the differences in our backgrounds, but I dismissed any idea that I wouldn’t be able to live with him anywhere, as long as we were together.
I thought I was prepared when I moved to Jeddah in the summer of 2003. I was Muslim, it was a Muslim country. I was committed to my husband and to Islam. But the culture shock crept up on me, as I’m sure it has crept up on many. I became increasingly isolated and lonely. I felt that I was letting down my husband with my unhappiness, and he acted like he agreed.
Our lives progressed and in the summer of 2012, my husband resigned from his job to accept a scholarship for his master’s degree in the US. I was content. I settled into homeschooling our older two sons. Our youngest son, developmentally delayed due to a congenital defect, was getting all the therapy he needed. I was close to my family. My husband was doing well in school. Our children were shining beacons of beautiful, open, friendly Muslims, better dawah (call to Islam) than I could ever give on my own.
But then, late in October of 2012, my world shattered. My husband came to me with an announcement. He had decided to take a second wife. I was shocked and then outraged when he told me the wedding would take place in five days, to a young woman who had become a Muslim only weeks earlier. I begged, pleaded with my husband not to rush into this marriage. We had been married for nearly 10 years and I did not believe I could live in a polygamous marriage.
We ended up separating. Through the pain of the destruction of my marriage, I wanted only what was best for our children. He assured me that he would always take care of them, that he would stay in America with his new American wife.
But things became increasingly strained between us. I felt that he became more controlling, irrational, and erratic as time went by. It was after I didn’t have enough money to buy groceries for our children and I became fearful of his actions towards me that I sought relief through the courts for child support and an official custody agreement.
We shared custody in the US, and negotiated the terms of an Islamic parenting plan, a contract, that scheduled travel to Saudi Arabia during the school holidays. This custody agreement was nearly done by the fall of 2013. He made every indication that he agreed with the arrangements. And then the worst night of my life happened. The children were supposed be dropped off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, after a regular visit to their father and new stepmother. But he never showed up. I texted, called, desperate to find the boys, with no response. I called hospitals, police, as I was worried about an accident. It was hours later that I found out that my children had left on a Saudi Airlines flight at 5:55 p.m. I literally fell to the floor in fear and grief. My children, who had never spent more than a night away from me, were gone. I had loved them and cared for them before they were even born. I had only ever wanted to do what was right for them. And they were stolen from me.
No one wants to think about divorce, about what will happen if their partner doesn’t honor the mother of his children and doesn’t respect the right of young children to remain with their mother. My children have been kept from me for six months. I have been trying, from the day they were taken, to either get them back, or get to them in Saudi Arabia. My ex-husband has refused mediation attempts. I have been trying to find help in any way possible.
The US government has filed kidnapping charges against my ex-husband and his new wife, who was recently arrested and charged with assisting in the kidnapping while traveling back to the US. Even more recently, I had a meeting with the Saudi Consulate in the US and I’m hoping for the best.
But meanwhile, the children live without their mother. They do not wake up to me making them breakfast. We do not take walks through the yard and learn about the things that live there. We do not sit together and read stories of the Prophets and Islamic poetry. We do not snuggle up at night before bed, reading and talking about our days. My house, once full of love and laughter, is quiet and empty.”