Brokeback Desert
January 18, 2008 3:36 AM   Subscribe

Help me convince the man I love that he doesn't have to marry someone else.

I have been in a very satisfying relationship for a year now. I love him intensely and have no doubts that the feeling is mutual. We are a perfect match in every way; I am certain that if we stayed together in the future, we would have a very happy life together. The trouble is that, despite all of this, my boyfriend insists that there is not and will never be a future for us, and it has nothing to do with love.

This relationship is happening in Oman, an Arab country whose culture is extremely traditional in many ways. Marriages continue to be arranged here; love comes afterwards. The enforcement of social norms can be extreme (in my Western view); it’s not Saudi Arabia, but is far closer to Saudi than, say, Syria or Lebanon. One’s status, first in the family, and secondly in the community, is determined largely by perceived conformance to socially mandated ethical laws, which in turn are basically Islamic. In practice, adultery is rife and the only things that matter are money and family/political connections, but my boyfriend is one of the few who are innocent and genuinely good enough to refuse to acknowledge this in spite of not being ignorant of it; he has a strong set of personal ethical values and is truly disappointed that others don’t live up to them, as they mostly appear to coincide with the cultural and religious expectations that apply to everyone here.

Some background about my boyfriend: he comes from a lower-class family and is not very educated; consequently he is very near the traditional end of the narrow cultural spectrum that exists here. Because the culture in Oman is quite anti-individualistic, he does not separate his personal values from culturally-imposed norms, and it is hard for him to understand this notion just because it is so philosophically foreign. Therefore, he conflates his personal desire to be good, honest, and morally sound in every aspect of life with conforming his behavior to rules and ideas that have been enculturated in him. He is not religious at all; although he will still explain that something is “good/bad in Islam”, insofar as he follows Islamic rules, it is because his family and community do, and this is the social interpretation of ‘good’ that has been firmly impressed upon him for his entire life. (He has an intelligent, inquisitive mind which has been conditioned to keep itself well away from these particular areas, and I don’t wish to threaten that security; if I query any of these issues in conversation, I do not present it as a challenge and always do it as slowly and gently as possible.)

In other words, having a girlfriend is a Very Bad Thing for him, despite the fact that he is very happy with me, clearly loves me, and generally acknowledges our ‘haram’ status as often as he prays (which is very close to never). Though he devotes himself to me as much as he is able to, the top priority in his life is concealing our relationship from his family – and finding a wife so that he will please everyone by following the proscribed path in his life. Love marriages are becoming increasingly common among young, educated and/or upper class Omanis, but tradition still has a strong hold on the majority, which definitely includes him and his family. I have casually mentioned mixed couples that I know of, but this does not influence him.

His mother is eager for him to marry, and he would also like to do that soon; however, for this he needs a dowry of about US$10,000 and a furnished home. He has no savings and a tiny monthly salary; I make about 6 times as much as he does and often support him. This imbalance is not an issue for either of us; the point is simply that for economic reasons, he isn’t prepared to marry an Omani woman anytime soon. It would also obviously be to his benefit to marry me for financial gain, but he is utterly unmotivated by this – indeed, this is one of the many reasons I consider him to be a such a catch. He has more integrity than anyone I’ve ever met, and even if I did try to tempt him into staying with me using less-than-honorable means, it would have the opposite affect; I would also never want to do anything manipulative with him, as the trust we share is the foundation of our relationship. Neither of us are very materialistic, and if we did marry, I would happily support him and his family. My love for this man would also compel me to live according to local tradition as much as necessary, including conversion to Islam.

It is a testament to the strength of our connection that we have sustained a serious relationship in this context. He has also shown his trust in me by gradually introducing me to friends and members of his family; the biggest milestone of our relationship was when he invited me to his home to celebrate Eid with his parents and siblings (as his “English teacher”, of course). I now have good relationships with some members of his extended family and visit them on my own, and have started spending time at his family’s home on a regular basis. His sisters, aunts, and most importantly, his mother, all welcome me and give him lots of positive feedback about me. (I am fairly certain that these women are not idiots and therefore have some intuition regarding our actual relationship, though it is not spoken of; for his part, a few uncles and cousins are in on it, but being a man, he inclines to believe it’s only between men and the women are clueless.) I strongly suspect that his family would be accepting and welcome me with open arms if we became engaged.

He still insists that it would be Not Good for him to marry me; he feels he must marry an Omani woman, and that his life would be ruined if anyone ever knew he had a girlfriend. Marriages between Omanis and foreigners – and love-marriages – are not nearly as uncommon as his worldview suggests they should be; however, he thinks that having a traditional wedding, to a bride chosen by his family, is paramount to his success in life and to pleasing his mother. He also says this has nothing to do with whether he loves me or not; he believes his life must follow a fixed course that he has known since childhood, and that he is powerless to change this without losing his moral self-respect.

Thus, he doesn’t allow for even the possibility of a shared future, despite the fact that we share our lives and depend on each other closely. We communicate extremely well, trust each other completely and have had open conversations about these issues, though they became so painful that we have agreed not to discuss it further. One of the reasons I am so convinced of his utter goodness and moral superiority is the fact that he has respected me from the beginning, warning me that there is no prospect for a future with me and telling me that if I cannot handle this, he will insist on letting me go rather than hurting me. I have said that I would rather spend what time I have with him than end our relationship before it's necessary, but the fact that eventually he will get engaged, probably without any warning to me beforehand, is a constant dark cloud over the ecstasy that otherwise defines our relationship.

So, in short, we love each other, I want to continue sharing my life with him, and I think he would realize that he might want the same if he could get past these real or imagined ideas of How Life Must Be according to Islam/his mother/his culture (though it might be the case that none of the above would actually condemn our marriage).

Finally, the question: what can I say or do to change his mind? (I am not trying to trick him into proposing next week and I do not wish to selfishly manipulate him; I just want him to be open to the possibility that eventually he may want to, because I truly believe that neither of us would be happier apart than we are together.)

To clarify, I am NOT asking your opinion on whether it is possible or likely to change his mind. I realize that the answer to that question is probably negative; please don’t fill this page with responses insisting that is the case, as I’m not aiming to increase my level of despair when reading replies to this post. I am also not asking whether you think he will, or should, marry me. What I am asking is, IF there is a way to change his mind about the mere possibility of our future, what might that be? Is there any (ethically acceptable) strategy I can use to reduce my chances of losing the man I love and want to spend the rest of my life with to some anonymous woman he feels he has to marry to fulfill social expectations that may not lead him to a happier life, and that he may not fully believe in or understand his reasons for wanting to conform to?
posted by xanthippe to Human Relations (61 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
How old are you two? He sounds pretty entrenched. A total change of scenery might be an option, although that seems cruel if he's uneducated and doesn't have the greatest opportunities. But he could go back to school in another country.

(Clever title)
posted by Corduroy at 3:57 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: Could be effective, but emigrating is something he would never do. He would like to study abroad, but would never live away from his family, so probably not an option.

We are both 25 - i.e. still young in my view, but everyone here thinks I'm a spinster. The clock is definitely ticking for him.
posted by xanthippe at 4:02 AM on January 18, 2008

Have you talked to him about this? I just think being honest: I love you and I am willing to convert for you: might be all it takes?

Or perhaps that's naive to believe that sometimes honesty is best. But at least if you lay out all you're willing to give: money, religion, cultural understanding, English, patience, love, love, love, what else could he say to that?

If he's already made his mind to marry some other woman, then there's nothing you could say or do anyway. Get out the kleenex and know you did your best. We can't win them all, but we can win them some.

I was in a similar situation, too. My situation worked out well: We are still together!
posted by mimikachu at 4:04 AM on January 18, 2008

Define "happier life".

It making his family happy, keeping their approval and support, and maintaining a close relationship with them makes him happier than being in a romantic relationship with you, you have no chance. If the chance to explore the possibilities of life and love outside of his upbringing makes him happier than his relationship with his family, you just might.

Honestly, I don't think it looks good for you. It isn't just his family in a nuclear sense he'd be distancing himself from. Family for him is a support network, a job & business opportunity source, an identity to the outside world. He might consider being forced to distance himself from them to a marriage to someone he loved passionately, if he was leaving the country and had the temperament for that sort of thing. You're describing a dutiful son. I just don't see it.

You might truly be the love of his life, or you may not be. I think what you're asking him for is the time to figure that out between you. You want to date him and see where things go. Unfortunately, he can't date. You're asking for a relationship from him in a way that runs counter to his upbringing and family expectations. In addition, I am guessing that you are not Omani. That's going to make the possibility of his family accepting you just that bit harder. The love matches you describe happen with the blessing of the families involved. His family is the one you need to think about, and if they aren't having it, I despair for you.

Have you considered that he might be trying to gently find a way to say that as much as he values your company and enjoys his time with you that he just needs to end the romantic relationship with you so he can marry? In some cultures, a man isn't considered to be an adult until he has a wife.
posted by Grrlscout at 4:04 AM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'd seek out a religious or community leader who lives in and/or knows the culture, is sympathetic to you and your situation, and can offer you specific advice, and perhaps textual examples or cultural guidelines which you could share with your boyfriend.

Good luck! Please let us know how it works out.
posted by lhall at 4:06 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is there a male member of his family that he respects, whom also likes you? Talk to him and see if he can talk to your BF.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:17 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: Grrlscout, one of the points I made was that his family seems very accepting of me; I get along with them and like them a lot, and they have said the same about me. I don't see any reason why he would have to choose between his family and me, and I would never ask them to; I already understand that if I did marry him, I would become part of this family, and it is something I would look forward to.

You are exactly right about what I am asking of him - for time. You're also correct that he needs to marry to be an adult; he feels a lot of pressure for this reason, especially in relation to his financial situation.

There is also a commonly-held tacit belief among Omani bachelors that after marriage, you begin a "second life" - i.e. if you have misbehaved, not prayed, been in the habit of drinking alcohol or had a girlfriend, you can reform yourself when you get married. Of course, this is wishful thinking in most cases; I already mentioned the prevalence of adultery. I don't wish to criticize too much a culture that I am actively trying to participate in, but there is an obvious disjoin between popular beliefs about not only what behavior is ethical, but to what degree it is followed, and actual behavior; everyone knows of a few hundred scandals, but goes on pretending they are special cases.

I think this is important because there is a danger that he will consider me as another bad habit he needs to stop in his future life; everyone has these ideals, but the evidence is that people don't actually change their behavior after they're married, other than beginning to rear a family, of course. The danger is that he might think of leaving me the same way as many people intend to quit smoking, knowing they may never succeed or, if they do, they always have the option to start again. I have told him that he will never see or speak to me after he is married, but I don't think he will fully realize this, or admit the effect it will have on him, until it happens, and then it will just be one big Shakespearean tragedy.
posted by xanthippe at 4:23 AM on January 18, 2008

My $0.02. Indian culture can be very similar to this, though there is a little more flexibility. If his mother, father or elders were to quietly allude to the fact that it is no-bad-thing that he is with you, it would def. make him think a little differently (IMHO).

So is there any way you could do this?
posted by gadha at 4:27 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: Mimikachu: that's exactly the conversation we've had, several times. He knows I would do anything to make it possible; he thinks it doesn't matter - in fact, that love doesn't matter at all - because it's wrong a priori. There is nothing I could change about myself or about my behavior, despite any willingness on my part, that would change the fact that I am not Omani, not from a Muslim family, etc. and when I start to interrogate this reasoning I hit a wall every time. (I think that wall is called 'religion'.)
posted by xanthippe at 4:28 AM on January 18, 2008

Since the wall that you're hitting is "religion," would it be possible to preemtively convert to Islam? You'd do this to show commitment to his culture, and would present it to him as unrelated to the marriage issue. You'd also use it to gain leverage with his family, demonstrating to them, at least on the religious front, that you're making an effort to assimilate--to be Omani.

In addition, though I don't know if it's doable, you might attempt to change your citizenship to Oman. Islamic religion, Omani citizenship. You'd be Omani in all respects, thereby defeating his argument that he needs to marry a good Omani woman by becoming one.
posted by Gordion Knott at 5:03 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: I am making some gestures in that direction; I now wear the black cloak when I go out with him, and sometimes a headscarf (he really likes this). It's good advice that I think I will follow; however, when I first told him I would be willing to do this (without having done it yet) he said there would still be the fact that he can't send his sisters to interview my sisters about me, i don't have a family name associated with a nearby village or otherwise connected to his own; there is actually some amount of prestige in marrying a cousin or a relative of another family member's spouse, etc.

I could not win that argument because there is always another reason - it is essentially irrational. (An Omani passport takes something like 20 years of residence to acquire, and I think he may be able to save up his dowry payment before then, too.)

Thanks for all the thoughtful and sensitive advice so far.
posted by xanthippe at 5:38 AM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: I suppose I am in what you might call a cross-cultural relationship, although not of such magnitude as yours. But even in a mild case like ours, family acceptance was key. (Yes, you can elope and cut off all family ties, but for a lot of people that is a very undesirable option.) I start by saying this because I think that the important conversation is not with your husband, but rather with his family. I don't know Oman, and I don't know the specifics of his family, but that might be mother and/or father, key brothers/uncles/aunts/etc, and/or quite likely a grandmother/grandfather/older relative to whom many in the family will defer. My guess is that the conversation should be not directly between you and them, but at least at the beginning via a trusted and respected intermediary (the more credible and traditional, the better), but that is a guess, not an informed opinion.

So the chain would be you --> intermediary --> his family --> him, at which point the conversation between him and you could continue on a different footing. Your decision of whether or not to convert will probably play a role in this, if not automatically a major one. There are no guarantees -- there are parts of my partner's family who will never really accept me, and vice versa, no matter how long we are married. (Happily, in both cases those are more distant relatives, who were easily ignored.) If those feelings run really deep, your boyfriend will face the stark choice of marrying you or having a good relationship with his family, and that is a really shitty place to be. Good luck!
posted by Forktine at 6:05 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sure they do accept and like you. And I'm also sure they aren't completely buying that you're just his English teacher. They probably already know there's more between you. It's just that everyone has a convenient fiction to use to allow them to like you for yourself. If he walked in and said that you were his lover, point blank, they'd have a different reaction to you entirely. Same you, different presentation.

I hadn't thought of the family recommendation aspect. But it would have to be a family member with some influence. The religious teacher on your side might help, if you can find someone to plead your case. If you were serious about converting, you'd meet someone on your own who could doubtless vouch for you.

It's irrational to you and me, all this way of going about marriage, family involvement in choosing partners, etc, etc, but it clearly isn't to your guy. Talk to him about your concerns. He trusts his family to find someone who will make him happy. They want the best for him, too. Can you talk to one of his sisters? The fact that you get along with them is hugely important. Maybe talk about having your family visit and introducing them to your family while they are in Oman? They want to see the tree from which the acorn sprang, if you get me. It might help them to see you as more of a complete person in their POV.

My parents disapproved of my marriage to my husband, despite liking him personally. They think he would have made a wonderful husband - for someone else's daughter. ;) They didn't like our marriage because he is English, very close to his family - they knew that when we married, I would be connected to a man who would very likely move me thousands of miles from them. If I had been dependent/interconnected with my parents in the way you describe your guy is with his, I would have been desperately unhappy at their disapproval. As it stands, I just am sorry they decided to be the way they are. It's nowhere near the situation you've described, but I guess I'm trying to say that I can see where temperament and family connections can make all the difference.

Mainly, I just hope love can find a way for you and your guy. :)
posted by Grrlscout at 6:15 AM on January 18, 2008

he thinks it doesn't matter - in fact, that love doesn't matter at all - because it's wrong a priori.

I think that's the answer right there: He is not going to change and it is wrong to expect him to do so. Either get used to the idea of being the mistress or move on.
posted by Doohickie at 6:16 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

It's clear that your arguments alone aren't that persuasive to him. You need allies to whom he will listen. Whether that's his family or a religious figure, that's your best avenue, I think.
posted by amtho at 6:33 AM on January 18, 2008

Why are you trying to change him? This is HIS culture, HIS country, HIS beliefs...unless HE is the one that wants to change, I think it is wrong to try to persuade him. This is who he IS.
posted by konolia at 6:45 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Well, I am from a neighboring country, and I can assure you that if you were a Muslim, you'd have a much better chance with him. I am not saying that if you convert, his family will magically send him to marry you, but you'll have a damn good chance at it. Especially if you are sincere about the whole Islamic way of life, and not just doing it for him. Muslims are very sympathetic and supporting of a newly-converted person, and would even help them settle and create a new Muslim family. This can be your way in.

I hope it all works out for you, and don't hesitate to send me a MeFi mail if you want to get an insider point of view.
posted by howiamdifferent at 6:51 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Talk to some of the mixed couples you know of, and have him meet them if possible. I wonder if he cannot imagine himself married to you, if confronting the possibility and hearing about what another similar couple had to deal with would help for you and for him. You may also benefit from hearing the perspective of a non-Omani in such a couple.
posted by PY at 6:57 AM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: In order for him to perform functionally in a marriage or long term relationship, he would have to undergo fundamental changes in almost every aspect of his life. Is this fair to ask? Sure, ask. If you don't get the answer you want, is it fair to ask over and over again? All the things you could do to change his mind are the things you're already doing, and if they aren't enough now, they never will be.

You are interfering with more lives than just his, and he is trying to let you know that this interference is unwelcome. He's telling you gently, because he loves you. You need to be a responsible person and get the hint, before you cause irreparable harm to his family.

The freedom you have to love and marry whoever you want isn't universal, and you can't just initiate people into that world by loving them. You sound like an anthropologist when you talk about him. However your altruism or pride (and yes, your heart) would glow if you won this battle, remember on the other end of it is a very steep price being paid-- entirely by him, and his family. Respect his wishes not to pay it.
posted by hermitosis at 7:10 AM on January 18, 2008 [9 favorites]

I make about 6 times as much as he does and often support him. This imbalance is not an issue for either of us

That right there tells me you're not even close to thinking clearly about this. Of course the imbalance is an issue for him; it would be impossible for it not to be. But you don't want it to be an issue, so you've convinced yourself it's not. Similarly, you've convinced yourself that because you "have good relationships with some members of his extended family" they are likely to welcome you as a potential wife. They are not. You seem to be unwilling to hear what he's been trying to tell you: he loves you but you are not marriage material, and he needs to get married to someone from the traditional marriage pool. This is an old, old story, and tradition wins 99.9% of the time.

Sure, it's possible that if you convert and try your damnedest to fit in with the community (I presume you speak the local dialect of Arabic, though you don't mention it), things will change, but the overwhelming likelihood is that they will not. The best scenario I can see for you is that he marries a local girl but continues seeing you regularly. If that's not acceptable, I think you should start backing off emotionally now. You are heading for serious heartbreak.
posted by languagehat at 7:29 AM on January 18, 2008 [7 favorites]

Best answer: If you strip away the long backstory, the complexities of a cross-cultural relationship, and the competing demands of family, culture, and religion on your BF, you are left with this: yours is a placeholder relationship, a fun walk on the wild side before your BF finds a 'real wife' and settles down. You are already the equivalent of a mistress, and he isn't even married yet. There is a chance that your BF - despite his rock-solid integrity and the respect with which he has treated you so far - might harbor a hope somewhere that, after he is married, you will continue to be his mistress.

Is it harsh, judgmental, and culturally insensitive of me to say this? You bet. Is the story much more complicated than even what you have spelled out here? No doubt. Does he genuinely love you and not want to hurt you? Quite likely. But, looked at this way, it does provide you with one possible answer to your question ("what can I say or do to change his mind?"). You can do what mistresses do - with varying degrees of success - the world over: give him an ultimatum. Tell him that his choice is either to commit to you, or to lose you forever. Tell him that you will not stay in a relationship with no future, and that you are prepared to walk away. Give him a week to make up his mind. And then follow through on it.
posted by googly at 7:35 AM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

I disagree with all the people who seem to be saying that its unfair for you to change him. A marriage does that anyway; a cross-cultural marriage does not suddenly turn the changes induced by marriage into a cultural ignorance on your part.

Do you know exactly what his family's opinion is? I understand they are very accepting of you in general, but what would they think of you as their son's wife?

Personally, I'd argue that you should take him on a vacation and visit other countries that don't have a similar "anti-individualistic" viewpoint, and perhaps where cross-cultural and cross-religious marriages and relationships are much more common. Travel is always an eye-opening, and often a life-changing experience...
posted by suedehead at 7:37 AM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: xanthippe: His sisters, aunts, and most importantly, his mother, all welcome me and give him lots of positive feedback about me. (I am fairly certain that these women are not idiots and therefore have some intuition regarding our actual relationship, though it is not spoken of; for his part, a few uncles and cousins are in on it, but being a man, he inclines to believe it’s only between men and the women are clueless.) I strongly suspect that his family would be accepting and welcome me with open arms if we became engaged.

He still insists that it would be Not Good for him to marry me; he feels he must marry an Omani woman, and that his life would be ruined if anyone ever knew he had a girlfriend. Marriages between Omanis and foreigners – and love-marriages – are not nearly as uncommon as his worldview suggests they should be; however, he thinks that having a traditional wedding, to a bride chosen by his family, is paramount to his success in life and to pleasing his mother. He also says this has nothing to do with whether he loves me or not; he believes his life must follow a fixed course that he has known since childhood, and that he is powerless to change this without losing his moral self-respect.

Look, you need to be very careful here. Your relationship has an interesting balance, and I think you know that: you've made it clear that you're just about willing to drop everything and join his religion if he wants you to just to be with him. Keep in mind the sacrifice that involves. I'm not suggesting that it's a bad sacrifice-- I admire you for it-- but he needs to know that you won't compromise on everything. Every marriage has to have a balance, and it's healthy for the compromise to be equal on both sides. You have to be sure to show some power over him, as well; this seems to me, oddly enough, to be essential to your being a viable choice in his mind.

Anyhow, it's pretty obvious what you should do. Talk to his mother. It won't be easy, I know, but you're thinking about marrying this guy, so if you want to do that, it's a necessary step. Tell her that you like her son, and believe that he would make a great husband to you; that you are willing to do very much to make this possible, up to and including a traditional marriage there; but that, being who you are, you are unsure if this is possible. If she likes the idea, ask her what to do; I imagine she might have some ideas, which may include talking to his father, and having his father talk to him.

His sense is that, as you put it, "it’s only between men and the women are clueless." He is wrong; even (or perhaps especially) in the most oppressive or sexist society, women exert powers of which men can hardly dream. Appeal to his mother, as a fellow female. He needs to know he's wrong, but you have to let him know in a gentle way; talking to his family, and convincing his mother (whom you say he's trying to please) is the best and kindest way.
posted by koeselitz at 7:49 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

And I add, though I probably don't need to, that if talking to his mother won't work, I don't think anything will. And when you get back home, a reading recommendation: All The Pretty Horses.
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 AM on January 18, 2008

You say his family seems to like you. I think that's your best avenue to take. For a big problem, bold steps are often needed, so take a bold step. Talk to his mother alone.

Tell her everything you wrote here. Tell her how much you love her son, and that you are sure he loves you, too. Tell her that you would do anything possible to earn her approval to marry him, and ask her what that would take. Look her in the eye so she can see how much you love her son.

This may fail. She may reject you out of hand because of Omani tradition. But, as I see it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:57 AM on January 18, 2008

First of all: koeselitz is right about talking to the guy's mother. That aside:
To clarify, I am NOT asking your opinion on whether it is possible or likely to change his mind. I realize that the answer to that question is probably negative; please don’t fill this page with responses insisting that is the case, as I’m not aiming to increase my level of despair when reading replies to this post.
Your level of despair is not the worst indicator of the tenability of your situation. And it shouldn't matter to us what you desperately want to hear. I wish you luck but you've got to think clearly (and careful didactic writing isn't the same as thinking clearly).

The things you say about your 'perfect' relationship ultimately don't seem to bear on the reality of your situation: there's an enormous cultural barrier, as well as an economic one (and languagehat is right to point to that). No matter how you believe he feels about you ('I love him intensely and have no doubts that the feeling is mutual' - give me a break, putting this in terms of your 'doubts' instead of his displays of love is what's known in literary criticism as a dead fucking giveaway), you've been dating this guy for a year and he's repeatedly demonstrated unwillingness to do What You Want. For whatever reasons.

You can't change his feelings. You can't change his religion. You can't change the social pressures on him (shy of spiriting him away to another culture - unlikely). You can say what you want, but the question for this guy is, 'Do I give up what I believe, deep down, for this girl?'

No matter how you want him to feel, please, for the love of God, try to take his actual feelings more seriously.

You don't seriously think he keeps referring to cultural tradition and religious doctrine because he's desperate to get away from those things, do you? 'the top priority in his life is concealing our relationship from his family' - very well. The situation (or something, or someone) has made your boyfriend of a year into a habitual liar, and his family is the mark.

That won't end well no matter what direction you're facing when you pray.

If there were such a thing as luck I'd wish it for you, all of it in the whole world. And talk to his mom, sure; it can't hurt worse than lying to her about his primary pastime. But please, please, please consider the possibility that this won't work.

And know that that doesn't mean giving up.

posted by waxbanks at 8:09 AM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites] of the points I made was that his family seems very accepting of me; I get along with them and like them a lot, and they have said the same about me.

I'm sure the women have figured out, as you say, that you're more than his English teacher. But tacitly approving of your relationship does not mean that they would approve of marriage.

Be emotionally prepared for his mom to state in no uncertain terms that you're a lovely woman and good for her son for right now (i.e. good enough for an affair, and possibly even as a future mistress) but naturally, you can't marry him.

If he's unwilling to marry for love, as it seems like you indicate, I'm not sure what you can do to change his mind. You two disagree on what marriage means, period.

(Your post is beautifully written. I hope it doesn't sound like a callous suggestion when I say that you should consider continuing to write about this relationship with an eye toward publication.)
posted by desuetude at 8:45 AM on January 18, 2008

Is there any way for you to gain some kind of status in the community? To become regarded as, essentially, the much beloved niece of *insert important name here.*

I strongly suspect you're clever and know how to be charming. You can be positively endearing, yes? And you have plenty of time to work with here as I also strongly suspect, from the description you gave, that he's not marrying anyone 'til he's got the necessary cash together.

And yes definitely chat to his mum. It's always possible that she's the driving force behind his current stance on the matter? But at least then you'll either know where you stand or alternatively she might want to help you. However it turns out it's definitely a good idea.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 9:08 AM on January 18, 2008

I don't understand all the background here. ARE you his English teacher? Are you sure you aren't doing anything unethical?
posted by MiffyCLB at 9:27 AM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: If you have any respect for him - or for your own ethics - you cannot without his permission tell his mother that he has been deceiving her, and violating the instructions of their religion as they understand them. Life isn't a movie, and being in love doesn't give you any special moral authority.

Being in love can however blind you to inherent defects in your judgement. If you somehow convince him to marry you, you will then be in a much weaker situation. You're certainly in no position to negotiate a strongly favorable marriage contract, and under shari'a that contract is the only power a wife has; your husband can divorce you at will, and since no Omani will then sponsor you for a visa, you will be exiled - without your children. The threat of divorce will always be available to him, so you will have no power to balance his family's very strong influence. You will live according to their rules, and you may well be reviled and resented for having seduced their relative.

Are you prepared to raise a daughter who will be required to marry her cousin? Polygamy is on the wane in Oman but still legal; are you prepared to hear that your husband has taken a second wife, or a third, and that this is not grounds for you to divorce him? If so, this might be your best argument: "marry your cousin now, with financial help from your family, and marry me too as soon as you can afford it".
posted by nicwolff at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

PS. My understanding of the condition of women in Oman comes from a book I read some years ago, and may be slightly behind the times - but it sounds like your BF and his family are old-fashioned by modern cosmopolitan Omani standards.
posted by nicwolff at 9:43 AM on January 18, 2008

nicwolff: If you have any respect for him - or for your own ethics - you cannot without his permission tell his mother that he has been deceiving her, and violating the instructions of their religion as they understand them.

To clarify, because nicwolff is right, this is a very important point: do not, in any uncertain terms, be too clear about the nature of the relationship. Telling her "he would make a good husband, and I would like to marry him" doesn't mean telling her of past indiscretions; and if she asks, it would be very, very bad if you didn't deny strenuously that there have been any such indiscretions. Be careful.
posted by koeselitz at 9:52 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

Also, as nicwolff also points out, I trust you know what you're in for.
posted by koeselitz at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2008

cut your losses and run. there will be pain, but you'll get over it. as it stands now, you're afraid to tell him your feelings, you're suppressing your personality and identity for fear of offending his culture. a marriage is ideally a partnership of equals; if you think it's unbalanced now, just wait till after the wedding. if you convert to islam, take omani citizenship and surrender your current passport, you might never get out.

okay, it sounds like you don't want to do that, so i'll propose a plan b first. if he loves you, he will want to keep you, and if he wants to keep you, he will fear losing you. float this prospect with subtlety and see how he reacts, and if it's no big deal, it means he's just not that into you. then go back to paragraph one.
posted by bruce at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: I agree with waxbanks: you can't change your boyfriend. Not directly.

What you could do, however, is change yourself -- and by doing so, change how those around you perceive you. This is not an easy process by any means; changing the "you" that exists in the minds of others is quite a task, but it is achievable. What it takes is a lot of effort, a considerable amount of patience and perhaps most notably time, which would seem to be a clear limiting factor here. Even if you have all these factors on your side, there's no guarantee that you will succeed, since the thing you're trying to change is not a physical thing, but rather a perception that others have of you. Still, this may possibly be your "best shot."

You should really consider if changing yourself to such a significant extent is truly worth the level of sacrifice involved. It sounds, based on the desperate tone of your story, that you are willing to do anything at this point. Before you continue, I strongly advise that you take a moment to look at yourself objectively. Be sure, before you act, that it is indeed love (a strong, reciprocated love) that is the source of your irrational willingness to sacrifice anything and everything for this man.

Should you decide that you are, in fact, willing to change anything in order to be with this man, then I think you'll find the key, for you, is in true understanding of Omani culture. You must be of the same mind. You can wear the robes, convert to Islam, jump through as many hoops as you want -- but this does not make you Omani. To successfully integrate into a culture, you must think, act, and feel much the same way. This is not something that can be forced; it must come naturally.

We can dress up a gorilla in human clothing and teach it to speak sign language, but this does not make it human. Truly assimilating into any culture -- especially integrating into a strong and rigid one as the one that you are describing seems to be -- is no small task. To fully integrate into this man's family and culture means that when they look at you, they see one of their own.

There have already been some good examples of how to initiate this process. I would encourage you to take small steps if you want to be successful in this, rather than big ones. By small steps, I mean by starting outside of the goal, and slowly working your way inward. Try talking to someone who knows Omani culture, but who is not connected to your boyfriend. The culture itself will dictate the appropriate process, here -- you just need to find out what it is.

Also, don't forget to trust your intuition! You know the situation better than anyone else can.
posted by Jay Jech at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Please don't talk directly to his mother.

Nthing what JayJech said and what Forktine said. Not so familiar with Omani culture but I'm almost sure NO ONE arranges their own marriage. There fore you need a respectable, influential intermediary with sufficient status in the community to be your advocate. If you approach his mother directly, it will underscore how inappropriate you are for him - they'll think "See! She doesn't even know how to arrange a marriage properly". Also your advocate will be important when you have conflicts to act a mediator with the family and potentially even with your (possible) spouse.

Developing these relationships will take time and you will have to be patient. Your best bet is to take the following steps:
1. Convert to islam
2. Develop relationships with senior women in the community
3. Indicate your renunication of western culture - move out of your compound or whatever and into the community (you will probably have to move in with a family as it is not acceptable for a young woman to live by herself; please note you will not be able to see your boyfriend on the sly anymore and you may have to give up your job or reduce your working hours).
4. Ask the women you have formed relationships with to arrange an appropriate marriage
5. Hint you think your boyfriend might make an appropriate candidate.
6. Be prepared for: a. second wife or second wife status b. being rejected after all that by his family c. being totally alienated from your family.
posted by zia at 11:19 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

And oh yeah! Your senior women mentors may decide your boyfriend is not right for you and suggest and arrange a marriage with someone else.
posted by zia at 11:21 AM on January 18, 2008

I strongly suggest you read this.
posted by brujita at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: About the second marriage thing in the previous answers, it should be noted that polygamy is extremely rare in Arab countries (I should know since I come from one). My estimate is that the percentage is less than 5%. Out of the hundreds of people I know here, I can think of only 2 men who have multiple wives. Especially that the costs of marriage is relatively high in these countries: men who marry multiple wives are usually very rich since not only will they have to pay an amount of money to the bride's family, they will also have to allocate a new house for her.

So please, don't worry that he'll get a second wife after marrying you, and don't count on it if he marries someone other than you.

Also, I nth the DON'T-talk-with-his-mother-directly advice. I can feel that she is probably a traditional Omani woman with little or no English knowledge to fully understand your communication style, and I fear that things can go horribly wrong due to any miscommunication. If I were you, I'd try to be friends with one of the younger, educated females in his family. You'll learn a whole lot of information that can help you with the situation.
posted by howiamdifferent at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2008

Nthing: you can't convince him, you'd have to change yourself; you can't talk to his family directly, you have cultivate and use intermediaries they respect.

Stop reading here to avoid increasing your "level of despair," but: I don't know Oman, but I do know a man, namely myself, quite well and my suspicious mind would lead me to suspect that the cultural issues are ultimately just an excuse. If he wanted to marry you, he'd marry you. Sorry for the pun and the cynicism but I'd be worried that this will not end well. I hope I'm wrong.

Oman is supposed to be beautiful though, good on ya for getting out there. Better than working as an executive PA.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2008

It seems to me that the primary basis of a successful marriage is that the two people involved have a set of shared values. It's what keeps you on the same page when all the business of life comes at the two of you in different ways. You are looking at bending each other over backwards for a marriage, which at the end of the day, will have two totally unequal participants with freakishly different values systems. What kind of marriage will that be?!? You're young. Please do yourself and this young man a favor by ending this before too much damage is done to either of you.
posted by Wolfie at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2008

I'm married to a Muslim guy from a Muslim country (though we don't live there, and he's not religious) and can relate to an extent. He didn't tell his mum about me for a while, his family didn't like it, he has obligations as the son and an emigrant that are a little beyond me, his siblings had arranged marriages, it was the first interfaith and inter-racial relationship in either of our families, I had to get rid of any notion of a storybook relationship with in-laws, etc etc.

And re I strongly suspect that his family would be accepting and welcome me with open arms if we became engaged, while YMMV, my in-laws are educated, westernized people who've travelled widely and lived abroad but when they saw what we had in mind decidedly did not welcome me with open arms.

But anyway we got through all of those obstacles because he made very clear from the point we got together that I was, as described above, "marriage material". I can't begin to imagine navigating all of that with a resistant partner. I'm sorry, it sucks, and I guess it's worth giving this one best shot but I agree ultimately with Languagehat's and Googly's posts.

Is his dad still alive? If his father were to "approve" you it would probably make a big difference as to how the family views you. That was certainly an issue in our case.
posted by jamesonandwater at 2:55 PM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: I have told him that he will never see or speak to me after he is married, but I don't think he will fully realize this, or admit the effect it will have on him, until it happens

Maybe you'll have to leave him before he realizes this. If you leave him before he gets married, there might be hope for him to come to his senses.

(I know you don't want to leave him, but you asked for ideas, and it's the only one I've got.)
posted by happyturtle at 3:08 PM on January 18, 2008

There is always a small chance he will toss away his entire life just for you I doubt that will happen. It is who he is and is ingrained in him to levels you simply cannot reach after 1 year of dating.
posted by tarvuz at 3:24 PM on January 18, 2008

Also why would you want to be with someone that would not instantly choose you?
posted by tarvuz at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can you two go on an extended trip together, "to improve his English"? Maybe seeing how other people live in more diverse societies than the one he's accustomed to might open his mind? What if the two of you spent 6 months in a Western city where you have some friends- ideally some mixed-culture couples- to spend time with?

The ideal would be to spend time with a Muslim man and his Western partner (sorry, I'm assuming you're Western, my apologies if I'm wrong) who live a life that's a comfortable blend of Islamic tradition and Western "individualism" (ugh, that sounds awful, but I hope you know what I mean).

I suspect showing him other ways of life, how they can overlap and mingle, and how open and comfortable that can be when not burdened with being illicit, and notions of haram, might actually do more to persuade him than verbal reasons.

Your Q made me a little heartbroken- what a tough situation. I hope he manages to reconcile his feelings with his context, and marries the hell outta you!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:36 PM on January 18, 2008

Best answer: You're approaching it the wrong way. I have lived for many years in an islamic society.

Follow these steps:

1. Convert to Islam

2. Do not approach him or ANY other man about this. Talk to the women in your life - in particular his mother and sisters. Let them guide you and help you towards becoming a convert

3. If you are living with him, or allowing him stay at your place for extended periods, end that

4. Cut down on the number of times you see him because of religuous reasons. Spend time studying the koran and discussing religion - away from him

5. Stop drinking, interacting with other men in party-type situations. The family has to see you as absolutely moral, very strictly moral.

6. After you are sure the family completely accepts your conversion to islam, and the fact of your morality, tell his sisters about how much you like him.

You are looking at this marriage from a you-him perspective. The correct perspective is you-femalemembers. They make the marriage, not the man. It's the women who have to give approval, so it is them that you woo.

If you study the language or learn to cook with them (without him around), you will gain a lot of points.

And last thing, cut down on the money flow. Don't be a bank for people. Do it this way - make a bank account, and whenever he asks for money, give just a little bit and put the rest in the account. People like feeling like others are similarly broke. When you do get married, use the shared bank account as a family account.

Once again, remember. Do not try to convince the man. ´Try to impress the females of the family. Also remember, a man will not marry a girlfriend in islam, so stop being a girlfriend. Be moral.
posted by markovich at 5:09 PM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]

Two things strike me, and I hope they can help you.

I'm struck by the way you have described your relationship. What at first glance seems to be wonderfully clear prose is repeatedly muddled by observations such as this:
I could not win that argument (that is, converting to Islam to convince him your are a legitimate marriage partner) because there is always another reason - it is essentially irrational.

If that's true, and if there's always going to be another reason, then part of you must know that there is no way to try to change his mind.

The second thing I've noticed is that the exhaustive lists others have assembled for how you can reinvent yourself into a suitable marriage partner require you to fundamentally change our identity- financially, religiously, emotionally. In other words, they require you to become a different person. It seems dangerous and unhealthy (among other things) if the only way you can convince this person to marry you is to become someone other than who you are, and the only reason you'd become that other person is so he will marry you,
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:35 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I assume when you picked your username, xanthippe, you had in mind the famously shrewish and querulous quasi-historical Xanthippe whose husband Socrates said "Marry or marry not, in any case you'll regret it".

I defer to howamidifferent regarding the frequency of multiple marriages among Omani men; as I said, polygamy is in decline in Arabia. But it's still legal, and if his impression is right and something like 1 in 20 Arab men take second wives, then surely most of those men are in very traditional and devout families; shall we guess that 4% of the polygamists are among the most traditional 10% of Arab men? And that xanthippe's boyfriend is in one of those families as well? You see where I'm going with this...
posted by nicwolff at 8:17 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Comments: I will definitely not approach his mother about this; he introduced me to his famiily only once he started to feel confident that I would never do something like this, or otherwise betray him to them, and speaking to anyone in his family without his express permission would destroy his trust, and our relationship, at huge and ultimately useless expense to him.

I am willing to integrate completely into his culture - and agree that it has to be natural; however, being a second wife is something that I (and many Omani women) would not be happy about. If he is married, I will not wait for him.

Googly is correct - I am essentially a mistress, insofar as he enjoys our relationship and takes it very seriously emotionally but not at all on a practical level. I think I need to change this; giving an ultimatum is not something I want to do, but I need to sustain our relationship while somehow preventing him from conceiving of me in that way.

The suggestions about exposing him to other cultures/cross-cultural relationships via travel or education are good, and I have intentions of trying this if it is possible. (I am American originally, and he has expressed interest in going with me if I ever visit the USA.) But I need to find ways of doing this that will actually affect him, and prevent him from dismissing whatever he is exposed to as interesting and different but ultimately irrelevant because it is foreign.

It occurred to me that I should also ask for book or film recommendations that might be good - he's not ready to have existentialist novels thrown at him, and not being very educated, isn't in the habit of reading, but something on a more basic level might be effective. Ideas of books I might buy him or films I might take him to see that could tacitly suggest to him different ways of thinking about marriage and intercultural relationships? Perhaps I will post this as a separate question later as well.
posted by xanthippe at 9:48 PM on January 18, 2008

Heh xanthippe,

I've seen people like you come and go. You want to use your western way on a local guy. Books? Travel? Ignoring the other people in his life?

You are doomed. You don't understand the culture, you are like a horse with the two black things by the side. You are only looking from your perspective. I've seen women like you, and I know how this will end. You ask a bunch of americans to verify what you are already thinking, and ignore the people who have lived in the culture. Leave now before you end up bitter and sad like many women I know who want to change everything for a man, and end up having neither the man or themselves.
posted by markovich at 2:10 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Markovich, I don't want to "use my Western way on him", or change who he is essentially; I want to change only the intellectual/philosophical elements of his belief system that prevent us from being happy together. I also do not want to change his values; I am well acquainted with them, and believe that they do not ultimately conflict with our having a relationship.

Lastly, I am certainly not asking anyone to verify what I am already thinking. Languagehat is admittedly correct that I am "far from thinking clearly about this"; this question is an appeal for any views or opinions more diverse, informed or objective, and less emotionally-clouded, opinions than my own.
posted by xanthippe at 3:02 AM on January 19, 2008

You can't reason someone out of beliefs that they were never reasoned into in the first place.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:28 AM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Xanthippe, movies and books and travel are not going to help you. Some very informed people have told you what you need to do upthread and its mostly about changing yourself.

You are still hoping that you can "westernize" your boyfriend enough that he will agree to marry you; you can't. If you want to marry him, you are going to have get the permission of his women folk and family and the only way to do that is to sincerely adopt his culture. Discussing that option with him also won't work because its just discussion; while you are having that argument/dialogue you are ineligible. In fact, having that discussion in itself MAKES you ineligible because its something an eligible bride could never do.

Hoping that education, travel, etc. will change his outlook is foolish, and will not work. That approach is basically trying to get him to change and engage in a Western marriage with you, and he has already told you dozens of times (it sounds like) that he cannot do that. I suggest you take a vacation away from your boyfriend, and give yourself to clear your head. When you come back either break it off or buckle down and adopt their culture and convert to islam.
posted by zia at 7:15 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Markovich, I don't want to "use my Western way on him", or change who he is essentially; I want to change only the intellectual/philosophical elements of his belief system that prevent us from being happy together.

Those intellectual/philosophical elements ARE, in fact, who he is essentially.

I feel like a shitheel typing this because I know you love this man very much but there's just no way you will ever persuade him to marry you. He is committed to a particular culture and community. He wants a bride from that culture and community, not an outsider, no matter how much she may attempt to change.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:43 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I want to change only the intellectual/philosophical elements of his belief system that prevent us from being happy together. I also do not want to change his values...
As has been suggested, this is a contradiction in terms. Please consider the possibility that you can not 'win' here.

On rereading, those who counseled against speaking to the mother are convincing; my own suggestion to the contrary was surely wrong, I'm sorry to say, and driven by frustration at what I take to be your (at least partly understandable) intransigence and self-deception. That said, since - with or without justification - I don't believe ingratiating yourself with his family will accomplish what you want (altering his philosophy etc.), there's something of a 'may as well' element at play too.
posted by waxbanks at 9:04 AM on January 19, 2008

however, being a second wife is something that I (and many Omani women) would not be happy about

Well you have a wide choice of things to be unhappy about here. Your question is "IF there is a way to change his mind about the mere possibility of our future, what might that be?" and the only answer I see is: offer him the option of fulfilling both his loyalty to his culture, his religion, and his family and his apparently-undoubtable desire to continue your relationship by courting both you and another woman more appropriate to his and his family's expectations. The point isn't to become a second wife, it's to give him the option of continuing to see you while you convert to Islam and he saves money for his eventual marriage(s).
posted by nicwolff at 2:39 PM on January 19, 2008

Response by poster: You are still hoping that you can "westernize" your boyfriend enough that he will agree to marry you; you can't. If you want to marry him, you are going to have get the permission of his women folk and family and the only way to do that is to sincerely adopt his culture.

Absolutely correct; I misrepresented myself originally, I think. I don't want to Westernize him because I love him for who he is; I want to a) change whatever I can about myself to attain the status of a viable woman instead of a mistress/girlfriend in his mind; and b) attempt to influence only the parts of his belief system that tell him this will never be possible.
posted by xanthippe at 8:58 PM on January 19, 2008

xanthippe, I say this with the best of intentions, but I think the issue here is that, so far, you bring nothing to the marriage table except love, intellectual stimulation, a bit of money, and a willingness to change/learn. All wonderful things, but it's sadly not enough if he plans to live his life in Oman.

Converting to Islam or becoming an Omani citizen isn't enough, as you mentioned, so what might the dealbreakers be? I can see two very real issues he'd have to deal with if he were to marry you instead of a local woman of his culture:
1) He and his family would miss out on the benefit of a new extended set of relatives (for business connections, financial assistance, guidance with establishing the new household, help with the baby, etc.)
2) You would be dependent on his family to teach you the wifely household things that an Omani woman would already know or could ask her own family (You mentioned looking forward to joining their family, but understand this would be more "work" for them. Are you fluent in Arabic, by the way?)

What should you do? First, I say you should stop being a "mistress" as others have previously mentioned. Second, I don't know your current living situation or if this is possible where you are, but see if you can be taken in by a powerful, respected family in the community, one preferably with children. Rent a room, contribute to the household (chores, teach English) and learn the ropes of everyday Omani life. This family could be your surrogate Omani family that you could go to for advice and guidance, who could vouch for you--this is probably the best way to make up for not being Omani yourself. Third, contribute something to the greater good of the community that even non-English speakers would respect, whether it's a talent for music or cooking or whatever. All the while, convert to Islam and quietly show--not tell--your boyfriend your Muslim ways.

The best of luck to you. Do keep us posted!
posted by QueSeraSera at 11:14 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I come from a Muslim culture that's less conservative than Oman's but still very traditional. People do date, and arranged marriages are very uncommon. My cousin married a French guy; my sister just got engaged to a British dude; I'm dating an Australian. There are a few other cross-cultural relationships within our (rather huge) circle of family & friends, but it is still relatively uncommon; it's only common with us because we've spent most of our lives overseas. My mother still grumbles occasionally about "I should marry you off to a rich Bangla man!" but so far she seems pretty pleased with what's happening.

This takes a long time and a lot of effort, though. My sister didn't tell our mum about her past relationships; she was surprised that I told our parents about my boyfriend immediately (he's my first). We both were fiercely independent and very non-traditional and had (and still have!) strong conflicts with our parents over it. I get it worse now, because I'm the youngest so all the attention's on me, but I had already established myself from the beginning as "the black sheep" so my actions aren't too unusual.

If you want him to be more open to the "Western" POV, he's the one that has to do it. From what you seem to explain of him, his sense of filial piety is very very strong, and it doesn't seem likely that he will ever reach the level of independence/self-assurance that my sister (and to some level myself) have. This comes with its costs, mainly continual familial conflict, and it seems your boyfriend places family in too high a priority for this to happen. Heck, his family could betray him like crazy and he'll still be loyal anyway; it's ingrained.

As for conversion to Islam: think carefully. Islam is notoriously difficult to unconvert from, particularly in countries where Islam is the basis for legislation/administration. There's a whole bunch of people like us that are legally Muslim but realistically who-knows-what, but we can't declare our true spiritual leanings too openly because the backlash is wayyy too strong. You may be getting a very superficial view of Islam; are you prepared for how rigorous and tough it may be? Are you prepared to deal with the (somewhat tougher) Omani school of thought? It's not just a religion, it's a complete lifestyle - can you live with it? Too many people here in Malaysia convert to Islam supposedly out of love, but get frustrated or run into relationship trouble but can't get out of Islam (at least without some considerable cost).
posted by divabat at 9:59 AM on January 20, 2008

Last comment:

If this guy were some white dude from Illinois, and you were asking 'How can I change myself to make him willing to marry me,' you'd have been justifiably laughed off the Internet by now.

I don't mention this just to score easy points.
posted by waxbanks at 6:04 PM on January 20, 2008

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