M.N. (reader wishes to remain anonymous) asks: I need your help, I really need to solve this. I will try to be as clear as I can be...
On December 14, 2011, I got married to the woman I dearly loved for over two years, but it was against my family's will.
I am an Arab, originally Palestinian, was brought up in Canada until I came to Dubai in 1998. You can say that most people who knew me for long have classified me as an open minded Arab with a free-spirited soul. This description was given to me because of the difference in personality witnessed among myself and other members of my family; they are somewhat more close-minded, conservative than me. Arabs who are usually brought up in conservative families tend to enjoy listening to my views. I'm the eldest between my two siblings: Brother (21) & Sister (19). I'm 27.
My father and mother love me very much. In fact, they both have provided top-notch love and care for me more than they did to my siblings, but obviously they loved them very much as well. Specifically my father, whom he loved me the most and poured his heart, blood and sweat to bring me up at my best. My relationship with him was the best until I hit 19, that's when it went south and the fights began. Naturally, teenage brings a lot of complexity to the mentality of the young Vs the old, but we fought because we loved each other. Problem was we try too hard to make each other understand our points, and because he's always tough and strict with his ideals and I am with mine, we end up fighting.
We fought about many things, but the ones that usually get the most heat is my lifestyle Vs his. My father is a success story, which I can never be. He started from scratch, not so poor and not so rich, studied Civil Engineering in Syria, and tried to establish his own company since 1980's. When he saw it was difficult, he worked really hard and crawled up his way to becoming what he is right now, a CEO of a well-known company.
He is very organized, he hates messy things, he likes everything to be at its place and doesn't like to postpone anything to the next day; even if it can or should be postponed. He likes control, he likes to be the Alpha male in everything. In an argument, he will listen to you, but eventually, his point dominates all. He is right...he is always right. He's systematic. He will keep changing until he finds that place in something or anything that will make him happy and comfortable and will sit on it forever. He is energetic, hard working, somewhat of a workaholic. He doesn't like free time, if he has free time on his hands he will find something to do, something at home that is lose he'll break it and fix it just to find something to do. The only day of the week he finds to rest is Friday, one day out of seven days he can rest.
He cares a lot about us. Provides the best in everything, education and health care. Money was never an issue with us because he was a great planner. He plans for the best and the worst case...All in all, people just as people should know his success story, but he was also the legend I was always jealous of.
The downfall was that this success of his has changed our lifestyle, changed our clique. Past six years I've witnessed that I was surrounded by many high-end items, classy brunches, high-class executives, family friends with expensive items and was living in a luxurious atmosphere. We were never snobbish, but we ensured elegance was well portrayed to the public and...it made me uncomfortable 95% of the time.
When I was 12, I became highly influenced by this particular 90's show called 'The Renegade'. Main character was a Harley biker, jeans, muscles, black leather, framed for murder, trying to find who framed him and helps people along the way. Everything I wanted to be in real life. I started listening to country music and became highly influenced by it.
Started wearing nothing but jeans, old school shirts and sometimes a cowboy hat. By the end of my age of 12, I progressed from country to rock 'n roll to heavy metal, then the rebellious lifestyle began. My teen years never involved me saying "I hate everyone", it was very secretive. I hid a lot of emotions and things that bothered me, wrote them down as poems and hoped one day I can sing them on my acoustic guitar.
My lifestyle was 'chill and be chilled...life is simple and live king'. That was disapproved by my parents. They always wanted me to be more and instead of trying to figure or understand what or who I am they began explaining what I could've, should've or would've become if I had changed some decisions in my life.
I am not as hard working as my father, but I do wake up every morning and go to work to bring food to the table and to be successful at what I do, Period. My lifestyle today involves working, working hard, enjoying my marriage, Playstation nights with the boys, movies and training at the gym. I am pursuing to do my Masters some time soon.
Issue was interventions by my family, stopping me from having a clear conscious in handling my own choices. They did it out of love, but the downfall was that my compassion towards them lead them to interfere deeper taking control of the whole situation. Basically, I was daddy's little boy. Anything I went through, daddy would be there to solve it, and at the age of 25 and 26 it gets a bit worrying when this track kept repeating itself. So I moved out.
They didn't take it too well but eventually they got over it.
I met wife for the first time in September '09 at work, I was dating someone else at the time. After the break up I focused on changing my life and moved forward, and put all my focus on marrying my wife. After the long romantic story between us, we finally decided we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together in 2011 and March of that year I proposed the idea to my dad and requested that he would meet her. His objection was based on two facts, she's two years older than me and that she's from another (Arab) country. He objected without remotely giving himself and me a chance to meet her. The deal I made with him was that if he'd see her and still disapprove then I would put it all away and move on. Yet, he refused.
I went to my mother, same thing. My siblings were forced to side my parents. Therefore I received no support what so ever, not even the basics, just meet her. For almost 9 months since March, my attempts to reconcile and beg them for a chance to meet her was futile. They kept assuming things about her, judging her and kept telling me how she doesn't fit 'our' lifestyle. 'our' clique, 'our' atmosphere...I began getting tired of it all. I became tired of being misunderstood, tired of being shoved into this lifestyle that I didn't feel comfortable in, tired of them interfering in all decisions not giving me or my conscious a true sense of reality on owning up to what you stand up for.
So, in December 14th 2011, I married my wife. My closest friends, colleagues and regular people I know and their families supported me...some called me courageous. I didn't, my opinion was courage came only if I was able to solve my family's problem, whatever it was. During June, I tried to get the ties back with the family, fix the damages. Ramadan was on the door and I thought what a good month to ease and fix things with them. That didn't work either, in fact the more I tried, the more I felt they weren't happy and there I was confused. When I proposed fixing things their response was: "The damage you caused is horrendous, but you are our son, you're welcome to our home, we always love you".
Throughout fixing the situation there were many things that were being said to me that drove me and pushed me away from them. The closer I got to my mother, sister or brother the more it became difficult to fix anything. Until the bullet that I kept dodging for so many months, finally got its way through to my skull. They disrespect me, hate me, my wife...I don't know. They don't want this to be fixed, they want me to burn and suffer as they claim they have. The facts of me reconciling with them for so many months prior to that is meaningless to them.
Until the end of August 2012...I realized they weren't ready to see me yet. So I cut off all relations with them and gave them and myself some space for a few months. In November last week, my uncle passed away, I was there with my father to support him. We talked and he apologized for the things that have happened and apologized for some of the ways he practiced raising me and he reassured that he and the entire family love me and miss me.
My problem is, they miss me and I believe them that they love me. But they're still not willing to accept my wife, they don't want to see her, they don't want to speak to her. My wife and I have gone through enough of negativity, and I also miss my family a lot. But I can't live two lives: one with the family and one with my wife. Though I know I'm the one who brought this down on myself, but I know that I did the right initial steps to ensure that something like this wouldn't happen, and it's not my fault. But there wasn't any hope and now...I don't know how to merge my two worlds together.
My wife is 12 weeks pregnant, and I haven't spoken about it to them yet because I fear that it might cause bigger tensions than it should, and because they are not ready to hear this news yet. I can't lie to them, I can't hide the baby from them, I can't allow my pregnant wife to go through stress and I sure damn won't allow my child to be raised in any negative environment. No way.
So I need your help. What do I do? How do I solve this? Please help.
Dr Raad Alkhaiat (MBChB, MRCPsych. Consultant psychiatrist) replies: I understood from what you have described that you were brought up in a family of a life style and attitude of different nature than what you have adopted later on.
Apparently your family is of traditional way of life and thinking and you are and have been different as you are of different generation and thinking (including different interests and way of enjoyment and how to spend the time).
Our Arabic traditional attitude especially of the previous generations is to put a lot of emphasis on the whole family as a unit and its social reputation and its position among other families in their social class.
So, what you considered as something very personal and a matter of your own decision was to them the whole family matter, which created not only misunderstanding but rejection and totally unacceptable situation to them.
I think from the beginning you should have put these things in mind and not to challenge their belief to end up with an expected result.
You are now after all these consequences in a difficult situation and at least you have to keep the minimum level of communication and acceptance from them and use all resources available to you to do that.
My suggestion is to explain to your family in an apologetic way your appreciation and respect to their attitude and behavior and that you were wrong in challenging them and now you feel very sorry for that and you don’t like for your family and children to miss their identity or to be deprived from their care.
If you find it difficulty in doing so I think you can get professional help from a psychologist of psychiatrist for better approach and setting.
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