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marriage advice from muslim women please!

(186 Posts)
HardlyEverHoovers Tue 31-Jul-12 14:30:36

(and also non-Muslim women if you have any insights!)

Hello/asalam u alikumm and also Ramadan Mubarek. This is my first post, after browsing for some time, so please forgive me for any mistakes in etiquette.
I need some advice regarding my marriage, and from reading some old posts it seemed other muslim women may have dealt with similar issues. I'd be particularly grateful for advice from anyone who has managed to move beyond the point I'm at now.
I converted, by the Grace of God, to Islam about 8 years ago, I got married about 3 years ago, to a Muslim man from a different country, who has a position of authority within the Muslim community. We now have an 18 month old son and live in the UK.
My husband is great in terms of practical help in the house and with the baby and all that, and the bottom line is that he is a good man. However, he has restricted my freedom more than I could ever have imagined. There are a couple of things I do regularly (go to the local shops alone and meet wiht some Muslim women once a month a so) but to do anything beyond this takes a lot of negotiation and is met with much grumpiness and dissapproval. Even a simple thing as taking the baby to the park with a friend. I no longer am able to visit my family for a night without my husband, let along go and stay with friends. I don't attend any Islamic events or lectures (before marriage I was active in the Muslim community). I may occasionally be able to meet a friend or go to town alone, but I find the process of getting him to agree so stressful that I don't really bother asking.
Sometimes he will just say no, and not have a good reason, which is bad enough, but a lot of the time he gets his way by making everything around an event so stressful that I never do it again. Frequently I have been in floods of tears minutes before I'm due to go out, friends to arrive etc. I'm reluctant to resort to the word abuse, but this sort of behaviour makes me feel that way.
I am becoming very isolated, and I'm concerned that my relationship with my non-Muslim family, which has always been positive, is being affected.
On an emotional level I feel that I can't be myself. he doesn't respect my needs or my emotions. If I try to talk to him about how I feel, I get hit with the Islam hammer, and made to feel that my feelings are 'wrong' Islamically.
There was no warning of this before marriage, either in what I had seen of him (he was my teacher before we married) or in the discussions we had before marriage.
Because of the baby I've tried to keep a very peaceful atmosphere despite all this, but I am feeling I really need to take action as it is making me emotionally and physically unwell. I have had several miscarriages this year, and I believe that stress is not helping.
I've tried to be brief here, I can say more if needed. Has anyone dealt with similar issues in a positive way? I would hate the marriage to end and my family to break up, but I really can't imagine living like this forever.
Thank you.

CogitoErgOlympics Tue 31-Jul-12 14:46:01

I think all you have to do to know that how he is behaving is nothing to do with your religion is to look at your female muslim friends who are happily going to parks, shops and visiting others without having to negotiate. He is likely to be following the restrictive traditions of his home-country rather than those of islam

You may be reluctant to use the word 'abuse' but many man of all faiths and none choose to control their partners exactly the same way. Bullying, isolating them from friends and family, restricting their movements and actions, depriving them of freedom, being critical. They gamble that you will submit and 'keep a peaceful atmosphere' rather than assert yourself. It is all designed to keep you trapped, both physically and mentally, not sure what is right and wrong any more, not trusting your own judgement.

Good luck

slug Tue 31-Jul-12 14:56:23

Coginto is right. This is nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with an abusive man. You may find this useful

Windsock Tue 31-Jul-12 15:10:21

I'm not Muslim. Don't let religion be an excuse for abuse
Is this how life is going to be? He's an utter arse

www.google.co.uk/search?q=wheel+of+power&hl=en&client=safari&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=8OYXULeyE4Om0AXdmoDADQ&ved=0CF0QsAQ&biw=320&bih=416#i=6

Windsock Tue 31-Jul-12 15:12:01

Ha slug. Great minds.

Xales Tue 31-Jul-12 15:59:05

I agree with the others. This is not about religion.

I have a friend who has also converted and sometimes helps others. If you don't get much help here and you would like, pm me and I will ask her if she is willing to chat with you.

BandersnatchCummerbund Tue 31-Jul-12 16:25:05

Another one agreeing that this is not just a religious issue.

It could be mainly a cultural issue, and if it is then it may be solve-able, if you and your husband are able to talk to one another about it. If it is normal in his family/his home country for wives to have so little freedom, then maybe he doesn't understand that there are many devout Muslim families who don't operate like this. Surely the other Muslim families in your community don't all live like this? Does he not understand that?

If he is completely incapable of listening to you then you have bigger problems, and will need to think about what to do next - certainly, he needs to understand that going on like this forever is not an option.

RabidAnchovy Tue 31-Jul-12 16:37:32

He is abusing you and hiding behind his faith to do so, if you were not Muslims would you feel he had a right to treat you this way?
He is your husband not your keeper.

If you are not allowed out and not allowed to see your family I really think you need to tell him to shape up or ship out

HardlyEverHoovers Tue 31-Jul-12 18:31:55

Thank you for the comments, links etc. It's suprised me how easily people see this as abuse, that's a bit of a wake up call. To clarify RabidAnchovy, I see my family a lot but he's always with me. That would be fine most of the time, but sometimes I'd just like to go and chill out with my sister or something. I think it's partly but not wholly cultural Bandersnatch. It's hard to compare with the way his sisters and other female relatives live as their lives are so different anyway. Interestingly he has asked his older brother for advice and he tells him he is being really silly, that has a positive impact in the short term but then he just goes back to normal.
I think his behaviour comes from fear of losing me. However, the only way that would happen is if he carries on like this.
While I can see that his behavior in this regard is 'abusive' I don't feel he is really an abusive person, as in every other way he's not at all, it's very much restricted to this one issue. He's really kind in other ways.
I hope that means if I can make him see what he's doing then he might be willing to change.

BandersnatchCummerbund Tue 31-Jul-12 18:54:47

Ah, OK. Look, it sounds as if you've got into the habit of asking him for permission to do things. That's got to stop. Not that you shouldn't ever take his feelings, convenience, wishes etc. into account - but it is not up to him to veto where you go and what you do, and he should also be taking your feelings and wishes on board. That's what mutually loving couples do - whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or anything else. Interesting that his brother thinks he's wrong. Excuse me for asking this, if it's way off the mark - but when you converted to Islam and then got married, was there any part of you that automatically assumed that you should start doing things like asking permission to go out? Or did you just start doing it because he made too much fuss if you didn't?

ErikNorseman Tue 31-Jul-12 19:09:11

Being controlling and manipulative in this way is abusive, even if it's dressed up as love or care. Being a controlling abusive man isn't a feature of any particular religion but I think you have convinced yourself that an Islamic marriage is like this to some extent and yours is just a bit more extreme.
My stbxh is Muslim and has never attempted to control my social life or how I see my family. Nor do the husbands of his sisters or any women I know. This is not ok. Don't put up with it put of shame or fear of repercussions from the community, it's an awful way to live and not something you want to impart to your dc.

WetAugust Tue 31-Jul-12 19:14:39

The only person who is restricting you is you yourself.

If you continue to tolerate this abuse you only have yourself to blame. It's nothing to do with Islam and everythinbg to do with recognising your are in an abusive and controlling relationship.

amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 31-Jul-12 19:14:41

This man is an utter control freak. Marriage (as I see it anyway) is a partnership of two equals, not one controlling and dictating to the other what can and cannot be done. Does he ask you if he can visit his family or take the children out? Then why should you.

BandersnatchCummerbund Tue 31-Jul-12 19:14:46

"I think you have convinced yourself that an Islamic marriage is like this to some extent and yours is just a bit more extreme".

That's what I was wondering too, Erik.

quietlysuggests Tue 31-Jul-12 19:21:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HardlyEverHoovers Tue 31-Jul-12 22:39:48

Some really helpful insights and all along the same lines which is telling! To the couple of people who suggest that my perception might be that this is normal and our situation is a bit more extreme, I think that's very possibly true. I do have friends in multicultural marriages who have similar but not so severe issues, which has made me think his behaviour is on some normal spectrum. And yes Bandersnatch, I did go into the marriage 'asking'. I had so wanted to marry him, and so wanted to be a 'good Muslim wife', I think I conceded far too much in the beginning.
A couple of you asked if he asks me if he can do things? The funny thing is that he does, and he hardly does anything anyway. Just this month he decided to stay after the tarawi prayer until fajr in the mosque, which made perfect sense to me, but he was very considerate about asking if that was OK, if I would manage with the baby, feel scared in the house alone etc. So in this regard I don't really mind 'asking' in the sense of just checking it's ok, not clashing with his plans, etc etc. But I really mind having to fight for a justify the most simple outing.
Quietly suggests, I'd love to discuss it with his brother, unfortunately he doesn't speak English and I don't speak enough of his language to communicate something like this. However, I had an idea that I might approach him and suggest mediation, and ask him to identify someone male who he trusts and respects, and I will take someone as my representative. I think he really needs a wake up call.

squeakytoy Tue 31-Jul-12 22:44:50

OP, are you a lot younger than this man? Were you born in the UK?

HardlyEverHoovers Tue 31-Jul-12 22:47:42

Slug and windsock, just had a chance to look at the links, many thanks.

HardlyEverHoovers Tue 31-Jul-12 22:51:04

I am very slightly older than him, however, the way we met (I was his student) may have created a power imbalance.
I was born in the UK. Part of his need for power over me is that in reality he is very reliant on me at the moment, as he is learning English and doesn't really understand how things work here. I have to do a lot of practical stuff that he would prefer to do and I think that might contribute to him wanting to control me in other ways.

Viviennemary Tue 31-Jul-12 22:55:29

I don't see this as abuse. I see it as a man brought up in a culture which does things differently to the one the OP has been brought up in. They must sort this out in a rational way between themselves.

squeakytoy Tue 31-Jul-12 22:58:50

"If I try to talk to him about how I feel, I get hit with the Islam hammer, and made to feel that my feelings are 'wrong' Islamically."

An improvement in his understanding of English and UK culture is not going to change things then.

HardlyEverHoovers Tue 31-Jul-12 23:01:57

Thanks Viviennemary for the different perspective. While I think I need to accept that this aspect of his behaviour is having the affect of an abusive behaviour in our situation, and so I need to deal with it in that way, knowing him as I do I don't feel I could fairly label him as an 'abuser', though I think many who have posted may disagree.

BandersnatchCummerbund Tue 31-Jul-12 23:22:57

Hmm, I was going to suggest couples' counselling as a possibility, but that could be tricky if there is a language barrier. Not impossible, though, and you could keep it in mind as a possibility.

"And yes Bandersnatch, I did go into the marriage 'asking'. I had so wanted to marry him, and so wanted to be a 'good Muslim wife', I think I conceded far too much in the beginning."

I think it's easily done, HEH - and of course, the assumptions that get set up in the early days of a relationship do tend to set the tone for the future. The thing is, you really can be a good Muslim, and a loving wife, without the drastic break with your old life and identity that it sounds like you might have assumed was necessary. I think that realising that for yourself might be very valuable as a first step. Once you feel clearer about that, you'll already be in a much better position to sit down and talk to him.

Re his enforced dependence on you, and the effect it may be having - it's understandable that he may be finding that very difficult. And it's fine for you to be sympathetic towards how he feels about that, and to support him. But you also need to be very clear that it's about him, and his anxieties. Be firm - it's not up to you to work around it. It's up to him.

BertieBotts Tue 31-Jul-12 23:29:33

Could you speak to the leaders at your mosque at all? (I'm sorry I don't know the proper terms) Perhaps they could help reassure you that your feelings are not "wrong" in any way and help you find a way to resolve this issue. Perhaps they would talk to you together.

HardlyEverHoovers Tue 31-Jul-12 23:31:19

Thanks Bandersnatch, your advice is really helpful. I feel I need to get across to him that things have to change, and begin a process of mediation, whatever that might be. I need to get across to him that I can't live like this (and won't) without threatening to leave, which is what it might sound like.

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