Families (Part 1)

Families can make or break a relationship. In a Saudi relationship it can literally make or literally break the relationship. My father always told me you don’t just marry the man, you marry the family so choose wisely. I always loved the thought of that though, I have even stayed in relationships longer then I should have simply because I loved the family so much, but then again, I’ve also never had a family that disliked me… until Mahmood’s family.

To be fair my family isn’t super thrilled at the prospect of having a Saudi Muslim for a son-in-law. My family has never cared much for any of my boyfriends. If they could have their way they would probably love to choose for me. Which they have actually tried to do but that’s a story for another time.

As I’ve mentioned before I kept Mahmood a secret for about 5 months before I even spoke his name to my parents. Not because I was ashamed but because I didn’t think it was something serious and then once I began to actually like this guy I knew the storm that was about to come. I was only about 7 or 8 at the time one of my sisters got married to her husband from Lebanon who is a non-Christian. Even though I was so young and I couldn’t understand at the time why my parents were so upset I vowed after seeing the pain they went through that I would never do that to them. Many would say that statement is crazy, if your in love, it’s your life, do what makes you happy. That’s all true but I like to understand both sides of the argument in any situation. My sister’s situation was a little different then mine (she and my brother in law had only been dating for about 6 months) but it’s true she thought she was in love and was the strong headed first born. Yet at the same time I’m sure it’s always a sad moment when parents see their son or daughter marrying someone totally different then they had planned. They only want happiness for their children and to see they with someone unexpected and someone they hardly know has to be hard. To top it off my father is a pastor. To have one of your children marry someone of a different faith not only upsets you as a family structure because if goes against everything you tried to instill in your kids but it also is a struggle because you have to answer to a congregation full of people that often judge a pastors family harshly.

After seeing the unhappiness it brought my family and then to continue to see the unhappiness in my sister’s marriage I sat myself down multiple times in the beginning of my relationship with Mahmood and asked myself is this really worth it? Is this guy the real deal? So I started off slow. I simply asked my dad to meet a “friend”, my dad is pretty smart and figured this guy is something more then a “friend” and the fights started. This went on for a couple of stressful months with no ending in sight. One day my mother took me aside and said she thought I should move out because I was causing to much stress. So that’s what I did. At first it hurt but now it’s one of the best thing for us. After I moved in with a friend Mahmood (on his own) went to go talk with my father. (Major Kudos to him) He pleaded his case to my father of why he wanted to date me. While my father still said no, Mahmood gained a lot of respect in my dad’s eyes and in my eyes too honestly.

Since I’ve moved out and Mahmood spoke with my dad, and now they have had time to get to know each other, I think Mahmood is starting to grow on my parents. My parent’s have made it very clear they will never give permission for marriage but I think they defiantly like him as a person now. They see us together and see we make each other happy. My family is not a touchy feely family and we hardly ever share our feelings but even without all of that I’m pretty sure my family can see good in us whether they want to admit it or not. Will they ever approve? Probably not, and that hurts, a lot. One day at a time though.

The Beginning…

As I’ve mentioned before it hasn’t always been a bed of roses for Mahmood and I. When I first met Mahmood I was in my freshman year of college and right in the middle of a break-up.

I had been dating a guy long distance from Chile that I met while working for 3 months in an orphanage. He’s a native Chilean and we spent every day together from the moment we met. When it was time for me to go we decided to try long distance and he promised to work to come to America. It got to be 9 months and we still hadn’t seen each other again and I needed answers to know if all this waiting was worth it. So I packed my bags and went back for almost a month with the mindset of not coming back. Things there were different this time and we struggled to make it work. I quickly realized that our lives were to different. While he promised to come to America I knew it wasn’t a fit for his personality and I would love to live there but it wasn’t right for me to leave my family at that moment and I still needed to finish college. So that August I came back to Michigan and reenrolled in college. While the Chilean and I weren’t together we weren’t officially over yet either.

Two weeks into the semester, eating lunch, headphones on, texting and completely unaware of my surroundings, a tall, dark and handsome man comes up and asks if he can sit down. After talking for 20 minutes he asked for my number and I unsure what to do gave it to him. We texted for a couple weeks and spoke at school before our first date. Our first date was awkward. We were both extremely nervous the entire time even though we both never stopped talking. I was so nervous that at the end of it I faked an excuse to leave early. For about a month we talked everyday and went out together before it “became official” Even after we decided to only see each other I wasn’t seeing this as something serious. While I could feel myself liking this guy more and more, I continued to tell myself, and him, that nothing could happen with this. He’s Muslim, I’m Christian and my dad would deffinatly never approve. When my sister married a non-Christian I still lived at home and saw how much it tore my family apart. Seeing that I vowed I would never do that.

Mahmood and I continued to date for almost 4 months. During that time I never told anyone about us, not wanting to hear the negativity. And also secretly deciding what I wanted to do about the Chilean. A few days before New Years I decided to end things with Mahmood. Deciding to give the Chilean one more chance. The Chilean and I decided to spend New Years eve “together” over skype because we obviously couldn’t be together in person. At the last moment he decided that he was going to spend it with his friends leaving me alone with my computer and thoughts of what do I want. I began to realize that even though I had just be passed over by the Chilean I wasn’t mad at him, I was mad because I wasn’t with the guy that despite all of my protests and worries was still calling to check up on me.

The next day I called Mahmood a dozen times but there was no answer. Mahmood had figured out that I had went back to the Chilean and rightfully so wasn’t to happy and wasn’t going to let me get away with it. Now this was something I wasn’t used to. In all of my previous relationships I knew I could always go back, I always had the upper hand. And now here was a guy that wasn’t going to let me play those silly games. If I wanted this relationship I was going to have to shape up. That honestly made me realize I was falling in love with him. I was an adult now and that is the type of relationship I had always wanted, mutual respect and trust.

Finally I got him to meet me to talk. We spent a whole day talking about what we wanted, what we needed, and what we expected. It was a awhile till we had that mutual trust and respect but in the long run I think everything happened how it was suppose. It forced me to realize what I wanted in a relationship and gave us a strong foundation that most don’t get.

My Saudi Prince

The name of the blog I actually though was pretty clever. Although my “prince” thought the name was kind of silly and a bit to lovey-dovey. I should explain, the name doesn’t actually come from me seeing him as a prince on a white horse, but actually from when I first met him and people would often make the awkward comment of “they have a lot of princes in Saudi Arabia” or “have you checked to see if he is a prince”. Now I must admit that while I am from Michigan where the biggest population of Middle Eastern people live in the U.S… I live in a pretty small town with not to many foreigners.

While the name actually comes from a silly joke I still see my Saudi as a prince. Mahmood is a pretty great guy. I never in a million years thought that this would be my future boyfriend though. For one my dad is a pastor and I was raised Christian going to church every Sunday. Mahmood was raised Muslim in a country where it’s not even a thought to be something different. I’m also loud, very opinionated, independent, and outgoing. Most don’t really see that as compatible characteristics when dating a Saudi. Not to say Saudi or Muslim women aren’t all of those things because they for sure are, but it does make for an interesting dynamic.

I’ve always found Middle Eastern cultures and people extremely interesting but I never wanted much to do with them when it came to a relationships. The two examples I had of mixed relationships between an American and an Arab were not very positive ones. I have one family member married to an Assyrian man who was born here in the United States and is a Christian. I also have a sister married to a man from Lebanon. While I love both of these men in my family, both are defiantly relationships I would never want for myself and pretty much confirm the perceived notion of how Arab men act. This is why when Mahmood and I first started dating for the first six months I never took it very seriously. I thought it was just someone to pal around with and would tell him often about how I would never get in a serious relationship with an Arab because of the examples I saw. But Mahmood was persistent and worked hard to prove that he wasn’t the same as the experiences I had seen or even the negative things you hear in the news all the time. That being said I still don’t recommend this relationship for everyone. Mahmood and I have defiantly had our rough patches, as every relationship, but they are intensified when it goes beyond a misunderstanding and deals with religion, culture, and family values.

While I love my crazy different relationship and I love reading other’s stories of how they make it work, it’s also important to realize the chance of making it work is very slim. I’m thankful for my Saudi prince and grateful that he realizes these struggles but I’m even more grateful that he’s willing to make it work despite these challenges.

Finally

Finally I’m starting the blog I’ve been talking about for about a year now. Every time I got the idea in my head to begin, I would often laugh at myself and think what would I have to write about? And who would find it interesting? But not a week goes by without someone asking me about my life and how I seem to make it work. People I work with, friends, and family all have millions of questions about how a Christian and Muslim can have a relationship. After the question and answer period, many have often ended the conversation with you should write a book. While a book seems a bit extreme for me I decided to give this blog thing a try.

I currently follow a couple of blogs about Americans living with their husbands in Saudi Arabia and find myself laughing at how similar our experiences are. I figured if I can relate to someone so much and enjoy reading their blogs maybe someone will be able to relate to my crazy life. Even if no one reads though I’ve decided I won’t mind because this is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now and I’m finally doing it. I’m putting myself out there opening up my life, even the not so pretty stuff, for anyone to read. Don’t judge too harshly, I’m new at this!

About Me

Welcome to My Saudi Prince!

While me being Christian-American and my boyfriend being Saudi-Muslim many people often have hundreds of questions about our past, present, and future plans. And I don’t blame them honestly. When I first met Mahmood and realized something was beginning to happen I had all of the same questions people ask me now, and I often felt like I was in my own world, experiencing something so foreign that many couldn’t relate to. That’s when I began reading other’s stories and blogs online and realizing that there were many others that were going through the same thing or at least as fascinated in mixed-culture relationship as me. For the past two years I’ve read other’s stories and have wanted to start one of my own…

So here I am! Welcome to my crazy upside down life. My name is Hillary, as I said before, I’m American and a Christian. I’m more then just that though, I’m a crazy fun loving person that is always on the move. I love traveling especially to South America, I even speak Spanish and have worked and lived in Chile. Through traveling I have met people from all over the world and love learning about their culture. Even though I love traveling I’m a true Michigan girl, born and raised. I hope to spend my life traveling but I will always call Michigan my home. You just can’t beat all of the beautiful seasons and lakes.

I also love reading. I usually have a few books I’m in the middle of at any given time; usually about history, culture, or some other type of classic. Many call me an old soul. I read all of the great classics. My favorite music is mostly from the 40s and 50s and I have a collection of black and white movies that would make TCM (Turner Classic Movies) be impressed.

I met my prince in college where we are currently finishing our last year and planning on continuing our life together. Many find our type of relationship strange and often tell us it can’t last because we come from opposite ends of the world, culture and religion. I often laugh and shrug my shoulder because I don’t have an answer to their skepticism. But I agree our story is defiantly a unique one and that’s why I’m writing, I hope this blog helps anyone else that’s going though the same type of relationship or at least helps those that have a million questions. I love the blogs I currently follow about relationships in Saudi Arabia but I often wonder about the before history. What has the dating life like because that’s when many people have the most questions. While Mahmood and I have been together now over two years we are still in that dating phase so I figured why not start writing now. So here we go…