I wanted to speak about something which I’ve noticed has come up quite a few times now in the small but masha’Allah very active ‘wives of Saudi men’ community. For anyone who is/was involved with a Saudi, you will know that it’s rarely simple or easy to maintain such a relationship. Marriage is never easy, and marriage to a Saudi has its own additional, very unique challenges. There are times for all of us when we go searching for some sort of guidance on how to improve our marriage.
However, I actually began searching for this not long before I married. I knew as a Muslim wife there are high standards for me and it is very important that I fulfil them to the best of my ability but honestly I had no idea how. For instance, I knew that I had to obey my husband in all that is halal but I had no idea how to go about this and I couldn’t seem to find any Islamic resources outlining how this works on a practical level. The only ‘wisdom’ I possessed in regards to marriage was what I had learnt from the Western society I live in. That was not helpful at all and obviously hadn’t been much help to others within this society if contemporary divorce rates are any indication of marital success.
So, one day I fell upon a comment on a blog post I was reading, in which someone mentioned a book called ‘Fascinating Womanhood’ by Helen Andelin. In the crudest terms it is basically a vintage 1950s housewife-esque guide to pleasing your husband and having an awesome married life. I’d always been curious about this generation of wives simply because, unlike the current generation, their marriages tended to last and their dedication to homemaking (whilst looking a little bit fabulous) also had its allure. And yes, I have heard all of the arguments saying that ‘yeah the marriages lasted but doesn’t mean they were happy, they only stayed because they were too dependent to leave’. I’m sure that was true for some women but certainly not all.
So, I came to this book with an open mind and it has become one of my favourites. It goes against almost everything we are taught to think about our husbands and marriage in Western society but it all makes complete sense and with a couple of exceptions, it is in line with Islamic teachings and the most fabulous of all is that I can personally testify to its effectiveness. After reading this, I was horrified to realise how badly I had treated my husband in the past and how I must have hurt and disrespected him without even realising, because in mainstream Western society, what I did was acceptable and normal. I was always trying to prove that I was just as good and capable as him if not better. I had some serious feminine pride issues which I think I share with most other women raised in this society.
All in all, this book has motivated me to be the best wife and insha’Allah one day the best mother I can be and to cherish those roles rather than seeing them as something to run away from or put up with. Applying even just some of the principles has greatly increased my love and respect for my husband and motivated me to improve myself both inside and outside. It has even lead to me becoming more feminine to the point that my husband even commented on how masculine I now make him feel. Alhamdulilah. And knowing how important that is to a man now, I consider that a real achievement.
So, I would like to humbly recommend this book to those of you out there who, like me are married to a Saudi. I pinpoint this particular nationality because, as one of the sisters said, Saudi men tend to be especially masculine and in my opinion they expect their wife to take on a more traditional feminine role to some extent. Most Saudi’s have grown up in an environment where traditional gender roles are observed, so naturally, they expect something similar from their own wife and marriage as a whole. I don’t think it is often said aloud, and to be fair, they may not be conscious of the fact that they expect their wife to be like this and only realise they had those expectations when their wife does not fulfil that role.
I’m certain that this happens often, and like I mentioned earlier I had experienced it previously (even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time!) because Western ideas of marriage and gender relations are heavily influenced by modern, Western feminist thought which assumes that men and women are equal and as such have interchangeable roles. The concepts of masculinity and femininity and gender roles are completely diluted to the point they are now considered largely outdated. And needless to say, from where I stand it seems that traditional gender roles are very much the norm in KSA and are re-enforced by Islamic teachings. When a woman chooses to be a housewife in a Western country, people think she is absolutely mad, especially if she has no children because they see it as her being lazy and expect that she will be bored and wasting her talents etc. In KSA, again this is only judging from what my husband has told me and what i’ve gathered from others living there etc, being a housewife is viewed as your right and a legitimate choice (when it is indeed a personal choice).
So, for those of you interested in reading ‘Fascinating Womanhood’ but can’t find it the book shop here is an e book which is based on the book and shares most of the main concepts through a narrative. It’s written in a bit of a cheesy way but it gets the message across! http://www.ebookdb.org/item/295/SECRETS-OF-FASCINATING-WOMANHOOD