Last year I wrote a post about assumptions people make when I tell them my husband is Arab. It has gone on to be one of the most popular posts I’ve written. I have always had the intention of writing the opposite side of the equation – assumptions people make about American wives – but I wanted MarocBaba to write it. He’s not as good with words as me (his admission not mine) so I decided I would just verbally interview him and write it myself. Ready?
She’s going to take your kids from you.
Funny how this one made both lists. I think that for any international couple international abduction becomes a troublesome spot. For every country there is sure to be at least one story of a parent taking a child and escaping to their home country or elsewhere. The reality is this has nothing to do with where a parent is from but circumstances often beyond our scope of understanding.
For men who come from societies that favor the father in cases of divorce or child placement, wading into an American legal system that often favors the mother can feel like the odds are already stacked against them. Of course, when you’re just starting a marriage this is a heavy topic to put into things – it’s like already determining divorce will happen.
She’ll leave you.
Divorce is not as common in many Arab countries where marriage is taken as a lifetime commitment and divorce is frowned on. Many Moroccan men have said they are afraid their partner will get bored and decide to divorce them nilly willy. They see divorce on TV shows and movies and those are the realities they impart on everyday life. Family members and friends will say the same thing when they propose marriage with an American woman. The assumption is that marriage for American women is not taken as seriously.
She’ll do whatever she wants without taking you into consideration.
Relationships have a give and take and in traditional Arab societies it’s normal and expected that a wife would ask and inform their husband of plans that they have. This isn’t saying they are asking permission (in some cases they are) but rather checking in. The assumption is that an American woman will do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with whomever she wants and her husband will be a second thought.
This is a huge generalization of course however it can be partially true. In a society where people even in marriage have autonomy someone entering the society who doesn’t understand the social dynamics may feel this is what is happening – if if that’s not the intention. This is one reason it’s really important to have conversations about topics such as this prior to marriage.
Many couples have expectations of the other based on social norms. Those norms aren’t even considered until the situation arises.
She will cheat on you.
This assumption goes hand in hand with the second assumption. American women are often seen as promiscuous even in the context of marriage. Again, thanks to movies and television the reputation has been reinforced in one of the only ways people have access to information. While in reality American women are neither more or less likely to commit adultery than a person of any other nationality.
An important consideration to make here is that in the US it is very normal for women to have male and female friends. This isn’t the case in North Africa or the Middle East – for the most part. If you have a male friend then chances are good your partner will see them as a threat.
She won’t care about your family.
There is a very strong assumption that Americans are individualistic and selfish. In Arab societies it is a given that children will care for their parents both financially and physically when the parents age. Many times older siblings are also expected to help younger siblings with school fees and more.
The assumption is that by marrying an American, that child will not be able to do this because the foreign wife will not accept or assist with this. I’ve personally known of marriages that were canceled because of the fear the foreign wife wouldn’t accept the need to care for the husband’s parents or siblings.
She can’t take care of you like a Moroccan woman could.
This is Amanda, I’m adding this one because MarocBaba wouldn’t fess up to it but I’ve heard this both plainly to my face, and as a sidebar when people didn’t think I was listening. There’s a bit of a feeling that the only kind of woman who can properly care for a Moroccan man is a Moroccan woman. I get that. Own it ladies.
But you’re underestimating your brethren.
No man, not a Moroccan man, or a Chinese man, or an Australian man, or an American man NEEDS a woman to take care of him. As adults men can take care of themselves. That being said, I know many American women who are just as capable of managing a home, career, and family.
The list of assumptions could go on a long time (in both situations) but I wanted to highlight the ones that come up most often. I really had to push MarocBaba to tell me the things that he heard because he didn’t want me to think anyone had said bad things about me. I don’t take any of this personally, and if you’re an American woman reading, you shouldn’t either.
Struggling with a cross-cultural relationship? I put together this digital guide to help you navigate the red flags, questions to ask yourself, and conversations to have with your partner about common relationship issues. Get your copy today and start unraveling the challenges of this type of relationship.
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