One of the most often read and commented posts on my website is about assumptions people make when you tell them you married an Arab. I tend to let the comments section just roll as people share their own stories and experiences. Some are good, some are bad. When I wrote that post I really wanted to share some of the crazy, and sometimes rude stereotypes people had/have about marrying a Moroccan man and felt no need to censor, sharing them openly with me.
I am really blessed that my husband and my marriage has largely defied those stereotypes. I know many other women (and men) whose relationships also defy them. I know yet others whose relationships fit the stereotype.
In this post I’m going to be brutally honest with anyone who is considering marrying a Moroccan man. Some of what I share transcends Morocco, but as I’m not as familiar with others I’m not really qualified to talk about them.
Family and children
These are essentially the two most important things that happen in Moroccan life. It’s also rarely just about the couple and much more about the joining of two families. Both men and women see marriage as a very important life milestone and aside from a select few, having children is a strong desire.
If you can’t have children either for health reasons or because you’re past the age of conception, you really need to think long and hard about how sincere and honest your partner is being if he says he doesn’t want children. Very often it happens a man will say he doesn’t want children or will say “whatever Allah wills” as a way to make it seem he is ok with not having children.
In some cases this works out, and not having children does not become an issue however more often than not it is a major issue and leads to the break-up of marriages. Don’t be surprised if this question comes up when speaking with immigration officials as they too are aware that children are an important component of marriage for Moroccan men.
Economic and educational status of your spouse will have some bearing on your relationship.
If your partner has been able to travel outside of the country they will likely have a much different worldview than somehow that has not. If they have received higher education than they too will have a different outlook and a wider set of opportunities. If they have zero opportunity in Morocco then they will be looking to leave the country.
Don’t become the way out if there’s no other basis to the relationship.
Socio-economic background has a role in every relationship, couple that with cultural and possibly religious difference and YOU WILL face challenges. For the majority of Moroccans there is limited opportunity to travel abroad so typically there isn’t as much general knowledge about life outside Morocco. Immigration is a crash course.
Even well-educated Moroccans can struggle to find work in their country. While your partner may have a degree that would lead to a well paying job abroad expect they will have to start over when they immigrate. Many international degrees are only partially transferable or not at all.
When your partner arrives and the reality hits that they may need to start over or take a very basic job – or even that they may not be able to work for a period of time it can lead to serious difficulties. Not to mention you may be the one financially responsible for an extended period of time. This can be a major strain on a relationship.
Geographic location in Morocco
A few weeks ago we took a trip to a village in the middle of the Atlas Mountains. We went through tiny villages some of which jogged my memory to conversations I’ve had with women “dating” men in Morocco. I was struck by the contrast of rural and urban Morocco.
I said to MarocBaba “can you imagine how hard the transition from life out here is to life in Marrakech, then imagine what it would be like to live here your entire life and get on a plane to the US!”
If someone told me I was going to have to live in a Moroccan village after getting married I would flat out say no. Life for a man there is HARD. Life for a woman in rural Morocco is REALLY HARD. There is a completely different subset of cultural rules and obligations.
Where your partner is from, how they grew up and the day to day reality of what their life is can not be minimized and must be considered.
Don’t Change Yourself to Fit some “ideal”
It’s not uncommon to hear of men asking their wives to change this or that to be “better.” If your partner asks you this, be prepared to stand up for yourself. Some may argue this is done as a way of “helping.” No, this is done as a means of controlling.
If someone truly loves you for who you are than he should be ready to accept who you are. If he can’t, walk away. Don’t think that his opinion will change over time because it won’t and it likely will only get worse.
Seriously, walk away.
There’s a sentiment in Morocco that jealousy is a sign of love. It’s pretty typical for men to be jealous of attention their wife or fiance may receive. This isn’t to say it’s bad for your partner to have these feelings but it can lead down a rocky road. You need to pay attention and if things are out of control then step back and reassess the situation. What may seem loving and endearing can quickly become controlling.
This may seem all bad but it’s not meant to be. Each person will internalize these scenarios in their own way. But, if you think I am being negative let me offer you the other side as well.
Loyalty and Dedication
A trait I’ve seen in every level of Moroccan society time and time again is the level of loyalty and dedication both men and women have to their families. I see this as quite noble and something that is nearly evaporated from western society.
There is no doubt a Moroccan man will be loyal and dedicated to the family he was born in. You may see that as a betrayal of your marriage and it takes time to grasp how family dynamics here work but know the infinite strength of the Moroccan family unit will extend to your new family. Just don’t expect your partner to completely cast aside his family loyalty as soon as you tie the knot. It won’t happen.
Traditional Gender Roles
Traditional gender roles are alive and well in Morocco, even if they are slowly being broken down by new generations. This might grate on western notions but it’s really not all negative. Moroccan men take pride in providing for their families.
It’s also a requirement that Muslim men care for their families financially. Even if the wife works outside the home, the money earned is hers and hers alone – it does not have to be used to provide for the family.
I’ve also seen that while men may appear to be the typical “macho” man on the outside in private it’s a different story. I see more and more men caring for their children, preparing meals, and doing daily tasks which is increasingly important as more women work outside the home.
Why are these traditional roles a good thing? Every dynamic is different but there’s something to be said for a husband who wants to provide for his family financially and wants to take the lead. Finding a good balance between the two is perfect.
Most Moroccans I know, men and women, have a “live and let live” policy when it comes to religion. They can be devout but they don’t pressure their friends, neighbors or loved ones to be the same way. They might encourage them or help them if asked but there’s no bad blood between them. In many marriages people have told me their spouse becomes more religious as time goes on.
This isn’t just unique to Islam or Moroccans there have been plenty of studies that show this is a general trend as people age. Having a partner who is grounded in their faith can be a huge positive on a relationship.
Coupled with the typical Moroccan attitude you can expect your partner isn’t likely to pressure you in your practice. It’s worth noting that Moroccan men can marry Christian and Jewish women and are encouraged to allow them to practice their faith unimpeded.
Contemplating a cross-cultural and potentially interfaith marriage is a big undertaking and really must be thought out. There is a lot of fraud relating to the marriage of Moroccan men to foreign women, it’s a fact and so it’s advisable to move forward with caution.
That being said, there are plenty of genuine, amazing, and wonderful Moroccan men that are exceptional husbands and fathers. My final piece of advice, don’t be blinded by vows of love and devotion, take your time and discover who the person really is. Consider all angles before diving in.
I’ve turned off comments on this post as I am contacted nearly daily about different relationship advice, help finding marriage partners, and whether or not I think someone’s relationship is real. I am not able to answer these questions (or provide matchmaking services) and hope that you understand.
I have been asked for more resources and help for people that are in or considering a long-term relationship with a partner of a different culture. So I created this digital guide to help you navigate the red flags, questions to ask yourself, and conversations to have with your partner. My hope is this resource will help you analyze your own situation without the need for outside input.