Medical Questions > Relationships > Relationships and Marriage Forum

'Cultural' differences between me and my boyfriend

My boyfriend and I have been together for 6 months now, and 90% of the time things are amazing, he is the kindest, most respectful, most caring man I have ever known. But there's a flipside. He was brought up in the Middle East (Tunisia) and I am British, he is Muslim, and I am Christian, he came into this relationship with expectations that seem alien to me. I have already given up drinking, smoking, and hugging my male friends for him. I try my best to respect him, because I love him and can't bear the thought of leaving him.

Every now and then I do something silly, like make a joke with a guy on facebook where he can see it, or put kisses on the end of texts to my guy friends, and he goes crazy. Not angry, just ignores me for days on end and goes away to stay with friends for a few days. It drives me crazy. There's no hypocrisy in it though, might I add, as I know he does not do these things, and would not expect his girlfriend to do the. But I've never been in a relationship before where I've had to consciously change so many little things that I do, and of course at times I'm going to mess it up.

All of my friends tell me that he is controlling, all I want is to talk to him when he gets annoyed, as I really want this relationship to work out. I wish he was a little more understanding, sometimes I find myself grovelling to him for doing something which 7 months ago I wouldn't even have considered to be a 'thing'. I don't know what to do. I desperately want this relationship to continue, I am happy to make changes for him, but I hate the guilt I get when I make mistakes. Has anybody been in a similar situation? I would love some advice, whatever your angle.
Did you find this post helpful?
First Helper verne01

replied May 24th, 2013
Dear April: 1. the key to any working relationship is forgiveness; if he cannot forgive, but tends to respond with rejection or punitive/retributive type action, this will be a problem no matter what culture you are.
If he is serious about you and your relationship, can you find a muslim-christian counselor (even Bahai who may have experience in this area) to sit down and work through your communication differences; I recommend conflict resolution training especially learning the different between different people's response to conflict, so you can accommodate different reactions. Again, regardless of your style or culture, there must be equal willingness to forgive and resolve issues, not denial and projecting all the blame on the other person. 2. as for my experience with Muslim friends: one of my friends was a "cold reactor" and would clam up in silence when he got angry; while I was a hot reactor and would immediate vent and talk things out, so we clashed and stressed each other out; until we agreed to accept our two different ways of reacting, and not to judge or get upset when we both did that. Two other friends of mine are Muslim and are also very careful respectful of Christianity and the Bible which are included in the Islam teachings, though this is not taught or practiced the same way among all Muslims. So in order to find peace, I strongly suggest reaching an agreement on how Christianity and Islam work together and are not in conflict; if you cannot resolve this, it will cause continuing issues to arise. Again the key is forgiveness, as long as you take a "restorative justice" approach to relations with others, that is the spirit of Christ Jesus; and I know many "nonchristian" people who still act as neighbors in Christ because we are joined in this unifying spirit of "restorative justice" which is the meaning of Jesus restoring relations. the opposite of that is retributive justice, which is only supposed to belong to God or the government in case of civil violations; people are not supposed to seek retribution against each other, this is antichrist. So it does not matter if you are Christian or Muslim or even atheist by culture: if you believe and practice restorative justice, or charity through forgiveness and correction of wrongs, that is the message of Christianity; but if you do not forgive and seek to impose retribution that is against Christianity whether you are Jew Christian Muslim atheist etc. it is the spirit of the laws and the relationships that will either bring peace or divide in conflict. So this is where you and your partner might need to counsel through your cultural beliefs and reach an understanding of what you agree to follow in common. if he is not willing to work with you, to reach an agreement on how to manage differences, that may be a sign you are not equally yoked and may need to work with other people. 3. for resources on multicultural counseling and dialogue I recommend the "center for the healing of racism" through the Bahai center, maybe they can refer someone who is experienced counseling families with both Muslim and Christian members both. there are a number of groups that help with outreach and unity between Christians and Muslims, so the cultural traditions should not be an issue; problems will keep repeating and projecting if one or both partners are not willing to forgive differences but try to control or impose on the other party. That is a "forgiveness" issue regardless what tradition you are. My Muslim friends who are reconciled with Christ do not have such control issues because they are forgiving and work to correct any misunderstanding or problem that would otherwise cause division or issue. Same with my Atheist and Buddhist friends; so focus on an agreement to forgive and correct issues, not on trying to control or change the other person which will always cause problems especially in romantic relations.
Did you find this post helpful?
Users who thank emailus for this post: april_7856 

replied May 24th, 2013
Extremely eHealthy

I suggest you proceed very carefully in your relationship. The history books have some Christian/Muslim success stories and lots of stories of utter misery.

Six months is a very young relationship either to expect the other to change or for the other to make those changes and it does send very negative signals about the level of future tolerance in your relationship.

You are a product of your parents and your environment and your drinking alcohol, smoking or physically greeting friends is part of your personality and your Britishness.
If he cannot like you and respect and accept you as you are so soon after meeting and be on equal terms with you it is potentially very bad.

This is Britain in the twenty-first century and women have equality and self determination. What changes and adjustments has he made for you?
I fully expect you to say "none" when you should be saying he has matched you change-for-change if he had any genuine respect or affection for you!

He is a product of his parents and environment but more than almost any others on Earth those who follow Islam are dogmatic about not just the general way of life it represents that western Islamic scholars tell us about but the version of Islam subject to a person's own particular national, tribal or even family interpretation of it that will incorporate many customs and opinions that are presented as Islam but strictly are not.
Customs and restrictions that those who wish to enjoy their inherited freedoms generally find intolerable when the novelty has worn off or the second wife has arrived.

Even though having two wives in the UK is called bigamy and offenders are subject to a term in jail there is a lot of two-wife families among the Muslim population of the UK.
There is no Certificate of Civil Marriage issued at an Islamic wedding and so the marriage is not considered to be a marriage under British Law and doesn't count as breaking the Law when a man takes a second wife.

Some interpretations of Islam give the man the right to do whatever he wants with his woman and the woman to have no rights he has not granted her. I know for a fact unwanted wives are legally and routinely murdered in some Islamic States.

Generally Muslim traditionalists view none-believers as having a status similar to food animals and this justifies, forgives and legalises in their own minds any injustice or cruelty they might impose on none-believers. This belief allows them to lie and cheat at their whim with a clear conscience.
This attitude is also common with some other religions in the fundamental form. There is good and bad in all races and creeds but the Muslims are among the most difficult to escape from.

Islam (and those other religions) allow and encourage young men to use the women of the none-believers for fun and practice "if they are clean enough".
Mostly when it is time for a wedding it is not the girl he has been practicing with that gets to the Alter and even if he has been smitten and she agrees to convert to his religion she tends to become completely isolated from her own friends and family because he disapproves and she is rejected by the women of his community.

If at any time she readopts her native religion it carries a death sentence as does even showing a Christian bible to another Muslim.

After the honeymoon period, especially if he decides they are going to live in his home country, the trouble can really begin in earnest for his wife without him doing anything either morally or legally wrong.
There are Muslim women in Britain who have lived almost an entire life here who cannot speak a word of English because they haven't been out of their houses without being chaperoned by their husbands. Such women are often scared of their own shadows.

In conclusion I advise any woman considering such a marriage to be very careful because she will effectively become his creature and her only safeguard is likely to be his conscience.
It would be foolish to rely on his conscience because in most things he will be subject to much stronger family, cultural and religious influences than most westerners would credit...

While religion of all types are open to many interpretations Islam seems to vary the most and be the most variable depending on expediency. Few people will experience the worst faces of Islam and a lucky few will experience the best it has to offer - and that can be a very good best indeed.
This girl seems dazzled by the novelty of a clean-living Muslim boy and seems to have forgotten she doesn't know what he is thinking. When learning to swim it is only a fool who jumps into the water without first testing the depth and ensuring the total absence of crocodiles!

Good luck - you could easily need a truck-load!
Did you find this post helpful?
Users who thank verne01 for this post: april_7856 

User Profile
replied May 25th, 2013
Community Volunteer
Hi April_7856 and welcome to ehealth: My best advice is "don't be so happy to be in a relationship that you give too much of yourself and will be sorry"....

I agree with your friends...He is controlling and it will get worse...My best to you...

Did you find this post helpful?