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ZanAmu 2000: Foreign Wives of Iranians - Issues & Experiences of 2000
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ZanAmu: Foreign Wifes of Iranians - Issues & Experiences

Taking the Best and Booting the Rest

The Iranian culture is rich in history, replete with beautiful customs, stories, and arts and a glorious heritage our children may all be proud of. The American culture, while rather young in comparison, offers a diversity, joi de vive and light of hope which energizes and challenges its citizens in the spirit of invention.

We, as parents, have the unique opportunity of picking and choosing the best from both cultures and incorporating them into the traditions of our own familiy units. We can reap from the macro-societies which are Iran and America and utilize these bountiful harvests in the micro sphere of our own homes. I have found the most successful Iranian-American families, are those who have blended the attentions and generosity of the Iranian family with the independence and perseverence of the American family. I have found the husbands,wives and children of Iranian -American families who have met the challenge of holding both languages (Farsi and English) dear, able to cross a bridge which oft times seems uncrossable without the language links to culture.

I have found an acceptance of families by both sides to be of paramount importance in establishing the family as a whole. No one has to agree or relinquish all of their own beliefs to satisfy another. All of us MUST compromise and respect the beliefs of each other to be whole and healthy. If there are individuals among the group who make a harmonious family life impossible, they must be worked around. What is important is to always accept the spirit of compromise and look for the good.

Please give us your thoughts and experiences which have enabled or prevented you from being a whole and healthy Iranian-American family. Maybe, we can learn from each others victories and defeats.
Write us at zanamu@farsinet.com
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Happily Married to an Iranian Man

I, an American Jewish woman, am sitting in my office at home in California and my Muslim Iranian husband (who happens to be home from work today) just brought me lunch (without me asking) because he knows I am often too busy to make something for myself and he gets worried when I don't eat.

I receive so many e-mails from non-Iranian women regarding Iranian men whom they are in love with or are about to marry or are already married to. Almost all complain of mistreatment by these men and/or their families, some ask for advice and some even ask for advice about the man's mistreatment of their children. I read them all, and although I often feel compassion, I can't help feeling that it takes two to tango.

Prior to my marriage, I dated many men of many races, religions and cultures from many countries (including from the United States). Some were well-educated and attractive, some were not. Some were rich, some were not. Some were very close to their families, some were distant. Some were disrespectful creeps, some were selfish and arrogant, one was abusive (that ended quickly), and none of them were right for me or gave me what I needed.

I did not come from privilege, was not a rich woman and couldn't afford fine clothes and cars, but I made sure that I had a place to sleep and eat and didn't have to stay somewhere I was ill-treated or uncomfortable. I learned to take care of myself (physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially) so that I would not be forced to be with someone who was not good to me. I got to know myself, to know what pushed my buttons and what rang my chimes. And when the right guy came along, he was easy to spot because I knew what I absolutely needed, what I ideally wanted and the difference between the two. And I learned to take responsibility for both.

My point is that if you don't take care of yourself it is unlikely that you'll find someone else to, in the way you want them to. If you are a chronic victim, and especially if your children are quickly learning to be victims too, look in the mirror.

Get counseling. Get training. There are probably places in your neighborhood or nearby where you can find these services at little or no cost. If you can read this, you have enough education to get a job so that you can house and feed yourself if need be. A low-level job may not have dignity, but being abused has less. Put yourself in a position of choice, not necessity. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to distance yourself from people who don't/won't/can't treat you well. And, learn to treat good people well so they'll stay around - if you don't take care of someone else it is unreasonable (if not ridiculous) to expect them to take care of you. None of this is easy, but all of it is possible. We live in the United States - not Iran, not Afghanistan, not sub-Saharan Africa or many of the other places where freedom and opportunities for women are often non-existent.

My point is also and probably most importantly that there are many, many stupid, needy men and an equal number of stupid, needy women. They come from all cultures, countries, educational backgrounds and socio-economic classes. To think otherwise speaks of either a terrible lack of experience or, even worse, a terrible bigotry.

When I finally did take a husband, I chose someone imperfect. We are both strong and stubborn and often have different opinions, concerns and priorities. We have had many disagreements and I'm sure we will have many more. He sometimes blunders (as do I) and his behavior is not always perfect (nor is mine). But he is consistently loving, attentive, considerate and loyal (even in the face of his family) not to mention handsome, smart, funny, a wonderful father and provider. He knows I expect nothing less of him, and I know he expects nothing less of me. He always listens (sometimes sooner, sometimes later just like me), and when he cannot defend his behavior, he makes continual and serious efforts to address our issues (as do I). We, both of us, do our best to remember what's really important, and to make every effort to be kind to each other and our children. And when we fail which we invariably sometimes do, we do our best to take responsibility and make amends.

He is, without reservation and without question, the best friend I have ever had and, I like to think, am his.

I am SOOOOOOOOO thankful I have found the love of my life

Hello. I am married to a Persian man who has lived in the United States since the mid 1970's. He was never married to a Persian woman, but married once before to an American. He had been divorced about 12 years when we began dating. I had also been divorced...about five years. We were both reluctant to discuss marriage and even had made vows to ourselves that we would never marry again. After dating a few months, we both realized that we were probably getting pretty serious and re-evaluated our previous vows to ourselves. We finally got married after dating for a year and a half. It was the most beautiful day in my life. I know he has a large family back in Iran and I hope someday to meet them, but he never plans to live there again (he is now a US citizen). I have talked with his family and they are anxious to meet me, as I am them. I am not very close to my family, so I enjoy the closeness he feels (even being so far away) with his family. They write letters, call on the phone, etc. Neither of us had children and we are middle aged and do not plan to have any children, although if I were a few years younger, I would love to give him a child. The main issue I have had to struggle with is his spartan lifestyle. I don't know if this is a trait of Persian men or not, but he is definitely a minimalist. We do not suffer for anything...we have a lovely home, etc., but he definitely is not into "things." I enjoy cooking Persian style, he has taught me a lot and I look forward to learning more. I have met several Persian friends of his and interacted with them socially. Of course, they speak Farsi because it is more comfortable, but not to the extent that it makes me feel like an "outsider" and I have learned a "little" Farsi myself. :) We agree on most issues, but he loves a good debate. I would never debate with him in public though, but even if he weren't Persian, I would wait to disagree with him in private. He does show an inordinate amount of concern about my loyalty, etc.! , but all I can do is continue to show him every day in every way how much I love him. He is very affectionate, and I am SOOOOOOOOO thankful I have found the love of my life! - Beverly

How does one date an Iranian?

This may sound like a silly question...
but how does one date an Iranian ?

I have met someone who is from Iran, but I think I am getting stuck in the mud, because of differences in perceptions....can anyone please shed some light on this issue? from this website I know I have my work cut out for me and there is no one way to tackle this issue, but I would appreciate any information u can give me....
Thank u, Ellen

Marriage to Iranians in US

I would like to know what to do if I want my fiance to come to the states to get married and then leave with him. THe INS website only talks about the forms to fill out if they are planning to immigrate and he is not. Is the situation even possible on,say, a visitor's visa? - Amber

Dating an Iranian

I have been dating an Iranian man for some time now. I am as American as apple pie. Recently the relationship has become serious. Discussions are being posted in regards to love and the next steps.

He recently has expressed the following;
Should he marry an Iranian Virgin? It bothers him that I have an ex-boyfriend. He is not rude in anyway when he express his concerns. He thinks that if he marry's an Iranian Virgin that they will only know him.

I don't understand how Iranian men still have arranged marriages. He is consistently being invited to Persian house holds for dinner where all they do is push there daughters off on him. I even attended a dinner with his extended family and they were trying to set him up with his cousin with me sitting there. I was so amazed. Not so much mad but shocked.

He loves me but I think he is concerned or thinks that American woman are too liberated. He has made comments such as what would stop you from leaving me. He says that Americans get divorced to easily. And an Iranian woman would never divorce there husband.

Sorry for my rambling but I have no one to talk to about this except for him. My friends don't understand and I need an outsiders opinion. - Shannon


Shannon,
Thanks for visiting our site and thanks for sharing your concerns. I have forwarded your email to ZanAmu_List and hopefully you get some response.

Shannon, I had a similar problem with my husband when we had just met. I later found out that, it was not as much that I wasn't a virgin, but rather that I had already left another man. His family was also concerned, as if I had already been married once and got divorced and therefore there was a higher chance that I would leave their son when/if things got tough.

Although now a days there are a lot more divorce among Iranian families, it is still a very small percentage. Its nothing like our 50-60% divorce ratios.

It took a lot of reassuring on my side to make him feel strong and confident about our relationship. Once we were married his family became more supportive. Every year that passes, I feel I gain more of their respect. I guess, I have to earn their love and respect and once you have earned it, its there unconditional.

Sooo, if you love him, be open with him. Understand his fears and try to assure him. - Best of luck, Linda


Hello!
This man is not afraid of marring YOU he is afraid of marriage in general. Iranians get divorces all the time! Espically today. So, his marring an Iranian guarantees him nothing. All of the young couples that have married in the last 7 years of my husbands marriage to me.. of all of the marriages, only the Iranian men who married foreign women are still married! This is true of the ones we know in the states as well as Iran. Just because his family gives there stamp of approval on a marriage, the man somehow trusts this more that his own heart. It is pure confusion and fear on the man's part and will not overcome it unless they first marry their families choice and discover the error on their own or just face the fear in his heart and ignore the family and stand up for you.
He needs to tell them straight out that you two are a couple. If he does not then they will continue to make arrangements for him. He must NOT have told them how serious you both are together. You may need to work on him standing up for YOU.

Best of luck! - Lori


Hi!!
What a situation you are in. I have been married to an Iranian for 25 years and have lived in Iran. We have 2 children. Of course, most of the Iranians I have known are a little more liberal and were not so hung up on the virgin idea. In fact, the one cousin of my husband who went that route ended up with a real bitch (sorry, it's the truth) and no one in the family likes her or accepts her even though she is the only Iranian wife in the whole family group.

Anyway, you have to consider whether you can accept being married to a foreigner. It is not easy even after 25 years, for example now my husband and I clash on how liberal we are with our children (ie: should they date or not). Also if you have any problems with his family now just imagine being married to them. Yes, them!! Because believe me you won't be marrying just him. Iranians are very close to their families, and they will be a constant force in your life. My inlaws have lived with me so many times for months at a stretch. Not just his parents but also nephews, etc. anyone who needed him. So consider how comfortable you are with that because it is a definite possibility.

Anyway what I am trying to say is rather than trying to find a way to persuade his mind to think differently, examine your own views on this subject and choose what will make you happy. In the end, it is very difficult to change people's values which they have been taught all their lives, particularly if they don't really want to change themselves. So think whether you can accept him and his family and culture as they are; will they really make you happy. If so, go for it!!
Linda T.


Shannon:

My name is Lisa and I have been married to an Iranian man for 7 years. He was been in the U.S. for 20 years and is very Americanized. We are both Christians, which helps bridge the religion issue. In some areas, we have a lot in common and in other areas we don't. We only dated 6 months before we decided to get married. Here are some suggestions I would give you based on what I have experienced:

1. Take your time and date the man. How his behavior is now will not change. You cannot change the man. Can you cope or deal with all aspects of his behavior? Can he with your behavior?

2. Religion is a big issue....especially when children come...it's tough when both have different beliefs.

3. Your time-honored family traditions and heritage are going to be different than his. Will he accept yours? My husband does not celebrate holidays, traditions, etc...the way I did, so sometimes there is difficulty. You may have to accept that your husband just does not get in to Mother's Day and Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving like we Americans do. You would think it wouldn't matter but it does.

4. Spend time with his family. If you do not like them now, you never will. Family in-law issues can cause big problems. I speak from experience. My husband does not like my family and it has caused us great turmoil.

I could write a book about how to live or not live with a Iranian man. I think it's the same with any ethnicity -- family, values, religion, personality, etc...Anglos and Persians are just different in some aspect -- but we all experience love, feelings, anger, culture, etc...

I love my husband with all of my heart. I wouldn't trade my life with him for anything...I just wish I had thought more about the consequences I have had to experience before I jumped right in...

Lisa

If you are an American Christian women who is thinking about marriage with a Muslim man - get out NOW!

Who ever is interested in my story please contact me. My marriage was extremely unpleasant, I was beaten, verbal abused then mental abused not just by him but also by his family. He wanted to stay in this country he had no green card take it from there!!!! I was an active member in a mosque but that still wasn't good enough. My advise stay clear of these men! -- Tracy
I am very sorry you have such a troubled marriage. However my husband is Muslim I am not. We have one child, a son, who is being raised Muslim. We have no problems, well excpet when he wont take out the trash. I think your problem is more of one with the man you are married too and not an entire religion. I have been with my husband for 10 years our son is 17 months and I have never met a more kind, attentive loving husband and father.
GOOD LUCK, Nicole
Hello Tracy,
Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am sorry to hear about your experience and I hope you are out of that destructive relationship. Your experience sounds more like my sister's experience who was married to Jeff, an American, than my own experience or some of my close friends who are married to Iranian men.
I guess what I am trying to say is that there bad apples in all cultures and all races and all religions.
I agree with you that any Christian woman should carefully consider marriage to a Muslim man. whether Iranian or American. Although, the religion may not be an issue at the beginning or when you are younger, it does become a major issue as you get older and perhaps more spiritual.
Anyway, do take care and thanks again for sharing. - Linda

What are the expectations from a "good" wife or girlfriend?

To make the relationship as successful as possible between myself (British) and the Magic in my Life (Iranian-born but in the US 20+ years) what are the expectations from a "good" wife or girlfriend. And how do you win over the family?

Michele, San Francisco, America


Zanamu,
Thank you so much for your insight in to my wonderful Persian man. I want so hard to be the "perfect" person for him and will strive for that thorough out our time together.
I have not yet met the family but I feel he is getting resistance against me even now. I am not sure why but hopefully they will be open enough to at least let me meet them and see that I adore and support him with all his endeavors - his success is my success.
I would love for you to share my e-mail with my new found friends - thank you again for your kind words and support.
Fondest regards, Michele
Michele,
Thank you for for sharing your concern with us. We have all gone thru what you are going thru and I don't think there is a general answer but I can see that you are already facing two important issues 1) What does he want? Why isn't he talking to me? 2) Family acceptance

From my own experience and some of my close friends, we really didn't get his family support & acceptance till a few years after we have been married. I guess once they see your love and devotion and being a good house wife and all, then you can count on his family's support and love and respect. I guess, we had to earn it.

As far as what he wants and his expectations, I can tell you that it is very very very important that you are lady in public and specially in front of his family and friend. YOU NEVER TALK OR SHOW YOUR PROBLEMS IN PUBLIC. Disgaree with him, argue with him but in privacy. In public, you don't correct him, you don't ridicule him or make a joke of him, you don't talk back to him or argue with him,....

The last thing I can remembers at this time is to respect elders (his parents, grand parents) and in general anybody older whether Persian or not to be respected and served.

Oh yes, you have to be a GREAT HOST. Guests are very important and treated very well, this is a true Persian culture trait. If you ever visit Iran you would know. Good luck and let me know. - Linda


Michele,
As a Canadian wife of a Persian man (married for 3 years with 1 son and a baby on the way) I understand that you want to be the perfect woman for him. But please remeber that you can never be perfect, you can only strive to be the best person you can be.

I know that it can be very hard in the begining and you may feel like an outsider in his family. However, I do have some advice to share that may help you. First of all, you must understand that when he is with his family (as well as other Persian friends) he will probably feel most comfortable speaking Farsi. Don't feel as if he is ignoring you. You will begin to understand the conversations soon enough and if not you can always begin to learn on your own. Another thing I have found that his family appreciates is that I am very open to learning Persian cooking, decorating our house in Persian art and learning Persian and Islamic customs. You really have to gauge his family's values and try to respect them. For instance, his parents and grandparents are very religous people. Although I have never gone to the Mosque with my husband (he is not very religious) I do take my in-laws there when they visit. As well, I dress in appropriate fashion in front of my in-laws (as per Islamic requirements - including Hijab or Chador). My husband says I do not have to do this and my mom is very taken aback that I do, but I know my in-laws appreciate it.

I hope my advice was helpful! -- Ketherine


Hi Michelle:
My name is Nahid and I have been living in U.S.A. for over 24 years and I have been married to an American for 17 years. I know what you are going through,because I was there and belive me it was never easy. I met my husband when there were alot of wrong ideas about Iranians and their hostage situations back in late 70s or early 80s. His family had never even met an Iranian till then. It took me alot of patience and understandings plus lots of TLC to let them know that all Iranians were not the same. I was Seventeen years old when I came to this country so, I never had an Iranian boyfriend , My experinces from Iranian men are what I have seen in my father and my brother-in-laws.I give each one of them lots of credit for being a good fathers and husbands. They are very protective of their family and home oh yes they love to eat so, get an Iranian cook book which you can purchase evev on aol or any Iranian supermarket (it is another way to make his family to love you).
I think what every Iranian family expect from their daughter-in-law is to make sure that that their son is happy and I am sure you will not have any problem in that matter after all how many foriegn girls take their time to surf aol to find some one who can help them to know her future in-laws. Believe me you will make it . good luck and e-mail us you wedding pictures and be in touched.

love Nahid

American women can live happily with Iranian men.

I'm a hispanic woman and I have been married to my husband for 15 years. In the beginning of our marriage we had our ups and downs (more downs than ups) over time we learned to communicate better and compromise. There are a lot of cultural things we had to learn about each other. Like we do not argue about anything in front of other people, no matter who they are, especially in front of the kids. I love my husband dearly. I hope to travel to Iran with him and the boys this summer. But the only problem the boys will have is that they do not speak Farsi, and neither do I. I have started studying farsi on my own, because my husband is to busy. I am glad that I have some Iranian female friends who are also helping me with my farsi. I am very excited about going to Iran this summer but also very nervous, because of all of the negative publicity the iranian people have gotten from the media. My point and advice to hispanic woman is "Compromise & Peace" can make a difference in a multi-cultural marriage. Also never end the day angry at each other, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
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