Want to help friend, but don't know how; cultural difference

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Want to help friend, but don't know how; cultural difference

Post by gorm » Thu May 15, 2014 7:01 am

Hi all,

I'm writing with a problem that isn't -mine- as such, but that of my friend and sister-in-law.

I have been married for five to a wonderful man who has a wonderful family with whom I get on very well; in fact I knew his sister before I knew him, and it was pretty much through her that we met. My husband and I are from completely different backgrounds and cultures, and living in a third country. His family is Muslim and probably more conservative than mine (though not an awful lot, to be honest!), but I would say that they are relatively liberal.

Last year, my sister-in-law, who is in her mid-twenties, had her first serious relationship. She was convinced that this was the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with and had sex for the first time. This man was from a similar background to my sister-in-law and fully realised how important this all was for her, promised her they would marry, etc. etc. In spite of all of this, he then cheated on her and, when she found out from a friend of hers who had seen him, tried to turn the whole thing around and play the injured party, saying that he was being spied on. It all turned pretty nasty and he sent some horrible messages to my sister-in-law and her friend. To make a long story short, she eventually cut all contact with him, much to everybody's relief. The problem now, however, is that she has a feeling of extreme guilt and believes that she will never find somebody to spend her life with, as, in her head, she is 'spoiled goods'. My husband and her eldest sister both know everything and try to reassure her that she will find a decent man to whom it won't matter, but to be honest, I am worried. It seems as though virginity is such an incredibly important quality in a wife for a lot of Muslim men (and, yes, her faith is important to her and she cannot imagine marrying outside of it). I personally think that it is no-one's business but her own, but she says she doesn't want to keep secrets from any future boyfriends. She has resigned herself to a life alone, and it just makes me so, so sad to see her so unhappy. I want to help/reassure her, but I don't know what to say, as my background is so incredibly different, and I feel as though I can't really understand how she's feeling.

Anyone who's been in a similar situation out there?

Thanks in advance for any help!

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Re: Want to help friend, but don't know how; cultural differ

Post by snail » Tue May 20, 2014 11:41 am

Hi Gorm

I think you haven't had any replies to this because it's such a difficult problem it's hard to think of a way to help. As you say, when you don't share those beliefs yourself they are even harder to understand, plus this is not a situation where a third party can really do anything. The only consolation I can think of is that, if your sister-in-law is in her mid-twenties, she is still really very young. Her views may well change and become more open as she matures and sees more of the world. Plus, the more time passes, the less relevant to her the relationship will feel. In a few years, she may well feel that she is able to build a relationship with a man who knows that this happened, some years before.
These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.

Najwa Zebian

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