When my husband and I married 17 years ago, we had a lot of people mumbling in the background that it will never last, even people we thought were our friends had doubts. My father in law disowned his son and his family were torn apart by our union.
I remember as a little girl, aunties whispering in the kitchen over a cup of tea that so and so’s marriage would never last. The mixed marriage they were talking of was two people from the same town, raised under the same conditions but protestant vs. catholic!
I grew up in rural England, my husband in war torn Lebanon. I believe fate brought us together but that is another story, one which ultimately led us both to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the country where we met and fell in love.
He was the eldest son and one of three children, his father had big dreams for him, one of them of him finding a wife and having a family of his own. But his father was of another generation, the old mindset and he had very clear and specific views of who his future daughter-in-law would be. These included the fact that the girl would not only be Lebanese but she would be from Beirut, from a 'good' family - this was very important as with many cultures, a marriage is not only the union of two people but, the union of two families. She would be of a certain religion and be 5 years older than him!
Had I known that, perhaps I wouldn’t have applied for the position! You see I failed on every count plus some. I’m not from Beirut or even Lebanon for that matter, I am from a different religion, I’m two years older than him and for the icing on the cake ...... I was divorced and had a 3 year old daughter. I’m surprised my father-in-law didn’t have a heart attack on the spot.
We were not naive enough to think that it would be easy, our experiences were worlds apart even the food we were brought up on was different. Mine typically bland, his rich in spices. The basics though were the same, we were both from good, decent families, we knew right from wrong and we had both been brought up to follow our dreams.
Of course we didn’t set out with marriage in mind but it became apparent very early in our relationship that this would be where it was heading. We met several times through an extended friendship group and in 1992 became a couple. By November 1993 we were married, once in the Sharia court with 3 male witnesses with a blessing in the local church later the same day with my daughter present. Neither family attended as the situation with his family was so difficult we decided to not have any celebrations although we did have a delicious honeymoon in Malaysia.
Before we married, we both wrote a letter of what we expected of each other during our marriage. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we needed to know that we were on the same page or at least had an understanding so that we could come to a mutual compromise. It may seem like a silly thing to do at the time, but I honestly think that this laid the foundations for our marriage today.
We agreed on whether we would have children (apparently I told him I wanted 4 more which. I didn’t believe until he showed me the letter a couple of years ago!), the religion they would be raised on, we even discussed what would happen if one of our parents was alone and needed looking after.
At the beginning of our relationship I found it very difficult to understand my father-in-laws demands and could not comprehend that a father would cut off his son because of the life path he had chosen. I didn’t however truly understand where these concerns came from as I was so consumed with my own fury at his behaviour. I had seen this happen before with other couples as Dubai was a ‘melting pot’ of cultures. I had also seen how the pressure often became too much to bear for the man wanting to follow his heart and seen him give in to his families demands and marry a girl of their choosing. I have to say my husband handled this time of his life with such dignity, always trying to see his father’s point but thank god followed his heart anyway!
The year following our marriage my father-in-law succumbed, it was on the birth of his first grandson, his namesake and we have been best buddies ever since. It hasn’t been easy and has taken a lot of compromise and understanding but I now understand why he had these concerns, it was for the love of his son. He thought that the differences would be too great and the marriage would end in divorce, children would be taken to a far off land to be with their mother and his son left destroyed and heartbroken. That was a possibility of course but not for us, we thrived on our differences and embraced them because they were what made us unique. We talked about our concerns and handled them with understanding and to this day we keep working at it.
All marriages can go one way or the other but with an open mind, open heart and open communications, miracles are possible.
November 2009 we had a commitment ceremony in Lebanon which was a beautiful and very personal affair made even more special with our five children present. Everyone was very emotional and my father-in-law extremely proud.
Have faith and follow your heart. I would love to hear your story if you too have a marriage made in heaven.