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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
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Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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Dr Norman, I have been in a relationship with a man for 2-3

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Dr Norman, I have been in a relationship with a man for 2-3 years. Things were up and down for various reasons: I am going through a divorce, having been separated from my husband for a number of year. My boyfriend is a different religion to me and has different values to me. I have been thinking about ending our relationship for quite some time and two months ago I made my decision to break up with him however I learnt that I was pregnant. Two years ago I got pregnant, I wanted the child but my boyfriend asked me to have an abortion, and I listened. Since then we have both been quite bruised by the experience and tried to get pregnant but I suffered miscarriages. Our relationship has been long distance relationship (50 miles away from each other) for the past year. Once I got pregnant my boyfriend was putting pressure on me and I felt under quite a ,ot of stress eg he told me I need to leave my job, stay at home, look after children otherwise he will ensure the child is taken away from me; also that he wants a simple woman. I was very ill and for a whole week he did not come to visit me, when I asked why he said he cannot answer me. Anyhow, I lost the pregnancy and also broke up with my boyfriend. he was calling me for few days every day, asking about my health but not suggesting we meet or to see me and I reassured him that Im ok, that there is no need to call me. It was my way of gently telling him that its best we do not speak. I broke up with him telling him that I know he tried to make me happy, ensure I have a child but that it is time for me to make him happy, step aside and enable him to build a life, family for himself that fits his needs, vision. I said I wont trouble him anymore. This was also because when I was ill and asked if he could come to see me, he told me (not the first time) that everyone wants something from him. So I told him I won't trouble him anymore and asked him not to call me and stated that I won't call him either. He replied that I can take with me all of his mistakes. I had two months of no contact with him - or rather very minimal - I feel better, stronger and more positive. I would like to talk to him but when I reached out to him - twice - there was only silence at his end. I would like us to be friends, I loved him and still do and if we cannot be together I would like us to be friendly toward each other. I find it very hurtful that he is completely silent.
Dr. Norman Brown :

There is more to say about your situation. But the first point I need to make is that it Does Not Work to Be Friends when a long romantic relationship has ended—unless and until BOTH people are thoroughly over their grief over the loss of their romance. You are clearly NOT over it, because friendship is a form of love also, and you’re very hurt that he doesn’t want to carry that on at this time. Continuing a “friendship” usually results in ghosts of the old romantic feelings creeping in many times when you think everything is fine. On the other hand, continuing very occasional contacts can make it possible for further emotional confessions and understandings to gradually emerge. And that helps in the gradual adjustment of both people’s feelings over months and some years until there’s little or no unexpressed feelings left.

SO I suggest you write down a few of the thoughts and feelings that you’d want to say to him if he were still your friend: Particularly what you liked a lot about him and what worried you and what hurt you; as well as what aspects of yourself flourished in relationship to him, and what aspects seemed to be completely stifled. THEN choose a few of these expressions and send THEM to him in an email, along with an invitation to him to write anything he wants to you also, whether he wants to respond to the particular sentences you’ve shared or not. You can’t really know whether you will want or need a “friendship” until you get all of these unsaid messages off of your hearts—and if you hold onto the hope of continued contact whenever YOU need it, you’re more likely to get hurt unnecessarily and thus renew your present depressed mood, than to get a secret sense of still being loved by him, tho you’ll be able to preserve that too, whether it’s true or not. It sounds paradoxical to say you can’t pretend to be friends, but you do need to clear up the unexpressed feelings in order to be free of the past that’s still sticking with you. I’ll explain that more tomorrow if you respond with questions to what I’ve written. I don’t expect you to just say “OK, he’s right. I’ll just stop trying to be friends.” But if you want him to find happiness with somebody else, and you want to have your chance at that too, then you need to let him ignore you and not try to make you happy by reassuring you that he still cares for you (which he most likely does).

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

Dr Norman, thank you for your reply. Firstly, I do not feel that I am depressed. I was feeling down which is understandable considering the circumstances - I wish he understood that and stood by me but I felt let down by him. When Im feeling positive I then think that I should have explained to him how I felt instead of pretending I was OK but I didn't want to burden him as he told me when I was ill, when I needed him most that everyone only wants something from him and he never did come to see me. So I then made a promise not to contact him any more. he told me he needs somebody more understanding, simple and I felt hurt, criticised so for that reason I stood back so that he can find someone suitable. I wanted to be loved for who I was and not constantly criticised.

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

It also used to hurt me that he didn't trust me: he told me that even if I receive a telephone call from a male by mistake he doesn't like it; that Im not allowed to talk to him about my male members of staff etc. Yet he told me about his female supervisor asking him out, females at work including customers giving him their telephone numbers ... When I told him it is making me feel insecure he told me "Good".

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

It felt to me as if he could never relax into our relationship, always watching, anticipating when Im going to make a wrong move. Then when/ if I did (Im not perfect neither he is) he would give me silent treatment.

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

Anyhow, I do love him dearly and wish we could make it work, trust each other. However, as our relationship was, it was difficult for me and Im not sure how it was for him.

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

Id like to reach out to him, talk to him. I did email him before Christmas but my email just read as a farewell email because I feel that he does not love me and because I do, I want to give him freedom so that he can find happiness and love. However, I wouldn't want bad feelings between us. in terms of being friends with him, no, I would not be capable of that.

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

I sent him as a gift, a thank you present for the time we spent together - as I explained in my email to him - his favourite cd that he used to listen when he visited my home. I hope he will like it. Im not sure if he received it. I haven't heard from him.

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

Ideally Id like it if he were to contact me and were to agree to make necessary adjustments in our relationship so that we can make it work. Im moving back to the city where both of us used to live and work. I told him about my new job/ promotion, he hasn't commented. I would hope he would say at least congratulations, really pleased for you. Am happy for you but nothing. Complete silence.

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

If he likes his life, space I do not want him to think that now that Im moving back I will be following him or ... Love and desire for us to be together needs to come form him. Yes, I verbalised the end of our relationship but he ended our relationship - in my view - through his actions.

JACUSTOMER-dxe8hcrf- :

We had an argument before I lost my pregnancy where he told me that he spent last two years getting to know me and he knows my likes and dislikes. Now is the time for me to work out what makes him happy. Dr Norman, I did not want to play games, I was ready for the next step in our relationship and as I explained to him, yes, he got to know me because I allowed him to. I was open and honest. I let him into my life. He met my family, friends, I shared with him things I enjoy. It has been three years and I still haven't met his brother and he never invited me to any of his parties etc. He is a muslim so it could be different culture but still ...

Dr. Norman Brown :

I was afraid you'd eventually say that he is a muslim. There are huge differences between muslim and Western (JudeoChristian) cultural attitudes and behavior among the sexes, and your comments about his possessive-rules for you that don't apply to him was the first tip-off that the cultural difference might be what I expected. It is a particularly paradoxical aspect of huge cultural differences that they often greatly increase the attraction of the exotic between two people who don't even realize how much they're still strangers to each other. It's not your fault you have no understanding of how greatly your expectations and ways of thinking are different from his, because muslim men want it that way. One example is this: One of my former students, now in his 30s and actually now turned off to his own (Saudi Arabian) culture and turned on to sophisticated American psychological culture, told me that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) taught that it's OK to lie to 3 kinds of people: 1. your enemies, 2. people with whom you're doing business, and 3. YOUR WIFE.

Our chat has ended, because the computer system shut it down. But I was already writing more, (and we can continue for days anyway), so here it is:

Another aspect of love relations you couldn't be expected to understand, as an American, is that the vast majority of cultures outside of America don't expect husband and wife to be best friends with each other, because unless they're in the same profession, their interests and lifestyles are normally quite different, and their goals and ways of acting to reach them are different too. The Koran also teaches that 9 out of every 10 parts of emotion belong to women, and because they are so overwhelmingly emotional, it is necessary for their men to keep them under control, and keep them from exposing any part of their bodies to other men, because (unlike men!--whoever made that up?!) they can't control their sexual desires either!

And furthermore, their muslim morality is SO hostile towards ANY sexuality before marriage, that any muslim man who does indulge in it is acting SO FAR OUTSDIE of what his morality allows, that he's on his own, like an OUTLAW, and normally he can't respect a foreign woman as equal in value to a muslim woman because she's not obeying the muslim moral code that he's violating himself. I'd be extending my knowledge of psychology beyond any research I've actually read to suggest this, but I'd hazard a guess that a muslim man might have 3 different psychocultural attitudes working at once in his behavior/attitudes towards an American woman he's been having sexual relations with: 1. He consciously respects her American liberal attidudes that have allowed him to achieve sexual experience with her that includes love. 2. He cannot trust her either sexually or romantically, because he "knows" from the Koran that all women are naturally full of desires, including sexual desires--so since she's been having sex with him, then she MUST desire sex with many other men if she can get her hands on them. and 3. Between these two opposite poles of respect and contempt/distrust for you as a "fallen woman," his unconscious fantasies could swing wildly about, between pride in himself, guilt, lust, fear of his own immorality that he projects onto you as the temptress, etc.

I imagine you could be pretty offended at what I've suggested as possible conflicting attitudes and fantasies he may have. But I do expect that he will NOT want to see or communicate with you ever again, because he may consider himself very lucky to have escaped the tremendous guilt and responsibility of becoming a father without being married and being obligated to an Infidel woman because he produced a child that his parents would be ashamed of. I imagine you're even more outraged that I would guess his parents would be ashamed to give you a place in their family: But you need to understand that the muslim society whose OUTLAW was romancing you would CONDEMN you for being his extramarital lover. For a muslim girl that did what you have done could be Stoned To Death By Her Own Family!

I'm only writing these moral nightmare stories, because I want you to realize that YOU too have had lucky breaks to avoid sliding backwards into a very tense interethnic parenting relationship with a muslim culture that is so hostile to women's sexual freedom and to extramarital children that it could possibly drive you crazy if you actually have a child with this man. He is probably avoiding all contact with you because he wants to put his (very immoral--to his culture) feelings and desires toward you far behind him, so that he can save himself a chance to marry properly for becoming a respected adult in his society.

I am not judging your morality, but I do believe that anyone who does something considered VERY immoral by his own culture is setting himself and those he operates with (like you) up for a lot of harm. And I can't respect the muslim ways of subordinating women and controlling them, and there are other ways that their religion teaches them to act that are more primitive than those developed by Western European culture and passed on to America.

So you have done the right thing by telling him he can go away. And he's not going to play by the rules of caring that you consider normal, and you will need to experience your present backlash of resentment and hurt towards him, because his culture does not respect women or premarital affairs the way you think any lover should. You are lucky to be rid of him, and I'd advise you to steer clear of muslim men in the future, because the lure of their differentness does not compensate for the damage that their treatment of women would cause you and your children in the long run.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dear Dr Norman

Thank you for your reply. I always felt my ex was thorn between me and his religion/ community, as he would accuse me of leading him down the wrong path and avoided the issue of committment, discussing future. His answer was that if Im in his life today, then Im in his life tomorrow. I was not satisfied with that answer. This is just one example.

My relationship with him was difficult: up and down, very emotionaly draining. I was feeling insecure, unstable and criticised in our relationship: I couldn't understand why he had issue with all the things he knew before he pursued me? Difference in colour, religion, education, values. I felt as if he was avoiding commitment and at times I felt I was that he actually targeted, knowing at the beginning of our relationship what his exit strategy will be. If he was so unhappy, he could have ended the relationship with me himself.

he accused me of hating his religion, colour, that I was disrespecting him because he wasn't/ isn't earning enough, that I do not trust him because he is a refugee, that i was planning to get rid of him (as he put it), that I was using him for sex only ... In hindsight it felt like tactic on his part, to prove to him my intetnions were genuine. It worked as I tolereated a lot of his behaviour, naively beleiving he is feeling thorn, insecure ... I was not allowed to have any expectations of him otherwise he would accuse me of making him feel guilty ie when I was pregnant and ill I mentioned to him that it would have been nice if he bought me oranges for examples and he got angry with me saying that he has no money as he bought a car and that I should know this. He added that I have no idea how difficult it is to be a man, that he is proud ... Of course I had to calm him down, reassure him and said that all I need is for him to tell me: I would love to buy you oranges but right now it is difficult for me because ... That way at least I know he is considering me.

I could not stand the double standrads: him angry if I spoke about a male or spoke to another male yet he would tell me about women pursuing him at work, re-telling me conversations with sexual connotations and when I told him it is making me feel insecure he said 'Good'.

There was a nice side to him, he can be very charming and is popular with people as he has a good sense of himour, is intelligent and attractive but it was like being with a drug addict: two people in one body. When he was away from his friends, religion he was ok. As soon as religion got in a way, he changed.

When I was pregnant, it was a nightmare. He had no consideration for me and added to my stress by saying I need to leave my job, how he will aways love a woman that is simple, doesnt work more than me; that he will take the child away from me (where is this right according to his religion or any other religion?). I have a strong work ethic and am proud of it, I do not need to feel ashamed, guilty because of that. he demanded that the child shoud have his name ... yet no mention of how he was intending to support us, where and how we woud live ... When i was severely ill, no visit from him and when I asked him afterwards why he didn't visit, he told me he cannot answer.

A year ago I was offered a promotion in another city which he encouraged me to take and said we will move together. That moving on his part never happened and I strongly suspect it was a manouver on his part to remove me from his environment so that he can continue seeing me whilst back in his 'home' town pretend to be an exemplary Muslim. I was isolate din a new city, starting afresh but it all turned out ok - I got another promotion so career progression.

I cannot live like that, where Im treated like a slave or something. As if I do not have the mind or voice. I am my own person and am highly educated and have a very good career. To be treated with him like in - to me - such disrespectful way is degrading.

There was a time I was considering converting, to make our relationship work. He wasn't keen but I think it was because he knew he had no intetnion of committing to me. Anyhow, having expereinced his double standards and lack of compassion I lost respect for his religion.

He never included me in their holidays and does not participate in mine as it is 'wrong'. Yet there are so many examples that he asked me to do things or he did that I now know are wrong according to Koran. So really he uses his relgion when it suits him. Now suddeny, he has guilty conscience of being with me because of Koran.

I feel very angry and grieved. I broke up with him kindly, no blame and accepting that I too made a mistake: I trusted him, I didn't do my research and made excuses for his behaviour. I thought I loved him and did not want him to feel tortured by being with me anymore - I now feel it was all pretence on his part just to perpetuate the non-committal state of our relationship, making himself a victim and not taking responsibility for his actions.

I feel used Dr Norman and I cannot comprehend how can one person who claims that they are religious do this to another human being? Lie and play with their life? I remember that one of my miscarriages was after three months of pregnancy and it was devastating and painful to me. He left me with no feeloing as it was Ramadan and for a whole month I did not hear from him. When I called him, he was shouting at me and telling me he cannot do anymore wrong. Why is it wrong to come and see me, prepare a meal for me, do shopping and assist me? That is compassion, helping someone that is vulnerable - at least that is what I was taught as I was growing up.

On the other hand he was hoping I would get pregnant - at least that is what he was telling me but as soon as I got pregnant it was like a dark cloud coming over him, as if he was angry with me and he changed. It was as if I suddenly didn't count and he could do completely as he wished with no consequences/ he expected me then to sit at home and wait for him to come to see me, cook for him (if I didn't cook to his satisfaction he would leave), tend to him and then he would ne off again. I felt as if getting me pregnant was his way of controling me: ensuring I stay at home and at sim;ly at his disposal.

What sends shivers down my spine is this: recenlty I discovered he had a loveheart on his key ring. I asked him where he got it from and he said he found it on the pavement. I was not convinced as he always took pride in his maculine image and I struggled to belive he found this love heart on the pavement, bent over and took the trouble to attach it to his key ring.

He bought a car recently and he placed this key ring on display as a decoration in his car, next to a small decoration - some quote from Koran. On the other side he keeps my har band with a small memoribila, something I gave him. I asked him about this love heart,as it seemed unusual to me that he was keeping it close to something related to Koran. He got a little flustered and said that he got this love heart from a 13 year old customer, that he knows i won't belive him but it is the truth. I did not belive him, my feeling was telling me something else. That was almost the last straw - the last straw was his attitude/ behavious during my pregnancy and I am horrified to think that there may be a possibility that he has someone else - possibly in his home country or here - a perfectly good Muslim whilst using me as a sex slave or something. I know he would not feel any guilt or remorse as with my background/ ethnicitty: white Christtian woman, to be dovorced I am nobody to him. Any child of ours ... I dread to think of consequences on that child and my suffering, pain seeing all that. I had a very lucky escape indeed and hope to never hear or see him again.

One of my best frinds is a Muslim - although not practising - and she keeps saying 'Good riddance'. I am aware of all that and I know I had a lucky escape. I have been studying Islam and his culture (Sudanese) although i swhould have done that long ago. Regardless of everything, i woudl hope he had a grain of decency, compassion toward me and realise it was my decsion to let him go so that he can be happy. I wish him all the best and for him to be a tleast courtious - if not genuine - and say 'Congratulations on your poromition/ new job, thnak you for everythin and all the best in the New Year would be apprecaited. However, considering all of his previous actions, it is unrealsitic of me to expect him to be nice at the very end when all this time he was the way he was. Surely he would be pleased I let him off the hook to find himself a nice Muslim girl?

Time is a great healer and I hope to get better in time.I know that i too had a lucky escape, it would have been much worse if i stayed with him and I should focus on that. Whereas I always condiered myself a liberal, open-minded, spiritual person I am afraid I have now become very cynical if not hostile toward Islam. I do not wish to go near it as I have no respect for it.

We will now be living in the same city and i hope never to meet him - we do not move in the same circles so it is unlikely. However, the world is small. I know if he were to meet me with another men, he will then say he was right all along that I am a loose woman and Christian, white women cannot be trusted. He told me at the beginning of our relationship that if a man is unfaithful, it is a woman's fault and if she finds him in the arms of another woman that she needs to throw herself in his arms and cry, that that would win him over. I put it down to him being a little immature, juvenile. Now ...

Recently he told me that he spent last two years or so getting to know me, working out what I like, what I dislike and that now it is my turn. I had no intentions of playing games Dr Norman: I was ready for a next step in our relationship. Besides, I allowed hi mto get to know me, let him into my life. i cannot do the same for him. I am not sure what he meant with that comment but of course he wouldn't explain and I have no intetnion of running after him trying to win favours with him whilst he is playing ho - cold game with me.

i hope thime will do its thing on me, help me heal and I shall also do my best to put it all out of my mind somehow. It is difficult but it would be more difficult if I had carried on for longer so that is my consolation.

It would benice if our parting was mutual, with respect as it is I feel disrespected and disregarded him even at this stage. When in a good faith I told him he is free to go and live his life the way it makes him happy and that I hope he will be happy.

Apologies for rant.

Thank you for your rant, Layka. I used to teach about Islam in my Western culture class, and I had a liberal muslim student come in to help build bridges between the cultures. But he's the young man who's already on his 3rd wife in his early 30s and told me about some of the really primitive ways arab men treat women. I think your guy as as little understanding of your culture and expectations as you did of his, and his culture is probably very tribal, like the origins of Islam in the deserts of Arabia. There was a researcher whose most intriguing research was on the idea she called "Fatal Attractions" which reasoned that often the same unique personality difference that attracts you to someone later becomes a central reason why you're disastrously incompatible with each other--and that's definitely true for great cultural differences. One of my close mentees romanced a Kenyan nurse with whom their love still ties them together somewhat, despite already divorcing. She would drive him crazy with verbal attacks and expect that he'd beat her, like a real Kenyan man would do. Your Sudanese man might well secretly expect that he should be able to beat you as well as control your every action--despite his attraction to your high Western achievements.
I've learned to my own dismay that my own desire to accept liberal Islam as a religion as worthy as anything in the West does not fit with the tribalism that's central to Sunni Muslim culture, because it prescribes how believers have to live and strongly discourages independent thinking--so that tribal differences will inevitably lead to endless conflicts. So only people who can earnestly leave their own tribal attitudes behind (aka ethnocentrism) are able to harmoniously coexist in a melting-pot society and ultimately an ecumenical world community with good will toward everyone.
A big part of my current work towards a more universal understanding of the emotional dimensions of human love concerns the power of ADVERSITY to elicit the fiercest love feelings in the service of keeping the couple and family together, for its own survival--even if that ADVERSITY is caused by the incompatibility or outright malicious treatment (or crazy, or personality disordered) treatment that the partner(s) are dishing out. And an grossly incompatible cultural mismatch is made to order for that sort of highly passionate and personality-destructive "darkside marriage."
It's not an emotional wound that will go away soon. But understanding it may help.
Dr. Norman Brown and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dear Dr Norman, thank you. Its interesting that you mentioned beating as I remember my ex asking me long time ago if I was ever beaton. I said no but it really threw me that he asked me that. It made me feel uneasy and although I never observed any signs of violence on his part Idid question if I was at risk. It felt like a threat. Once he did push me against the wall as I wasnt in a romantic mood and then he shut himself in the bathroom. I hope in time I will put it all behind me. It wasnt a relationship for me. After two months of no contact it various memories keep resurfacing and I trust it is another stage in the process of me healing. Regards.

There is another unusual emotional effect that can greatly intensify the loving energy in mixed-race romances: what Spike Lee made his movie "Jungle Fever" about: When your appearance and/or language&behavior triggers automatic tribal difference-caution, you feel an unusually strong subconscious awkwardness-barrier, that derives from the innate emotion named Shame--because that arises from an innate braking system for Interest-Excitement and Enjoyment when there's an impediment to closeness and trust but not enough fear to send you running away. But when overtures are made (and charm, kindness or sexual seductiveness are also in action) the rapid reduction of this unusually high shyness-barrier triggers an unusually high (and indescribable) tingle of excitement--so friendships and love relationships that develop across such racial, ethnic and cultural barriers can be unusually highly charged with emotional excitement. That's the emotional basis of "Jungle Fever" that is well known in place like Atlanta where I now live. It's the ununderstood power of this undercurrent of excitement ("lure of the exotic") that makes many crosscultural & interracial relationships so compelling--that partners fail to heed the numerous signs that the compatibility of expectations and habits that makes for stability is not going to develop. In your situation the muslim man had his own lure of the morally forbidden sexual behavior that leads a significant percentage of those men to violate their own moral codes and then wander thru their own psychological "no-man's land" with no adequate models for how to cope with their feelings and desires.
Dear Layka, I appreciate your rant, as I was worried that you'd react the opposite way to my warning and defend him instead. The computer system isn't giving me a screen to write until I send this, but I'll write more for you to see today.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dear Dr Norman, no I wouldn't defend my ex. However, I do love him and it is difficult. I do struggle to accept that one human being would be quite so insensitive at times and it is a great pity if culture, tradition, religion dictates it that way. Ultimately, I believe it is down to each individual how the y conduct themselves. I wish I could reach out to him and through dialogue establish understanding. It is as it is and I need to focus on the bigger picture and this pain, confusion to some extent will pass in time. Thank you for your assistance.