Sunday, July 22, 2018
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Courtship and Marriage: The Somali Experience in America (Part II)

By Hassan M. Abukar

This article is the second of a 10-part series of true stories of Somali women and men and their very blunt assessment of their relationships. The first six parts deal with Somali marriages in America and the last four with issues of courtship. The names and locations of these individuals have been changed to ensure their privacy.

The Lion

There is an interesting Somali proverb that says: “Libaax nin aan aqoon baa madaxa u salaaxa” (It is he who doesn’t know a lion that pets him).

Marriege2When I call my husband a lion, I mean the term in both a good and bad way. He is magnanimous, family oriented, a great provider, brave, generous, outgoing, loyal, and a true leader. I feel safe with him. My family loves him.

I have, however, one problem. My husband is not romantic.

For a man who is educated and has spent a decade and a half in the United States., he lacks the basic understanding of what a modern woman wants. Every time I show affection, he jumps on me like a lion that has captured its prey. He acts as though he is conquering that prey, with no gentleness and no consideration for his wife.

I am by nature a passionate person. I like my husband to be affectionate. A simple touch out of affection brings me more than I bargain for or want. Why do men always misread women? I have told him on numerous occasions to relax and stay put. I can’t hold hands with him in the living room. I can’t snuggle with him without going the whole nine yards. I hear now and then that spouses train each other, but that does not apply to my husband. He is set in his predatory way. I have tried everything to help him change his habits. When we go out, I try to hold hands with him, but I am gently rebuffed. He considers showing affection in public as a “ceeb” (shameful). I explain to him that his lack of foreplay and gentleness—not to mention his selfishness—are not religiously sanctioned, but to no avail.

I am at a complete loss. On the one hand, my husband has many good qualities that would make many women green with envy. On the other hand, his rough edges drive me crazy. I am a 27-year-old woman deprived of love and affection. Sometimes, I ask myself if I really made the right choice to marry him. I am beginning to have serious reservations about this relationship. It is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Settling a Score

The wedding was great. It was well planned and well attended. Friends and family flew in from various states. The food was great, too. It was the second marriage for both of us. We both came from previous relationships that had each lasted a decade.

Three years later, I realize my marriage has been nothing but a fraud, a union built on a foundation of lies. My wife, Warda, married me simply to settle a score against her former husband, Kulmiye. I have been duped and used. All along, my wife has been obsessed with her ex-husband. I will let the facts drive my theory.

marriege3Warda told me her first marriage was made in hell. Kulmiye was manipulative, self-absorbed, emotionally-abusive, and a narcissist who lacked empathy and viewed all women as objects. Their divorce was bitter. I appeared on the scene nine months after their divorce. Warda and I started as friends, and a year later I asked her to marry me. Although I was enthusiastic and pushing for the marriage, she gave me the impression she was a reluctant partner. Nevertheless, I felt I had met my soul mate. Five months before our wedding, Warda showed increasing interest in our relationship by becoming more attentive. She started calling me daily and texting. She had never done that before; I was the one who had made all the calls. In hindsight, I realize it was that same time her ex was getting married to a Somali woman who grew up in Canada. At the time, Warda’s sudden interest in me, though endearing, was puzzling. I thought perhaps she had come to her senses, and realized the strong viability of our marriage.

My wife has been having an “object affair”— a non-sexual affair that a spouse develops to marginalize the other spouse. The object can be work, the Internet, an automobile, shopping, etc. The spouse having such an affair becomes so pre-occupied with an object of interest that the other spouse ceases to have any meaning in the marriage. It was with a great sense of consternation that I discovered the object of my wife’s affair was the habit of electronically stalking her former husband. Every day, my wife checked up on her ex through the Internet, social media, and mutual friends. She asked her friends if they had seen Kulmiye, how he looked, whether he had lost weight or not, and—in a bizarre inquiry—what his wife wore. My wife knows a lot about Kulmiye’s wife through a complex process of information gathering that would mystify CIA operatives. Moreover, my wife has often put her pictures and mine on her Facebook page to infuriate her ex and make him jealous. Jealous, Kulmiye is not.  In fact, he has moved on and does not want to have anything to do with Warda. Interestingly, I do not have an account with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, or Instagram, yet Warda made me conspicuous all over the social media.

When I once naively mentioned my own ex and said something positive about her, Warda was so upset that she subjected me to that familiar blend of scowl and silent treatment. “You still love her, don’t you?” she exploded. In contrast, I hear a lot about Kulmiye every day from her. In a nutshell, my wife’s default setting is her obsession with her ex. I am now convinced our relationship was one-sided from day one. All the years we have been together have not changed anything in our lopsided marriage.

I care a lot about my wife, but I have come to the conclusion she is frozen in her past, a period that remains unresolved. She refuses to seek professional help and even asserts that she does not love her ex. She has stopped chatting with me as she used to and prefers to spend time with her computer rather than with me. She goes to Starbucks for coffee alone and reluctantly allows me to accompany her when I ask. I am a rental car agent and my wife used to ask me about my daily work. Not anymore. She  constantly compares me with her ex, complimenting him on his earning power versus my dwindling income, praising him for his infectious humor versus my stoic demeanor, and lauding his skill as a handy man at home versus my standoffish attitude toward labor. She rarely acknowledges all the good things I do for her. I am getting tired of my wife. My friends tells me that I am setting myself up for a lifelong misery and regret. “Your wife will not take care of you when you get older,” they admonished me. I feel like I am single because my marriage has become only a name on paper, a union devoid of care and respect.

Something odd has happened

Kulmiye suddenly got divorced. My wife’s resentment toward Kulmiye’s ex got hotter. Warda started viciously badmouthing her: “Look at his picture! Kulmiye has lost considerable weight because of her.” I have heard from members of our community that Kulmiye is heading to Kenya to get married, again. I also heard that he had vowed never to marry another Somali woman who lives in the West.
I guess it makes no difference to me because my marriage is crumbling and there is no hope for its rehabilitation.

Hassan M. Abukar

Hassan M. Abukar is a freelance writer and political analyst

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