Before I wrote this post I had to convince myself that addressing my experience would be useful not only to me but to someone else. It took me more than a year to get over the shame. I did not talk about the things that went on in my relationship for many years even though I was (and am) surrounded by an incredibly supportive family and circles of strong and understanding feminist women. Maybe that was it… how could I, as a so-called feminist and strong woman, come forward with my story of emotional control?
I met my partner while in university; I was 18 at the time. Despite the fact that we were from different cultures, we clicked and managed to build a promising relationship. At the time, I was not Muslim, and I had been raised in a pretty liberal household. On the other hand, he had been raised as a conservative Muslim.
The cultural differences are something that people still ask me about because we were from radically different backgrounds. I would like to think that we were successful at negotiating all sorts of things. I quickly learned that pork was a no-no, and that alcohol, including baking vanilla, was something to avoid. After a few years, he became aware of the importance I placed on my language and my traditions, and he made an effort to study these cultural referents. While I was overly aware of his religion and culture from the very beginning, it took him a few years to understand that being in an inter-cultural and inter-religious relationship requires a lot of work. Part of me assumes that he expected me to be the one to compromise from the very beginning.