Filipina-Iranian Intercultural Marriage: What It Takes to Survive a Muslim-Christian Interfaith Marriage

in Couple Profile, Intercultural Marriage, Interfaith Marriage

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The Offbeat Couple

Mae and Omid are both dentists who are currently living in Tehran, Iran. They have been married for 10 months and and are yet to have children.

What makes your marriage offbeat?

I´m a Filipina and a SDA. My husband is Iranian, he’s a Muslim based on birth but he doesn´t practice any of their Muslim beliefs and traditions.

What made you end up in an interracial/interfaith marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture or faith?

I never thought that I would be in an interracial relationship. When I first met him, (we were riding in the same public transportation in Manila while he was a dental student and I was a newly grad from my 1st degree) I never felt that we have a future together because that time I was in a (on the rock) relationship. But he felt the other way around (he calls it –destiny), so he made the move to know me.

After 9 months of being in an I-don’t-know-the-real-score relationship with him, we became officially sweethearts. I took dentistry course (actually with his motivation) so we could be partner not just in life but also in career. When I finished the course and had my license, he proposed to me. It was our plan to get married after I graduate.

Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious and cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?

filipina-iranian intercultural marriage

There was nothing special about our wedding. We both agreed to have it as simple as signing the papers because we still had a lot of things to settle. However, we´re planning for a wedding where our friends and relatives could witness it—very soon..

What are your biggest challenges (as an interracial couple) and how do you solve them?

The biggest challenge was that I needed to be converted to Muslim so our marriage would be honored in his country and I could be an Iranian citizen. But this “conversion” process was just all in papers so it really doesn’t bother me. And yet it has a big impact to my family especially on my father’s side whom all were born Adventist.

Until now, just my immediate family knows the whole story about the conversion thing. My father is against with my decision but he respects me and let me do it although until now, he’s still bitter when this topic is being brought up at home.

Another big challenge was when a third party got involved and he couldn’t get away from that situation as easy as he thought he could. I don’t see it as interracial challenge because any couple could have this problem. It happened when I was about to graduate until I was reviewing for board exam. I thought we won’t be able to overcome it, I´ve almost given up and told him we better call it quits. But our love brought us back together.

I know some of you would think that I accepted him back just like that after the third party issue, but our love story has been full of challenges than you could ever imagine. If given a chance to share it from the beginning I would love to, but for now I´d rather limit my story with the provided questions.

What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?

Yes, I had to move here in Iran and learn their language. We have our own clinic here now and in order for me to communicate with my patients, my husband sent his 2 younger sisters (one is 15 years old and the other is 21) to attend English classes. They´ve been learning English for 5 years until I arrived here and they now serve as my assistants and interpreters while I still learn Farsi. I’m trying my best to learn the language since I got here but I find it harder than I thought.

Filipina-iranian interracial marriage

I´m very close to my family, I have 5 brothers and I was the only girl for 20 years before an unexpected blessing came to us, we had our little sister who is 9 years old. I had to leave them behind in order to be with my husband in his country.

My husband had completed the first two years of his M.S. course in the Philippines when we moved here and needs one more year to finish the course. We agreed that he will fly back to Philippines to finish it.

Currently, we´re in a long distance relationship. Although I know it’s gonna be hard on my part living here in Iran without him, he always assures me that everything will be fine and that every other month he’ll be visiting me for at least 2 weeks.

Are there any marital issues that come up due to different religious background? How do you address them?

I´m lucky that my husband´s family is not the kind of conservative Muslims, they´re just like my husband – they had no choice but to be Muslim because they live here in Iran and we all know that the country an Islamic Republic.

I too have to wear scarf everyday when I’m going out in public places. I can’t wear my usual clothes because I have to wear at least ¾ sleeves, long enough blouse to cover my behind, and a pair of not-so-sexy jeans. It’s how it is here, women have to dress up conservative. Other than these we don’t have any issues when it comes to religion matter.

Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?

My father is the number 1! But like I´ve said in #5 question, my father isn´t the type who´d forcefully prevent me from marrying the man I love. I just gave him the assurance that I’ll be safe in here and that I’ll never turn my back and forget my faith in God.

How did your in-laws and extended families from each side react to your interracial marriage?

muslim-sda interfaith marriage

My husband’s family has been very supportive with our relationship ever since, they never showed us any disapproval. ´Though most of them I only met when I got here, they accepted me like family. But in my part, I wasn´t able to introduce my husband to my extended family.

They only heard about our story from me and I´ve no idea really if they have any objections. The day before our flight to Iran I told my two gradmas that I’m leaving. They knew they couldn´t do anything to stop me, they gave me some advice and reminders.

What are the benefits of an interracial marriage?

I can’t find an answer to this question. For me, I think it’s just the same thing as marrying someone from the same race. I chose to marry my husband because I believe in our love.

What are the things that you learned about each other’s culture? How does learning about each other culture benefit your relationship?

My husband used to be impatient. Simple things like queuing in the supermarket make him easily irritated. But after 6 years of being with me, he became more patient than me. It also helps that he´s familiar with the Philippine culture.

My first few weeks here was mostly embarrassing. I didn’t know most of their culture and practices and my husband had to coach me what to do in many circumstances. Like when we visit some relatives, I should greet them one by one, shake hands with the male, kiss the females three times and do exactly what everyone does in the house.

But then I’m glad that they just saw my ignorance in funny ways and I learned that these simple gestures are very important to them.

If children come, of which culture (and religion) do you plan to raise them?

We don’t have plans yet when it comes to children, but we do plan to move back to the Philippines in 5 years so most likely, our future children will be raised there.

What’s your favorite way of spending time together?

muslim-christian interfaith marriage

When we were both students, we loved clubbing and going to trips on holidays, enjoying the beach or visiting some tourist spots in the Philippines. But our best past time is simply staying at home and cooking. We love making banana cakes.

What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?

We are both verbal on what we want and need. Romance will never fade if we are open to our partners about our needs (esp. physically). We always say thank you and give compliments, whether it´s one doing favor for the other or a team work.

What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial/interfaith marriage? Would you recommend interfaith marriage?

Be familiar with your partner’s culture and traditions (do a research or ask your partner about it) so when the time comes that you have to mingle with his/her extended family, you won’t be surprised anymore and you already know what to do.

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GC

I am a Caucasian and had been married to a a Thai woman. unluckily, ours is not a marriage made in heaven so I am currently going through a legal process with my Thailand divorce attorney. the sad reality here in thailand is that intercultural marriages are escalating but so with intercultural divorce cases http://www.thailand-lawyer.com/divorce-faqs.html…great to hear about your story and wish you both prosper and be together till the end of time. cheers!

Glee

Hi GC, I´m sorry to hear about your divorce but having had lived in Thailand for 6 years, I saw this rate increasing with my own eyes. I knew quite a number of Thai women who married or co-habited with a foreigner producing bicultural kids only to break up. I think that the increase of intercultural rate divorces can also be attributed to the fact that Thai women (as well as many other Asian women) see intercultural marriage as a means to elevate their economic status but are less educated with the difficulty of such union.

I wish you the best and I pray that you be blessed with a happy marriage soon.

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