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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question
Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1206
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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I've been seeing a Morrocan guy for almost 3 months now, one

Customer Question

Hi I've been seeing a Morrocan guy for almost 3 months now, one of those months was Ramadan so we didn't see each other during that time. I'm half Canadian and half Latina and I'm seven years older than him, I'm also a single mom. A couple of weeks ago he brought a conversation to the table about my expectations about him and us. He doesn't want a serious relationship but he says he doesn't want to loose me, he likes me and he likes what we have but at the same time he doesn't want me to have any expectations because our culture and religion are different and there is a very low percentage of possibility that we can have a future together. He is not looking for a visa or anything like that. He has a legal status here. Be like spending time with each other, everything flows nicely. But I was not expecting him to say those things, first because at this moment I was not on that page in the relationship we have but now I have this in my mind all the time. I'm sure I know what I have to do but at the same time I really enjoy his company
JA: The Psychologist will know what to do. Is there anything else the Psychologist should be aware of?
Customer: He had a Latina girlfriend a few years ago who he was willing to marry. The relationship didn't work out so they broke up. Now he says he is not ready or interested in a serious relationship and that he thinks he is afraid of one because of what happened with his last girlfriend. He even spoke to his parents about wanting to marry her and they accepted. Now with me he says that culture and religion are factors that interfere. Before he didn't care at all about age difference, now he does, he says that for the type of relationship we have he really doesn't care about the age difference but that in his culture is not well seen that a man marries an older women.... it's just seven years
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

Welcome to my couples workshop, where people 18-80 of diverse cultures & orientations have come to explore their questions and find a path of heart. You haven't asked a specific question, but I'd imagine that "what I have to do" is break up sooner or later, so why not now?

The single most likely answer for "why not now?" for single mothers is that you don't FEEL ready to enter a full-partner relationship until your children leave home. Or perhaps connect with a real father-candidate for your kids, which most mothers don't even want unless & until they have a boy or two that's reaching angry-teenager attitudes @ around 13 and becomes too much of a handful for his mom alone. Because your steady-state intimate relationship needs are adequately met by your kids, except for sex--for which a PT boyfriend is the best solution.

Your Muslim boyfriend obviously did his honest reflections during Ramadan and honored you with his truth, because his family and religion don't approve of extramarital relations and he doesn't want to be a user of you or women by his own conscience.

I don't think you need to hurry up and turn him loose, unless you're kids are teenagers and one or more of them might be unconsciously (or consciously) thinking he or she is keeping mom safe, emotionally balanced and happy and that needs to be continued for the foreseeable future. This is why single sons or daughters of single moms are statistically the last to be able to prioritize an opposite sex partner over their loyal responsibility to mom.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
My son is 6 years old and actually he likes when my "boyfriend" comes over. This guy also likes my son but we are not actually spending lots of time together. I think he is trying to keep it casual. He hasn't introduced me to his social circle either. He is 26 and I'm 33. I feel I don't want to ended up but at the same time I feel the more time passes the more I will get attached. But at the same time I'm hoping he starts developing different feelings for me so we can have a future together. I do want a real and stable relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

Your 6 year old son sounds like a very good bonding agent between you, and it's a good gift you're giving him by letting the two of them have quality time together. With that said, what your boyfriend experienced before you suggests that you are functioning as a healing relationship for his previous love, and that does make it more likely that once he is healed from his previous heartache he will shift the priorities for what leads the way in his emotional bonding energies, so he might become more focused on finding someone more acceptable to his family and his religious community for him to court and marry. And even tho you might lose him sooner, continuing your intimate and honest conversations about your thoughts and feelings could lead to a greater mutual respect and discovering/developing deeper feelings for each other than you would have "on record" (by expressing yourselves) as the meanings attached to your current infant-reionship. You're just approaching the threshold of a serious/exclusive relationship (average boundary line is 3-4 months), and he's been looking ahead to the 6month line when the first undeniable & unerasable incompatibilities show up and you have to decide how you're going to live with them, or if you'll just tuck them away out of sight and hope for the best.

I suggest that if you do talk about these choice points (3/4 months & 6 months) you have a better choice of developing a deeper-feeling relationship than if you just wait until the historical forces involved in a healing relationship drain out the effects of new love that you have now.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I feel kind of afraid of bringing this subject to the table again. I really don't know what he wants and I don't want to scare him away. What would be the best way to do it or what would be the correct things to say?. I don't want to sound desperate, I just want to do things right and not scare him away. What I want to reach is the point where he feels he wants to spend more time with me, start involving him with the rest of his life, etc... I didn't think about these things until a couple of weeks ago when he talked to me about what he was thinking. But now, it's like it never happened, like we never had that conversation, but he is still more distant than he was before Ramadan. He still spends time with me (less than before) and he doesn't take initiative. I'm the one who asks when are we going out or if we are doing something on the weekend, etc... obviously I'm not in his priority list. And I don't like to be in this position. I do like spending time with him, we have fun, everything flows well, and with him I feel I can be myself and not pretend to be different to keep him around. I feel comfortable around him until I remember the conversation we had
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

I must be honest to what I know about the clash of cultures between Islam and Western culture, even though it's not what you want to hear. I can't really scare him away, because his moral tradition, reinforced by Ramadan has already done that. I would estimate that you HAVE lost him, because of his restimulation of Islamic culture thru Ramadan--which is MEANT to do that for every practicing Muslim by taking them OUT of whatever secular culture they are living in to reaffirm their allegiance to their own God-centric culture. Unless his Muslim traditions are eroded by American culture, this will happen every year. There may be some expectations for Marroccan Muslims that Spanish women could convert to Islam when they marry a Marroccan man because of the nearness of those two countries in the Mediterranean. Muslims are not supposed to have sex before marriage. But that makes having a relationship with a secular American woman very attractive for a Muslim man from abroad, because he can "experiment with love and sex" before marriage in America and still pretend to be a virgin when he eventually marries a Muslim woman.

But you have not chosen to find out what Muslim culture means to a Maroccan man, perhaps because you ALSO did not think in advance about what might happen if you should start to have stronger feelings about him--since having an interesting (and somewhat mysterious because foreign) man Part-Time in your life could seem like a big plus for you as a single mother. Since you grew up in a love-marriage culture, you've probably expected that love is the most important factor in deciding the future of a relationship like yours. But for him, Islamic traditions and his parents as interpreters of them are BOTH more important than love in determining what he will choose for the future of this relationship.

It's a little bit similar to getting involved emotionally and sexually with a married man, and only after you find out that he is married to someone else do you realize that he is therefore betraying his family and committing adultery with you

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

Your boyufriend has realized during Ramadan that he is in effect married to Islam, so he is committing adultery with you. He knows he can't keep growing his relationship with you unless he can get his parents to approve of him marrying you in the future. So you need to realize that his culture and yours don't get along mix well when it comes to marriage. Unless you can get him to break with his religious culture and become a secular American, his commitment to you is going to keep waning until he stops coming altogether.

So if you want to have a respectful ending to your relationship, you'll need to bring it up now. He is feeling guilty about continuing to spend time with you. So you can honor the courage he had to be honest with you by doing the same with him. So then you'll be able to separate honestly and respectully instead of watch him gradually slip away.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
He was then one who said he didn't want to ended but that if I felt I needed to end the relationship after all he said I was free to do it. He is not the kind of man that is going to stay alone until he finds the Muslim wife. I guess this is what happened every time he enters a relationship with a non Muslim. But I'm sure that if it's not me he will just find another non Muslim for now