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American Man in serious relationship with Turkish Woman

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I met a Turkish woman in America four months ago.  We've been dating exclusively for three months.  She's been in the country for five to six years going to school, but got a job semi-recently where she intends to stay for several years.  She told me that until she got the job, she was planning to return to Turkey and was close to buying her plane ticket back.  More recently, she said that I'm the reason why she wants to stay, despite the fact that she (obviously) misses her family, friends, and home. We're deeply in love and we've discussed marriage and children and what that means to both of us, as well as the implication of meeting her parents, i.e. either we get engaged in the near future or we break up.  I'm gainfully employed, as is she.  We each have what are considered prestigious positions in Turkish culture.  Any kids we had would be well-supported and well-educated.


I have no intention of ever permanently moving to Turkey, except possibly in retirement.  There are no companies there for me to work in my chosen field; it really is as simple as that.  She's aware of my desires and we've discussed the idea of living in Europe since neither of us really like the direction my country is headed.  She was raised to distrust Americans and has unashamed prejudices against cultures that aren't from the Mediterranean, which I'm trying my best to break through.  She said she would have never considered the possibility of ever being in a relationship with an American until she met me.  She was raised to think we all get divorced at the drop of a hat and that we aren't close to our families (that our parents kick us out of their homes as soon as we turn 18).  This may be true of the very poor and our celebrities, but I'm very close to my fully-intact family, even if I don't see them often due to where I work and where they live (it was a career-making job offer and they were supportive of it.)  She said that I'm starting to change her mind about Americans, and that if she were to meet more people like me, then she might be able to have some of her ideas changed.  Up until now, she has only really associated with Turkish people who live in the US, and since moving to this new city, has only made an effort to connect with other Turkish people.  


I'm an atheist raised by Christians, while she's a non-practicing Muslim raised by devout Muslims (her mother's family is especially conservative). Her parents had an arranged marriage and had only met once before the engagement and subsequent wedding.  She says they don't really love each other.  She says she wants to marry for love.  I know that she wants any kids we have to be raised with Muslim beliefs, if only to instill in them the belief in a god and to satisfy her distant relatives.  I told her that any child of mine will learn to study their religion and many other religions as well.  She agreed that that was a reasonable course of action.


Before she came to the US, her parents tried to arrange a wedding for her, which she refused.  In college, she had two Turkish boyfriends that she wanted her parents to meet.  They denied the first one for a reason that I haven't heard.  The second, they refused to meet.  She followed their wishes and she broke up with both of them.  She keeps seesawing on whether she would go against their wishes in my case, depending on how we're doing that particular week and for a multitude of other reasons.  The sense I get is that she says that we would be together in spite of them because she knows that's what I want to hear, but when it really comes down to it, she'll fold under their pressure.  She has a habit of agreeing to do things and later going back on her word, which is a source of considerable conflict between us.  For example, she broke up with her last boyfriend within the last year and he kept texting her, saying hurtful things to her, and I can only assume poisoning her against me.  I told her that she needed to break off contact.  At first, she refused to cut off contact, saying she didn't want to burn her bridges the way she has in the past, since they were best friends and were together for so long.  It was damaging our relationship and I brought it up several more times, during which time she promised to stop talking to him, though she's broken that promise twice already.  If I had to guess, I would think that she's still texting with him, but I'll have no way of knowing until she brings him up in conversation or unless I directly ask.  I don't want to ask (or have to ask, for that matter), as it will probably start another argument over it.  This is the main thing that makes me doubt her feelings for me.


I've been feeling handcuffed in our relationship, like I can't argue with her about our cultural differences or criticize her flaws at all.  She doesn't hesitate to insult my culture, trivialize it or make sweeping generalizations about it, but as soon as I breathe a word of what's wrong with hers, she plays the victim and says that I'm trying to Americanize her and am forcing her to compromise her values, never changing anything about myself in the process.  I feel that I'm always forced to give up ground to appease her, that she says she's changing herself but (as I mentioned above) I just don't see the effect.  


And then there's the sexual issue, which I know people are going to connect to the previous paragraph, but please believe me when I tell you that they are separate problems.  I have slept with my share of women before.  She had not done anything besides kissing and light petting until she met me.  She told me at the outset of the relationship that "sex is off the table" and that as long as I didn't hide it from her, I could sleep with other women.  I insisted that I wasn't going to cheat on her with other women, to which she said "It's not cheating if you don't hide it from me."  I haven't been unfaithful, and I refuse to do that.  She's suggested it multiple times, and I recently made her promise to not bring it up and again.  She is a very passionate, beautiful girl and we've gone beyond her normal limits in moments of passion, but she's still a virgin.  She feels very guilty afterwards, even though she says she likes it during.  She pushes me away emotionally and picks fights with me when she feels guilty about it, which really hurts me.  My worry here is that even if we do end up getting married, the shame and guilt about sex that she had instilled in her during her upbringing still isn't going to go away.  Even mentioning some acts, not even suggesting that we do them at all, makes her squeamish and draw back in horror.  I'm not a disgusting pig; she says that she feels intense desire for me, which I believe from the way she acts around me, but I feel like this squeamishness and all-around reluctance is something that I'll have to fight against our entire lives.  


She told her sister about us and how we've been getting more serious.  She apparently doesn't approve for the reason that she doesn't think the relationship will last, that I would divorce her at the first sign of trouble, and that the differences in our two cultures would be too much to overcome.  I still think she doubts my feelings because of this.  We're both very stubborn, very proud, and very intelligent individuals.  We each want to take the lead in this relationship, and that leads to the most strife.  I feel that she expects me to be a doormat and as someone who for a long time has valued his independence above all else, I'm not inclined at all to take on the submissive role.


Can anyone with an objective view say whether these problems can be overcome?  Is the gulf between the cultures too big?  Do I have any chance at all of receiving her parents' approval for marriage, even if we go forward with it?

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She sounds a lot like typical Turkish girl - well of course I have no experience, but what I heard of them. She seems to struggle whether to be modern or follow rules and values she has been taught. I can't say much to help, but I feel sorry for you and what you are getting through, it must be hard. But don't worry about sex, once you get married (including religious marriage) she won't feel guilty anymore.


I don't think neither of you should compromise who you are. If you cannot put your lives together as you are, then there is no future anyway.

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My heart breaks for the situation you are in PNWesterner.  From reading your situation, it seems like everything is ok, until she starts to over think it.  I get where she's coming from, there's a lot of pressure to be a good girls and not disappoint your family, while still doing what you want -- and I'm an American girl from the West Coast, so I can only imagine that the pressure she feels is much more amplified.    I have to agree with Fen, however, that neither of you should compromise who you are and if you can't find a common middle ground then you are in for a lot more questions in the relationship.  I wish you luck.  I know what it's like to be in love with a Turkish male, which has presented its own set of numerous questions.. but in your case, she's right there, and you can talk to her and work through things. Communication is always key.  Again, best of luck to you.

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What concerns me the most is her lingering contact with an ex and the fact that you feel deep inside that she'll cave to her parents.


Would they accept you?  Well, you'd have to convert.  Are you willing to go through that hoop just to appease them?


As for the sex, the guilt's from not being married.  Once you are blessed in that sense, sex is supposed to be a celebratory aspect of the marriage in Islam, so I'd not worry about that.  My MIL who is very religious bought me sexy lingerie, lol! 


I'd sit her down and put the cards on the table.  It's either fish or cut bait at this point, I'm afraid.

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  • 2 months later...

It's been several months now and I figured I should give an update rather than leave everyone hanging in suspense. Not long after my post, she and I had several breakups and makeups. The day I posted, she picked me up from the airport, and as we were laying in bed, about to go to sleep, she told me she had planned to break up with me that day, but changed her mind when she saw me and hugged me. This signaled to me that she was having a lot of the same doubts as I was, and that there was no chance of a future.

A few days later, I told her I wanted to end it and laid all my cards on the table: her deception, her dangling the carrot of meeting her parents, her hypocrisy when it came to criticism, her inability to give or receive sexual pleasure, her unashamed nationalism and racism, her obsession with money and status, her cultural insularity, and the overall baggage associated with having such a relationship: everything. She took it to mean that I didn't want to try anymore and that I was blaming her for all our problems, which wasn't the case. She also accused me of breaking up with her because I wanted to end it on my terms, which was partially true.

Anyway, I caved. I loved her too much and took her back. Two days later, she decided to break it off with me. This time it was on better terms, and we said that if we could give 'us' a break, there might be a time when we could be better for each other: that it was an issue of timing. We were each in a transition period and were each at the beginnings of our careers, not knowimg anything about the future. The ambiguity killed us as much as anything.

Like fools, we kept seeing each other, kept pushing the envelope, kept falling back into easy patterns, having no control over ourselves. The tension kept bubbling to the surface and we both said terrible things to each other. I told her I didn't want to speak with her or see her anymore, which she got super pissed about. (Going back to that habit of staying in touch with ex-boyfriends again.) Anyway, we still work together, and after briefly resolving our feelings of anger, there is now almost constant tension between us. She made it a rule that we should never be alone together outside of work. We are snapping at each other. I don't respect her total subservience to her parents. Every decision she has made has been because she didn't want to deal with the pressure her parents would put her under. If she didn't want to fight for me, then she wasn't worth it, upbringing or not. The more I find out about the culture, the less I respect it. Talking to her was like talking to somebody with her mother sitting on one shoulder and her father on the other, whispering in her ear what she should do. She is weak. And now I hate and resent her for it because I still love her in spite of it. I no longer believe east and west should mix.

Her parents are coming to the country in a few months to visit her. They will be living with her during that time. I fully expect her to announce that she is moving back to Turkey once they get here.

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I'm sorry things didn't work out PnWesterner, but in this case, it seems like the relationship was doomed to fail at some point.  It bites that there is tension, and that she isn't strong enough to stand on her own - but maybe her moving back home will ease any tension you're feeling at work as well and allow for you to move on to a healthier relationship with someone where there is mutual respect.  Best of luck to you :)

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Funny thing: the ex-boyfriend who was living in Istanbul was sent by his company to New York for training. He took a flight from there to Seattle on his own dime to visit her and their friends this past weekend, and they spent the whole time going to romantic destinations around the city. Makes me sick to my stomach. Does that sound like an action from someone who wants a platonic relationship? Her words during the relationship were 'I realize that I never loved him. I just felt pity for him.' I was right to question her all along. I just want her out of my life.

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So, it came to a head tonight.  I sent her a really long text message saying how embarrassed I was, and how terrible it makes me feel that she lied to me the whole time about not having feelings for him.  She admitted to having feelings for him and that they had something special.  She denied lying to me until I quoted her texts back to her, at which point she admitted to that too and said that she didn't want to talk about it or to talk to me at all.  She's hurt me terribly.  I'm giving serious thought to sending emails to the ex-now-actually-boyfriend with our text conversations and to her father talking about all the 'interesting' things she's been up to here in the States.  He and her mother would most likely be on the next flight here.  I'll give myself a few days to think on it.

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............... I'm giving serious thought to sending emails to the ex-now-actually-boyfriend with our text conversations and to her father talking about all the 'interesting' things she's been up to here in the States.  He and her mother would most likely be on the next flight here........


Been there, done that, don't waste your time and energy. The male urge for revenge is just destructive. Sure you're bitter but will it achieve anything? You might not even know if it does. OK you found someone and they turned out to be unsuitable for you, leave it be and go and find someone who IS suitable for you.


Çukurbağlı's blog. Warning - takes you off the forum and into the www.wilderness


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I work with this girl. I have to see her nearly everyday. Where her parents stand, she has half a brain. If they demand that she comes home, she will probably cave. And that means a more positive work environment for me. That is what I hope to achieve. Sending the texts to the boyfriend is admittedly less effective.

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I'm giving serious thought to sending emails to the ex-now-actually-boyfriend with our text conversations and to her father talking about all the 'interesting' things she's been up to here in the States. 

Seriously? How old are you ? 16...? lol If you really want revenge, I assume she - your ex- is a brunette, find a lovely blondie to show up at work one day. She will hate it haha

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I'm sorry, but please don't blame your situation on Turkish culture.  The fact that you don't respect it means that it never would have worked out, anyway.


What's wrong with feeling duty to your parents???


You sound a bit immature if you can't put this in a corner at work.


Be a man.  Grow a pair.  Shun her.  Break free. 


You sound a bit codependent to me if you can't just say "f" her and walk away... without p*ssing on a whole country's long standing traditions of being loyal to family.


This is more about you and less about her, IMHO.

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PnWesterner - If I may suggest, stop trying to justify your anger towards her to her.  Be the bigger person.  It's difficult, believe me, but the truth is that women talk.  You work with her, and unfortunately you will get a reputation at work and then you'll find yourself needing to defend your actions. You can get through this.  Just tolerate her during the day.  Address her professionally when necessary and keep your personal life away from her. The best revenge is going to be when she wonders what is going on with your life and she won't have access to the information or the knowledge.  Eventually it will eat at her and she'll lose sleep over it. But until then, you're actually empowering her by your actions - don't give her that power.


Semper - seriously?  you went the "find a lovely blondie" route?  She won't care -- US brunettes usually don't give blondes a second thought when they're used as an attempt to make us jealous.  


Just my .02

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Stop flogging this woman, she probably does not deserve it from what you have written us so far.


I do not know why you would use a public forum for airing of such a private situation, that is what family and friends are for. You are trying to justify your actions on this forum, it is all about you, you seem intent upon revenge, and it appears you need some serious help. Find yourself a good therapist, or priest, or friend and get over it, you are way over the top with this situation.

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I've decided to take the advice of my friends and a few of you and not send our conversations to the boyfriend and her father. I'm not sure how effective any of that would be, and I don't want to risk making the situation at work worse. Until last week when we had the argument, there was always a thought at the back of my mind that I could forgive her and that she would forgive me and everything would be happy again. Now that that is gone, I'm actually a lot happier than I have been for a long time. I guess any resolution is better than no resolution. She's already been down this path with this guy before and her parents refused to even meet him. Nothing has happened since then that would make them change their tune, and she will listen to what they say, even at the expense of her own happiness. I don't feel anger towards her. I feel pity that she can't think for herself (not talking about marriage, which is obviously a big deal), even in the most basic decisions.

I am happy to be finished with her, and looking forward to the time when I don't have to feign respect at work.

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Semper - seriously?  you went the "find a lovely blondie" route?  She won't care -- US brunettes usually don't give blondes a second thought when they're used as an attempt to make us jealous.  


It was a joke lol I'm a brunette myself and I still find his revenge plans very funny.

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