Many Iranian children today are affected by what many people call an American problem: divorce. What people don’t realize, however, is that with Iranian couples, America is hardly to blame. Having been born and raised in the United States by Persian parents who came here in the early 70s, I have an unbiased account of the slow crumbling of their marriage.
The problem is that many “baby boomer” Iranians do not know what it means to be a couple. They were raised in homes where the father did all of the work and the usually illiterate wife sat at home and did everything her spouse instructed. Needless to say, much has changed since then.
The problem with the majority of Iranians that left their homeland at young ages is that they never witnessed the transformation of how couples treat each other. This also exists within Iran today, where in many rural areas marriages still exist as they did generations ago. While the major problems seem to usually lie with the husband, the wife is never free of blame. Due to their adolescent circumstances, many moving to a completely different country at the young age of eighteen, they never learned how to be treated as wives.
By the time they reached maturity, where a woman learns relationship skills, many Iranian women were left independent and learning how to survive on their own. Although this independence is a great skill, they come to expect it even after marriage. Very few of the world’s societies are matriarchal, and neither the United States nor Iran are one of them.
The major problem, however, seems to lie with Iranian husbands. Many were raised and even instructed to believe that the male has absolute authority in the house and nobody can voice their opinions if they go against his. The roles of men and women have changed, however, and families are no longer like this in America or in Iran.
The husbands must understand that their wives work as many forty-hour weeks a year as they do and supplement half, if not more, of the income. Even with the issue of finances aside, every adult needs to be treated with the same amount of respect despite gender. Again, due to the typical Persian males’ upbringing, many men do not understand and can not even begin to grasp this.
When the woman’s independent spirit is combined with the male’s sexist attitude, “mobarak” starts playing and the couple feed each other cake. The fun and dances rarely lasts, however. Although no major problems start during the first few years of marriage, situations tend to get complicated when children arrive. Now the woman doesn’t quite know how to take care of her newborn while still being completely independent and the husband sees that he can’t boss his wife around as much because her hands are tied up with little Babak.
Most Iranian parents also have opposing views on how to raise children. When the child, whether male or female, reaches its teenage years, parenting techniques begin to differ.
The mother wants her son/daughter to be completely independent but not to make the same mistakes that she did and not to go through all of the hardships she faced by leaving her family and homeland at age 18.
The father, on the other hand, wants his son to grow up to be an alpha male and family supporter, but unfortunately can not send him through the same sarbazi program that he had gone through.
Fathers tend to want their sons to have freedom, experiment with alcohol and driving on their own, whereas these ideas make any Iranian mother faint. Fathers expect their daughters to get straight A’s and go straight from high school to UCLA Medical School. Makeup and hair dye are out of the question (until the mother steps into the argument). While these seem like miniscule and ridiculous ideas that can split marriages, these are the very disagreements that leave so many Iranian children growing up with divorced parents.
Let us again use Babak as an example. Babak is eighteen years old and just graduated from high school, now on his way to Santa Monica College. One night during dinner with the family, Babak picks up his dad’s beer and pretends to drink it, knowing it gets his mother upset.
After laughing at her anger, dad pipes up and says that when he and Zohreh (Babak’s mom), were both 18 they would drink and have fun all the time, and now when its Babak’s turn it has become “kaseyi dagh tar az aash.” Here is a perfect example of how Iranian males don’t understand changing times.
First of all, drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the United States and even if Babak was thinking about it, he would never let his parents know. The main problem with this, however, is that when they were drinking at age eighteen, there was no way their parents knew about it.
Mothers (especially Persian ones) always see their sons as flawless angels that will one day make some undeserving girl happy. They cringe simply at the thought of their son drinking even if he was forty. So it’s easy to see how an argument ensues, ruining everyone’s dinner and hurting nobody more than Babak, thinking it was completely his fault.
I believe that the only solution for all of this is for Iranian husbands to just shut up the majority of the time. Sorry guys, but I plan on being like this with my own wife if it serves as the only way to save my marriage. They believe that simply because their dads were all powerful in their households, they have to be too and nobody else can tell them what to do.
Iranian husbands need to look around at their American counterparts. Learn how to treat women with the same respect you would like to be treated yourself. Understand that times have changed, in more aspects than one, since you were a young boy playing soccer in Tehran’s dirt roads. Even if you lived in Iran today, equality between spouses is key and often is the only thing needed to save children from a lifetime of emotional stress.