Iranian Women and Boundaries

In the year of 2008, I had the opportunity to attend several meetings with women and men within my community.  In one specific female only group, I had the chance to discuss topics that women appreciated greatly.  In three different sessions extended over couple of months, I managed to listen to these women’s concerns while I answered their questions to the best of my ability.
In all our conversations, one concept frequently came up: “I do not expect anything.” Culturally we know that people use this phrase to show their humble attitude, yet the real issue is more than being humble.
In the discussion about boundary settings and healthy relationship, women would admit having no boundaries, while they were too proud of “not having any expectations.”  In our Iranian culture women are raised to be in service for men, children, and others; in a more altruistic format.  We learn that having expectations for ourselves is terrible and something to be ashamed of.  Most of the middle age women in this group would admit giving service in an unlimited form.

A couple of women expressed their understanding for how not having boundaries is about not respecting the Self.
We should bear in mind that conversations in this level are new for many of our women.  In the group we managed to state that our goal of these discussions was not to find the best reasonable or psychological problem solving skills.   Our topic was all around healthy relationship, boundary or limit setting, and parenting.
Below is a summary of what was said and heard.  We should be conscious about the reservation for lost words in translation and also this writer’s biased listening skills.
By reading between the lines and the used words, we can appreciate the level of separation and incongruency surrounding our Iranian family relationships (although in a small sample of participants).

This is a summary of what women were reporting about themselves:

•    I do not expect anything in life.
•    I do not want anything just love.
•    How do I keep a good relationship with my husband’s family?
•    How do I keep my relationship with my parents?
•    I have hard time talking to my adult child in Iran. He would not listen to me.
•    Problem with saying “no.”
•    Distance relationship with husband in Iran, he lives there and visits us here once in a while.
•    I do not want other people’s bad eyes. So I do not say anything.
•    I cannot talk to anyone easily. I fear a lot and concerned of my husband attitudes….
•    In parenting, how much my words and my husband’s words should be the same?
•    My children find me hard / rigid.
•    I cannot say no to others in my home.
•    I cannot say no, cannot apologize.
•    I may be able to say sorry to a friend, yet mostly although I am wrong, I cannot apologize.
•    I fear illness, weakness, I fear becoming ill.
•    I have two teenagers, who are the reason for conflict between me and my husband.
•    My husband give them too much space, he blames me, saying you are too harsh.
•    My daughter is married and my son has his own life, I do not get involved I their life at all. I show no difference, no reaction in what they do.
•    Should we intervene in our adult children’s life or not?
•    We live in western cultures; still we have our Iranian culture.
•    What should we do? What culture should we follow?
•    I cannot say no to anyone, it is bad.
•    I do everything I can for others, yet once I am injured emotionally I cannot tell them.
•    How do I get my children to search for jobs?
•    My adult son he is 30 and still lives with me, he will not move out.
•    How do I get my adult children find their own life?
•    I cannot set up boundaries, they ask me to do everything for them.
•    I manage to be kind to everyone; do not expect anything for myself.

February 27, 2009

Poran Poregbal

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