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Eastern Orthodox/Questioning a Relationship with a Coptic Man


Greetings Ashraf,

I am writing in hopes to gain some cultural clarity on an issue that might be plaguing (for lack of a better term) first generational, foreign men from strict upbringings who land in American with their immediate families.  
I am dating an atheist man who was raised in the Coptic Church in Egypt.  His family is unaware of his current religious view and they are also unaware of the duality of his current life; the life of dating me.  He has only been out on his own for less than a year, and I am his first girlfriend; I am Black American who was raised in a strict and traditional, southern household. We met in a very untraditional way, online, and have formed a bond that is a wonderful friendship.  Here’s the scoop on everything:
1.   Before meeting me he told his mother that he would not marry and Egyptian woman. His mother nearly fell off her chair….
2.   His parents don’t want him to even date an Egyptian-American woman, they prefer someone from back home, (Egypt).
3.   He believes that he will never get married or have children.
4.   He hounded me to become his girlfriend although I told him, after meeting that we wanted different things out of life.. (marriage, children).
5.   Over the past few months he states that the two people he wants the best for are me and his sister.. but he seems to sabotage the opportunity for his sister to fully seek marriage and he has difficulty in letting me go as his girlfriend.  
6.   I don’t believe him when he says he will never get married. I believe that he will one day understand and value parts of the way he was raised, and seek a partnership with someone and perhaps have children.
7.   I don’t believe that he will forever be away from God. I think that after he stands on his own two feet for a few years, he will understand that his “extreme” (for lack of a better term again) faith of praying in caves, constantly going to church and knowing the bible in and out is not the only way of experiencing life but a segway into finding Christ on his own and having his personal relationship with God.  And that his upbringing doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive with atheism; he can co-exist with Christ and reconcile his upbringing with a personal, non forced relationship with God.   
So I state all of this information to have some sort of equal playing field in understanding his trials and tribulations in the duality of two completely “different” cultures; it is like the pendulum swung to the far side.  I feel for him in thinking that he has to leave one life and find another and in that he has to hide his wants and feelings from the people who are closest to him, his family.  I’ve had many moments of hurt because he has rejected God completely and I also have my personal pains that I am the byproduct of his time as he finds himself.  Don’t get me wrong, I value his perspectives, his friendship, and his candor about life, but I cannot help but to wonder about and dislike the unfortunate hold that his family has on his happiness; I know that all people who come from a strong family culture have a bit of this guilt in following the expectations of family but as his current partner in life, a personal cheerleader for his success at his job, personal relationships and all around happiness, I can only look to the unlucky position he is in as he honors his family but tries to honor his feelings and desires to find out what life is like outside of his upbringing.   
I pray for him every day.  I pray for his family to find understanding in their son’s desires.  I pray for myself in having strength to see what God has for me and to be strong enough to follow it.  I pray for others who have had agency as God’s children to be protected in their choices but thankful to God for their learned experiences.  I pray all of the time.  But mostly, I pray that the history of disenfranchised people does not turn into learned behavior of judging others to the point of blindly hurting those closest to them.  
It seems to be a theme where foreigners are exposed to American ways and perhaps are excitable by those ways.  For the families of the excitable, America is good enough to seek refuge, asylum or opportunity but the people that America generate are not worthy and will diminish, destroy or infiltrate a strong culture.  It is my belief that a culture from another country cannot stay intact once a decision is made to create a home in another land.  With the transcendence of physical space comes a transcendence of beliefs.  One can cling to their virtues, beliefs, and understandings but the environment around you will always seep into your space.  Albeit the environment may not be tolerable to some, it is inevitable and always there.  And for my dear friend, that environment is something that he is drinking in while calibrating himself between old values and the new.. I just wish his family was open enough to support him, perhaps he would chose their way of life and they would not have fear that it is not good enough for him because in the long run, he is the only one who has turned his back on God and is wavering in this new found, shiny, interesting but dangerous territory.  

What practical advice do you have to give, besides praying, for my friend in safely opening up to his family about what he is going through and soliciting their support?

Thanks for reading.

Hi L,

i wish u a blessed Christmas and thnx for your question and valuable trust. I cannot read lengthy questions these days. kindly squeeze the question or divide it into three or four questions with three days between each one.

in Christ,

Eastern Orthodox

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Ashraf Nisseem


Peace be with you. I am an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox. I can answer questions about the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox beliefs, especially Coptic beliefs.


I have the knowledge to say something useful.

I teach children in my church how to read the Holy Book and other sacred books used in holy services.

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