You’re getting older,” they say.
We all need and want healthy relationships. Yet, why am I being told to compromise on my core values to have a relationship? I don’t see anything “healthy” about that.
Since moving to Beirut, friends abroad ask, “did you meet anyone?”
Friends in Lebanon ask, “Can we introduce you to someone?”
Others tell me that I need compromise in order to meet a man, reminding me, “You’re 39, not 25. You can’t be too picky.”
Compromise is not enough
I understand compromise is an important aspect of a relationship. Not everything is fairytales and rainbows. Realistically, Mr. /Mrs. Perfect or a 100% match does not exist. Relationships take hard work and effort.
Meeting people for a living allowed me to learn to welcome opportunities to get to know different kinds of men. I have compromised, oftentimes too much, and always felt something was missing.
In my relationships, compromise at times was not enough. Certainly, compromise was not always the answer.
Pain and lessons learned
I have been cheated on, lied to, and disrespected. Relationships were not always tumultuous, as I have also been blessed to be loved, elevated, and inspired. Being able to travel and visit other communities, I met many types of people. (Oh, the stories to tell.)
The momma’s boy, badass, religious, affluent, humble, and arrogant jerk; all have shown me what I want and don’t want in a man. By now, I know what I desire in a partner.
Each of these different types of people have taught me valuable lessons. Learning about myself and my needs over the years, I realize there are some things that I simply refuse to compromise on.
Not necessarily does that make me selfish or picky. It simply makes me a woman who knows what she wants in a relationship and partner.
We all have “must-haves.” For me, there are (5) that I refuse to negotiate on.
- Faith: For me, faith is a key factor when looking to meet someone. Without strong faith, I doubt we can find much to agree on. Drinking, drugs, clubbing, and an improper lifestyle are not for me. As a God conscious person, I am connected to my Creator. Faith keeps me mindful, focused, and in tune with my convictions. It is Islam and my faith that help when I struggle. Those things are what reassure me when difficulties arise. God comes first, for me.
- Respect for Self and Others: Self-respect and respect for others is not something you can easily teach to an adult. Respect is taught early on and becomes an inherent trait. If he treats others with disrespect, especially those within his family and inner circle, walk away. At some point, your turn will come to receive it. I’ve dealt with enough rude or malicious people in life. I am not interested in going down that road, again.
- Trust one another: Trust is essential to a quality relationship. To flourish and develop with a healthy outlook, one must have trust as a core of its foundation. Trusting one another helps to pave the way for quality decision making and weathering external factors that could impact your relationship. I listen to my gut and trust my instincts. When in a relationship, if that red flag goes up, I am following it. Too many times I “compromised,” and instead was disrespected and humiliated. I learned from those lessons.
- Open Communication: Communication is fundamental. Being able to communicate with each other, verbally and physically, is vital for a healthy relationship. Communication opens opportunities to share experiences, ideas, thoughts, and discuss matters of concern. If I cannot share my thoughts and feelings, then why have a companion in the first place?
- Stability: Intellectually, emotionally, mentally and financially. A healthy mind and spirit is important to me. Our emotional and mental health is vital for development and growth, individually and with our partner. Financial stability is essential when building a future and can be the root of many issues that arise within a relationship.
Matchmaking efforts started
While chatting with a friend, she told me I needed to compromise and understand that many men in Lebanon do not have high incomes. She wants to introduce me to someone.
Sadly, educated men with relatively “good” jobs in Lebanon are not making more than $1500-$2000 a month.
Yes, there are amazing men in Lebanon. Mashallah (God bless them). Economic circumstances are real and heartbreaking here.
Though, I do not feel compelled to look past it. I don’t feel I can. Perhaps I would have ten years ago, but not now.
Statistics are real
According to Numbeo, the average monthly salary in Lebanon is $1,038.03 USD. InvestLebanon in 2016 noted that World Bank showed that 70% of Lebanon makes an annual income of $10,000 USD.
Explaining to my friend of my unwillingness to compromise on finances brought a side eye. I am not sorry that at my age and place in life, I am not looking to work and be the breadwinner. Certainly not so I can simply have a companion.
Am I wrong to want a headache free life?
Since I am sure this provokes some eye rolls, let me explain.
I am 39 years old and an independent woman and professional. Never having been married, nor engaged, I have worked hard to get to where I am in life.
Indebted to no one, I put myself through school, paying for all necessities and bills since I was 16. I climbed the ladder of success with the support of my amazing parents and siblings.
I did it all, on my own.
I struggled, sacrificed, and earned my place at the table.
It was a hard journey filled with obstacles.
I grew up in a home where both parents worked, though my father was the sole provider for our family. My mother’s income provided supplement for additional needs or enjoyments in life.
Lila and Mohsen were a team and elevated and supported one another. I don’t see that much, these days.
(Lila and Mohsen – aka – Mama and baba)
(Yuck! They still going, 43 years strong)
I was raised with Islamic principles and an Islamic foundation and that the man’s role in the home was that of a provider. Patriarchal or not, I am comfortable with those gender roles and never saw them to be a hindrance in life.
Islamically, the provision of expenses for the spouse and family is the husband’s responsibility. A woman, if she works, is not obligated to spend her income on the household. It is her decision to do so.
A woman’s earnings are her property and the husband has no right to it.
So it says
Al-Islam.org explains “A man must finance all his partner’s expenses, even if she is wealthier than he. The necessity of nafaqah (the right of the wife) is one of the certain commandments of Islam. If a husband does not pay it, it remains a debt upon him and must be paid on demand. If he refuses to pay nafaqah, an Islamic religious magistrate may divorce them at the wife’s request.”
Islamweb.com explains in regard to the woman’s financial responsibility that: “A woman in Islam does not shoulder any financial obligations; it is the man who shoulders this responsibility in the family. It is the duty of the father or the brother, before she is married to look after her lodging, boarding, clothing and financial aspects, and it becomes the duty of her husband or her son, after she is married. If a woman works, which she is not forced to – all earnings she makes are absolutely her property. She is not obliged to spend from it on the household, unless she wants to do so with her free will. Irrespective how rich the wife is, the duty to give lodging, boarding, clothing and look after the financial aspects of the wife remains that of the husband.”
I’m no feminist in this regardIslamically, I feel I have the right to expect my spouse, especially at this stage in my life, to be able to take care of our home and family, financially. I say this in the most humble of terms.
I am not materialistic and do not expect designer purses, shoes, and a palace. Even if I have the money, I don’t buy them for myself. Rather, I expect the basic necessities to be taken care of and my income (if any) to supplement, not be the main source.
If my imaginary spouse cannot take care of the basic finances, then why would I get married? I can honestly share that I am not interested in a companion that I have to fund, myself. If I want to take care of another human, financially, then I would rather adopt or have a child and invest in them.
Partners in life
Mom and dad worked together for our family. Dad took care of everything, financially. When we struggled, mom supplemented. Dad was also taking care of his parents and some siblings for quite some time, too.
They made it work, though mom was never obligated to contribute.
Baba helped out at home. This was unconventional in most patriarchal Arab homes. Mom would prepare and dad would complete dinner. He would bathe and feed us, cook meals, and was always present, supporting our activities and endeavors.
(Mom’s InstaGram post last week on dad making stuffed zucchini and grape leaves)
Far from traditional
Gratefully, I did not grow up in a traditional Arab home. My father was intricately involved in our upbringing and our lives. He did not lounge around while mama prepared mountains of food, cleaned, and took care of the children.
If you ask him, he will tell you that mom is the boss of the house. *wink*
(Dad feeding my niece, Zaynab)
(Dad feeding my best friend Josephine’s son, Paulie)
Witnessing this, I knew what it meant to be in a home where a couple were partners. They inspired a generation of future leaders with their activism and advocacy work. They supported and uplifted one another.
Most importantly, they loved, respected, and trusted each other. They raised their children with faith and ethics, hand in hand. May God bless them and keep them healthy and prosperous.
I only know what I see
Whether in Dearborn or Beirut, I meet men 40+ who are looking for a wife to take care of them, their home, and their children (if they have from a previous marriage). They find women like me intimidating because we don’t “fall in line.”
Through these people, I have learned that age can simply be, just a number. Being over a certain age does not make you mature. Everyone was raised differently.
“But you need someone to take care of you,” they say. Though, I don’t get it. It seems that if it is for convenience, I would be doing most of the taking care of.
Convenience is not for all
There are marriages based on convenience, for both males and females. If this is suitable for you, then good for you. As an adult, you make decisions that are best for you. What is right for one person, is not always right for another.
Becoming an instant mom or a domestic worker is not my idea of a marriage. At 39, I desire a companion and partner in life. Someone to enjoy life with, laughing and exploring the world, together. Call it a fairy-tale; I simply call it quality companionship.
Currently, I do not have any hardships in life. Life is calm and laid back, easy going and drama free. I have an amazing family, great job, travel when I feel like it, and sleep easy at night. If a person is going to bring unnecessary drama and issues to a relationship, then I am content on my own.
Confident in who I am and where I am in life, I can comfortably refuse the baby mamma drama, ex wife craziness, and mental and emotional instability.
Knowing my value
Mama and baba never pushed marriage on me. They encouraged my independence and global adventures. Inspiring and elevating me, I was happy at home and had no reason to hurry and leave.
(Daddy and I in 1982)
(Still Daddy’s girl)
Their support and unconditional love taught me to know my value and worth. There was never a criteria they looked for in suitors; as long as he was a good person, respectful, and from a decent family.
Dad never asked their bank account info. All he would tell them is, “She has been comfortable under my roof, I ask that you give her the same life or better.”
May God sent me a partner as half as good as my baba. I would be blessed.
Loving myself and being whole helps me to fully understand what I deserve; someone to love and respect me the way I love and respect myself.
Truly learning my value and worth took some time.
Often, I stopped short of following through with what was best for me because I didn’t want to hurt others. This mentality made me hurt myself to spare others. That is not healthy.
I should always come first. There is no selfishness in doing what is best for your mental and emotional well-being.
Know your worth and what you bring to the relationship. You are not selfish or arrogant for recognizing your own needs and what you want of the world you live in.
Being in tune with your emotional, mental, and physical needs is a good thing. Celebrate it. Compromising on core values does not make you selfish, it makes you honest with yourself.
(At U.S. Department of State for Global Ties and IVLP receptions)
“If you learn to really sit with loneliness and embrace it for the gift that it is…an opportunity to get to know YOU, to learn how strong you really are, to depend on no one but YOU for your happiness…you will realize that a little loneliness goes a LONG way in creating a richer, deeper, more vibrant and colorful YOU.”
― Mandy Hale,
Another time, another answer
Honestly, at 25, my answer would have been different. Hand in hand, we would work together towards building a future.
At 39, I have a different outlook. Times change and age and life lessons change your views. If I am meeting a man over 35 and he doesn’t have a decent job or stability, then what is the point? Simply for companionship?
If I have to pay the majority of bills, clean, cook, and potentially have children, I will resent him.
Companionship is not worth my exhaustion or struggle so a man can be comfortable as a result of my income provision.
Helping out at home is one thing, being the main financial provider, is another.
In no way to I desire to be the bread winner of my home. Not unless I am alone in that home.
Have some non-negotiables
There are many things I can compromise on in life. My 5 non-negotiable items still stand. I learned them during the last 20 years of experiences with men and friendships.
Faith, trust, communication, respect, and stability are core to a solid foundation for relationships. Compromising in the past on these five things only resulted in failures.
Leave it to God
At the end of the day, I leave it to God. Only He knows what the world will bring and I am content where I am. Alhamdulillah (all praise be to God) that my confidence and spirit are strong.
Being alone does not mean you are incomplete. I refuse to let anyone make me feel like I am less of a woman because I am single and without biological children.
On my own, I am complete and whole. I’ve promised to love myself, completely and without conditions.
Inshallah (God willing), He will bring me someone who will bring more happiness and comfort to my world than I already have. When the time is right.
It’s all naseeb (destiny).
(Dear God, please keep me patient. Thanks!)