It started with a wink.
My husband David and I met on Match.com when he showed up in my weekly report of new guys on the site matching my preferences. He had an awful profile picture (think: taken with a cell phone camera in a moving car), but I loved everything else about his profile, from the description of himself to what he was looking for in a partner. So, I virtually winked at him. He sent me a message the next day
Fast forward 16 months and I was moving to Chicago as his bride.
It sounds easy enough but my road to the altar was a long and arduous one.
At the time, I was in my early 30s – long past the age that I thought I’d have met the person I was to marry. For many years it seemed hopeless. I had one disappointment after another, and dealt with pressure from my family and accusations from others that I was “too picky.” It was during this time that I wrote my piece for Love, InshAllah, where I lamented my decision not to hook up with my hot personal trainer in Sri Lanka. I thought, if I had known at 25 that I’d be single into my 30s, I may have made a different decision.
But when I met David, I finally knew why things had worked out the way they did.
The three most annoying words to a single person looking to get married are, “Just. Be. Patient.” Because I know firsthand how frustrating – and limited – that advice can be, here’s some unsolicited (but practical!) guidance from my own search:
Live your life
You may be looking for a partner – you may desperately want to get married – but what do you until then? What if you never get married? What happens if you do, but it doesn’t work out? Life doesn’t start when you get married – life is now. So make the most of your time. Travel. Connect with old friends, and make new ones. Volunteer. Go hiking. Join a book club. Watch Breaking Bad. Pick up some tools and build a table (here’s a picture of one I made from an old door).
Be open and honest
Consider everyone who comes your way. Don’t make hasty decisions based on biodata, a photograph, or even a bad first date/phone call/e-mail exchange (not everyone makes a great first impression).
Character, values, support, and a shared vision for your future are what’s important –not height, weight, and profession (all of which can and will change over the years, thank you old age, shrinkage and expansion). At the end of the day, when you’re tired and there’s a sink full of dishes, you know who is nowhere to be found? Your parents’ friends who were so impressed by your husband’s fancy degrees and your buddies who totally approved of his taste in clothes and music.
Be honest about what it is that you want, how that matches up with the expectations of your family and communicate that early and often. I was blessed with parents whose only wish was for me to marry a kind Muslim man. Race and pretty much everything else were unimportant. They trusted me to find the right person for myself, and supported me when I did.
Have an open and honest conversation with your parents about what it is you’re looking for in a partner. Start that conversation now so you’re all on the same page (or, at least, so you have time to wear them down and get them on your page).
Push past your comfort zone
Try something new – even if it makes you uncomfortable – whether that means a setup by an aunty who has been pestering you for months, a coffee invitation from that slightly strange but sweet friend of a friend, or singles’ events at the local mosque or community center.
For years, my mother pleaded, “Just get online, there are so many websites that help you find a husband!”
“No way,” I countered, “Internet dating is for losers.”
I was social and active in a number of Muslim communities and organizations, so I figured it was just a matter of time until I ran into the right guy. But, I didn’t. So, eventually I sucked it up and went online.
Meanwhile, David was working and going to school full-time. Unlike me, his Muslim circle was confined to the small congregation in the basement musalla he attended for Jumma prayer. He didn’t have time to attend the large gatherings or social events that connect young Muslims – but he wanted to meet someone, so he turned to online dating. We had no friends in common, so had we not given online matchmaking websites a chance, we would never have met.
P.S. – To this day, my mom loves to remind me that Internet dating is for “losers.”
Break down your walls
It’s human nature to protect ourselves from getting hurt. As we get older, many of us start building walls to protect our egos and our hearts. We’ve all had the experience when someone we’re talking to falls off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again (it’s those instances that make me believe there’s life on other planets – sometimes they’re called back). Or, when a friend suggests a guy who she thinks you’d be perfect for and he kind of agrees…until he sees your picture and is like, “Uhh, no, I don’t think we have anything in common.”
Look, no one wants to be rejected, but don’t take it personally (I know, I know, easier said than done). Yeah, the guy may have turned you down, but that just means he wasn’t the right person for you.
Kill the Fantasy
Too many romantic comedies have us thinking that we’re going to run into “the One,” in the produce section of the grocery store. Or, while traveling in a far-off distant land (Ok, so that really did happen to our lovely contributor Angela Collins Telles). Or, at a very minimum, that we’ll meet someone, feel a spark, and know immediately that this is the person we’re meant to spend the rest of our life with.
Sometimes that happens…but, most often, it doesn’t. It definitely didn’t happen with me.
There were no fireworks when I met David. I didn’t know right away that he was the man I’d marry. We had very different backgrounds and personalities (extrovert meets introvert, for one). But I knew he was kind, honest, and dependable. Over time I grew to love him – I enjoyed spending time with him, admired his close relationship with his family, and appreciated his patience and support of my choices and endeavors.
When we got married, I knew he was the one. But at no point in the 16 months prior to our wedding day did I ever feel that tingle I’d felt with crushes in the past.
I felt it for the first time last month. I was sick with the flu for the second time this winter. He brought home flowers, made me chicken soup, and then set up the couch with pillows and extra blankets so I would be comfortable as we both sat together and read. And, for the first time in the two years since we met, I felt that spark.
He must have felt it too because he glanced over at me to see if I needed anything else.
I smiled, shook my head…and winked.
Nura Maznavi is an attorney, writer, and co-editor of Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women and the companion anthology, Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy. A California native, she moved to Chicago last summer after marrying her husband, David.