Dear Love, InshAllah,
I find myself in a hard situation with a Muslim man I love. I write because I don’t have resources within the Muslim community and would love that perspective. I am not a Muslim woman though I have much respect for the faith.
For the past 9 months or so I have been dating a dear man from Libya who is here for school on a scholarship. From the beginning it has been clear that there are obstacles to our being together and we kept it very casual and light, but in the past few months we have become much, much closer and he expressed his love for me, and now I have allowed myself to love him very dearly also. However, what just happened a couple hours ago brought our true situation very present to me.
I am a secret to almost everyone he knows, and when he took me out to lunch at his favorite café he asked me not to hug him when I arrived, just shake hands. I understand why, I really do, but personally as a woman of 41 years old that still wants to have children, am I kidding myself to think that he might eventually come around or that it could even work at all?
He is so liberal in so many ways but I’m very uncomfortable being a secret when we have professed such deep love for each other…and he’s not just saying it, it’s true for him. But he doesn’t know what will happen with his country and situation, so I understand that too.
I would love a Muslim’s take on my situation. I am beginning to realize that this love may be an impossible hope for me…and maybe there are aspects of his faith that limit him too much to even consider a longer term, more serious relationship, no matter how liberal he seems. I know the religious and cultural tenants can be very serious and I want to see this situation clearly. Our caring for each other is very unconditional, but maybe I’m kidding myself to think this could eventually work.
Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. I invite your candor and honesty with sincerity.
In Love with a Muslim Man
Miss Sunshine replies:
Someone who cares about you won’t keep you a secret. You already know that. In fact, it’s clear to me that you know all that you need to know, you just want someone to affirm it for you. I will do that. This man will not give you what you want. Stop now before you tumble further down a hole of degradation and humiliation.
This situation is so common that over the nearly 2 decades of my life as an adult Muslim, it’s almost become cliché. I don’t say this to hurt you, but I need to my words to pierce through any illusions you may be swaddling yourself in. It is possible that this man does have very strong feelings for you, but even if he feels like he is in love with you, he is not willing to treat you lovingly by your standards. He’s got priorities that outrank you, and continuing this relationship will be a constant struggle between his family, his culture, and/or his religious views and you. And, honey, you will lose.
You. Will. Lose. You will lose more often than you win and for every hard-won, heart-wrenching victory born from arguments, tears, anger, lust, and love, there will be a million small and large losses that rob you of your self-respect. When your illusions stop swaddling, and start choking you, and you finally have the strength to end it, you’ll be left half the woman you are now. That is, if he doesn’t end it first. Leave now while it hurts a little and you still have some dignity.
I know you asked for a Muslim’s take on this issue, and I mention religion very little because what you need to understand is that this has nothing to do with religion. This is a universal truth, or at least universal enough to respect it as a rule, acknowledging that there are occasional exceptions. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re an exception. Here’s the truth, a man on the path to commitment doesn’t hide his beloved from his friends and family. He can’t or won’t be the husband and father that you seek, and it doesn’t matter if his reasons are due to culture, religion, or other things. All you need to know is that this relationship can’t give you what you want, and it will take from you more than it gives.
I sincerely hope you find the love and happiness you seek with someone who can give it to you without reservation.
Shy Desi Boy replies:
I once heard my Muslim female friend give her non-Muslim friends the following advice: if the Muslim you are dating does not tell his/her parents—or at least his/her friends—within the first year of the relationship, then walk away.
At the time, I hated to hear this advice because I was that guy—the Muslim in a relationship with a non-Muslim girl that few of my friends knew about. I rationalized this by telling myself we come from different cultural and religious backgrounds that I was not doing this to hurt her. Even when she told me that it bothered her, I did not listen. I told myself she does not understand the different context that I was raised in.
But now I know better: it was not fair. It was wrong and I regret the way I behaved towards her. Yes we come from different backgrounds but I did not do enough to understand her background.
Of course I understand that in any relationship there is a period in the beginning where you may want to keep your relationship private, where you are still negotiating your differences. But your case is different: you have dated this person for 9 month, you are 41, and you have a desire for a serious relationship that may involve having children.
I recommend you sit with your partner as soon as you can and ask about his commitment. He may say that he is still figuring things out and trying to sort out his life. That might be a fair thing to say in months 1-3. Not in month 9, especially with a woman who is 41.
Tell him how you feel by the fact that so few of his friends know about your relationship and how anxious you fell over the direction/uncertainty of your relationship. And discuss the challenges that lie ahead of you: the similarities, the differences, the shared life goals, the different life goals. Perhaps also reach out to couples who have gone through these discussions before, like a non-Muslim/Muslim couple, and ask what they did to overcome these differences.
I do believe it is possible for a non-Muslim and a Muslim to be together. I know many beautiful examples, where the couple has had to fight almost impossible odds to stay together. But life is unfair and often, but not always, life comes down disproportionately hard on the women in these relationships. And it is always a lot of work, sometimes even more work, but I do believe that we are all the better for people like you who are willing to bridge the divide.
Wishing you my best.