Our sixth wedding anniversary is going to take place, God willing, in four months’ time. Just like any marriage, our relationship has had its ups and downs, its smooth sailing days and its rocky days, its consistencies and its challenges. But the one thing we are sure to have is each other’s support. We are both consciously invested in our marriage. We do not allow outsiders to have their way when it comes to our relationship. No third party, no matter how close, has enough power to make or break our relationship. No matter how hard and repeatedly they try. We’ve had people tamper with our wedding, attempt to bring back exes into our lives, try to stir trouble, try to throw false blame, always whine and moan, etc … you name it! Almost every sort of inappropriate intervention that could happen, did happen. Aside from God protecting our union, we were sure not to let anything permanently affect us, even on the inside. Why should we let something like that bring us down when such behavior only speaks of the person committing it? We work hard on our relationship, on a daily basis, and can only hope that we have the strength, patience and resilience to continue to do so for as long as we live. We do not intend on parting, ever, but if we ever do, God forbid, it will be a mutual decision and something that we both contend to for whatever reasons, third parties not being one of them for sure.
But placing our wedding bands on each others’ fingers didn’t magically cause us to unite in heart and soul. It took hard work even before we got married. My husband and I come from very different families, very different backgrounds and we have completely different history. We share a lot of preferences and hobbies but those that aren’t mutual are even more! We aren’t an exact carbon copy of each other, but we do complement each other and that’s what makes our union great. Our engagement period was challenging, to say the least. We barely saw each other because my parents had strict rules about meeting only once a week. Then he traveled only 2 months after we got engaged and remained abroad until our wedding, coming home as a surprise for only one week in the middle of the period to celebrate my birthday with me. I was left to represent us both when it came to our families and to take care of everything that had to do with our future life. We made it a point to speak on the phone every night though, catching up and discussing important matter regarding our future together. Like I said, we worked hard and from day one! We were honest with each other and communicated openly. When I had fears I spoke up, when he had fears he spoke up. We worked as a team and faced every challenge that was thrown our way, never letting go of each other no matter how hard things got.
Many people get into relationships hoping for the best. They take things day by day and see where the relationship will go. I used to be that way as well, using only God’s guidance (through a special prayer we Muslims have, called “Istikhara” – where you ask God to do what’s best for you since He has all knowledge and you don’t) as my light, which has never ever failed me. But with the only two prior relationships that I had, I always made the mistake of praying it after I had made a commitment and so the guidance would come in the form of circumstances leading to a break-up! However, when I met my husband I decided that I needed to make sure that how I feel and what I see match what I had always hoped for. No more compromising, no more hoping for the best, no more taking blind chances just because X seems like a decent person … not with the things that matter at least. Not everything is important and not everything can be discovered early on but the things that count are always clear and that’s what I had failed to realize when I got engaged before. Going into a relationship with good intentions and high hopes is a great thing, but one must be sure that she wants the relationship to begin with, not is just OK with it. She should also be 100% sure that she will be able to give it all what she’s got and so will her partner. Just like everything new, there has to be potential, enthusiasm and excitement. Potential for the relationship to solidify, enthusiasm for starting a new life together and excitement about the prospect of succeeding at what many others have failed to achieve – a truly happy, stable marriage!
The first step, of course, is to pick the right person to spend your life with. Traditionally, men pick women, not the other way around and then we get a say in whether we accept being picked or not. So what can a woman do in this case? The first thing she should know is that it’s OK not to reciprocate someone’s feelings. It doesn’t mean he’s bad or that anything is wrong with him, it just means that you do not make a good match and, although he did not realize that, you did! Sure, some resentment and bitterness can result from such behavior but, on the long run, when he finds his true soulmate he’ll thank you for not accepting what he had to offer. There are other situations that, in my opinion, deem it necessary not to even consider getting into a relationship with someone. Personally, I never would have accepted someone that I knew a friend of mine was in love with, someone who wants to start a relationship with me as the rebound (even if he doesn’t realize it), someone who is egotistical or full of himself and someone who I do not respect. The case maybe different with other women, it’s a matter of knowing yourself, knowing what you want and setting standards.
You can never be sure that your marriage will succeed. Millions of people fall head over heels in love and then that love subsides after they get married. Millions live together for decades before getting married yet the marriage starts becoming monotonous with every day that passes after taking those vows. Millions are carbon copies of their partners, or at least try to be, yet as the years go by they grow further and further apart. You can never be sure but you can always give it all you’ve got! That way, if the relationship succeeds then you’ll know you had something to do with it and if it doesn’t then you won’t have any regrets.
Based on my own life, I’d like to share the pieces of the puzzle that I was able to put together regarding how to choose a partner to begin with. I’m not saying I know all the answers, just my fair share. Consider me giving you the pieces that make up the outer frame (including the edges) of the puzzle that usually do not include much detail but are vital in putting the whole thing together. It’s then up to you to put together all the other pieces and come up with a beautiful, colorful, radiant puzzle full of the best details and memories that could make your heart smile. Naturally, I cannot speak for men since I do not know for sure how their minds work (although I do believe that I have got a pretty good idea ;)). So, allow me to talk to the women amongst you … this is a heart to heart, from one woman to another:
1- Honesty, honesty, honesty! I cannot stress that enough. He has to be an honest person. If he’s honest with you it means he respects you too much to lie to you. He also has to be honest with himself, he can’t be dishonest with you a hundred times and then give you a hell of a time if he finds our you were dishonest with him (which you shouldn’t be). And if he’s honest about stuff that he’s not proud of or things that aren’t necessarily positive, then you should respect him 100 times more than you already do. It means he’s a real man, he owes up to his mistakes and is strong enough to admit them to you.
2- Choose a decent person! Sure, bad boys can be interesting but they are like a storm, they are interesting from afar yet if you get too close they can pull you in and destroy you.
3- Choose a well-mannered person. Manners are important, even if you don’t normally care about how well-mannered your friends and acquaintances are. This is the man you’ll be sharing your entire life with and will be the father of your children … think about that for a minute.
4- Your basic values and principals have to match, that’s not optional! You want to be with a person who, basically, shares your most intimate and strongest beliefs. You can agree to disagree on whether chocolate ice cream or vanilla ice cream is more yummy, but not on whether or not you want to have children in the future, for example.
5- Choose a selfless person. No, not so that he’d end up doing everything you want. But because men with big fat egos actually love themselves more than anyone else in their lives, including you and your children! Their ego also yields false pride and that is almost impossible to live with. A selfless person is used to giving, and both of you will need to give your relationship all you’ve got.
6- Choose a hard-worker. He doesn’t have to be a genius nor earn a ton of money, just not a quitter. That way, he’ll always be willing to work with you on your relationship and never quit on you.
7- He has to be confident and assertive. It’s very cute when a guy is shy or doesn’t throw himself out there all the time, but you want him to be confident and assertive enough to be able to communicate openly with you. That guy that has been in love with you for 3 years and everybody knows it but he can’t work up the nerve to let you know? Not going to work. Why? He can’t talk to you about his feels, not even hint strongly, how do you expect him to perform when he has to face and stand up to other people outside of the two of you or if he has needs in your relationship that he can’t communicate? He will just clam up and you’ll have to do all the figuring out on your own.
8- Ladies’ man? Nuh-uh! That’s the number one sign that he’s got zero self-confidence, and self-respect for that matter. No truly confident man would ever need constant validation from oodles of women. It’s like he’s an unwrapped piece of candy, all eyes are on him but no one would really touch him, so why would you?
9- Choose someone who treats his mother well! Yes, I know she’s the dreaded mother-in-law, although I have to say that many of them don’t fit the stereotype. But the way he treats his mother shows you whether he respects women in general or not. If he doesn’t respect the woman who has carried him for 9 months, stayed up with him countless nights, supported him every step of the way for the past 3 decades or so and spent her life to make him happy then how do you think he’ll treat you?
10- He should have a spiritual connection with God. Whatever faith you follow, it doesn’t matter, spirituality is important in married life. The concept being that he has to understand that there is a higher being. He’s not the most important thing to ever exist out there, he needs to understand that and be humble. Him being so will make him value everything he has and work hard for everything he wants. Having that relationship with God will also make him help you establish that same level of depth of spirituality. In my opinion, that’s very important.
11- He has a past before meeting you, deal with it! His past took part in shaping him to become the person he is now. You need to understand what happened early on in the relationship and not after committing so that if it’s something you can’t live with then you can take the appropriate action. If he refuses to talk about it or things don’t seem to add up, walk away. A relationship based on lies (and yes, concealing information has the same effect) is one built on a weak foundation. One day, it’ll fall apart or you yourself will, from living with something that hurts you so bad.
12- Don’t confuse experience with a shamefully eventful life/past. They are two completely different things and a man with experience is always a plus. I’m talking experience in life, dealing with others, knowing himself, etc. Such a man can teach you so much about the world around you without even trying. His experience makes him wise and interesting.
13- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or discuss topics that may seem to be a little out there. If it has to do with something critical, a deal breaker or something absolutely necessary for the relationship to succeed then the sooner you find out the answer the better.
14- Choose someone with a healthy work/life balance. If he’s someone who is always working, he won’t have time for you and your future family. If he’s someone always playing, he won’t be responsible enough to become the head of a household. If you are with someone who is either case, you can give him a chance to see how he’ll evolve during your relationship. If he finds that balance then it means he’s making an effort, give him credit for that.
15- You should know that you want to be with him for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part … literally! Don’t take a relationship to the next step thinking, “I can get out whenever I want”. Go into it whole-heartedly, if you are half-hearted about it then take a step back and evaluate the situation.
16- Remember that he’s a person too. Don’t scrutinize his every move, look and word. We all make mistakes but you should be able to know which mistakes are just that and which are habits or characteristics that are there to stay. Don’t expect him to be perfect, remember that you are not either.
17- He has to respect your individuality. It goes without saying that the two of you will, essentially, become one. But you are also an individual on your own. You exist even if the relationship was never there. He has to know that your independence is part of who you are and not try to rob you of it.
18- Related to the point above, he should not tell you how to do things. We all make small changes to please our significant other, but nothing in our core really. If he nicely makes suggestions or discusses an issue with you then evaluate what he has to say and make the decision yourself, whether to make changes or not. But the moment that a man dictates to you how you should dress, talk, eat and behave you should turn around and run as fast as you can. You know that guy who gives you “the look” when you have white bread? Or physically removes that soggy garlic bread from your plate? He’s not your guy.
19- He has to be your one and only teammate. You are both in this together. If you face problems, you need to tackle them together. If you have issues, you need to resolve them together. If you have decisions to make, you need to make them together. If he walks out on you, even once, be prepared for him to walk away forever at some point.
20- He has to respect you on all levels. If he goes to your parents or friends and tells you off when you two have a fight, then he simply doesn’t respect you. If he tells his friends and everyone at work what a demanding person you are, then he simply doesn’t respect you. If you are one of the subjects that he and his friends have a good time making fun of, then he simply doesn’t respect you. You do not need to and should not be with a man who doesn’t respect you. If he doesn’t respect you it means he doesn’t know your worth, and if he doesn’t know your worth it means he won’t “keep” you.
21- Be all of the above and more yourself! You’re not doing him a favor by choosing him, you need to be worth being chosen yourself. Unrealistic and unmatched demands from your partner are one of the top reasons why relationships fail. If you can’t do it, don’t expect him to do it. And if he does, show your appreciation.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about the person’s looks, wealth or any other superficial characteristics. That’s because those things don’t really matter. As long as there is chemistry between you, his looks don’t really matter and you’ll see him as the most handsome person in the world. Wealth comes and goes, he can be very wealthy but not spend wisely or maybe face a financial crisis and lose everything. Always, always pay attention to his core qualities, virtues, principals, character and how he treats, respects and cares for you. If all those things add up, then nothing else is important. All superficial characteristics will change with time. They should not be the reason behind accepting someone, nor the reason behind rejecting them.