Surrendering the Heart: Some Reflections on Dating

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Those who have known me for a while now are probably aware of my openness when it comes to discussing matters of the heart, particularly when it pertains to dating. Just the other day I found myself looking back on the past nine months since my last long term relationship and what are the things learned from this period, which has resulted in many unhappy endings and false starts. This is not to say the entire time saw me being miserable and lonely; much the opposite. Looking inward, I found that I do enjoy time alone, which allows me to pursue my passions and goals without emotional baggage, and that for all my monogamous impulses (friends always joke that I am looking for a wife, which is accurate in some regards), I can enjoy the uncertainty that comes with casual dating. You may be asking at this point, ok, but how does any of this relate to Islam?

Simple: traditionally, Muslims are not expected to date without the intention of getting married; so it is stay single or settle down, no in between. Recently there have been times where I have felt the American approach to dating, where individuals of whatever gender partake in a “dance” of sorts where one’s intentions are often hidden and much confusion arises about when to ask this or that, what to say or not, to be emotionally open or to feign disinterest as to initiate a chase, just causes a lot of anxiety and false hopes. Arising from these sentiments, I have thought that perhaps I should resign myself to a Muslim matchmaker since using services like OkCupid and meeting women through friends has left me frustrated to say the least. It also does not help to have friends say, “Oh, but how are you single? You have it all.” Well, thanks, and yes, on paper it probably does seem that way, but honestly, for all the blessings that I possess, they do not ease my worried mind. It also does not help that the majority of my closest friends and some family have either gotten into relationships or gotten engaged in this nine month period. People, including my own parents, emphasize that there is no sense in fretting over this situation and just allow things to happen as they will. I get that, and part of me has accepted that as being part of God’s plan for me (perhaps a test of sorts), but still I cannot fully shake some of the loneliness and heartache.

Additionally, aside from wishing to have a partner for the sake of having company, my desire for something long-term extends to a deeper need: someone who will hopefully encourage better spiritual practice. I recall hearing a Sufi interpretation of marriage (or even a committed relationship, in my opinion) as being an opportunity for partners to enrich each other’s lives and provide support in times of hardship. While in practice, marriage within Islam, along with other belief systems, has sadly fallen short of this ideal, I do not believe trying to aspire to it is pointless.

Perhaps all of this may come off a bit melodramatic, but I stand by what I feel and in the case of this post, it has been a source of catharsis to write down my thoughts on something that has driven me up a wall these past months.

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