Advice: Not everyone has a happy ending

Dear Love InshAllah,

I’m reaching out to you now because no one in my life understands, but you might.

I always felt I never fit in, too “white” or “liberal” for my strict Muslim community in the Midwest, too “conservative”, too Muslim to be with a white guy. I met someone online who changed that, a white guy who understood. He even read ‘Love InshAllah’ because he said he wanted to understand where I was coming from.

We have been together for a year, and now it is falling apart, due to some issues he has in the past with being abandoned by his mother. He says he still loves me.

I thought he was the one for me, I still believe he is. We are on a “break” – the ball is in his court, if he decides he can “learn to be happy and deal with personal issues” we will get back together and “start over.” If not, it is over.

I feel like I will never find happiness. I’m almost 26, I’m no longer in school, I work with people who are all over 50, I don’t mesh well with the “Pakistani community” here, no big group of desi friends. Because I don’t drink, I also don’t have that many non-Muslim friends. Just four good friends from high school and everyone else is an acquaintance.

I see nothing but a life of loneliness ahead of me. No Muslim guy would want me if he knew about relationship history, and I don’t want to keep dating white guys, racking up partners, being heartbroken. I feel like each heartbreak (and this is only heartbreak #2) is taking a piece of my soul with it.

I feel like I have no options at all. I feel broken. I feel like I am going to be alone forever and I don’t know how to be happy with that. I can’t sleep but I don’t want to leave my bed either. My state of being is so painful to my family and the guilt makes it worse.

I keep hearing the “horror stories.” The 40-year-old, never-married girl, everyone trying to figure out what’s wrong with her. I’m afraid of becoming that.

Signed,
Not Everyone Has a Happy Ending

Shy Desi Boy replies:

Dear Not Everyone Has a Happy Ending,

I used to believe three things: 1) there is one person in the world who will make me happy, 2) this person will probably be a South Asian Muslim like me, and 3) if I do not find that person (or someone), I will end up lonely and miserable.

Thankfully each of these proved wrong because successive experiences—heartbreaks, actually—made me realize that happiness rarely, if ever, comes in a package of my choosing (or my expectations).

I am sorry that you feel lonely and isolated. I grew up hearing my parents tell me again and again that all they want is for me to be happy. But when I would bring home a girl they did not like, I just got blank stares: oh we meant for you to be happy in the way we define happiness. So I can relate to you.

I am thrilled you have found someone. The problem is: how to stay happy and together?

Some thoughts.

First—I do not know enough about you to suggest that you should stay with someone who is white or non-Muslim. But I will say this: I have seen every combination of marriages dissolve. The couples that do endure do so because they are unflinchingly honest with each other and themselves about what they want in their relationship, in their sex lives, and in their spiritual journeys (yes, I know the three overlap). That said, all relationships are tough and you always add elements of challenge (which can be a good thing) when you marry someone who does not share your exact same background. This is something you have to ask yourself—what do you want in a partner and how much does your faith/culture matter?

Second—your partner seems to be torn by his own issues, especially being abandoned by his mother. Regardless of whether you two work out (and I hope you do!), I strongly recommend he consider professional therapy. I know I keep saying this but I cannot recommend therapy enough. I have benefited from therapy. My friends have benefited from therapy. Part of the reason some balk at therapy is that they see it as an indulgent, even selfish act. But working on your own issues with the help of a trained professional is one of the best gifts you can offer your partner—to heal yourself for someone you care for.

Third—I agree that not everyone has a happy ending in life. But you are only 26. In many ways your life is just starting—who is to say what the middle will look like, let alone what its end will hold for you?

Life will surprise you. People will surprise you. You might find a Muslim guy who does not want to marry a girl who has never had a previous relationship and who wants someone who has lived a textured life. You might find happiness in a relationship in two years time. It might come in ten years time. He might be non-Muslim. He might be Chinese. That is why faith is so important because ultimately only Allah knows.

What I do know is this: how we perceive the world is such a critical part of our own happiness. I spent my entire twenties and early thirties telling myself and others how much I suffered, how life had treated me so unfairly. I was so bitter than even when happiness walked up to me wearing a sign and told me to pay attention, I still ran away. I destroyed relationships. And worse yet, I pointed fingers at everyone but myself.

But I am working on allowing myself to be happy again, to love myself for who I am and more importantly, who I am not.

I may be wrong but I have a feeling that your story might just turn out to be happy in the end. That is, of course, if you want it to be that way.

Ms. Sunshine replies:

You’re in a difficult place, but the key is to recognize that this space you’re in is not the only space. The world is large and if you are going to find the kind of love you want, you’ll have to expand your options. You’re young, and while you may feel the pressure of friends pairing off and family looking at you askance, you have plenty of time to build the life you want. It’s just time to do some planning.

If you’re truly ready to make a commitment to a romantic partnership, then I suggest you approach it like you might any other goal. We all know the basics of, say, finding a career. First, you figure out what you like. You find out what you have to do to make money at it. You spend time and money getting the education you need and then you find people who will pay you to do what you’ve been trained to do. Usually you encounter obstacles, and you find ways around them. Maybe you hate what you do, so you gain new skills, find new ways to use the ones you’ve acquired, or find a way to make peace with your situation.

Like the skills you gain in school, the human being you are has value. You have something to offer and you want someone to offer you something in return. You’re wasting your time with this boyfriend. I can see no good end to putting your life on hold while he figures out what he wants. If you need time to lick your wounds and mourn the loss, then by all means take your time, but don’t wait. Take this time to figure out exactly who you are and what you want. Then make an actual plan with steps to finding that love. Date, date, date. Pass that list to family members and friends and set up online profiles like a woman on a mission. ‘Cause honey, you’re a woman on a mission. You’ll encounter lots of obstacles. You’ll meet some interesting people, some awful people, and hopefully the one you’re looking for. But you’ll gain self-knowledge and confidence in making new opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to do it for you.

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13 Comments on “Advice: Not everyone has a happy ending”

  1. Assalaamu Alaikum dear sister
    1. You are quite young. Don’t forget that, and don’t let anyone, family, friends, or other, try to convince you otherwise. I see too many young women, and young men, shoved into marriage way too soon and way too fast. The older “shovers” are so intent on making themselves happy they forget to consider the young person involved.
    2. Having a relationship is not the be all and end all of life in this world! It’s not another person who will make you confident and comfortable with yourself, it’s only you yourself who can do that. I know there’s something inside you you’re really good at and really love doing. If you don’t know what it is, take time to reflect and find out what it might be. Don’t rule out going back to school if that’s financially possible.
    3. Everyone else might be trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with the unmarried, not in a relationship, 40 year old lady, but does she think there’s anything wrong with her? I’m willing to bet not. I know this is hard to believe when your’re 26, but 40 isn’t anywhere near being old.
    4. Read the post “Why am I not married” by Kulsoom Abdullah on this site.
    May Allah fill your life with light and peace. Ma Salaam

  2. Pakistanigril says:

    Salaam! Please don’t get discourage. I was like you when I was 26. I had plenty of aunties’ coming up to me asking when I was getting married. I had one tell me that I had to lose weight before any man would marry me. That comment hit me really hard. It’s really sad that they don’t think about the person enough and that Allah has a path for all of us. A couple of years ago, I went to a wedding, and I was asked 20 times when I was getting married. Do I like getting asked this by people? Of course not. But, I’ve seen relatives who got married and are now completely unhappy.

    I’m 34, single and not married, and I know that when it’s the right time for me to get married, it will happen. If he is the right one for you, then it will happen. If it doesn’t, then take this relationship and learn from it and try to understand why Allah put him in your life. I’ve had things happen in my life and I’ve definitely questioned why, but in the end, Allah knows what’s best for you.

    Keep your head up! Be proud of who you are and don’t worry about marriage. It will happen when you least expect it!🙂

    • SA says:

      Pakistanigirl I wish you all the best!!I hope you will find a spouse who will love, cherish and respect you and will be a means of success for you in this life and the hereafter.May your faith in Allah always remain so strong.

      I thought my quest for a spouse was an impossible one but your comment has given me hope.

  3. SassySass says:

    Asalaam alaikum,
    I just wanted to add something that I have learned through my own experiences. Desi parents (as Shy Desi Boy stated) all tell us they want our happiness and to them it was what they consider happiness through their own experiences and ideas. The key to happiness is to figure out what YOU want and what your limits are for yourself. When I moved to the US 9 years ago, I told my parents (after enduring 1.5 years of “beta meet this boy, he’s from a wonderful family” situations) that I was going back to college and not to plan on me focusing on marriage.

    My first day at the new college in the US I met an young man, ecuadorian, 4 years my junior, raised in New York state. That man was a non practicing mormon at the time and we became very fast friends, That friendship VERY quickly evolved into love but I held out and told him that I couldn’t see myself marrying anyone who wasn’t muslim. His words to me were “Don’t worry about it.” Over the next few months, he learned about Islam, came to my mosque with me and ended up becoming a much more faithful muslim than I have ever been.

    My parents – they questioned my choice to marry him but they gave me leeway once they met him. He is a good person with a good heart, and while his family may not match mine, his background may not match mine, his heart did and thats what mattered. My parents faced MUCH criticism from their extended families. I was marrying a convert, I was marrying outside of the culture… a “gora” by all standards (even though he’s hispanic)… but I had decided very early on that none of that mattered.

    Other people’s ideas of happiness and what was “right” was their problem not mine. Once I had let go of other people’s expectations, I was really open to finding happiness. As a desi girl, to get married by the time you’re 25 (as you know) is a very big “Oh my goodness what’s wrong with you?”… don’t let it bother you. Your path is as Allah decides and only He knows who is out there for you and when/if you will meet them.

    I hope you find your peace soon in yourself. Remember, happiness isn’t tied to another human being but rather your own heart and faith.

    Salaams,
    Javi

    • sanarshah237 says:

      Javi,

      I feel that I am going to be facing a situation very similar to you inshallah. Would you be able to provide me some insight on how I might be able to overcome some of the criticism I will face. I am 17 and a Pakistani-American Muslim.

      Sincerely,

      SRS

      • SassySass says:

        Hi SRS,

        It’s honestly a question of being strong in what you want in your life and deciding if people’s opinions and criticisms are worth it to you. If its criticism that is based on logic and facts and from people you trust, then listen, evaluate and make a decision. If its from people who have an opinion but no right to have a say in your life then ignore them.

        What helped with me my parents was explaining to them that the Prophet (pbuh) never discriminated based on color, or race or nationality. In fact he showed through his actions, that the you could marry anyone as long as they were of good character and strong deen. As muslims we are supposed to follow his example and to deny a child the right to marry someone who is not of the same nationality or culture is just wrong.

        best of luck,
        Javi

  4. Chinyere says:

    As salaam alaikum, sis,

    This time last year, I felt just like you. I didn’t fit into a community (although honestly, the community I left is now burgeoning and welcoming…oh well, life life), I felt that I was the type of woman that no Muslim man would be interested in, I was 27 and heartbroken x 2, felt damaged and unworthy.

    I wish I had the advise that you have above, or rather, that I was in a space to fully understand it and take it seriously. It’s hard! Sometimes you are just not in the emotional space you need to be to understand the advise. Sometimes you find yourself in a downward spiral of self-doubt and faith-void. But what got me from “I’m never going to end up with anyone” to “alhamdulillah, opportunities abound” was a combination of both pieces of advice up there.

    I let go of a package idea (which for me was not ethnicity-specific but more faith and level-of-practice specific), I sought counseling, and I dated up a storm, resulting in my current relationship with a man I would never imagine relating to before. It’s hard to let go of what you think is your ideal because it feels like settling, but it doesn’t have to be. For me, it was about realizing what I actually wanted–someone who loved me for my Islam (not in spite of it) and provided me space to be the Muslim I aspire to be–instead of estimating what that man would look like and becoming despondent when I didn’t find him.

    That approach also focused attention back on me, and me being the Muslimah I wanted to be, and not looking to someone else to shape it but giving me freedom to be. And it made me examine who I actually wanted to be, which had been clouded over time by who I thought I could get if I changed little and big things about myself.

    There is heartache in the path, to be sure. Few people I know who are happily married or coupled now did not encounter a heartache or two along the way. I can safely say that my journey is not over. I’m not yet happily ever after yet, not in this stage of the relationship and maybe not with the man. But at now 28, I feel much more hopeful than I ever did in my early 20s, because, like I said above, alhamdulillah, opportunities abound! We are so young.

    Mindfulness/resiliency also helped me out…but that will make an already ridiculously long comment longer.

    I also want to thank Shy Desi Boy and Ms. Sunshine for their contribution to this column–I’m all out of eloquence, but it’s awesome!

  5. aurooba says:

    Hey you,

    I’m younger than you, but I do have some experience in this matter and I thought I would offer my 2 cents. I disagree a little with Ms. Sunshine, although I think there is value in dating a lot and being like a woman on a mission, I’ve seen that backfire a lot.

    Sometimes the best way to find a fulfilling, loving, and beautiful relationship is to stop looking for one. Instead, go out, socialize, get involved, push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Work on your issues, learn new things, join things that look interesting, try out something that usually intimidates you.

    If you are lonely on your own, then eventually, you will be lonely in any relationship no matter how great it is and other problems will crop up. Learn to be happy with yourself, fall in love with who YOU are.

    If you love who you are, others can’t help but love you too. Exude love and love will be attracted to you. Be whole on your own, don’t look for another to complete you, and then watch your life come alive and you know, that liveliness just may include a relationship.

    Inshallah, I wish you all the best!

  6. amigacara says:

    I just want to add this comment–you said you don’t mesh well with the Pakistani community and it is hard to make friends with other people your age because you don’t drink–I used to have a similar fear, that I would never be able to find friends who don’t drink. But it is definitely possible to find friends who don’t drink (or don’t consider alcohol necessary to socialize) but who are also not super conservative. Sometimes it requires thinking outside the box, joining an informal sports league or taking an art class, or finding a club or meetup [dot] com group for whatever things you are interested in. Finding a supportive community is at least as important as finding a spouse, maybe even more so–and I just want to say, don’t give up hope of finding a supportive group of friends who respect you and don’t judge you. It can happen!

  7. mujerdelmundo says:

    I just wanted to add that you are not alone. Although my story is a little different – I am not a Muslim, however I am a woman of color from a family that is significantly different from the mainstream culture – my closest friends (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) and I (even some of my male friends!) are facing similar doubt, struggle, and loneliness. Because I am 25 and can’t offer the wisdom of hindsight yet (I have tried so many things to find a relationship, and the search has worn me out…) all I can offer is my assurance that there are many other people who empathize with your struggle, because we are also living it right now. I hope you can take some comfort in that, as I have taken comfort in reading your story. It’s okay to be hurt and frustrated and hopeless – as long as you recognize that nothing is static and that these emotions are part of your journey…but have faith that they are not the end of your journey. Welcome each turn in the path as you move forward, but always be gentle with yourself. I stand in solidarity with you and encourage you to never stop expanding your definition of happiness, with or without a relationship. There are days you feel your heart is imploding on itself, but remember on these days that they will be followed by a night and then the sun will rise again. This poem by Rumi sums it up nicely:

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    As an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

  8. JC says:

    Dear Sister, remember that Allah (swt) loves you, and as long as you love Him and his Rasul, your future will always be bright.

    Allah (swt) puts those who He knows to be right for each other in their future trials and tribulations together, and often does not give people the support of a partner because He knows that either they are better off on their own, or that the people they meet are worse for their akhira.

    Remember that everything in this life is a test. The reward is in the akhira, and it is a never-ending reward. The challenges you face and how you handle them dictate how you do on this part of your life-test, and so it is crucial that you stick to those Islamic principles that are meant to protect us from sin. Focus on your relationship with Allah (swt) and His Rasul. Learn more about the Seerah, grow your love of the Prophet and the Lord, and if/when your ideal husband-to-be comes along, he will. If he doesn’t, your reward in Jannah will be all the better if you handled these issues the right way.

    Remember our goal is always the akhira. This life is only temporary, so don’t spend too much time getting frustrated by it.

  9. My advice? Do something you love. Something that makes you feel alive. That is the kind of energy that attracts good people. I studied and became a writer. But I met the most important men in my life playing sports. I played just because it made me feel bright and happy and alive, with no agenda.

    But I met the man who set me on the course that led to my first book in a jujitsu class. I took it simply because it sounded like something I would enjoy. I loved it, and he changed my life.

    I met the man I will marry when we were playing non-competitive pick-up soccer in New York. I joined the group just because I love running around out in the grass under the sky.

    When you already feel a spark because you are doing something you love, it is so much easier to feel a spark with another person! Plus you have the bonus that you know at least one thing you have in common.🙂