Advice: Unrequited Love

Dear Love Inshallah,

At 20 years old, I have decided that I am ready to get engaged. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the matter and since I do not want to pursue a pre-marital relationship, I thought I would open myself up to the possibility of getting engaged soon, since I have been getting suitors in the last few years.

I do have a bit of a problem though. Over the last four years, I have fallen in love with an amazing man, who was the definition of “ideal” for me. We became really good friends and would spend a lot of time talking to each other, often, staying up all night in order to finish off our conversation. We talked on a daily basis and met quite often too. About a year ago, I confessed to him that I had feelings for him, and since then he’s been acting very strange, avoiding me, etc. Upon confrontation, he told me that he had no feelings for me.

I can understand that he has his own preferences and I obviously cannot force him to love me so I dropped the matter. However, I have had a really hard time moving on, so much that it has been getting in the way of my studies and work. It’s been a year and I still think of him all the time. I look for him in every other guy I meet. I feel like my heart is stuck on him and even though I want to move on, I cannot.

At the same time, I do not want to have a relationship with another man while my heart is still set on someone else. I think it would be unfair.

I got to know him inside out, his personality was amazing. His mind was intriguing. Nobody else seems to compare. The love I felt for him wasn’t superficial in the least bit. Once I started to get to know him, I started developing feelings for him because I was attracted to his character and personality. I enjoyed our deep conversations on everything and anything. Other guys just don’t seem to match up to that standard. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to move on.

Last of all, I do not know how to talk to my parents about wanting to get engaged. I have never been close to them and we never talk about anything, much less marriage. They do not know about my feelings for that guy either. I’m sure they would like me to get engaged but how do I do that when I’m so hung up on another man? Help. Please.

Sincerely,

Unrequited Love

Shy Desi Boy replies:

I was about your age when the same thing happened to me. I know how much it hurts, how it feels like a jumbo size plane has just flown through your fist size heart.

It made so little sense: why doesn’t the person love me? Nearly decades later, it still makes little sense, actually. But that experience made me realize that this experience, and every painful experience since, is a blessing from Allah. Yes I know that sounds like a Ramadan cop out—isn’t everything a blessing from Allah?

Yes, but we learn so much when we love and more importantly, when we lose. Love, and especially heartbreak, teaches us more about who we really are than happiness. Think about it—when something breaks, it leaves pieces on the ground for you to pick up and as you reassemble it, you learn how something comes together again.

I know that right now all you can think about is this person. Each person you meet probably fails to match the person you love. But eventually you will meet someone else and while he may not make you forget your first love, he will fill you with a new happiness that makes you content with your past experiences/heartbreaks. I am a big advocate in the belief that our hearts are big enough to love many people, including past partners, but that our hearts should also steer us to focus (and be faithful) to just one partner.

Until then my advice is this: take time. Give your heart the time it requires and it deserves to heal and to rest. Your heart is a muscle too and like all muscles in its body, it too needs down time. Spend this time writing down all the things you learned from this and how you want to be a better partner with the next person we love.

There may be uncles or aunties in your life who will say that it is time for you to settle down. Don’t listen to them. You are 20. You will love and lose and love and lose so many more times in life. You will land your dream job. And then lose it. You will be given an incredible opportunity you never dreamed of. And then it will fade away. As I get older, I realize when I am happy in life, I am most likely to be asleep to life’s lessons but when I am down—lately I have been down as you are now—I learn so much about my shortcomings as well as what I can offer those I love.

Because you will climb out. I did. So many others after us will climb out. I know right now it feels like you are dragging this 20 ton rock of hurt but it will soon feel lighter and eventually, you will be thankful for this hardship because it will lead you to the person you will find next and more importantly, to the person you will become.

Sending you my best, and my duas, during this blessed month of Ramadan.

Miss Sunshine replies:

I remember what it was like to be 20-years-old and madly in love. It ended in heartbreak for me too, but I hold fond memories of that bright, burning intensity. It sounds like you had a lovely friendship, and you’ve shown maturity and wisdom in accepting his feelings and trying to move forward.

It makes sense that you haven’t found someone to live up to him. It took time and trust to build the intimacy you had. It will take time and trust to build it with someone else. The blessing is that this time you will be clear that you are looking to for marriage, and you know more about what you really want.

I don’t think it’s inappropriate for you to look for someone else while you still have feelings for your friend. If you are looking for someone else in hopes of getting over him, then I’d advise you against it. Marriage is too great a commitment for it to be only a salve for old heartbreaks. It doesn’t seem that’s what you want, though, so take your time and look for the man you want to commit to. You will not be able to find someone just like him, and if you keep looking for that, you probably won’t be happy. You can find someone who fulfills the same needs, and maybe even others you didn’t know you had. When you find him, give it time. Interest can become affection, and affection can be transformed into love with time, attention, and trust.


9 Comments on “Advice: Unrequited Love”

  1. mamaelyaman says:

    If you are Muslim, and I assume you are, you should know that it is not in our deen to have friendships with people of the opposite gender,exactly for this reason. Once the heart is involved, it is extremely painful for the heart to become unattached. It breaks MY heart to imagine how much you are suffering! It is also inappropriate to have phone conversations with any young man unless you are already engaged to him and your parents give permission. I would advise you to strengthen your connection to Allah. When you pray, ask him to heal your heart and replace your loss with a righteous, kind man who will be your husband. Allah is the controller of hearts. No one can give you relief except Him. No one can send your your true soul mate except Him. I pray for your relief as well.

    • Emma says:

      With all due respect sister, your reply is totally rigid.. I have a close friend with strong deen mashaa Allah and she was madly in love with a brother who she never spoken to… For years she refused any proposal just because she only wanted that person. What I mean is that as a Muslim, we can’t deny our fetra and follow some outdated close minded rules that’s impossible to apply to everyone. Instead of acknowledging her feelings with soothing gentle words, you question her deen which is non of your business. You need to know how to give nasiha before you open your mouth. Cz I see it offensive and totally ignorant.

      • Ms Jo says:

        Emma,

        Where is your nasiha, towards the commenter that you are referring to as ‘ignorant’ and ‘offensive’? Although it is tough love, I do agree with what he/she has said. Remember what you called outdated and closed minded is the veil between the sexes that our prophet pbh encouraged so we can avoid the pain that can occur and it is applicable to all of us no matter century we live in.Love is not a new concept for the modern people and neither is the heartache and the pitfalls of falling in love with the wrong person. Alas, we are human and we err’ just like the first generation of Muslims but doesn’t mean we should toss out his sound of advice.

      • R says:

        Wow. That is unnecessary you do not need to personally attack anyone. And I do agree with OP. There is a reason that men and women should not and cannot be friends. As for your friend, that seems to be a completely separate issue as the guy she wanted to marry never engaged her even in any conversation.

  2. “If you are a Muslim…you should know that it is not in our deen to have friendship with people of the opposite gender…”

    I have a problem with this. As Muslims, we are full humans beings and participants in the human experience. We find value in all genders and when we love, it is a real thing, not something to be dismissed by religious rhetoric. What disturbs me about anti-love Muslims is that the way our heart bends in real affection for another person mimics the way the Divine loves us. The root of God’s massive compassion is the kind we feel for another being, be it a spouse, someone we want to share our life with, or a child. Of course, there are some people we love who aren’t worthy of it; who treat those who love them with disregard. But to let your heart be soft for someone means that you are worthy of the Divine. Please — stop preaching at our brothers and sisters and let us be human beings. There is nothing ‘haraam’ in expression ones full humanity. We could all be more loving towards each other, in the name of Allah (swt).

    • R says:

      ? This seems to be the type of logic people use to justify gay marriages. In our deen limits are devised and implemented for a reason, and touchy feel-y justifications just don’t make sense when you recognize the wisdom of these limits.

  3. haj says:

    Unrequited Love –

    you are young and will experience love and loss and love and hopefully not the loss of that love. don’t rush into getting engaged/married right now. focus on YOU, let your wounds heal and live your life in the now.

  4. JC says:

    I feel bad for mamaelyaman, because she meant well, but because some readers don’t like her approach, they crucified her for it. Perhaps we can all give our own naseeha without trashing each other, as this sister really has a heart-felt problem. To give a gentle reminder of a few concepts of the faith is not questioning one’s Deen, it’s one’s duty – to give the gentle reminder. But let’s be constructive instead of critical here.

    First, Mamaelyaman’s advice – “I would advise you to strengthen your connection to Allah. When you pray, ask him to heal your heart and replace your loss with a righteous, kind man who will be your husband. Allah is the controller of hearts.” – is exactly right, in part. Du’a and strengthening your connection to God is 2/3rds of the solution – you can only truly heal your heart by strengthening your love of God and His Messenger. Remember that Allah is the one who puts love between the hearts of men and women, so your heart-felt dua’s and dhikr of Allah are a necessary ingredient. One of the reasons why we are discouraged (it’s actually stronger than discouraged, but we’ll leave it at this) to be alone with a person of the opposite gender – whether in person or on the phone – is due to the Hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) in which he said “when a man and woman are alone, Shaitan is the third.” Shaitan is real. Very real. Shaitan never MAKES you do anything – he just tries to convince you that the idea is your own and that it’s the right one. When you go astray, he says “hey, I didn’t make you do anything – you did it all on your own.” But one’s ability to resist his whisperings is very strong, if one tries hard enough. Du’a and dhikr (as well as Salat and Fasting) are among the best ammunition to use against him. But, as I said, this is only part of the answer.

    Now let’s get to the rest of the recipe: patience and commitment. By patience, I mean that you should try not to let yourself obsess over this guy. Unlike one of the sisters replies above, our natural fitra is NOT to follow our “hearts” blindly – because most of us will never REALLY know what is in our hearts – we only know what is in our minds, and much of that is whatever we want it to be. These feelings, like all things in this brief, fleeting life, is a test of our faith. This is an opportunity for you to come back to Allah (swt) and renew your love of Him and commitment to Him first. Refocus on your faith, and Allah (swt) will bring you to the person who He has chosen for you. Don’t force it. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually totally agree with ShyDesiBoy’s advice.🙂

    Also, rebuild that relationship with your parents. Not until you become a parent yourself and you *feel* that love for your child do you ever appreciate just how much your parents REALLY love you and WANT to spend time with you (even if it doesn’t seem apparent on the surface). Moms are generally really good to talk to about this kinda stuff – INCLUDING your feelings for this other guy. In fact use that as the reason you’re talking to her, because you need her shoulder – and it will be there just as it was when you were a child who injured her toe. You’ll be surprised by how much warmth, love, compassion and good advice your mom may have for you. I don’t suggest asking her to help you get engaged yet – rebuild that relationship with her first, then let the conversation go there, but keep it in your control.

    Finally, I want to take you back to one of the things you said early in your letter: “I have fallen in love with an amazing man, who was the definition of “ideal” for me” – this concept of the “ideal” is a fiction that we all think of, but then realize we were deluding ourselves later. I’ll give you my own example. As a 14 year-old, I started crushing on my best friend’s sibling – also a Muslim family. That crush lasted well until I was in grad school. Along the way, when I was in college, I started thinking about all of the “things” that would make my spouse an “ideal spouse.” Of course, when I applied these “criteria” to my friend’s sibling, I found that this person met *every* criteria. When that person did some things in college that I didn’t expect, suddenly, my bubble was burst – in that I began to question whether this person was my “ideal” or whether I had **crafted my concept of “ideal” around this person,** simply to justify my own feelings. Eventually our parents discussed the possibility of our marriage, and that person made clear that they were not interested in me. I was crushed, but only partially, because by then my entire concept of “ideal” had been turned on its head. When I did finally marry, without “evaluating” my spouse on these criteria at the time, I found in retrospect that my spouse actually exceeded and eclipsed every one of my “ideal” criteria; we have been married now for over 10 years, have three amazing kids, and are very happy together, Alhamdulillah.

    The bottom line is this: we often create our own “ideal” based upon what our minds fancy (not our hearts), and more often conform to our own image of a person we think we are interested in, if only to justify our feelings. This guy you liked, may have SEEMED to be your “ideal” husband, but clearly he was not. Once you dump the “ideal” criteria (including him) and learn to trust your heart and the advice of those who love you, you will find the person who **makes you happy** and you will spend the rest of your days and nights with, inshallah.

  5. huni says:

    I feel your pain as I have had a similar experience. What I have learned is that no matter how much you want something, Allah may have something else in store for you so don’t put all your hopes on one dream. If inshAllah Allah wants me to be with the man I like then I will be one day, till then I am going to keep on living and trying to get on with my time as best as possible. The more I dwell on my feelings for this man, the more I will find it unbearable to move on…

    Be strong sister, everything happens for a reason. I pray you find sakoon and happiness soon.