Advice: Letting go of my exPosted: July 7, 2015
Ed note: Our dear columnists, Miss Sunshine & Shy Desi Boy, are back! Send them your sex, love & relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out our archives to read their previous columns.
Dear Miss Sunshine & Shy Desi Boy,
I am a 27 year old girl, ‘happily married’ with 2 children. I am a prominent Islamic speaker’s daughter. I wear hijab and strive to be a good Muslim. In college, I fell hard for a Non-Muslim guy. We talked for a couple of years, and eventually hooked up a couple of times. With him, when in private, I would remove my hijab. I did not lose my virginity to him (I wanted to share this with my husband); we shared a couple nights together, and those were the best nights I have ever had. To this day, I still think of those amazing nights.
I know from some Facebook stalking that he is ‘happily married’ as well and his 2 children are born within days of mine. In my college days, I felt like I was a different person. I was tired of ‘being good.’ I was sick of the expectations Islam placed on me. I wanted to rebel. I was also in love with this guy. And he was in love with me too. Love makes you do some crazy things.
However, due to religious issues and general compatibility, we broke it off. He would not convert or change his ways, and I knew I needed to settle down with a Muslim man; I have prayed for guidance since then, and am much more settled now in my religion.
There are days in which I wallow. I am ‘happily married’ in that I love my spouse. I have never told my husband nor my best friends about me & my ex hooking up: I do not want my hubby to judge me or think that I am not his first. I do not want to expose my faults, and want to keep these sins a secret, and pray that Allah forgives me. I know I am my hubby’s first.
I am writing to ask, how do I efficiently move on and not think about my ex? There are months in which I am fine, and other days in which I feel like someone has punched me in the gut, days in which I am sore, days in which I miss the way my ex used to kiss me, the way my ex and me used to laugh together. Am I normal to still think of him from time to time? I feel like a horrible person in that Allah has given me so much, and yet there are days in which I eagerly yearn for the past.I also feel horribly guilty in that if someone were to look at me, they automatically think I am a ‘good’ person, a daughter of an Islamic speaker, and a good Muslim wife & mom. But deep down inside, I have deep, dark secrets.
I need help to move on.
Miss Sunshine replies:
Perhaps it’s time for some soul searching. In the safe, private world of your imagination, how might you construct a life where you get to keep the best of the life you have now with the best of the life you had then? Forget halal and haram and other restriction, this is just exploring the depths of your own mind. It is spiritual work. Allow yourself to be completely free so that you can be completely truthful. The answers might emerge immediately, but more likely it will take time to allow yourself to be that honest.
We construct many roadblocks to even imagining new possibilities because coming face-to-face with our desires can be scary. By acknowledging your desires, you can get to the heart of what you really want and then start to incorporate it into the life you now have. I wish you the best in your journey.
Shy Desi Boy replies:
I once used to drive a prominent Islamic scholar to and from the airport each time he arrived in my hometown. Almost every time we were alone, he told me a new secret—he suffered from depression, he was unhappy in his marriage, he was visiting a therapist. He also used to tell me, as you did in your letter, that he feels “horribly guilty” and has “deep secrets.”
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that we all have secrets. The first step to healing is to recognize that guilt is self-destructive and in some ways, selfish. I should know—I spent so long feeling guilty about my mistakes that I pushed away people who tried to love me and to support me. I understand you may feel that you transgressed Islam but the beauty of our faith is that Allah’s mercy is always greater than His wrath, that we always have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to move on.
Now, on to your feelings for this man. A few explanations.
One is that you genuinely still have feelings for him, that you still share something meaningful, and that perhaps you both want the same thing, which is each other, and that you are both committed to making the sacrifices that being together entails. This will be messy, no doubt, but being in a marriage and longing for someone else is not fair to yourself, your husband, and your children. Sadly a woman desiring a man not of her father’s choosing is often viewed not just as an act of disobedience but one of ungratefulness—how dare a woman tell us what she wants? But we—especially Muslim men—need to create more space for women to articulate what they want, whether it is in the bedroom or in the masjid. And perhaps you always knew what you wanted—all you need is the courage to go after it.
Another explanation for your dilemma is that it is common to romanticize past encounters, especially if they were short and did not involve sexual intercourse. A weekend together—or even a few years together—will always seem more romantic than the challenges of, say, a decade long marriage, in-laws, children, finances, and all the other mundane aspects of family life. Sometimes a relationship (and a sexual encounter) can feel better if you know it will end and it is easy to idealize a relationship that we do not make public because the stakes are lower. I do not discount what you shared with this man but I wonder if what you feel right now for this man may be a reflection of your current relationship, that it may be a stand in for bigger problems that you are trying to suppress.
Which brings me to my final point: what is happening in your marriage that is causing you to ask these questions and to explore your past? What can be fixed or addressed to make you long less for this prior relationship?
One of the sad things about our Muslim community is that women often do not feel the space to ask themselves, in public or even in private, if they are happy. You are doing just that and regardless of what you decide, I salute you for making the first step of accepting that perhaps life can—and should—offer you a new, more satisfied course.