After my second divorce, I took a break from relationships to decide what I wanted in a future partner.
With two young kids, there was no time for dating. My kids needed me, and I needed myself. So, I composed a list containing everything I wanted in a man. My list had 45 bullet points, (including ‘doesn’t text while we’re together’, to ‘not homophobic’, to ‘likes sex’) that I required as I healed post-divorce
The man who embodied my list manifested in my life three years later – though that was still before I expected him.
Yusef & Samira
I’m not a marriage counselor but it doesn’t take much to see that young Muslims’ unrealistic expectations, fears, families, and career ambitions – among other factors – are contributing to a high rate of single and divorced Muslims. In my own circle, for every happily married couple that I know, there are three or four people still looking for the right connection.
For a long time I was one of those people. I was a true romantic, believing that if I searched hard enough and met as many people as possible then, eventually, I would find the person of my dreams. When I met a woman of interest, I was assertive and clear in my approach. Though I still think that’s an important part of meeting someone and is a method that everyone should utilize when looking for their future partner, I also strongly believe that there is work to be done before meeting the partner of your dreams.
The first thing we need to ask ourselves is: Who do I need to be in order to meet and attract the person that I’m looking for?
We have a lot more to do with meeting the person of our dreams than we realize. I offer this advice as someone who has gone through this exact process. I was looking for someone that was honest and faithful, someone who was serious in the practice of her deen. But, I wasn’t in the right place to attract that type of women. The actions I was taking in my life were inconsistent with the life I said I wanted, with the woman I wanted it with. For years, this held me back.
What I realized is that we can’t have expectations of our partner if we don’t adjust our own behavior or expectations of ourselves accordingly. As humans, there are many things outside of our control, but, for the most part, we have the life we choose. It’s easy to blame someone else or to see yourself as the victim of circumstance. It is always more challenging to look within ourselves to see what we can choose or behave differently. You yourself could be precisely what is preventing you from the life and love that you seek.
Let me give you an example from brotherly love. One day while driving, I heard a man being interviewed on WBEZ. He spoke eloquently and passionately and I was impressed by his responses. It wasn’t until a few minutes into the interview that I realized that it was actually my older brother being interviewed! For much of my life, he and I were not close, and I blamed him for us not having the relationship that I wanted us to have.
But, after hearing him on the radio, I asked myself: What have I done to contribute to our relationship? For the first time, I took responsibility. It was the beginning of a personal transformation for me that affected every relationship in my life, including the one with my brother.
Some time after that epiphany, I met Samira. She is originally from Harlem, but when I first connected with her she was living in Oman. I was living in Queens, and there was an 8-hour time difference and over seven thousand miles between us. My previous experiences with long distance connections were bad and I’d vowed never again to consider someone who wasn’t in the same area as me. But our connection was unlike any other I’d experienced before. She had over 95% of the qualities that I’d mentally listed as desirable in a spouse, down to the little, silly things.
After a couple of months of conversation, we reached the point in our courtship where I had to choose whether I wanted to continue exploring this connection with someone that I could fall in love with, or end it because of my fears of a long-distance relationship based on past experiences. I chose to be the person I needed to be – to face my fears so that I could accept Samira into my life.
It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Samira decided to move back to New York City permanently after we both realized that we were utterly and undeniably in love.
Eventually, we decided to get married and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Yusef Ramelize is a New York City-based graphic designer and the founder and project director of the annual event Homeless for One Week. As he says on his website, “In all areas of my life, from activism to design expression, whether it’s a house to live in or a work of art, I seek to encourage appreciation for those things that we often take for granted in our lives.”