In today’s AskM column, M responds to two women: one who is struggling to with find a husband while having a sexual history, and one who feels overshadowed by her sister.
I am a female with a sexual history and a renewed faith looking for a spouse. It’s important to me that I marry a Muslim that wants to instill Islamic values in his children. However, I just feel that in the Muslim community there is a huge double standard and a very sharp stigma against women with experience. A man can be decent, kind and loving, but once he learns that you’re not “pure” he just gets turned off. In the end the girl ends up feeling hurt and humiliated. She can’t change the past.
I used to think that I had to share every dark secret with my husband so that I could begin the relationship on a fresh clean slate, hiding nothing. I have now matured and learned that no one needs to know all my business not even my husband and it’s OK to take things with me to the grave.
So, I read the article, “Don’t ask, Don’t tell“, and I agreed with it wholeheartedly. However, I am still anxious. What if he does ask? I figured that I would just tell him, “it’s between me and God, and the importance of Sitr and all that” but what if he presses me? What if by my answer he assumes that I’m not a virgin and he’s correct. I can’t refute it then, I would be lying. It’s a mortifying situation that plays out in my mind and leaves me feeling helpless. I dread the wedding night. On what’s supposed to be a special beautiful occasion, I’ll just be a bundle of nerves waiting for the moment of truth. There will be no blood on those sheets. How do I make sense of all this?
I realize that my entire self worth shouldn’t be defined by my virginity and that if he rejects me he wasn’t worth it anyway but still….I have doubts, I feel like it’s something I just say to comfort myself but it doesn’t have any real meaning to me.
Sincerely, Anxious Girl
Dear Anxious Girl,
You are right, your self-worth is not determined by whether you’re a virgin or not, and any prospective partner who rejects you on that basis probably wasn’t right for you in the first place.
That being said, honesty is still the best policy. Whether you decide to tell your prospective partner up front about your sexual past or choose to wait until the two of you are intimate together, chances are, this conversation is going to come up sooner or later. Remember, a husband-wife relationship is sacred because two people know they can trust each other completely and be vulnerable with one another. It’s likely you also want to be with someone who accepts you for who you are and with whom you can completely be yourself. It’s best to start on the right foot by being honest.
While no one says you have to share every one of your deepest and darkest secrets (nor must you go into detail about your past sexual experiences), a partner’s sexual history is still important – not to typecast an individual as “pure” or not – but for personal health. You also have a right to know your partner’s sexual history. But, if you both decide you’d rather not know, you can leave it at just knowing that both of you have been tested for any STDs so that you can deal with the issue appropriately if you must.
Moreover, an honesty policy doesn’t mean your first conversation with a prospective partner should necessarily include each other’s sexual histories. It’s important you both establish some understanding with each other and that he knows about your values before you have such personal and private conversations.
You mention that you have a renewed faith. Try looking for a partner with values that are similar to your own. This approach may require you to look for prospective partners in different settings than the ones in which you’re currently meeting people, and it may also require you to change your criteria and be more open-minded. The past is in the past, and your job is to now look forward. Hopefully you can find someone who accepts you for who you are and from whom you won’t feel the need to hide.
I am the eldest in my family and have been raised rather conservatively. Since a young age my parents had instilled within me an “internal sensor”- a hushed fierce voice that keeps me from straying off track.
I grew up and got married. Now it’s my young sister who is living her life. Unlike me she gets away with so many things; talking to guys, putting on makeup and dressing in a certain style. Every time I see her I remember myself. I never did any of those things, and the one time I tried to wear my hijab the same way she does it now, I was told it captures too much attention.
Even now that I’m married, I feel that I never got the chance to actually have a relationship and choose. I was in a way forcefully encouraged to marry my husband. He’s great but it’s just me; I feel that I never really had a chance with myself. But, my sister had many relationships and has chosen her soulmate. For me, I was told that talking to guys was shameful.
Even in appearance, I consider myself beautiful but it’s always my sister that everyone talks about. I’m a decent writer and have published articles, but it’s my sister whose writings everyone praises. It’s OK for her to dress in a captivating way, to take off her hijab in pictures with her fiance, and to have male friends. She gets praised and I get called narrow-minded and complicated.
I’m so upset and no one even cares to notice. My relationship with my sister is so complicated.
From your question, it doesn’t sound like your sister is directly responsible for your complex relationship with her. If the complications between you both are not the result of her actions, but the result of others’ perceptions of you two, then you should consider re-evaluating your priorities.
Is it important that others praise your writing or tell you you’re beautiful? It’s always nice to hear compliments, but it’s even nicer to feel good about yourself without them. Try seeking validation from yourself instead of others. You’d be surprised, but the less you appear to need acceptance from other people, the more likely you are to win their favor.
Likewise, you should focus on constructing your own identity separate from your sister. Try concentrating on developing your own unique talents so you can stop comparing yourself to her. You say your sister is living her life; don’t you think it’s time you live yours?
The bond between sisters is special, and you’re lucky to have one. Granted your sister isn’t contributing to making you feel bad about yourself (i.e. by putting you down, comparing and competing with you, or insulting you in front of others) you should try starting afresh with her. She could even turn out to be your biggest ally in fending off unwanted criticisms from others.