There is a right way and a wrong way to get to know someone for marriage. The wrong way is to get caught up in the excitement and nuance of a budding relationship and in the process completely forget to ask the critical questions that help determine compatibility. One of the biggest mistakes that many young Muslims make is rushing into marriage without properly and thoroughly getting to know someone.
A common myth is that the duration of a courtship is an accurate enough measure of how compatible two people are. The logic follows that the longer you speak with someone, the better you will know them. The problem with that premise is that no consideration is given to how that time is spent. Increasingly, young Muslim couples are engaging in “halal dating,” which is basically socializing with each other in the company of friends and/or family. This includes going out to dinner, watching a movie, playing some sport or other leisure activity, etc. Depending on the family or culture, conversations are either minimal & chaperoned or worse, unrestricted and unsupervised. When you consider these limitations it makes one wonder when exactly, if ever at all, would the critical conversations take place? Unfortunately, for many, the answer is never and they live to suffer the consequences. If you or someone you know is in the “getting to know someone” phase, the following guide offers advice on exactly what to look for and avoid:
1) Do Not Marry Potential: Oftentimes men consider marrying a woman hoping she never changes while a woman considers marrying a man she hopes she can change. This is the wrong approach on both accounts. Don’t assume that you can change a person after you’re married to them or that they will reach their potential. There is no guarantee, after all, that those changes will be for the better. In fact, it’s often for the worse. If you can’t accept someone or imagine living with them as they are then don’t marry them. These differences can include a number of things such as ideological or practical differences in religion, habits, hygiene, communication skills, etc.
2) Choose Character over Chemistry: While chemistry and attraction are no doubt important, character precedes them both. A famous quote follows, “Chemistry ignites the fire, but character keeps it burning.” The idea of falling “in love” should never be the sole reason for marrying someone; it is very easy to confuse infatuation and lust for love. The most important character traits to look for include humility, kindness, responsibility, & happiness. Here’s a breakdown of each trait:
- Humility: The humble person never makes demands of people but rather always does right by them. They put their values and principles above convenience and comfort. They are slow to anger, are modest, and avoid materialism.
- Kindness: The kind person is the quintessential giver. They seek to please and minimize the pain of others. To know if a person is a giver, observe how they treat their family, siblings, and parents. Do they have gratitude towards their parents for all that they’ve done for them? If not, then know that they will never appreciate what you do for them. How do they treat people they don’t have to be kind towards (i.e. waiters, sales associates, employees, etc)? How do they spend their money? How do they deal with anger; their own anger and their reaction to someone else’s anger?
- Responsibility: A responsible person has stability in their finances, relationships, job, and character. You can you rely on this person and trust what they say.
- Happiness: A happy person is content with their portion in life. They feel good about themselves and good about their life. They focus on what they have rather than on what they don’t have. They very rarely complain.
3) Do Not Neglect The Emotional Needs of Your Partner: Both men and women have emotional needs and in order for a partnership to be successful those needs must be mutually met. The fundamental emotional need of a woman is to be loved. The fundamental emotional need of a man is to be respected and appreciated. To make a woman feel loved give her the three AAAs: Attention, Affection, & Appreciation. To make a man feel loved give him the three RRRs: Respect, Reassurance, & Relief. It is the obligation of each partner to make sure the other is happy and this extends to intimacy as well. As long as each partner is fulfilled by the emotional needs of the other, the intimate relationship will thrive. When a man takes seriously the emotional needs of his wife she will feel more encouraged to fulfill his sexual desires. Likewise, when a woman takes seriously the emotional needs of her husband he will feel more encouraged to give her the affection, love and appreciation she wants from him. Working together in this way encourages both giving and receiving.
4) Avoid Opposing Life Plans: In marriage you can either grow together or grow apart. Sharing a common purpose in life will increase the chance that you will grow together.
- You must know what the person is into. In other words, what are they ultimately passionate about? Then ask yourself, “Do I respect this passion?” “Do I respect what they are into?”
- The more specifically you define yourself, i.e., your values, your beliefs, your lifestyle, the better chance you have of finding your life partner, your soul mate, the one you are most compatible with.
- Remember, before you decide who to take along on a trip, you should first figure out your destination.
5) Avoid Pre-Marital Sexual/Physical Activity:
- Recognize that there is incredible wisdom in why God has ordered us to refrain from intimacy before marriage; they are to prevent great harms as well as to keep sacred what is the most blessed part of a relationship between a man and a woman.
- Aside from the obvious spiritual consequences, when a relationship gets physical before its time, important issues like character, life philosophy, and compatibility go to the wayside. Consequently, everything is romanticized and it becomes difficult to even remember the important issues let alone talk about them.
- Intellectual commitment must be established before emotional or sexual commitment.
6) Avoid Lack of Emotional Connection: There are four questions that you must answer YES to:
- Do I respect and admire this person? What specifically do I respect and admire about this person?
- Do I trust this person? Can I rely on them? Do I trust their judgment? Do I trust their word? Can I believe what they say?
- Do I feel safe? Do I feel emotionally safe with this person? Can I be vulnerable? Can I be myself? Can I be open? Can I express myself?
- Do I feel calm and at peace with this person?
If the answer is “I don’t know, I’m not sure, etc.” keep evaluating until you know for sure and truly understand how you feel. If you don’t feel safe now, you won’t feel safe when you are married. If you don’t trust now, this won’t change when you are married!
This piece was originally published at MentalHealth4Muslims.