Category Archives: Break-ups

Top Muslim Breakup Lines

Of the multitude of icky ‘life experiences’ to have, enduring a breakup is right up there along with getting stung by a jellyfish and having to put up with twenty floors of elevator music. It goes without saying that people break up for all sorts of reasons, so when I refer to the following reasons as ‘lines’, I don’t mean to imply that they’re not stated with conviction or that they aren’t real issues for people. In fact, many people who says these things will be sincere and have convinced themselves that their reasons are legitimate. But this is what we humans do: ascribe the highest, most noble motives to our actions when may be  far less flattering explanations for our behaviours. The following are just a few choice examples:

1.)  What they say: ‘I prayed Istikhara and had a bad feeling’.

What they mean: ‘I can’t/won’t tell you why I want out, so I’ll play the trump card of divine guidance to shut you up.’

Ah, Istikhara. Is there any better get-out-of-jail card? I think not. The reason this works so well is that it’s almost impossible to argue with. Even if the person it’s used on suspects that there’s more to it, they’re unlikely to try to challenge an alleged ‘sign’ from God, anticipating all kinds of lightning bolts and locust plagues will be unleashed should they do so.

2.) What they say: ‘It’s just not naseeb.’

What they mean: ‘I just can’t be bothered.’

This one is often wielded by those who have no fault with the person except that they’re just not feeling it. It’s often the case that when a random person is set up with another random person, the first meeting or three will be uninspiring. One party will want to pull out because they’re bored and can’t muster the energy to dig any deeper, but to make things less awkward they’ll cloak it in terms so vague you’d need binoculars to see it for what it really is.

3.) What they say: ‘My parents/your parents are making things too difficult.’

What they mean: ‘I can’t deal with conflict, so I’m just going to make my life easier by dumping you.’

I hesitate to include this one because I know that for many people, families on either side can do a great deal to disrupt the course of a relationship and not everyone can cope with the pressure. But for the person on the receiving end of this one, it can often sound like a bit of a cop-out. If it’s their parents who cause them to give up, they end up sounding like a twelve year old. If it’s your parents who ‘drive’ them away, they end up sounding like…well, a twelve and a half year old. Besides, if they had such unwavering respect for their parents, why were they okay with even talking to you if they knew their parents would disapprove? (Answer: because it didn’t involve any conflict.)

4.) What they say: ‘I’m just not ready for marriage.’

What they mean: ‘I’m too preoccupied with myself and you’re getting in the way.’

OR

‘I’m keen to see what else is out there.’

This is another one which is just pointless to try and challenge, despite it having more holes than the plot of a D-grade horror movie. If you state the obvious and ask why they started talking to you in the first place if they weren’t ready, the response will be something like ‘well, I thought I was ready, but maybe I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was.’ If you ask when they’ll be ready, they’ll say they don’t know, but then you’ll see them in six months and they’ll be married to someone else.

5.) What they say: ‘I’m actually a unicorn.’

What they mean: ‘I’m actually a unicorn.’

Quick, don’t let them get away! Unicorns are rare and precious and should be kept for life.

Unicorn Baby

Have you used one of these? Have you had someone use one on you? Do you think they’re valid reasons or are they weak excuses?

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Sometimes, people are just jerks

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

The above is a line from The Great Gatsby, one of my favourite novels. (Don’t knock it til you read it, the Baz Luhrmann version will probably have F. Scott Fitzgerald, that tortured, amazing genius, squirming in his grave til the Day of Judgment.) Even at the age of twelve, when I first read the book, the above line struck me as particularly insightful, because it cuts to the very heart of what often inhibits human relations: complete, utter carelessness.

In my limited, twenty three year long exposure to the human race, as well as my equally limited knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re really not that bad a bunch. In each of us is the potential for great good, as well as the potential for great evil, but in reality many of us are trapped somewhere in between. We can be very kind when we care to be, but when we don’t care, we can wreak devastation upon those around us. This is compounded by the existence of what philosopher Claudia Card terms ‘the gray zone’: the uncertain place in which the tortured becomes the torturer, the victim the oppressor.

Many of us live in a type of permanent gray zone, though not of the precise nature that Card theorised. We get hurt, we hurt someone else. We get rejected, we reject someone. Someone friendzones us, we friendzone someone else, and so we all snowball into a big pile of hurt feelings and broken (emotional) bones from which none of us escape unscathed. To appropriate some of my legal reasoning, many of us are continually committing manslaughter. There’s not enough evidence to prove murder beyond reasonable doubt; the wilful intent to destroy just isn’t there in most cases. But there is a great deal of recklessness in the way we operate, a lack of consideration of the reasonably foreseeable consequences of our actions.

This isn’t to excuse any of it, of course, and this is where I will drop the academic lingo: being careless makes us jerks. Saying things we don’t mean makes us jerks. It doesn’t matter if we meant them ‘in the moment’ (what a silly turn of phrase), because if we didn’t mean them in the next they aren’t worth the spit we used to produce them. Giving someone false hope makes us a jerk, and giving someone mixed signals makes us even bigger jerks. Not recognising that an offer of affection from another human being is a great honour makes us jerks, and backing out at the very first sign of trouble makes us jerks.

Many of us have been jerks for a day, maybe even for a week or a month. We’ve been careless because of an existential crisis we’ve been going through, we get reckless and drive too fast to escape the metaphorical car we feel is tailgating us. These are not excuses.Thankfully, many of us wake up to our senses and remember to default to our more natural state of empathy and kindness. We feel guilty, we apologise and we swear never to do it again. We may slip up and do it once or twice, but by and large we learn our lesson: that other people have an inner world as acute and deep as our own, an inner world which deserves our respect and compassion regardless of the absence or presence of romantic feelings towards them.

But then there are those who are serial offenders. These people appear to be perennially, insistently careless. Some of them may just be hardwired with a low sense of empathy and sensitivity; theorists have posited that evil can be described as much as an ’empty centre’ as a positive force. Others may actually relish the power they derive from gaining the trust of others, symptomatic of far deeper issues. Others may be just so self-absorbed that the feelings of others barely register on their radar. Or maybe, in a quote from my dad’s favourite Simpsons episode, this can be said: “Animals are a lot like people, Mrs. Simpson: some of them act badly because they’ve had a hard life or have been mistreated. But, like people, some of them are just jerks.”

When we encounter pathological jerks, there is very little to do except to run for cover when they reveal themselves, which they inevitably will. It’s not easy. These people are often charming, sociable and entirely free of body odour. They may even be well-versed in Ghazzali’s works! But peel back the surface slightly, and what lies beneath? A core lack of reactivity. This isn’t the sign of a well-trained nafs or a heart fortified by love of Allah swt; it’s simply that they don’t care. Run hard, run fast, and don’t look back except to warn others of when they’re coming. (There’s a reason why backbiting is permissible under some circumstances-for the protection of those who may be harmed.)

Unless we’re some kind of pathological jerk of the above varieties, there’s always hope. It comes in the little things, in how we watch our words and clarify, then clarify again, if something comes out wrong. It’s in our liberal use of smiley faces in online communication and equally liberal use of real ones in face-to-face communication. It’s in how we withdraw from a conversation with someone we have no feelings for, despite the fact that we’re bored and would really like to just talk to someone, anyone. It’s in how we soften a careless word with ten gentle, careful ones. It’s in how we say, you’re really lovely and I’m really flattered but I’m just looking for something different, which is entirely to do with me at this point in my life and nothing to do with you, and it’s in how we forgive people for being jerks for a second or a week because we’ve been there too.

Have you encountered a jerk? Have you been a jerk to someone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving On

Imagine if you were to attach your skin, bit by bit, inch by inch, to the skin of another. It’s a painful image, but imagine then the pain of having to take those stitches apart. Whether it’s done stitch by stitch or in one rapid rip, the agony would be almost unbearable. This is what a breakup is like. In getting to know someone, people slowly but surely intertwine parts of themselves with that person. It can be a painful process, simply because you’re forced to share your vulnerable spots-your thin, uncalloused skin. But if and when you pull apart, you’re forced to sever each and every connection you forged together. It’s little wonder then that on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, ‘death of a spouse’ comes in at number one, followed by ‘divorce’ and ‘marital separation’.

Breakups can make sobbing, dithering messes of the coolest customers. They can cause people to act irrationally, neglect their own health and well-being. The desire for ‘closure’ can drive people to the brink of despair. You yearn for answers almost as much as you yearn for the person. Why don’t you love me anymore? Why are you giving up when you told me you never would? Why did I believe you? How could you treat me like that?  Why won’t you talk to me?  Why does eating half a tub of  this fudge icecream only  provide a temporary release from the pain?  Why am I eating the other half of the tub as well?

From what I’ve observed, there are two main paths taken by the broken-hearted, both of which have their pros and cons. The first one I like to call the ‘desecration of the altar’ approach. This is a neat little trick employed by many in which all memories of the person and the relationship are trashed and defaced with defamatory graffiti. People hone in on all the vices of their former love and convince themselves that they had ‘a lucky escape’. They tell themselves things like, ‘he was a loser anyway’ or ‘she never made me happy, but I just put up with it at the time.’ This exercise can even lead to a complete denial of the feelings they once had for the person in question. (‘I never really loved him.’)

I understand why people do this. To some extent, it’s probably a necessary reaction to the sting of a breakup. After all, if you continued to believe that the person was the bee’s knees, you’d be likely to keep worshipping (figuratively, not literally-astaghs) at that altar for months and years after the breakup. But the problem with the ‘desecration of the altar’ approach is simple: it’s often based on complete and utter lies. Why was Person X with Person Y in the first place if they had little to no redeeming qualities? What does it say about Person X when only last month they were planning to marry such a complete ‘loser’?

This is why approach number two, the ‘path of excess platitudes’, works far better for a lot of people. After all, Muslims live off platitudes. Even when you’re railing against fate, you tell people, yourself, that ‘it’s all naseeb’. Even when you feel like you’ve just lost the best thing to have ever come your way you say ‘Allah swt will never take something from us without giving us better’.  You smile, you pray,you post inspiring quotes about faith and kids in Syria on Facebook, then you go and cry yourself to sleep and wake up with balloon-like faces in the morning. You put your best faith forward and you keep walking, knowing that Allah swt is with you, even if you don’t quite feel it right this very minute.

The greatest platitude of all is ‘moving on’. People move forward, yes, they go to work, they eat TV dinners, but there’s no such thing as people ‘moving on’. Rather, life moves on. You still have to do your tax returns, even as you’re mourning a lost love. The washing up still needs finishing and the socks still need to be bundled and put into drawers. Slowly, the tasks become less mechanical. Slowly, the light pokes its way in through the thickly drawn curtains. And then, one day, you say ‘it was all naseeb’ and you find, to your surprise, that you actually sorta kinda mean it.

If you’re not there yet, be patient with yourself. Not being able to let go is something society tells us is weird, even a bit ‘obsessive’. In a world where all possessions are upgradeable, disposable, replaceable, holding onto something seems utterly out of place. But all the same, don’t let life move on without you moving with it. Keep doing those job applications. Keep ironing those clothes. Go to those parties, even when you don’t feel like it. And most of all, keep praying. As the wonderfully cheesy platitude says, ‘when the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.’ C’mon, as if that doesn’t make you feel just that teensy bit better? (Ok, maybe not, but it was worth a try.)

 

The awkward moment when..

The Muslim community is incestuous. Not in the literal sense, but as with any small community, there are a myriad of connections between people, tying together friends, acquaintances and often complete strangers. I got thinking about this when I was at an Islamic event recently. I looked around the room, and it suddenly struck me that if romantic interest was a ball of string, half the room would be entangled right this moment, simply due to the amount of people who:

a.) once liked each other

b.) currently like each other

c.) are currently in some sort of a relationship

d.) were once in some sort of a relationship.

This makes things really, really awkward for people in any of those 4 categories. Let’s start by looking at people who once liked each other, as they probably have the least awkward encounters out of the four at Islamic events. So many tentative little overtures are made amongst Muslims that it’s hard to even tell if someone did in fact like you or if they really were just interested in Islamic Spain when they first starting talking to you on Facebook chat. If interest was never overtly declared, both parties can just pretend nothing ever happened. They become just another face in the crowd, albeit a face you once looked out for. If someone else is interested in your former flame, you can easily just act all nonchalant and cool as a cucumber. (This is probably a strong argument in favour of not blabbing to all and sundry if and when you’re interested in someone, like the person I heard of in one Islamic organisation who liked three different people they worked with in turn. Tres messy.)

For people who currently like each other, things are a lot more tense, even when interest hasn’t been formally declared. Especially when interest hasn’t been declared. You start to dissect every interaction, every look exchanged across a lecture theatre. But the unfortunate thing I’ve found about the Muslim community is that often there is more than one person interested in someone at the same time. This is particularly unfortunate when the recipient of such attentions is actually not even single. I’ve seen it happen with disastrous consequences. I’m not advocating for people to let the whole world know as soon as they are getting to know someone, but I do think that if you are in a ‘secret’ relationship you have even more of a responsibility than the average Muslim to keep your distance from people; if they don’t know you’re unavailable, they may just develop an attachment to you without you realising it.

dep_5211365-Ball-of-string

It always fascinates me to watch people at events who are currently in a relationship. (Yes, I’m creepy like that.)  Sometimes a lot of people know about it, sometimes it’s very hush-hush, but in either case they have to conduct themselves as if they are mere acquaintances. In some more bohemian Muslim circles couples are free to interact with each other as such, but generally speaking they are expected to observe a level of propriety and discretion. When they hand each other registration forms or pass the orange juice over, anyone observing would think they were no more than ‘brother’ and ‘sister’. This is particularly the case when they are a ‘secret’ couple. I know a lot of these and I find it interesting to see how they handle the tension of being around someone they intend to marry and may like very much and having to barely throw them a second glance. I think knowing that other people are watching them makes them even more distant with each other in public; they are all too aware of the repercussions if they are seen to be too friendly.

The fourth category, people who were once in a relationship, will naturally find it the most awkward to see each other at Islamic events. I know people who will avoid going to specific events because they know their ex will be there, and who can blame them? It’s bad enough having to see them, but they’ll often be accompanied by various family members as well which only compounds the awks. Another bad thing is that because the Muslim community is so small you’ll probably know as soon as they get with someone else, and sometimes you may even know the person they are now with. We’ve all heard of the horror stories of one guy getting to know several girls consecutively, all of whom know each other and may in fact be friends.

Having an ex is especially difficult when you work with them in some volunteering capacity such as on campus or in a community organisation.  These types of situations are fairly common, given that a lot of Muslims do meet in this way. Either you both have to man up and continue working together, or one person needs to take the plunge and leave. I’ve seen both scenarios, and it’s always a cautionary tale about mixing (community) work and pleasure. But it’s a catch 22, because if you’re not into the ‘arranged’ marriage scene, your only real remaining option is community work. Tread carefully, folks. That’s all I’ll say!

How do you negotiate the incestuous nature of the Muslim community? Have you ever had awkward encounters of the kind described above? (I know that 99.9% of you have.)

A Muslim’s Guide to Surviving Heartbreak

*Disclaimer: Author’s identity has been kept anonymous.

Sometimes in life you meet someone who makes you smile from the inside out. A person who you may never want to imagine a life without. Someone who ticks all of your boxes, makes you happy, makes you think about what you would both name your children and whether they’d have the eyes of their father or the smile of their mother. It’s beautiful when it lasts. We humans were made to love. Love our families, friends and our soulmates when and if we happen to meet them. As easily as we may begin to have feelings for someone, circumstances can present obstacles. Each moment that follows can make the difference between whether this special person becomes a part of your life permanently or not.

Recently I was considering someone for marriage quite seriously. A person whom I was sure was the one for me. I had placed all my hopes into one basket and was ready to submit fully to the winds of love in order to make our feelings an Islamically sustainable reality-marriage. Things didn’t work out, and when we had to part ways it was a very deep cut. It felt like someone or something had died. A concept died. The idea of ‘us’ that we had imagined and dreamed left this world and ceased to exist anymore. It was therefore a matter of immense grief and sadness.

This is only natural, and feeling a sense of loss over someone who we care deeply for is a part of life we cannot always escape. People come into our path for a reason and we cannot delete them from the hard drives of our lives like we delete a file from our computer. It is a much more delicate process than that. The following tips I believe have helped me to come to terms with heart break in my life and move on.

1)      This is the decree of Allah.

Let this mantra be the answer to every time you question, “Why?!”. If you have consulted Allah during the process, then there is khayr (good) in all sequence of events. If you have reached out to God when you were in such a vulnerable place by praying to him, making istikhara (guidance prayer) and had the right intentions in pursuing someone, then you must know that God is on your side and He will never let you down.  There are a whole host of reasons why Allah may have taken this person away from you. It may be a way for you to have learned and gained life experience and wisdom. It may also have been saving you from a greater difficulty.  He may want you to turn to Him so that He may deliver something which is actually better for you as an answer to your prayers. Your duty is not to find the answers to why, your test is to accept His divine decree and in the depths of your grief respond with “Alhamdulilah”. Be sure that your sacrifices for the sake of God will never go unacknowledged. I came across this passage of the Qur’an during the sadness I was experiencing. It reminded me of trying to see the bigger picture,

“Allah amplifies and straitens the means of subsistence for whom He pleases; and they rejoice in this world’s life, and this world’s life is nothing compared with the hereafter but a temporary enjoyment”

(Ayah 26, Surah Al Rad)

2)      Let go of Hard Feelings

Just let all the animosity go. It’s all wasted energy, I promise. Be civil with each other and try to end things on good terms, it helps you both move on. (Unless the person was an abusive nutcase, then yes, be angry and report them to relevant authorities!)

It is the case that people will hurt you. They may have said or done a few stupid things, but holding onto hard feelings against them is not going to do anyone any favours, especially yourself. The easiest way to relieve yourself of the pain is to forgive the person for whatever ways they may have wronged you. Accept that, like you, they are also human, and susceptible to making mistakes. People often hurt others even if it was not their intention to do so. It sucks, but it could have easily been you doing the same thing if you were in a different situation.  It is wise for you to ask for forgiveness yourself, especially if this person has expressed their hurt to you. Sometimes it takes time to front up and do this, but when it comes out, it can really bring a sense of closure. Pray for good things for this person as often as you think of them.

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3)      Find space and time to heal

The hardest thing about heartbreak can be the sensation of being completely alone again. Loneliness is often something we are afraid of, but we only feel it because during the time that we have someone else in our life, we are conditioning ourselves to happiness or validation in the presence of their partnership. Un-condition yourself. Shift this paradigm and make it all about you again. Sometimes after we have given so much of our energy to someone else, and especially when that has gone under-appreciated, we really need to find ourselves again. We need to build back our self esteem within the seemingly intimidating world of singledom and brave the currents to re-establish our self confidence. This task can seem very difficult when we are often left swimming in an ocean of personal insecurities after heartbreak. These feelings are completely normal, but you must not let them overcome you and drown as the circumstances can be very harmful. Give yourself the time and space to heal and be easy on yourself. There will be difficult days and more easier days, times when you know you have to take things one day at a time.  Indulge in the activities you have always personally known and loved and just work on taking care of yourself better.

Don’t feel the need to jump into anything new without feeling completely ready, it’s not fair on yourself or any other parties involved. If you give time for yourself, it will put you in a safer place to open your heart to the right person at another time in your life, God willing.

Everybody’s journey is different, and you may think of a million different ways to deal with heartbreak but I think the best thing we can take out of these experiences are the kinder memories. All the people that have ever mattered to you in your life will shape you and impact you, ultimately adding to the person you are. People we have encountered in heart break are not just people you either marry or don’t marry. These people are souls in and of themselves, experiences, lessons and moments of mercy that Allah has placed in our lives, even if you can’t see it. Don’t try and eradicate them completely from your hearts, but understand and appreciate their place in the greater scheme of things. If marriage is what you want, know that that is a noble ambition, it is the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w) and a means for you to draw closer to God should you have the correct intentions.

You may come across further trials in your search for the right person as it is not a necessarily smooth ride, nor is the journey of life in general. One day you are going to find the Man or Woman who raises you up and helps you place all your past experiences into perspective. Try your best to be the most healthy and strongest person you can be for them when you find them, so that you may also raise them up. And never forget to keep loving, even when the world turns upside down around us and love seems like it causes more pain then relief, there is the impenetrable love of The One who created both love and heart break. And He is The One who beautifully mends our hearts at the times when they were meant to be broken.

Post-breakup Boundaries

I received this anonymous post which reflected a question I’ve actually been thinking about: who ‘owns’ a space after a breakup? The Muslim community is so small that if both parties are active in the community, it can be almost impossible to avoid each other. I’ve seen couples negotiate this in a very professional and dignified manner, but I wonder if they’re secretly dying inside every time they see the person at some community event. If the split was particularly messy, it may be easier just to avoid places you know they might be. But unfortunately, there’s no place you can retreat to where the Muslim grapevine doesn’t extend to, as the author of this piece found out the hard way!

*Disclaimer: author’s identity has been concealed.

If any of you are avid Gossip Girl fans (guilty as charged), then you no doubt recall the numerous break ups of Blair Waldrorf and Chuck Bass.

Now, life might not be as dramatic as the fictional take on the Upper East Side of Manhattan but one particular scene did stick out to me as one way too familiar; the Waldorf Bass Peace Treaty.

Play from 0:13 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiiC5hkHFPU

Break ups are a messy affair – even for Muslims. You can label it an amicable parting all you like, but whether your relationship ended in tears and heartbreak or a rueful smile accompanying slumped shoulders there is one thing to which every break up has common claim.

Major. Awkwardness.

“Let’s stay friends!” some parting couples say, in an attempt to diminish hard feelings.

But what happens when you see your “friend” with a new partner? Even if you’d truly moved on, it’s not the greatest situation to find yourself in.

And so we draw lines. Boundaries, if you like. We mark our territories. The suburb he was from? Never step foot in it again without a burqa. Her favourite café? You suddenly develop an allergy to their coffee that you swear will make your beard hairs fall on entry.

But what happens when people start to prod those boundaries? In a tight knit community, it can be hard to avoid an ex who moved in the same circles. Inevitably, you will find each other coming out of exile to coincidentally attend the same event… and there are only so many corners you can hide in for an entire evening.

Especially if you accidentally both choose the same corner to lurk in. Ensue awkwardness.

Or perhaps some well meaning old friends who haven’t heard of your break up will ask you loudly at a social gathering for mutual friends, “So… When’s the wedding?!”

Hello beetroot face, it’s been a while.

Is coexistence possible?

Is coexistence possible?

But the very worst encroachment that I’ve not witnessed – or rather, experienced – to date was this:

Too soon after a messy break up of my own, my close friends ran into my former in-laws. Being familiar with each other, they said their hellos and had a quick catch-up chat.

And then the mother of all shattering statements was dropped.

“My new sister-in-law is the sweetest! We HAVE to introduce you to her soon – you will love her… Let’s set up a date!”

Now hold on just one second there, please! Pick up the red paint and splash a boundary line RIGHT. THERE.

Friends are the ultimate no-go-zone. Suburbian exile is tolerable. Café zoning is bearable. But the tug-of-war on friends just makes you radiate the kind of desperate dislike that has you screaming inside, “Take anything, take it ALL! Just don’t take my friends…”

Okay maybe that was a tad too melodramatic. But what’s a heartbreak without the drama?

So tell us, friends. What’s your take on territory lines? Are they worth the pain, or would you rather risk the run-in with the ex over putting yourself into exile?

Happily Never After

When it comes to relationships, I’ve got a serious case of Jekyll and Hyde going on. On the one hand, I’m irrepressibly soppy and have a penchant for love songs and love stories and love anything, really. But like any Social Inquiry student worth their money, I’m also cynical, over-analytical and hyper-critical (hey, that rhymed!). I’ve just heard too many bad stories. I’ve seen too many lovely people crushed under the weight of their relationship issues, too frightened and apathetic to leave. I’ve seen too many bad people recklessly and willfully hurt good people, and too many good people unknowingly hurt other good people. A friend of mine once said that no one is really happy in their relationships and that we all just pretend to be so to get by, which struck me as a horribly depressing yet perhaps not entirely inaccurate proposition.

Whether you’re Muslim or non-Muslim, leaving a relationship is never ever easy. But Muslims commit so early on that leaving even the shortest of relationships becomes an emotionally exhausting task. When we get to know someone, it’s on from the get-go. We often start to envision our entire life with that person, planning everything from our wedding to the number of children we’d like to have together. This isn’t crazy, clingy behaviour; we’re encouraged from an Islamic perspective to tackle the big issues head-on. Heck, there are even detailed questionnaires designed for this very purpose. (And before you ask, yes, I do know couples who get to know each other by going through them.)

Often the families of the guy and girl meet from the outset, so when you turn someone down, you’re in effect rejecting their entire family, which can get pretty darn awkward. But even when families are not involved, breaking up with someone is completely and utterly heart-wrenching. You’re not just turning the person down, you are closing the door on the life you had imagined leading together, a life that you now have to furiously erase from your mental whiteboard. Goodbye plans of going to study Arabic in Jordan together, hello impending cat lady/man status. Goodbye to the anticipated thrill of a Facebook relationship status update, hello to attending yet another wedding and having to field people’s endless questions about when you’re going to be next.

Another reason Muslims find ending a relationship particularly hard is because we know that opportunities to meet a person don’t come around every day. We can’t bounce straight back into ‘the dating game’; our rules mean we don’t even enter the court to begin with. Muslims living in countries like Australia have such a small pool of eligible partners to choose from, and so to turn one down without a very serious reason can often strike people as sheer idiocy. ‘But he’s a nice guy/girl!’ is often the catchcry of parents, many of whom seem to see it as a personal failing if their child cannot find a partner. Parental pressure can sometimes result in people staying in iffy relationships, willing themselves to be happy and for things to pick up at some point. (Respect for parents is something so deeply ingrained in us as Muslims that some in fact delegate the process of selecting a partner at least in part to them, but that’s a post for another day.)

This may sound odd, but I think that the fact that Muslims don’t live together before marriage makes it in fact more difficult to leave. Because we have no chance to ‘try before you buy’, we are often prone to believing that an average relationship will somehow improve after marriage. It can happen. Sometimes deep physical and emotional intimacy really can  elevate a relationship from meh to magical. But sometimes it can’t, and that’s nobody’s fault. No relationship is  risk-free, whether you’ve lived with the person for ten years or have only known them for ten months. There is always going to be some element of chance; the question is whether to leave and take a chance on the next person, or to stay and take a chance on this one. The decision is both deeply personal and universal. We’ve all had to make a difficult decision, knowing that we may very well live to regret it. To stay, or to walk away? Only you know the answer.

The end of the road?

The end of the road?