Being a single Muslimah — especially over 30 — can be a pretty worrying experience. Yes life is fun, you are fab, you enjoy a great social life, you have financial freedom and the luxury of going out whenever you like and pretty much enjoy living life in your own terms. All is going great…until night strikes and lying in bed at night the anxiety and doubt which you have kept at bay all day suddenly creep in…
Sound familiar? I too often used to wake up in the dead of the night in an irrational panic over my singledom and potential life alone with a cat. Or toss and turn unable to sleep as I pondered where I might have gone wrong and what I would do if I ended up some apparently unimaginable age and still single.
You then wake up fine, a little unsettled maybe, but throw yourself into work and all your other responsibilities. At some point in the day (usually at the gym or some other powerful moment) you will convince ourselves that you are just fine and don’t need a guy to feel complete only to get home and find a wedding invitation on your welcome mat and the stomach-churning begins again!
In my work as a coach to single Muslim women a lot of the same fears and anxieties seem to come up over and again in my conversations with my clients. So today I have decided to address them directly, openly and honestly and to explore ways to rationally allay those fears so that you can continue to enjoy life and search for a life partner from a place of confidence and contentment rather than fear and insecurity.
So what are the top fears of the single Muslima today?
1. What if I settle?
This is easily the most common one I hear. You are terrified that after all this waiting, holding out and looking for just the right guy you might end up marrying the wrong one and it would all have been for nothing.
So let’s work through this one..
Think about all of the guys you could have said yes to in the past but didn’t. Your instinct was telling you that they were not right for you and your female intuition meant that you were not feeling that connection even if he seemed great otherwise.
And let’s not forget the cringeworthy times you look back over your dating history and think “what was I thinking?” when it comes to certain guys!
But you didn’t marry them right? Your common sense and gut feelings were able to override any rash decisions you were about to make.
Tune into your intuition more, trust that she will not let you down and remember that you are a smart, intelligent and powerful woman who can make the right decision even if it means you are single for a bit longer.
2. Are they right to call me “too picky”?
Being called “picky” is never pleasant especially when there is nothing you want more in the world than to just find that special guy, settle down and create a lifetime of happiness and love.
When people call you picky it is criticism and the danger is that you internalise it and make it a truth. Nobody knows what you are going through but you so firstly, don’t take their words to heart (maybe they are wishing they had been a little more discerning!)
Secondly try this exercise I like to do with my clients. Make a list of 15 things your future spouse must have/do/be like. Now narrow it down to only 3 things that you couldn’t sacrifice even if the survival of the human race depended on your union!
So long as your final top 3 are personal qualities and not in the diamonds, car or six-pack category, I think you can safely reassure yourself that fundamentally you are looking for the right things and have not yet yet found them in a guy you connect with which therefore makes you not picky just cautious!
3. Where will I be in 5 years time?
Where will any of us be?
Rather think back to where you were 5 years ago. You may have been single then too but what else have you accomplished in that 5 years that is not to do with marriage?
Maybe you started a new job, bought a home, travelled somewhere really cool, made some great friends, grew in confidence and skills. There is so much that happens in 5 years and not getting married doesn’t negate all the great stuff you have achieved. Just because your community refuses to acknowledge your successes because you are not married , doesn’t mean you should.
Think about everything you want to achieve in 5 years , as well as getting married, and spread your desires out so you are not fixated on the idea of marriage as the only indicator of success and happiness.
Yes marriage is one of the big ones but if you keep in mind how successful you have been in other areas then you can reassure yourself that you can nail this one too!
4. What if I never find anyone?
The actual fear is not necessarily about never meeting a guy but rather never meeting the right one.
The bottom line is the world is full of eligible guys.
For each one that gets married a new one pops up! There are guys out there for you to meet whatever your age, circumstances etc. Think of all of the guys you have met over the years. There’s never been a man drought (although it does feel like it a lot of the time!).
The guys are there and with the right tools and skills you can help yourself to find the right ones rather than just randomly meeting lots of them until you hopefully hit upon the jackpot!
Everyday, all kinds of women who once thought marriage was a distant dream and that Mr. Right did not exist are getting married . I bet you can even name a few personally. So why not you?
5. Have I missed my opportunity with (insert name of hideous ex here)?
Ahh the ex! The one that supposedly got away!
So often in a state of desperation you look backwards instead of forwards because you know what happened in the past but you don’t know what will happen in the future. The past is just safer because we know it.
You convince yourself that you could have made it work with him or that maybe it could work now that you are older/wiser/thinner/richer whatever! You conveniently forget the pain, the hurt and the misery you went through when you were with him and how much better life eventually was without him.
Here’s the thing: he is no longer in your life for a reason. If it’s really meant to be it will happen naturally, by fate, not through a midnight text to ask him how he is doing in the hope of rekindling some kind of flimsy connection again.
If you are hung up on a guy from the past who you believe to be the benchmark by which all other guys are measured by then you need to release him from his pedestal NOW! Otherwise you will never appreciate the wonderful new guys you meet for who they are, you will just dislike them for who they are not.
The day you meet The One you will realise why the other one is an ex!
6. What if it’s too late to have babies?
This is a tough one and what you need is a little perspective.
Unfortunately it has always been considered a given that children will happen as the next step after marriage. This accounts for all of the horror stories you hear of women being mistreated by their families and spouses if they cannot produce a child.
However, the harsh reality is that children are not a given and therefore shouldn’t be the only reason we get married. Some couples get married in their 20s and cannot conceive. Other couples get married in their 30s and over and are still able to conceive. It really is down to Allah’s mercy as to who has children and who doesn’t.
Not having children shouldn’t spell the end of a marriage if the relationship is strong to start with. After all, unless you have been married before, it is fair to assume that as a Muslim woman you haven’t tried to have babies yet so it’s all a bit of a surprise waiting to see if it will actually happen, whatever your age.
Yes there is medical research to show that it can be harder after a certain age but there is also living evidence of so many women who conceive way after their 20s.
So don’t fixate on the idea that marriage is inevitably followed by children. Consider children a bonus blessing and work towards finding and nurturing a solid relationship that will survive any setbacks.
7. What will people say if I never get married?
Reality check: some people will always have something nasty to say. They gossip because they are bored and unhappy, not because you are single.
If tomorrow you meet the most amazing guy on earth and get married they will say “it’s about time” (I got that one a lot). When you get married they will talk about why you haven’t procreated straight away (I get that too) . If you have a child they will talk about why you only have one. And so it goes.
It’s hard not to take criticism personally especially when it is about something you feel so vulnerable about but if you let the words of people who know nothing about your struggle get to you, you are doing yourself a great disservice in that you are handing over guardianship of your self-esteem to them.
Sometimes it feels difficult to do this as you start to wonder whether you have done something wrong and are being “punished” with celibacy and loneliness.
When praying for marriage you don’t always see immediate results such as we might when praying for a promotion and getting it or praying for a good day and having one. But the principle is still the same.
Think of it this way, have you ever been in one of those situations where something happened and afterwards you said how merciful it was that you were there/it happened at this time/it happened just after..etc.? In these instances we realise how Allah’s mercy put us in the right place at the right time.
Your search for a spouse is no different. However, sometimes making the same mistakes over and again is Allah’s way of encouraging you to change something that will lead you to the man who is right for you. Maybe the man who is right for you will come to you when you are in the right place spiritually, mentally and emotionally to receive him. Allah knows better than us what is good for us and as He says in surah ar- Ra’d [13:11]Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.
So please stop fretting my darling sister, sleep soundly and trust that YOU have the power to make things happen for you!