A Letter to my Potential Suitor
To the Muslim man I may be communicating with for the purpose of marriage,
It's a pleasure to meet you. While I'm excited about the time we'll be taking to get to know one another, I'm also very apprehensive. And the best way I deal with apprehension is to write.
And so here I am, writing a letter to you.
I'm sure that upon first glance at my online profile and the images I've shared of myself, I present pretty well. I'm smiling, so things must be OK. My profile is written articulately and coherently. Alhamdulillah, I'm educated, have a stable job, a fun side gig that involves a lot of traveling, and have spent eight years working in a field I love. I have solid friends, good health, and a loving family.
I appear to have it all together.
I can pretend that I've lived the "perfect life" with no trials or challenges: that there haven't been many life events that have left me struggling. I can further pretend that I'm happy-go-lucky and I'm satisfied with our conversations only skimming the most superficial of levels, so that it prevents you from diving uncomfortably deeper into the confusing yet beautiful mess that is life.
But I wouldn't be true to myself if I did that, and it also wouldn't be giving you the real picture of who I am.
I've been blessed with so much, and this includes some pretty tough challenges. I may be wrong, but many Muslims don't talk about their trials - they hide them shamefully away, as if they're a reflection of the "bad person" they are. Some are afraid of how their suitors will react, some may not have any awareness of their struggles, and some just don't know how to articulate their life challenges because they're in the midst of dealing with it.
But you see, my messy trials are part and parcel of who I am as a person. I can't lie about not having been married and now divorced. I can't pretend that I come from a nuclear family with 2.0 parents who are happily married. I can't hide my trauma from you, pretending that it doesn't exist and that it won't impact our relationship.
Because it might. But I don't believe that this is necessarily a bad thing.
So when I disclose the challenges I've faced and still am facing, I'm not doing so because I need you to carry my burden. Not at all. I've carried them on my own for so long. What I do need from you though is the understanding that I come as who I am now because of what I've learned (and still am learning) from what I've been through. It may sound scary when I mention the word "divorce" to you and then throw "trauma" in there. I'm sure you're wondering how messed up I am, what it means for me to be "normal", and if you're wanting to get to know someone who appears to have gone through a lot.
But the truth is, we all come into relationships having faced trials in the past and often times, still are in the present. It may intimidate you to have a woman articulate what she's been through and explain how this may impact the future. I'm not expecting every man I converse with to understand or accept what I say, and this may include you.
I'd also like to remind you, the Muslim man, that our religion gives very clear guidance about what qualities both men and women should be looking for in a spouse. Muslim women are judged for their beauty, character, wealth and religiousness. As a man, you're guided to look at the closeness of a woman to her religion and Allah. Too often, Muslims mix up this religious advice with cultural misunderstandings. So for you to worry that my divorced family won't be compatible with your intact family...there's no religious basis for this thought, and it most likely stems from stereotypical thinking about the need for homogeneity within our parental units. Or maybe you're ashamed at the thought of having to tell your parents that I come from a "broken home".
I'm also well aware that I don't need to convince you or any other man of anything. I refuse to downplay my situation as a means to appease you...to make you feel comfortable. I come as I am, with a past that is what it is, and with a family situation that may be "different" from the norm but isn't wrong.
As I said, I don't need every man I communicate with to accept me for who I am and what moulded me into the person you see before you.
I just need one.
A Muslim Sistah