PREFACE: This post was written from a heterosexual perspective on relationships and may not apply to LGBTTIQ2SA+ communities. I acknowledge and respect the cultural nuances and gender identities in communities that experience relationships differently.
I had a conversation with a friend a few months ago about the difficulties of finding a life partner as technology advances, and as we become more connected with people worldwide. While there are more options than 40 years ago, choosing the right person is now more overwhelming because of the increase in options. The consequence of having more choices is that most people will always wonder if the next one is better until they’re left with none. There’s no intentional and maximal effort in committing to just one person. Still, my friend replied, “Oh, common Hazar, there are eight billion people in the world! Surely, you’ll find someone compatible.” I smiled, shook my head and laughed a little. Then I said, “I appreciate that, but let’s talk about how eight billion options ultimately mean there are likely none.” You want to know what I said, right? Over the years, I compiled three lists of what I’m looking for in a partner: The Non-negotiables, The Grey-Areas, and The Nice-to-haves. Let’s do the math together.
I’ll use simple and arbitrary math to get my point across, but please understand that “the math” can vary for everyone. And we’ll use me and my list of dealbreakers (in chronological order) for this example. This list differs for each man and woman, by the way.
- First, I’m looking for a Muslim, and that is NON-negotiable.
- According to the internet, there are currently 1.9 billion Muslims, so we’ve already gone from 8 billion to 1.9 billion.
- I’m looking for a male partner. Of the 1.9 billion Muslims, let’s assume, for simplicity’s sake, half of them are men. That’s now 950 million men.
- Let’s assume 5-8% of the 950 million are gay. Whether Muslims want to admit it or not, there are gay Muslims. Let’s round the number to an even 900 million.
- Another non-negotiable is that he has to be Sunni-Muslim. I’m not willing to fight my parents and die on the hill of which Islamic sect is better. So, let’s assume again that half of the 900 million are Sunni Muslim men. Now we’re down to 450 million Sunni Muslim men.
- Age matters, obviously. So let’s assume half of 450 million Sunni Muslim men are of the appropriate age group. For me, the appropriate group is currently men between the ages of 34 and 44. I will not consider a younger man or an older generation because of the many communication and cultural differences that come with a significant age gap. So, now we’re at 225 million men.
- Marital status: Muslim men can indeed have up to four wives. F*ck that shit. I’m nobody’s second, third or fourth choice. So let’s assume that half of the 225 million men are married, which takes us down to 113 million men (rounding up because I’m an optimist).
- Relationship history: Men under the category I’ve selected will go for virgins if they’ve never been married. As much as I hate this stigmatized label, I am a divorcee, and so I’m interested in someone who can relate to this struggle. And no widows, I don’t compete with ghost wives. That’s just me. So, let’s assume half of the 113 million men are divorced. Now we’re at 57 million men (again, rounding up because I’m ever the optimist).
- Divorce: With all due respect, when I say divorced, I mean, “show me your divorce papers.” I don’t do men who are “separated” or only divorced (once) Islamically. If you haven’t said “inti taleq (you’re divorced)” three times, and you come to me and tell me you’re divorced, you’re still married. You’re separated, not divorced. So let’s assume half of these divorced men are still sifting through their baggage and SHOULD NOT be in the market looking to take advantage of vulnerable women. That’s 29 million men.
- Speaking of divorce, I will not for a second (ever again) consider a man who hasn’t been divorced for more than a year because they’re likely to be still hung up on their past relationship regardless of who asked for the divorce. Divorce is a complex process affecting one’s mental and sometimes physical health. It’s expensive, messy, and painful. It requires a period of mourning. Half that 29 million, and you now have 14 million bachelors (this time, I’m rounding down because, let’s be honest).
- He needs to be financially stable. I’m not saying he needs to be a millionaire, but I need someone who understands that buying a $7.99 little electronic toy fish at Walmart for their real fish is NOT a sound investment (true story). Let’s assume half of 14 million men meet MY definitions for financial stability and fiscal responsibility, which brings us to 7 million men.
OK, we’re now at 7 million men worldwide that may be eligible, and I still need to include geographical, mental and physical health, intention and superficial criteria. The above is a list of absolute non-negotiables. Now, let’s check out my subjective lists.
The Grey Areas
- Citizenship and intent: In a world that appreciates globalization, you may wonder why citizenship matters. Many (Muslim) men agree to an arranged marriage or pursue a woman who has an attractive nationality. I’m fortunate to be Canadian, but I am NOBODY’S passport. If I so much as get a whiff that someone is trying to bullshit their way into my life so they can get their hands on Canadian citizenship, they can kiss my ass goodbye. If he’s genuine, and it just so happens that I offer to sponsor him, that’s a different story. Unfortunately, many men are looking to marry a passport and not the woman herself: 3.5 million men.
- Mental health: I know my limits. I’m supportive and understand that mental health is a growing issue. But someone has to be willing to help themselves before I can support them. I cannot be with someone who uses their mental health as an excuse to devalue me and treat me like crap. My ex-husband fell back on his ADHD when he hurt me or wanted to get out of helping, “I can’t wash the dishes; I have ADHD. I can’t take the trash out; I have ADHD. I can’t demand my worth from my employer because I have ADHD, so you need a better job to support us.” Men who don’t take responsibility for their health are a NO for me: 1.8 million men.
- Deen (Religion): I couldn’t add this to my non-negotiable because it is a grey area and very subjective. I need a man who practices religion. I’m not looking for a Ramadan Muslim or someone who says his parents are Muslim. I once met a Muslim and told him I prayed, and he said, “Oh my God! Don’t tell me you’re one of those religious Muslims!” Buddy, if doing the bare minimum for my religion constitutes being religious, then you and I will not work. Half that shit: 900 thousand men.
- Physical health: I hate to admit it, but we can’t discount that there are men with physical health problems that I am in no position to help or support. So, men who have long-term illnesses or don’t look after their physical health need the support of their family or someone stronger than me to be with them. However, this is also subjective: 450 thousand men.
- Geography and accessibility: Normally, location is not an issue for me, but there’s only so far I’m willing to go. For example, I’m not going to travel for a man who lives in Australia. I’ve made the mistake of putting in the effort for a man once; I’m not doing that again: 225 thousand men.
- Personality: Most Muslim men suffer from an inferiority complex because they were raised to be in control of everything and everyone, which means women with my character are intimidating. They’re attracted to strong women and find their intellect sexy. Still, once married, they’ll spend the rest of their lives breaking that woman into submission instead of providing her with a safe space to be in her feminine and voluntarily submit. TRUST ME, men; I’ve been alpha for so long and will happily give that role back to you if you can handle it and respect my femininity: 112 thousand men.
- Cultural sensitivity: I have no preference for ethnic background. Naturally, my parents would want me to be with an Arab man because it’s easier in terms of culture and language. But I am willing to put down an entire paycheque that an Arab born and raised in the middle of butt-fck nowhere Oman would never get along with a woman like me in a million years. I’m more likely to get along with a non-Arab, educated and well-travelled Muslim raised in the West. Cultural upbringing, for me, matters more than ethnicity: 56 thousand men.
- Social conduct: I don’t care about a man’s social status unless it affects their behaviour. A man who has poor etiquette and isn’t culturally adaptable, who disrespects my family home with crude and inappropriate jokes, and who doesn’t understand the simple notion of being polite to others can go fck himself: 28 thousand men.
- Education: While education doesn’t define one’s character, it’s certainly easier for me to get along with someone who’s had a post-graduate education. In my experience, I intimidate men with my degrees because they can’t keep up with my intellect or feel the need to compete. They have yet to understand that we should be raising each other: 16 thousand men.
The above criteria are the ones we take for granted. When writing a list of what we’re looking for in a partner – man or woman – we don’t immediately think about the more complex criteria because superficial features consume us. That’s completely normal, considering the first thing we notice about someone is their physical attributes. We can’t simply apply detailed filters in real life or even on a dating app when we first meet someone. And so here’s my superficial list. What can I say? I like what I like.
- Height: Yes, ideally, I want a tall man. I’m 5’4, so it’s not hard to be taller than me: 8 thousand men.
- Fertility: I do want kids, y’all. And he must wish to have them too: 4 thousand men.
- Hygiene: I am always SURPRISED at how many men don’t shower or brush their teeth regularly. What in the absolute fck: 2 thousand men.
- Athletic: I like men with an athletic build. I’m not saying he’s got to be a bodybuilder or on steroids, but I want to be able to go for hikes and try different outdoor activities with my partner. I don’t want a couch potato who can’t take a break to do something fun: 1 thousand men.
- I like broad shoulders, muscular arms and bearded men. I like what I like y’all: 500 men.
- Smile: I actually cannot be with someone who doesn’t care for their teeth. It truly bothers me. I’m tempted to move this up to the non-negotiable list, to be honest. 250 men.
- Confidence: I would like my man to be assertive. Not abusive. Assertive. 125 men.
- Fashion sense: Someone who doesn’t care what they look like usually means they have no self-respect. I like my sweats like the next person, but I don’t live and breathe sweatpants and pyjamas. 63 men.
- Multilingual: I speak four languages. I want a man who speaks more than just English. Ideally, Arabic or French. 32 men.
- Family-oriented: I want a man who values his family and respects his parents. Far too many men trash their parents and send them to homes. 16 men.
- Personality (again): I like a man with a fun and bubbly character who knows when to be serious. 8 men.
There you have it, folks. Out of eight billion people, perhaps only eight men scattered in this world may be compatible. In other words, I have a 0.0000001% chance of finding my til-death-do-us-part life-long partner. And that’s only if we only consider MY list. They still have to be vetted by my family because, in Islam, you need a wali (someone who offers guidance or protection) to bless the union. Furthermore, these prospects have their respective lists and families that do their proper vetting. So, the remaining questions are:
- Do I meet the criteria of one of these eight men? Maybe they don’t find me attractive or prefer women who wear the hijab (a headscarf). Seriously! You never know. May God grant me the courage to wear the hijab one day in this country that discriminates against it. However, I will not wear one for anyone unless it’s for me.
- Do we get along and have the right compatible emotional intelligence to navigate a relationship together?
And the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:
Is he PREPARED or simply INTERESTED?
Ready or not, here I come
Now, now, let’s not pretend you don’t have a list either. Take a pen and paper and write your priorities; you’ll find you have standards too. Yet, you probably still think I’m incredibly picky and unrealistic. I can hear the voice in your head saying, “Oh my God, Hazar! You’ll never find “the one” with a list like that! It’s too specific.” That’s the point. I’m not looking; therefore, I don’t plan on finding anyone. In my last post, Fantastic Men and Where to Find Them, I told you that I neither look for nor chase after men. I’m very comfortable with living the rest of my days alone. I may appear jaded and unromantic. The truth is that I’m not willing to settle. I’m happy and at peace, and if I’m fated to meet someone one day, I’d like them to add to that peace, not disturb it. I also know who I am and that I won’t be able to live with myself if I choose someone who doesn’t AT LEAST meet my non-negotiables. Besides, it only takes one; the RIGHT one. However, my list isn’t even the root cause of my singlehood — or yours if you’re wondering — believe it or not. The problem lies within the men who confuse preparedness with interest. What does it mean to be prepared versus being interested?
I mentioned earlier that people are first attracted to a person’s physical attributes, followed by their level of intellect. Independent, intellectual and physically attractive women will gain the attention of many men. The same goes for men: women are attracted to men who are self-sufficient, intelligent and, in their eyes, at least a 7 out of 10. This stage of a potential relationship is known as the “Interested” stage. Before we consider a prospect, we have to be interested. It’s natural and OK. Interested, however, doesn’t mean prepared. There are plenty of interested men, but only some are prepared to do the work and commit to building a relationship. I lost count of how many times a man has said, “Wow! Hazar, you’re amazing, incredible and perfect! You’re everything I’ve ever dreamed of! But I fear you’re too good for me.” Uh-huh. Yup. B*tch, I don’t need you to tell me I’m perfect. I already know I’m a gem. The phrase “too good for me” is code for “I can’t live up to your standards, and I won’t (even try).” Ladies, trust me when I say believe them. You ARE too good for them, and they will NOT live up to your standards.
Phrases like “you’re too good for me,” “I have a lot going on,” “I’m too busy,” etc. are not an invitation for you to prove them wrong. You are too good for them; they have a lot going on and are too busy. See it as a blessing, and don’t waste more time on their asses. While some men might consider your sudden lack of interest when you move on as a blow to their ego, and may tempt you to try harder by momentarily saying what you want to hear so they can keep you in their orbit, always revisit the unanswered question, “Are you ready for me (now)? Are you prepared to commit (now)?” If the answer isn’t an immediate YES, dump his ass and move on. Don’t look back. You can’t navigate your life by looking in the rearview mirror.
I don’t want you to think that an interested man doesn’t stand a chance, however. Sometimes, some men are genuinely interested in you and are GOOD MEN but are highly overwhelmed with the circumstances in their lives. Although it’s their responsibility to recognize their unavailability and that keeping you in their circle is selfish and only serves them as you anxiously wait for the day they ARE ready. That’s not fair. It’s not your fault that he isn’t prepared. A REAL good man will be HONEST about his circumstances, let you go and let YOU choose if you want to wait. When the time comes that he is prepared, he can come back around. Until then, no amount of waiting around — in my opinion — is worth emotional stress and pain.
Women will want to argue, “But, Hazar, he does everything right! We clicked! We get along so well! I don’t think I’ll find someone like him. Put yourself in his shoes. I can wait a little longer because I know he’s RIGHT for me!” Babe, if he’s RIGHT for you but not READY, it means he’s NOT right for you. But hey! You, too, have a responsibility for yourself and have every right to choose to wait. Another argument you may have is, “But, Hazar, you said yourself that there’s only a 0.0000001% chance of me finding love. What if I go through all eight men and move on from them? Then, I’m left with nothing.” Ah, yes, the famous list. The beautiful thing about YOUR list is that you are listing a set of criteria, not a set of men. This means that men can find themselves in and out of that list anytime. The list you create for yourself is a set of standards to help you narrow down your choices, not eliminate them. A man can be a top contender one day, then suddenly surprise you and get booted off the list the next. Alternatively, a man who wasn’t ready today could get his shit together and be ready tomorrow. A man who TRULY wants to be with a woman will do everything in his power to be with said woman. So don’t hang your entire life on low-hanging rotting fruit.
The difference between an interested man and a prepared man is straightforward. Simply, it’s how much effort they’re willing to put into making a relationship work. An interested man may do the bare minimum for a while, but you’ll never be his priority. So, you’ll always wonder if you did something wrong, said something wrong, if your standards are too high, or if you need to be a little more patient than you already are. In contrast, a prepared man will not give you time to wonder. He’ll ask himself, “What will it take to make this relationship work? What are her values? What is her love language? How do I show her that she’s a priority in my life?” Every one of us has a love language and a list of values we must share with our prospective significant other, so they understand what we need from them to feel safe, loved, wanted and valued. Communication and respect are the keys to a healthy relationship. Those are my love languages.
Hang on there, ladies! You’re not off the hook. Remember, you must also be emotionally and physically prepared if you want to be with an emotionally and physically available man. Before you write that priorities list, you must ask yourself if you are even ready for a relationship and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I emotionally prepared to support someone other than myself? Do I have unresolved circumstances to prioritize before introducing a man into my life? Am I comfortable with my past and my known insecurities? How do I contribute to a relationship and add value to a man’s life? What sacrifices am I willing to make for a man?” Be vulnerable with yourself, work on yourself, and be ready to take the necessary actions to become the best version of yourself for your potential partner. Once you’re comfortable with who you are and know your worth, you can ask yourself, “What are my non-negotiables, grey areas and nice-to-haves?” Don’t desperately try to cross a milestone (relationship/marriage) off your bucket list without knowing whether or not you’re prepared to do the work for a successful relationship. Being ready is a lifelong commitment and doesn’t end when you meet the love of your life. Appreciate that a man has his list, and just like men, we women can fall in and out of that list at any moment.
Content inspired by Derrick Jaxn on “Interested vs Prepared,” IG: @derrickjaxn
Image by Quotesgram