Written by: Leah D. Hanoosh

 

 

Sometimes love is not enough. Repeat that to yourself.

 

Some reading this may do so, wondering why I state the obvious. Others, especially those of us who are converts and/or have been brought up surrounded by the typically “Western” narrative of marriage, may repeat the words with a touch of hesitation.

 

Love is not enough. Love is not enough?  

 

Don’t misunderstand: love brings light, harmony, joy, and adventure to a relationship. Love is a wonderful and important element in a marriage. But it is not enough. It is not the foundation upon which marriage must be based.

 

What, then, is that foundation? Once you answer that question for yourself, you will be equipped to begin preparing for a new, healthy marriage.

 

We crave love. Having survived divorce, completed your iddah, and now arrived at the point where you are hoping to remarry, it is normal that you should desire a warm and loving relationship. However, if I were allowed only one piece of advice to give to those preparing for a new marriage, it would be this: treat any match like a business transaction before you allow emotions to enter the equation.

 

Make a list. What personal qualities are you looking for? What are the prerequisites for any candidate before consideration? What essential elements must your relationship hold? Which points are non-negotiable? Where may you be open to compromise? Ask any potential match to create a similar list.

 

If this approach seems somewhat cold and methodical, that is a good thing. In the beginning, imagine you are interviewing candidates for a job, rather than searching for your life partner. Though this may be a difficult mindset to adopt, for some, it is ultimately for your own benefit. If you discover that a possible future husband is incompatible, or he holds some sort of belief or characteristic that is a deal breaker, it will be much easier to say no if you aren’t in love.

 

Once in love, we tend to make excuses, to hope for change in our partner, to convince ourselves that it will be okay – even if it won’t. It can be painful to break things off.

 

In every Disney love story, the movie ends with a wedding. But in Islam, the wedding is the beginning.

 

Everything we do before we marry must be in an attempt to create a foundation upon which we can live the rest of our lives. But how do we do that? What do we look for? Though I have advised thus far that love is not enough and that you should create lists, I have given few specifics. I have taken this approach because the journey to a new marriage is highly individual. What I looked for in a husband may be vastly different from anyone else.

 

We all hold different values and we all have different priorities. Some of us may hold religiosity to the highest standard of importance. Some may have an adamant desire for more children (or any children at all), while others are willing to compromise on that point. However, no matter your personal deal breakers, no matter your list of priorities, every marriage must have within its foundation the elements of respect and trust. It is impossible to have a healthy marriage without these things.

 

After you have made your lists and found someone compatible, work on establishing respect, work on building trust. A marriage where there is a lack of respect on one or both sides is a toxic one.

 

The above is more or less the model my husband and I followed as we were getting to know one another before we definitively decided that we wanted to marry. We exchanged emails, spent many hours on the phone, discussing our personal beliefs and priorities in detail.

 

We did not – do not – correspond identically, nor do any two people, I am sure. But we decided very early on to be methodical in our approach to marriage. It worked well for us. We connected first on a rational level, our personalities clicked, and a relationship of love grew from there, and continues to grow. I believe that as long as all parties are exercising honesty, it should work well for any couple.

 

It is vital to remember, however, that no matter how compatible you seem with your husband-to-be, there will be bumps in the road. No marriage, even those between the closest of friends and the greatest of soulmates, is without its difficulties. This is, perhaps, the second most important piece of advice, and one that my grandma gave me on more than one occasion: marriage can be hard. It can be especially difficult to bear that in mind as we search for our true love, our real happily ever after.

 

After divorce, we thirst even more for a relationship filled with the simplicity of comfort and love. But with the right partner, bumps in the road are steps towards that place of comfort. It is as Allah told us in the Quran: “Verily, after hardship comes ease.”

 

In Surat ar-Rum, Allah said: “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, that He has put love and mercy between you…”

 

Love may not be a good building block upon which to begin a marriage, but with a good foundation – trust and respect – and strong supporting pillars – compatibility of priorities, beliefs, and personality – love is something that will naturally bloom.

 

 

 

Leah is an American expatriate living in Oman with her Iraqi husband and two children of mixed nationality. She is a stay-at-home mom with aspirations involving mastering several languages, translation, medicine, and writing.When she isn’t encouraging her kids to do silly things, she is spoiling her family with her excellent cooking, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and reflecting on her life experiences thus far.

 

 

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