A Reflecting Arab Muslim Girl From Around the Corner

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eighteen, the Phases and the Friend.

After about 9 years of being in a relationship with him, I made a decision to relocate. We had a mutual understanding that if we were meant to be together forever, our paths would cross again somehow. Despite the amount of love I had for him when I moved - as will be understood by the time you finish reading this post - I had reached a point where I realized that him and I would never be. I wanted to settle down and start a family one day, and I knew that because it would not be him, I had to settle for someone other than him. It was the most difficult decision of my life, but it was mutual. It was during this move that I met my friend.

Every once in a while, you meet someone in your life whom you just have an immediate affinity towards. After spending just a few occasions together – or even from the first one – you automatically know that you want this person to be part of your life. And, for some reason you feel like you want to talk to them about your life. You find comfort in their listening ears.

A few years ago I met someone like that. She has grown to be an important part of my life and I suppose she doesn’t really understand how much I do need her and value her presence. Only a few weeks into our relationship, I decided to tell her about him. I was 23 as I spoke of this story to her.

I am not sure whether or not if someone would replay the initial conversation that I had with her about him, they would think that I am the same person, or that I am discussing the same story. I often see this relationship, and my journey through it, in two phases. One during high school and one post high school. My outlook on my relationship with him while living these two stages in my life were so completely different. Polar opposites.

By the time I turned 18, I didn’t question the relationship at all. I was totally convinced that he was the man of my dreams, and that our biggest test in life was that societal norms and family pressure would mean that our love would be forsaken and we would never be able to be together. If we were to end up together, it would mean that we would have to be ex-communicated and leave our families. I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to go through that. He was ever ready.

During my first year living in residence, a couple of hours away from where he was, I found comfort in him coming to visit me almost every week. I was old enough to feel like he was my man and if people saw us together I would introduce him as my fiancĂ©. I longed for him to come over, and for us to eat out and spend time together…to reflect on life together. He would shower me with love, and I in turn would shower him with the same. He would help me brainstorm my essays, and I would teach him what I was learning at university. I made sure he knew my every step during the day. Our phone bills would reach far into the hundreds. But, it didn’t matter. We were in love. ‘True love’, I convinced myself.

By the time I was 18, I had no doubt about the relationship. I had no anger. No confusion. Only love. I would thank God for his presence in my life, and my tears would not be ones from a heavy heart about why he was doing what he was to me, but rather why we wouldn’t be able to be together like a normal couple for the rest of our lives. I truly felt that he was a God send – a divine gift. Our love was paralleled with my spiritual journey towards Allah.

How did I reach this stage? I believe that after years of push and pull (from 13-18 for me), we humans honestly reach a stage where despite the pressure, we finally convince ourselves that it’s not as bad as we make it out to be. Each moment I prolonged during the first five years, my body’s and my heart’s defense mechanisms only grew weaker. I lowered my guard – because I realized that having my guard up and resisting did not change anything – it simply exhausted me. And so, overtime, I become blinded from the bad – I forgot about the pressure. In fact, once I entered university, if ever he would talk about the start of the relationship, I would tell him to stop. I did not want to remember. I feel that I experienced a phase of selective amnesia – the relationship was only good, and about good.

And so, from the age of 18, I thought I was Juliet and he Romeo. Honestly. As I sat with my friend and recounted, I told her the story of a man in love with a girl so many years his junior, and a girl in love with a man, so many years her senior. I described how despite how much they loved each other, society would not understand because of the age difference, and because my family would never approve of the marriage. I am sure her heart softened up to him as I described his romance with me, his constant praise and support and the amount of spoiling he would offer me. ‘This is from him, and this and this and this….’ I would say as I proudly revealed his gifts to me.

At that time, when I would recount my story I would be moved to tears as I reflected on why we weren’t together and why I had to taste the sweetness of his love in the first place if it would not be eternal. You see, I was living post high school phase. I remembered nothing of the beginnings of the relationship…nothing of the disgust I feel now when I think of things retrospectively.

Meeting my friend was a very important thing in my life. She opened my eyes and I honestly feel that God brought her into my life when I truly needed her strength. She came into my life at the moment I had made a decision to move away from him, and if it wasn’t for how she helped open my eyes and put life into perspective, I wonder if I would still be experiencing the selective amnesia that I mentioned – perhaps I would have already taken the leap and been with him by now. As our relationship grew, I would tell her more and more about my relationship, and it was during my reflections with her that I began recalling my feelings during high school.

I wonder what she thinks about my journey. I wonder what you, my readers think about the polar opposite phases I experienced. Why do you think I forgot about the pressure I felt during high school once I moved away for university? What was it about turning 18 that blinded me from the negative feelings that existed at the start, but that I remember now?


  1. Everyone wants the people they love to be better than they are. We enable alcoholics, pedophiles, abusers because we are convinced that we do not deserve better and that if we did our love would change the bad behavior. Love is a force, but not that kind.

    He was a man who you and your family trusted. He could not honor that trust and you, the least defenseless and most trusting person he knew became his victim. Your relationship went on for so long that your self-esteem was wrapped up in his attention. He acted pitifully. I don't think you mistake pity for love anymore. You are becoming free. It is a continuing process. The relationship has permanently changed you, but it no longer determines your behavior.

    Your friend has been a true friend. There is no substitute for a friend, someone who asks nothing of you, who puts no undue demands on your relationship. Someone who takes you as you are, who is proud to be with you and feels no need to hide that from anyone.

  2. I agree with everything wrinkledman says. We put up with way too much because of love. Because we believe that if he loves us it must be okay. Because we think we don't deserve any better, because if we just keep giving, maybe, just maybe it'll change.