I started this column a few months ago with a reflection on a failed shot at romance. That post told you everything you need to know about my life in the last few years: new convert unable to stop dating or shake off commitment issues, barely repentant scumbag, honest to a fault and confused about what Romance While Muslim may mean.
Since then, I’ve explored these issues in more depth, wandering through my psyche without a clue of where I was heading. And yet, suddenly I’m here, and it seems my destination was inevitable all along.
I met someone.
In my last column, Welcome to Heartbreak, I wrote about my dilemma in seeing a woman who I know likes me more than I like her.
This situation is not new for me, and was only worth writing about in this case because the woman in question is brand new to the dating game. Otherwise, the story is relatively unremarkable in my experience. I’ve been involved in similar situations many times before, with more experienced women, and my response is to make sure I never patronize them. If they tell me they can handle being with me without me being fully with them, I believe them. Until they tell me they can’t.
The genuinely noteworthy aspect of my last column then is the block I briefly described that prevents me from actually committing to these women.
Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.
People never approach their first, true romance with a clean slate. Life is too turbulent for that. Still, the first romance is experienced with a certain naïveté that can be forever lost after it ends, but remains necessary for a future love to work.
This is certainly true in my case. My first real connection came at 18 and I fell quickly. I did the sort of cheesy cringe-inducing things for her that I frown upon so much now that I can’t even bring myself to list them. She was constantly on my mind, and everything I did seemed better as a result. I was hooked after I lost my virginity to her, fully comitted to taking her ride no matter where I’d end up.
I gave up a lot of things I enjoyed when I became Muslim, including alcohol, drugs and pork. I gave those things up because they’re haram, but also because I personally believed giving them up would lead to beneficial changes in my life. I also gave them up because I think it’s good to give up something you enjoy each year, in order to not become too dependent on any one thing. I was convinced that leaving them behind was the right thing to do, and I haven’t been disappointed.
Dating, however, has still been a feature of my Muslim life. This is true not because I’m powerless to give it up, but because I think it’s beneficial for me in the long run. The more halal paths to marriage, in my eyes, won’t work for me.
The fact that I’ve basically given in to pursuing a haram (at least to some degree) path to marriage has been a constant source of reflection and concern. It’s also been a useful dilemma to have, however, as it has allowed me to realize just how drastically my conception of dating and relationships has changed in the last few years.
The first Muslim in my life carried Islam around like a ball and chain.
The time we shared together was short-lived. We only dated for a few months, and broke up a bit before I converted. But the brief moment our diverging paths met offered me a glimpse into what dating while Muslim may be like.
Most of the Catholic by birth kids I know who abandoned the religion never seemed to regret the choice much, myself most definitely included. Her departure from Islam was different.