If you’re hoping for a piece on the fool-proof mathematical equation to finding the perfect life partner – click elsewhere because 1) I hate math and 2) I’ve made a lot of foolish errors before finding the answer (that’s why you always use pencil), so my way for sure isn’t “fool-proof” or perfect. I will, however, share with you how I discovered the importance of having a checklist when you do feel you are ready to “settle down.”
Aside from the typical checklist of qualities such as: “kind” ✔️, “successful/hard working” ✔️, “handsome” ✔️, etc., I found myself asking – myself – some in-depth questions whenever I’d meet someone new. As most of you know, after a few years of working on equations and erasing all of my work, I finally found someone who checked all of my boxes and answered yes to all of the following questions. It might seem like a ridiculous thing to do to some. A lot of people base their determination of a marriage-worthy relationship strictly around the question, “Am I in love?” But that’s not all that goes into marriage. And with a divorce rate of over 50% across cultures and religions (and that number rapidly getting higher), “my way” – another one of Baba’s life lessons – could be beneficial to those who understand there is more to a marriage than that. At the very least, it’s worth a shot. So, if you’ve read this far – here’s a little 15 question self-quiz to give yourself about the person you’re with and the important things to think about for your future together…
1. Does this person make me unbelievably happy?
First thing’s first. Happiness is most important. Does the person you’re with make you happier than you thought was possible? This doesn’t mean that you have to be happy 365 days a year at all hours of every day. You’re allowed to have some off days – but does the idea of coming home to the person you’re with make you happy? Or does it give you some anxiety? Can you be sure that on those “off” or bad days, knowing that you’re with whomever you’re with will brighten your day a little? Given the state of the world today, no matter how sad it can make you – is this person your one consistent piece of happiness in it all? If so – you can ✔️ off #1.
2. What does this person do that makes me unbelievably happy?
If this person simply “existing” is the answer to this question, then ✔️ off #2 and skip to #4. Just kidding, you should still read #3. Or you can just skip the whole rest of this article and click on the next one. Your call.
3. Does this person go out of their way to make sure that I am unbelievably happy?
I’ve always been the person to put in extra effort in whatever relationship I was in. Because I’m an empath (#PiscesProblems), seeing someone I love happy makes me happy – and I don’t expect much in return – except to be loved and respected back. I’d go out of my way to make the people I was dating happy during our time together. Whether that was making their birthdays something extra special, calling them in the middle of the day to let them know I was just thinking of them, or staying up until all hours of the night waiting for a call that they needed to be driven home drunk. Romance, I tell ya. I even baked some damn cookies once. I went the extra (four) mile(s) for them. And I got nothing in return. Not even the love and respect I was hoping for.
I feel like the Universe paid attention to how hard I was trying to make other people happy, people who didn’t deserve that from me, and finally said, “Now it’s her turn.” My fiancé is something out of the fairy tale books. He puts Prince Charming to shame. I thought I was a hopeful romantic, but he is on an entirely different level. Our first date was on a Sunday morning for breakfast. I thought it went great and from what I picked up on, he thought so too. Getting flowers delivered to my desk at work at 10AM – that pretty much confirmed it for me. Since that very day, I get a random delivery of flowers once a month (see #JMmonthlyflowers hashtag on Instagram) as a reminder that he’s always thinking of me and wanting to make me randomly smile. It doesn’t have to be material things – as much as I love when he picks up some Sour Spaghetti gummies for me – he also makes it a point to tell me how beautiful he thinks I am when I’m drenched in sweat because I was running late to dinner after work or tells me how “pretty” I look in the morning when we FaceTime on weekends. He gives me a wake up call every week day morning because he knows I sleep through all 6 of my alarms. And he’s even skipped basketball a few times when he picked up on how badly I wanted him at a family function. That’s how I know he really loves me: he hates skipping basketball.
Whatever it is they do – it should be abundantly clear that they care about you enough to put your happiness above theirs at times, and vise versa. Relationships are a two-way street. They’re “50/50,” – equal efforts – if you will – meaning, they give you 100% and you give that exact amount (or more) back.
4. Does this person go out of their way to make sure that my family is unbelievably happy?
You are not the only person that is going to be married to this person. Well, technically you are – but two families are also involved in this process. Does this person acknowledge how important family is (or isn’t) to you? If they are important (I hope they are), does your partner go out of their way to show your family how important they are to them now, too? I was blessed with a man who wants to and genuinely enjoys talking to my parents and brothers regularly. And even though my family is absolutely insane with the amount of plans we all make with each other – he makes it a point to be at every one whenever he can be there because he knows it’s important to my mom that we all see each other often.
5. Is this person like my dad/mom?
My father is amazing – to my mother, to me and my brothers, to his family, and to my mother’s family. Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has been the overall image of what I compare every man to and what I expect out of a partner. A majority of my extended family relies on my dad for knowledge and life advice, so I’ve always known I wanted my husband to be that person, too. Someone reliable, who is known for how much he cares about his family and how well he takes care of them. My dad is my role model, my mentor, my life coach, my superhero – he’s my go-to when I have questions on major life decisions. I want my future daughter (hopefully one day) to always be able to go to her dad the way I go to mine.
Of course, for men, if your mother is who you admire as the ideal woman you’d like to have as a partner because of how well she cared for you and your dad and your siblings, etc., then adjust accordingly. This goes for anyone you look up to, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your parents. Children typically marry someone like their parents, but sometimes parents aren’t always that great. If you grew up in a home that didn’t have the greatest of role models in terms of a healthy parenting and relationship dynamic, then be sure the person you’re with doesn’t remind you of the parent who made your life difficult.
6. Is this person romantic? (Because you deserve Hollywood romance).
Already answered on my end in #3, but this is something you should for sure take into consideration for yourself. It doesn’t have to be romance 24/7, but make sure they’ve got it in them to be romantic. Because 40 years from now, when you’re old and gray together and life is a bit redundant, it’s this characteristic that can help reignite a flame or spark a new wave of passion into your relationship. Romance helps keep the feeling of being together new and exciting. You should go on date nights even when you’re in your 70’s. You owe it to each other to always make an effort to be romantic every so often.
7. Is this person reliable? Am I confident enough in this person to know that I won’t need to rely on my parents once we start a life together?
Reliability is what makes a relationship work. Consistently broken plans turn into broken promises which turns into an overall lack of effort to be who you say you are or be where you say you’ll be or do what you said you’ll do. In terms of work ethic, is your partner a hardworking person? Or do they skate by in life doing the bare minimum in everything they’re involved in? Are they cool with being average? Are you cool with being average? Who you’re with, just like your friends, is often a reflection of who you are and how you think of yourself as a person. Hard working people tend to stick together because they find happiness in motivating each other to succeed and challenge each other’s comfort zones. Be that couple that lights a fire under each other’s butts to always be better than what you believed to once be your best. You’ll forever be grateful to each other for it, I promise.
8. How does this person talk to me? Is this person respectful? Are we on an equal partner level?
It has to be addressed that Arab and Muslim households are stereotyped often for how women tend to be treated in a patriarchal culture. I have heard of and met too many women who have married men that spoke condescendingly from the very beginnings of their relationship together. These are men who believe they’re better than their wives simply because of their biological makeup. No one should feel that they are better than their partner. It is of the utmost importance that you view each other as equals, no matter your professional or social status in life.
If you’re a woman, pay attention to how your partner speaks to his/her mother. That is often a tell-tale sign as to how this person will treat you down the line. Is he/she rude to the other women in their life? Disrespectful? Short and snappy? Or does he/she treat their mother like a queen — with the highest level of respect possible?
As an aside, it’s also important to be mindful of the language you use with each other. I have listened to couples “jokingly” curse each other out or call each other disrespectful names and think it’s funny. It’s not. You might be joking now and think it’s harmless to do so in that matter, but that language will carry over into a argument one day and instead of jokingly calling her a “bitch” when you think she’s being mean or saying “f*ck you” while laughing when he does something that annoys you, it’ll slip out in the middle of a fight one day and it will not be funny anymore. Cursing at each other in any manner is disrespectful.
9. Is this person supportive of my own decisions?
When I told Saif that I wanted to start my own website, making it very clear to him that it will take up whatever little free time I already had to spend with him, he could have very easily been against the idea and attempted to persuade me out of it. Instead, knowing how important this cause was to me, he gave me 100% of his support. I know it bothers him at times, when we’re hanging out and finally get some time to ourselves, that I whip out my phone or laptop in the midst of an editing crisis or site crash, but he knows how dedicated I am to this project. He’s not the most political person. In fact, he essentially told me he despised politics and did everything he could to avoid them before meeting me, but lately, he’s been coming to rallies with me and I have been getting my weekly news updates from him via text message asking if I saw about something Trump said or something that happened abroad.
In turn, I “enrolled” in two “drafts” (fantasy sports) this year during March Madness. Granted, I had him pick every team and make my rosters for me, BUT I am doing my best to show an interest in his extra curricular activities the same way he does with mine. You have to support each other because at the end of the day, you’re picking your teammate in life, and what’s life on a team that doesn’t back each other up? Not a stress-free one, I’ll tell you that much. And you won’t “win” at anything.
10. Am I ready for whatever life throws my way with this person – be it a health issue, financial struggle, family drama, relocating because of a job, etc?
This goes hand-in-hand with the reliability question. Though Muslims don’t have “vows” on their wedding days, we all know the “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, until death do us part” line. Ask yourself if you truly believe that you can make it through all of the above with the person you’re currently with. When I was a senior in high school, my mother became extremely ill, landing her in the hospital for two and a half weeks with a popped lung thanks to some idiot surgeons at the ER she ended up in, and had to be rushed via ambulance to the next closest hospital. My dad was with her through every step of the way, spending his nights in the hospital room with her by sleeping on the reclining plastic-leather-like chair and researching every doctor, every diagnosis.
You won’t ever have to second guess or doubt their feelings for you or the trust you have in them.
Thankfully, she’s good and healthy today (Alhamdullilah), but I’ve heard of couples splitting during health scares or because of health issues involving other family members. When my grandfather got sick (God have mercy on his soul) with a form of dementia, my grandmother, my father, and my mother refused to just throw him in a nursing home in hopes that someone else would give him the care he needed. I watched as everyone pulled their weight in driving him to special therapy sessions, doctor appointments, picking up my grandma’s late night call and heading to their house at 12 in the morning because Sidi (my grandpa) was restless and confused about where he was. I watched other people’s vows come to life in my family’s relationships.
In terms of financial struggles, if your idea of happiness is living in a 12 bedroom mansion on the beach in the Hamptons (no judgment) and the person you’re with quite possibly won’t be able to provide you with that (and you can’t provide yourself with that either), are these material things more important to you than being with this person? If so, you might not have found your match. You may also need to reevaluate a few things. If you want all of those things and understand that it will possibly take years of dedication and hard work together to achieve this goal and you’re willing to put in those efforts, then remember numbers 7 and 8 and you’ll be golden.
11. Will this person make a good spouse?
If someone cuts corners now, they will only cut more when they are comfortable in a relationship. Does your partner make a good boyfriend/girlfriend? A good fiance? A good friend? If so, that’s some insight into how they’ll be as your partner for life. If someone is promising you things for your next stage of your relationship, rather than acting on them now, those promises are likely to never be followed through on. Pay attention to the things they do and say now; they’ll only be amplified in the future.
12. Will this person make a good father/mother?
About 3 years ago, a good friend of mine changed my entire outlook on playing the dating game. As someone who was admittedly into the whole “bad boy” bullshit (Saif is just the perfect hint of bad boy), something we both had in common, she told me about when she realized it was time for her to end things with her old boyfriend. She told me that one day, she realized that as a woman who wanted children one day, the most important decision she’d have to make in life is choosing her future children’s father and if she made the wrong choice, she’d never forgive herself. Sure, dating assholes is thrilling for some reason, but if they’re not even good to you, what makes you think they’ll be good to your children one day? If they’re unreliable now, what makes you think that they’ll put in the extra effort to be around for your kids? Life gets more complicated with children.
13. What is it about this person that makes me want to be with them?
Evaluate everything. The way they make you feel. The way you make them feel. The way they put in the extra effort to make you happy. The way they talk to you. The way they talk to your parents. The way they talk to THEIR parents. You don’t have to have a million reasons as to why you want to be with this person in order to prove to someone else that they’re “the one.” You shouldn’t have to convince anyone outside of yourself of the reasons why. Also, I know it’s cliche, but you’ll know. And not in the butterflies and fireworks all the time way, but your heart and soul will feel a new type of “content” and calmness that it’s never felt before. You won’t ever have to second-guess or doubt their feelings for you or the trust you have in them.
14. Do this person make me laugh?
Laughter is the best medicine. In a world that is constantly making us “sick” – you should be able to find small joys in life. It’s important that you and your partner take life seriously when needed, but it’s also important to be able to laugh together, with each other, at each other, and at yourselves.
15. Can I see myself with this person forever, and why?
Marriage is not temporary, despite what statistics tell you. It is a life-long commitment and should be entered with the intentions of keeping to that commitment. Of course, there are exceptions (to everything that I said above). Not all marriages are made to last. Cheating, toxicity, abuse, etc. are all reasons to run for the hills in terms of when it’s necessary to leave a marriage, but that’s why you should go into it 110% sure of your decision. Enter a marriage with the intention of sticking together, not with the mindset of “if it gets too difficult or it doesn’t work out, we’ll just get divorced.”
Please also keep in mind that marriage isn’t for everyone. I strongly believe that not everyone is supposed to be with the same person for the rest of their lives. We all have a different genetic makeup with different wants and needs. I happen to be someone who does believe I am capable of that type of commitment, but again, marriage is not for everyone. It’s a complicated promise to begin with, to spend the rest of your life with one person, which makes it a contract that shouldn’t be entered into lightly or without proper thought and understanding all the expectations before signing that contract.
As much as I’d love to guarantee that the pop quiz above automatically equals a perfect, ever-lasting marriage – it doesn’t. And honestly, I’m not even married yet myself. Life is notorious for throwing unexpected curve balls at you from directions that you didn’t even know you should have been looking in. But that’s the beauty in finding someone that you can trust and rely on. You take the blows from the curve balls together and with a little extra cushion. It doesn’t hurt so bad when things don’t go as planned when you have the right person by your side.