From a respected family, never been married and have no kids.
Why?! I hear you ask - because as a divorcee this reads completely differently to me. Instead I imagine a dinner table of judgemental faces, looks of distain as it becomes clear I am certainly not Asian or Arab, not a virgin, no. I am even worse. I am a divorcee - with a child!
Dating as a divorcee is complicated, whilst you have come to terms with the fact your marriage has ended, you find yourself having to explain the situation to others, not only others, but essentially - strangers.
After the initial pain, and disappointment you pull yourself together ready to again embark on a search for ‘the other half of your Deen’. I tentatively set up a dating profile - a few I will admit. I thought best about how to sell myself, as a convert, as a black woman and now as a divorcee with a child. As a convert, I had become accustomed to potential suitors patronisingly questioning my faith, and constantly wondering whether I would turn back to my old ways and abandon Islam all together. 10 years on the answer is still…no.
As a Black Muslim, I had become accustomed to being fetishized, and seen as this foreign sexual object. What I didn’t expect was now for none of this to be the problem! I was no longer a convert, or a Black Muslim, I was just – A DIVORCEE. Now the same question plagued my inbox, whether young or old, divorced themselves or not, converts or not repeatedly I heard:
“So why did you get divorced?”
No Salam, no what are your likes and dislikes, favourite colour? (no matter how much I despise this question). No interest shown in me AT ALL.
Immediately you become defensive. Wondering if anyone genuinely wants to get to know you, or just wants to hear a juicy story? (The story really is not that juicy by the way). I suspected most asked to figure out who to blame, me or him. Ironically I had never blamed either of us, we were just incompatible.
So, with my new status as a divorcee came not only new questions, but new agendas. Whilst I was perhaps used goods and not on par for a ‘never been married no kids’ kind of guy, I was perfect for the latter.
“The I’m looking for a second, third, fourth wife” kind of guy.
Suddenly, I was inundated with requests from Pakistan, the US, Saudi Arabia all promising me riches if I would agree to be a second, third or fourth wife- my child would be welcome of course. Now, it wasn’t the invitation to polygamy, or to live in a hot country that put me off. It was the reaction when I declined. How could I Mrs. Divorced possibly believe anyone else would have me? Did I really think I could do better than polygamy now?
Hell yes. Polygamy was not my preference before being a divorcee, and a failed relationship was not going to make me lower that standard, regardless of how others now perceived me. I saw that not only was I now the undesirable choice, but so undesirable others expected me to know this and adjust my expectations. I refused, I carried as much worth and value as I did before a divorce.
Unwillingly I answered most who asked, I received neither good nor bad feedback on my story- now they just knew a part of me. They didn’t seem to make any judgments, or want my reflections or realisations off the back of this life experience.
What I realised was that a majority of people who asked, had no intentions of getting to know me, it was simply intrigue. Whilst I repeated my story again and again, I didn’t just see a failed marriage. I saw that others didn’t have the substance, the depth and experiences I had gained by being in a long term committed relationship. I came across brothers who had no real concept of love, had never been loved. I came across brothers who simply saw marriage as a contract, not a life- long friendship and partnership. I came across men who being honest -just simply weren’t ready for a relationship let alone a marriage.
I suddenly realised that although it had not worked out, I had a plethora of emotional, life and relationship skills I could use to make better decisions and be a better partner. After a while, I realised that what everyone saw as my shortcoming, was actually my strength. What others saw as a failed relationship was a huge learning curve. Now unlike half of my counterparts I had deep insight into myself, what I brought to the table and most importantly not only what I wanted- but what I needed in a spouse.
Perhaps the most ironic part about dating as a Muslim divorcee, is that the label is what brings the stigma. Young Muslims are dating, cohabiting, having long-term relationships and splitting up too. Muslims, who haven’t been married, have also made the wrong choices, been with somebody incompatible, and had to make the decision to leave. But, without the label of marriage comes no label of divorce.
I realised that a majority of us had experienced this heartache, the letting go of a relationship with a significant other, and that there was no judgment only sympathy- until it was a divorce.
Now I’m honest with myself and others about what being a divorcee means, it does not separate you from the rest or make you less desirable. Instead it equips you, you become a more directional person knowing what you can and can’t live with.
Divorce has equipped me in ways being unmarried, single, or dating never had and never could.
After my divorce I didn't crumble, instead I became very practical and reflective, I wrote a list of every disagreement, every problem, every red flag. I realised it was a list of questions I should have asked!
And so, I wrote 101 Questions to ask your potential spouse. This book seeks to bring together all the questions we think of and forget to ask someone in the lead up to marriage.
101 Questions to ask your potential Muslim spouse covers Islam, personality, history, expectations, and lifestyle. This text seeks to help with the unique dating experience we have as Muslims.
Nailah Patten author of 101 Questions To Ask Your Potential Muslim Spouse, buy now on Amazon!