How I Found Love in an Arranged Marriage
My nontraditional romance taught me how to put myself first
I have always accepted that I would have an arranged marriage to preserve my Muslim faith. While Muslims are not required to have arranged marriages, Islam does mandate that we live very modest and chaste lives, and requires men and women to refrain from unnecessary contact with unrelated members of the opposite sex. Therefore, arranged marriage has become a practical custom that helps preserve Islamic values. As I said, I’ve always accepted that’s how I would meet my husband.
In November 2010, my parents invited my now-husband, Abrar, to lunch. Two months later, in January of 2011, we got engaged, and in April of that year, we got married. In the six months between that first lunch and our wedding, Abrar and I spoke on the phone a few times and exchanged lots of emails. I can count on two hands the number of times we met face to face before agreeing to take the marital plunge. And, although we lived in neighboring cities, the reason we didn’t see each other more often was that we needed to find a chaperone for each visit.
Abrar was the third guy I was seriously speaking to with the end goal of tying the knot. Our conversations were tricky, since we were sharing intimate feelings and hopes that we would generally keep safe to ourselves. We felt an unspoken sense of urgency as we tried to determine whether getting married made sense, which made our conversations more purposeful. I knew how many kids he wanted before I knew his favorite color, and he contemplated my philosophy on finances before learning how I like my coffee.
They say that partners in an arranged marriage learn to fall in love — and my marriage is proof that they can. Abrar is an awesome husband and father. But most importantly, my arranged marriage has taught me how to love and prioritize myself.
“Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.”
— Lucille Ball
Practicing self-love is our collective struggle. As children, we’re taught to share, and as adults, we don’t know how to pull back from sacrificing all of ourselves in the service of work, family, friends, and community.