Timelines: Why do relationships end after 3 months?!
August 8, 2022
There are so many pressures when it comes to seeking love and marriage. On the one hand, there’s the parents. Every opportunity they get, our parents needle and pester us to choose someone, anyone, just so they can meet their grandchildren before they die.
On the other hand, there’s society. As a whole, culture encourages the opposite. We’re told to take our time to find love. We’re promised the one will appear when we least expect it, by chance encounter, or magic. While it’s possible to block out all the noise and continue casually flipping through muzmatch profiles, it’s impossible to escape the pressure that comes from the all-encompassing burden of time.
With each new prospective candidate for marriage, I feel this burden. Time hangs over me like an unpaid parking ticket that I’m too lazy to dispute, but too stubborn to pay. Time isn’t just the obvious embodiment of my age (twenty-eight), which creeps closer and closer to the daunting 3-0. Time is the tired feeling of being five steps behind my married friends. Time is the wretched feeling I get every time I walk past the baby section at H&M. Time is the uncertainty that comes with being alone.
The only way I can think to wrangle time and beat it at it’s own game is by creating timelines.
While some of my friends of other faiths focus on enjoying the moment, luxuriating in the novel feeling that comes from meeting a new potential partner, and cautiously building bridges that lead to important milestones of the relationship—I feel the need to rush through it all at warp speed.
When I’m dating-to-marry, I try to take control of time by setting markings to indicate progression--or regression.
Step 1: phone calls Step 2: Facetimes, Step 3: meet the parents Step 4: trips/activities together (to confirm we won’t kill each other over a 72 hour period), and Step 5: engagement.
Before I run to these goal posts, I always ask the guy I’m talking to at the beginning of the relationship what his timeline is. I don’t ask for specific days to write down in my calendar, but I do ask if he’s looking to settle down in a matter of months or years. If it’s the latter, I pass. If it’s the former, I stick around to see if he actually wants, what he says he wants.
Just a few months ago, I met someone who I thought could have been my Mr. Darcy.
He was exactly my age (which is rare), educated, and prayed 5 times a day. In exchange for exchanging silly memes and watching light-hearted sitcoms, he was down to watch documentaries, Islamic lectures AND Pride & Prejudice with me. We not only laughed together, but we learned together. We learned more about one another, and more importantly, about what it means to be in a God-oriented marriage. Eventually, he asked to meet my Dad over Facetime, and then a few weeks later flew to SF to meet me in-person (even during COVID). I was hopeful.
Fast forward a few weeks, after I flew to visit him, after I met his mom, after I told him I had real, live-wire feelings for him---he began to retreat.
At that point it was month three of our courtship. We had said that at month six we would either get engaged or break up. So, we were halfway between something and everything. This was a stage he had never reached before, and the basis as to why I believe he started to get cold feet, and ended it the night before Thanksgiving.
If you’re reading this and you’re not Muslim, maybe you’re staring at the page with your tongue sticking out thinking six months before getting engaged? This chick is nuts! But if you’re Muslim, you get it. You get the pressure—from parents, from society, and time itself. You get the fact that waiting longer than necessary creates complications—maybe even temptations or more simply just disregard for sacred traditions.
But for men, any pressure they feel is eaten up by fear. Unlike women who more often than not can make quick decisions allowing us to make the bounds and leaps necessary to enter a marriage, men are forever plagued by commitment-phobia. And when timelines are spoken out loud, or written into existence, even when they agree to them, men get scared, and run away.
With this last guy, I still get lost in thought regretting that I ever mentioned timelines. Why couldn’t I be “cool” and go with the flow? Then again, he did say he knew what he wanted. He said he wanted to start a family. He said he wanted marriage--and me. So why was it so wrong to remind him of the timeline?
After much reflection, I realize just how different men and women approach life and love. As women, I feel we are forced to walk a tightrope: we must assert our values and not allow men to string us along, wasting our time, while simultaneously feigning nonchalance so they don’t feel that we’re pressuring them to make the biggest commitment of their lives. How can we find balance?
Nailah Dean is a lawyer and creative writer based in San Francisco. Her latest project is a memoir about the Muslim dating world.
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