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Commitment Phobia or He’s the Wrong Person for Me?



Reply Date

Jan 19, 2018


I hope that someone can help me with this matter as it has been plaguing me for quite some time. A few months ago, a friend of my brother asked my father for my hand in marriage. Alhough I know this person and have always considered him very kind and smart; I have never been attracted to him and have encouraged him to set up with other female friends of mine. He had always addressed me like a sister, and I never suspected there were any emotions on his part.My first reaction when my father told me was no, but I couldn't finalize my decision because I knew he was a good person. I managed to contact him, and he explained that there is no harm in getting engaged and trying out. I agreed to give it a shot. We were engaged because my conservative family would not allow us to speak to each other except if that happened. Since then, we have mainly been talking online because he has travelled abroad.The thing is I am not happy. I feel no desire to talk to him, and when we do talk, it is mostly me trying to ask questions and him answering. He almost never asks me any question other than how my day was. He is never interested in intellectual conversations that mean a lot to me. He doesn't read, and once asked me to stop bringing it up!I find myself attracted to other people, and I don't know what to do. I never feel like I am a female when talking to him, which I felt with other people before. When he tries to sweet talk, I feel repulsed. He says it is just because I'm not used to it. I don't want to bad mouth him; he is an amazing person, he is disciplined in religion, and I know he would treat his wife well, but I don't feel happy with him. I feel comfortable the way I did before he brought up marriage, but I don't feel any mental or physical desire to be with him, to sit with him, or to talk to him. I'm struck by his lack of imagination, and by how sometimes I find his interests very limited.My friends say that I am ruining it for myself, that I simply have commitment phobia, and perhaps this is true. But at the same time, what if it is something else? How should I know? What should I do? I have prayed istikhara many times and I don't feel better. There is a continuous pressure on my chest, and I keep thinking about breaking it off, how his family will take it, and how our mutual friends will take it. Everyone keeps telling me that I will develop feeling for him in time, but I don't feel this way, and I'm tired of everyone telling me that and refusing to understand that I want someone who is my intellectual, mental, and cultural equal. I am far too western perhaps, and he is far too eastern.Please help me. I don't know if it is relevant, and perhaps it is, I have had OCD for more than 10 years, and it has been almost nonexistent for a year or 2.



Commitment Phobia or He's the Wrong Person for Me?


As-Salamu `Alaikum Sister,

Thank you for sending us your question. It seems you are stuck in a difficult situation. May Allah choose the best for you and your fiancé.

From your description of yourself, it seems you are a strong, educated, and independent woman. Those are wonderful qualities that most women aspire to become.

You also mention that you have had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for the last ten years. I applaud you for first accepting that you may have OCD and striving to make the best out of your situation. Many individuals in the Arab world are not exposed to issues related to mental illness and are not familiar that anything is wrong if they exhibit any symptoms. Alhamdulillah, I hope that you were able to seek help when you needed it and encourage others to do so as well.

All of us have certain expectations for our future spouses. In our perception, we have a list of qualities and attributes that we wish our spouses to have such as being honest, religious, educated, has a good paying-job, has a sense of humor, and the list goes on.

However, when we have an honest conversation with ourselves and assess our situations, we start to see that some things on that list aren’t so important. We start to prioritize what characteristics/qualities we can compromise with and what we absolutely cannot.

While examining your relationship with your fiancé, ask yourself if you both have discussed the following together: 1.) Roles in marriage 2.) Expectations 3.) Religious views 4.) Views on parenting 5.) In-laws/family relations 6.) Views on education/work 7.) Finances 8.) Personality Traits, and 9.) How he communicates. These nine points are general issues that any two people in a serious relationship need to discuss and agree on.

 From your written question, it seems this man has a lot of qualities that you admire regarding his character and religion, but you have no mental or physical attraction towards him. This is certainly an important part of marriage that will promote a strong foundation, and I would advise you to try to find this attraction first.

The Prophet Muhammad (sws) said.

“When one of you asks a woman for marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so.” (Abu Dawud)

This hadeeth indicates that one must see a potential spouse in order to find something about them that is pleasing. This should take place in order to start marriage in a positive way in which both spouses are attracted to each other and look forward to be together.

This, however, should not be confused with lust. Since your fiancé is currently abroad, I would suggest that you do not make a decision until you see him and spend time with him in person. The fact that he’s personally in your presence will give you a better idea of what you like about him (physically) and what you do not.

You mentioned that you don’t feel like a woman with your fiancé, but you had that feeling before with other men. What is it about those other men does your fiancé lack? From an emotional point-of-view, why were those other men more attractive to you physically and mentally than your fiancé? Are the good qualities in your fiancé sufficient for you to be happy with him? Explore those questions with yourself and think about them when you see him and spend time with him in person.

Attempt to find an emotional connection with him, which would be much easier in person than online. Also, remember that you agreed to get engaged to this man even though you did not want to. What did you expect to happen during the engagement period? What did you want to find that would make you feel better about marrying him? After you see him and give yourself an honest chance, then you can make a decision.

If you honestly attempt to connect with this man, but you are still unable to accept him emotionally and physically, I would not encourage you to marry him. You would only be doing yourself and your fiancé a great injustice.

Do not base your decisions on pleasing other people. In regards to marriage, you should take your decision thoughtfully and seriously. Of course, continue to pray istikhara and ask for Allah’s guidance.

May Allah give you the strength and insight to help you to make the right decision for yourself.




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About Aliah F. Azmeh

Aliah F. Azmeh is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Detroit, Michigan. Aliah graduated with a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2007 and has experience working in the United States and overseas. Aliah currently works as a clinical social worker and provides individual, family, and marital counseling at Muslim Family Services in Detroit, MI.

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