Wanting to Be With Man Who Once Cared For Me

25 February, 2021
Q I harbor a secret that only my mother knows about: I love a non-Muslim man. The secret hurts me because I don’t want it anymore. During Ramadan, I prayed for imaan (faith) to settle in his heart; once Ramadan was finished, I no longer prayed for that. I have had no contact with him for several years. The last thing I heard was that he was married. I do not call him or email him, but I am lonely and I need companionship and intimacy, In fact, I have always been lonely my whole life. I just accepted that as a Muslim woman marriage/motherhood was unattainable for me because I live in a non-Muslim country, so I focused on working hard and taking care of my parents. Several years ago when I was 40, my path crossed with this man, and while I did end it (there was no sex), I nonetheless experienced a fleeting moment of knowing what it was like to be cared for, to not be lonely, and I imagined (briefly) the joy of building a life with someone. I have never had that in my life as it was always about work, duty, responsibility, staying away from non-mahrams, etc. Don't get me wrong; I know wishing for that to return to me is haram, and I must continue to live my life as it is, but deep in my heart I still harbor an ache for this man who was so kind and caring toward me in the midst of the loneliness and harshness of my life. I have prayed that the love go away; I have prayed that I no longer harbor feelings or wishes about him, but sometimes during my salaat I also ask Allah (SWT) about him, if it is still possible to be with him. As I am nearing menopause, my desire for intimacy and a family of my own may diminish, and with it so will my love for this man, but I think full-fledged menopause is still a few years away. In the meantime, I don’t want any remnants of him in my heart, but it just isn’t happening.

Answer

Answer:

As-Salam ‘Alaikum dear sister,

It is your very real and human need to be loved and cared about by a compassionate person. This man was one individual who you sensed had the capacity to provide this to you. However, when we love someone, we feel compelled to give to them what they need, and that is the “love” part about loving.  The “addictive” feeling that many people call “in love” is actually the attachment to a person that represents the possibility of our getting our own needs met.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be married to someone who can and will meet our needs; who will love us, care for us, and protect us. As women, we do need these things. And as women, we return love as we receive love.

However, this man has never really met those needs as he has not married you. I cannot tell if in your case the man wanted to marry you, but you turned him down because he is not Muslim, or if he never proposed. Yet, I understand that he could not meet your spiritual needs since he does not share your world view, your spiritual and theological orientation. So, some of your most basic and powerful needs and longings were stirred by him, but in reality, it wasn’t something that would have really worked for you.

The sense that I get from your post is  that you do not want to be united with a man unless you share the love of Allah as if you have the same heart, and you want to share the experience of Islam with your life partner. The “ache” that you feel in your heart is to have that connection; to be love for, cared for and protected. You want to be united with someone whom you can share spirituality with; someone whom you can enjoy companionship with. It is normal and natural to have this ache, especially if you have not received this in your life.  All women need this and not only is there absolutely no shame in having these feelings and needs and ache in our hearts for it, but it is proof that we are natural, good, and authentically feminine women created by Allah.

I was not able to discern whether you actually spent a lot of time with this man to the point of actually loving him and/or becoming attached to him. Loving someone carries with it a different “energy” that being attached to someone. Of course, we are often very attached to those we love. That is why loosing someone whom we love is painful. But the pain is not because we love the person; it is rather because we are attached to them, they met some of our deep needs, and we no longer have the person in our life to meet those needs. When this happens, we miss the person, and we grieve. This is also natural and normal.

It helps to understand how our feelings and emotions are triggered, and this helps us to manage our emotions and live a fuller and more functional life. So, if you are actually  missing this person because he has, in fact, met some of your most fundamental needs, then honor those feelings as well. You will have more success in managing your emotions if you honor them. You can honor feelings and emotions without acting on them. They are, after all, what makes you who you are.

Menopause will not take away your desire to be loved, cherished, protected, and cared for by a man.  Menopause will not reduce your need for companionship. You will likely continue to long for the experience of life partnership and the spiritual fulfillment of sharing faith with your life partner.  Menopause will not take away your desire for passion either. Menopause is a biological event that takes place after a woman’s eggs have all been “shed”, but the physical desire for physical connection with a husband remains in many, many women.

Although a woman cannot bear children after menopause, women usually continue to desire the physical connection. There is an emotional and spiritual bonding that can be deepened and strengthened through this physical act of bonding by mature, married couples. It is normal and natural to continue to desire this if you are a menopausal woman.

It is better to acknowledge that you have emotional and spiritual needs and desires that are not being met than to deny that you have those needs. If you deny that you have the needs, then you set yourself up for becoming obsessive, and thoughts will persist and can interfere with your day to day life.  However, if you acknowledge and honor your human needs as a woman and find a way to accept that they are not being met, then you can find yourself in a state of grace.

You will be empowered to shift your focus and function well and live life well in spite of having very real and authentic and even healthy needs unmet. I often use the analogy of a person who loose their leg. We need our legs. We need to walk. This is basic. But some people lose a leg. Do they stop living even though they no longer have a leg that they need? No, they do not. They learn to walk with a crutch, or they get prosthesis, or they even hop on one leg if they have to. They become strong and learn to function with that they have. They continue to have a life, friendship, and goals.

Likewise, a women who has never had the opportunity to be loved, cared for, provided for protected, and treated as a woman ought to be treated, can still live a fulfilling life. By embracing and honoring her feelings, she retains her beauty and femininity as a woman while becoming strong to live as she must.  Taking this attitude and approach can actually lift some of your burden. You will not judge yourself and there won’t be any inclination toward changing things that cannot be changed. You will find it easier to “let go and let God”. A certain level of acceptance of things as they are bring an equal level of peace within our being. This peace brings a kind of contentment that surpasses even the joy of getting our needs met.

Remember, Allah will bring to you the experiences that you need to help you grow spiritually and to fulfill your spiritual destiny. Our development begins with radical acceptance of everything in our life, including ourselves, as it is.

So, for now, if thoughts of this man come to your mind, let them come and then let them go. Do not worry so much. You have a new phase of life to embrace, and as you transition into this next phase, start to consider what your Earth work will be and what you are inspired to give as a contribution to this generation. You might surprise yourself and even find yourself experiencing joy if you adopt this approach.

I pray you have found some help and comfort in my response.

Salam,

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About Maryam Bachmeier
Dr. Bachmeier is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is also a former adjunct professor at Argosy University, writer, and consultant in the areas of mental health, cultural, and relationship issues.