Relationship Chapters - The Lessons I’ve Learned
Once upon a time … I’m kidding, that’s not how this story begins. We met in high school (Egypt 2008). I was the new girl, he was in my first class and we were partnered up — but that’s not how this story begins either. At the time, he had his life, I had mine and all we had in common was IB Arabic class. I thought he was annoying, but we did become friends. Though I called him ‘my acquaintance’ just to bother him. Our real story actually began mid-2009, when once again we were partnered up (this time for a science project) and instead of working on it, we skipped and hung out all day. Somehow we started talking everyday. He was convinced I was his soulmate, I’d just laugh and tell him he was crazy.
The story of us dating is a long (kinda weird and a little high-school-drama-filled) one, but in retrospect a beautiful one, because it’s our story. One thing I know for sure is I didn’t know the first thing about dating. I didn’t know wtf I was doing, and I’ve come to realize almost no one does. It’s kinda like when you’re 10 and you think 23-year olds know what they’re doing, only to get to 23 and realize no one actually knew. Seriously, when I look back at that time I just laugh. It’s the same lessons. This I have to credit to my mom for teaching me which is 1. Stay true to yourself and 2. Go with the flow. There is no point in changing who you are just to get someone to like you, the right person will just like you more. Sounds super cheesy, it was not that romantic in high school. I was this independent-academic driven-unromantic girl who barely gave Abd-Allah the time of day, which only sent him chasing after me. I’m not saying to be like that, what I’m saying is that was truly who I was. I was just going with the flow, meaning you can’t force things to happen. You know that girl/guy who has a timeline for when they’ll get married, knows how many kids they want, of what gender, and even has their names picked out? — first of all, nothing wrong with knowing what you want (stay true to yourself right) but, having so many expectations may create stress in the process of getting to know someone. There’s a balance between knowing what you want and letting things fall into place. I honestly didn’t have any expectations, (maybe I was too young) but I did feel the stress from my dad’s expectations and society’s. My mom was the person who would support me in every decision in my life, constantly fighting off the rules of society for me. Point is, dating should be a fun time getting to know someone else, when you’re living in the moment and you're confident. Throughout the years of our dating relationship I learned that it does take work but if it's meant to work out, it will.
‘Long distance relationships never work’ — I can’t count the number of times I heard this. Our relationship entered a long-distance chapter, for 4 years (all college years), and when nearly everyone was telling me it wouldn’t work, here we are 3 years into our marriage. The answers to everyone’s questions were pretty obvious. Yes, I did miss him and yes, I was sad we weren’t experiencing college together. At the same time I realize (more now, than at the time) I was able to build an independent relationship with myself, while also building a relationship with him. Sounds confusing. Basically I got to be my own person. I wasn’t defined as a couple, I wasn’t defined as someone’s girlfriend, I was me. I experienced hanging out with friends, spending time with family, socializing in classes, all as just me and learn who I am outside of our relationship.
As far as our relationship went, it heavily relied on communication and trust. Which was the best part (although it didn’t feel like it at the time) because that is when Abd-Allah truly became my best friend. Long distance is difficult, but if you look at it the right way, it can be a blessing in disguise to talk to someone everyday and really get to know them. I’m not even kidding, we spoke everyday. Unless we were upset with each other and even then I’m pretty sure we spoke (I learned it is actually possible to fight over how much you miss someone). It required a lot of communication. I talked to him about my day throughout the day, we Skyped, watched shows together at night, I woke up to his messages in the mornings, visited each other every few months. All we had was communication and trust, which to me is important in any relationship. It's emotional intimacy and it takes work, because suddenly what you say and how you say it matters. Even though being apart is a b***h, it will test relationships in a way that creates a strong bond with yourself and each other. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, all I’m saying is never say never.
Eventually the long distance chapter came to an end, which leads to the next one: engaged. Abd-Allah first brought up wanting to marry me very early on. The first time he said it was during one of our late night phone calls, I freaked out and hung up, then pretended my battery died… (probably shouldn’t have, but we were 19). When the time came though, I said yes. It was New Years 2014 and we were 21 years old. I know a lot of people get married at that age (some younger, some older), but I was ready to be engaged, not married. Everyone is different. Some people are happy just being engaged, some get married right away (wedding or no wedding), and some don’t end up staying together. No matter what anyone else expects, it’s important to move forward at the pace that’s right for your relationship. I wanted to treat ‘engaged’ as another chapter in our story and enjoy it, instead of rushing through it the way we were expected to. So we had a 2-year engagement, and thank God we did because planning a wedding is a struggle - trust me, you'll need patience with each other during wedding planning.
It was fun calling him my ‘fiancé’ that’s for sure, because when else can you say that.
“First comes love, then comes marriage...” They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and boy are they right. Whether you’re married or moving in together, they are both big (very similar) steps, because it’s like gaining a permanent roommate and having to learn how to live with each other in a different way than you’re used to. At least that’s how it was for me. Looking back at that chapter of our story makes me realize just how DUMB our arguments were (lol), one argument was over a plug-in fan I threw out (apparently it was his favorite fan, but I thought it was ugly). In the moment, it doesn’t seem dumb (that fan was really, really important to us) but what I’m getting at is it’s normal to argue…
Weird to say since most people cringe at the idea that Abd-Allah and I argue. I get the “but you guys always seem so happy together” — we are, but nothing in life is perfect. Setting the example that silly little arguments are not normal (or don’t exist) is setting up other relationships to doubt themselves (not just in marriage but every chapter of a relationship). It’s far more romantic to dream of finding that person who will complete your life, rather than to imagine a relationship that involves time, energy, and investment. No matter what you see or think is perfect #relationshipgoals, all good relationships always require work. It’s not once you get to the finish line, that’s it. Marriage is not the end game, having a healthy long-lasting relationship is. I’ve learned that as long as we get over our fights and communicate, treat each other like friends, laugh together, respect each other, care more about what we feel than what others will think, then it’ll be just fine — because to me those should be the true #relationshipgoals.
3-year mark (anniversary ‘19)
Which brings me here, celebrating our 3-year wedding anniversary (3½ if you’re counting the Egypt wedding), 5 years since he proposed, 8 years since the start of long distance, and going onto 10 years since our story first began. After all these years I can honestly say that there is beauty in the imperfections of each chapter. Now that I can look back on it all, it’s like watching two kids figuring life out together. I hope one day I look back at our current arguments and roll my eyes at how dumb they are. Nothing is perfect, with each chapter love grows and you understand each other’s language of love better. I’m not a sports person, but he is always telling me his thoughts on it. It took me a while to realize it’s because he just loves to tell me everything on his mind — that’s a form of love. It’s noticing the little things as much as the big things, because the little things are valuable. They are the moments when you realize your partner genuinely wants you to be happy and that’s pretty close to perfect.
…and who knows, maybe my lessons don’t apply to you at all — but it’s okay to talk about the struggles, it’s okay to admit that as cute as ‘high school sweethearts’ sounds it was not all perfect. It’s okay to say relationships take work, because they absolutely do. And when you see #couplegoals on Instagram don’t resent them but understand it’s just a photo, be happy for them. It’s okay to admit that no matter how great your relationship is, there are sometimes ups and downs. Sometimes we bicker like roommates and suddenly we’re laughing and playing hangman. It does not take away from how much I love my husband to admit it’s not always perfect.