All good things must come to an end (to make room for more good things), and so here it is – Things 16-20 to Keep in Mind when considering someone for marriage:

16. Be the partner you wish to find.

Before you begin speaking to someone, find some quiet time and take an objective, honest inventory of yourself. This part is not easy – it requires you to assess where you are as a Muslim and a person, dissect your values, and admit your flaws. Then compare the (wo)man in the mirror to your Big Fat Checklist. Do you meet the criteria you expect your future partner to meet?

Throughout this process, make an effort to hold people only to those standards to which you already measure up. When it comes to attributes like religiosity, morality, education, income, and general outlook on life, there is something to be said for the old adage, “Like attracts like.” Don’t expect a religious partner if you drink, or someone with a clean past if your own is not. Don’t request that a guy put up with your quirky family if you are unwilling to do the same for him. Don’t ask someone to forgive your indiscretions if you can’t find it in yourself to reciprocate. Don’t demand a lawyer or engineer or professor if your own educational background isn’t as extensive (*cough cough* ladies *cough cough*). Most importantly, find humility in accepting that just as you want someone good and kind, so too does the person on the other end. In order to procure kindness, positivity, and tolerance in a partner, you must first demonstrate that you are, in fact, kind, positive, and tolerant. Even after the nikkah, in the words of Shaikh Waleed Basyouni, “Marriage isn’t 50/50; it’s 100/100.” It is not your spouse’s job to pick up your moral slack (or your actual slacks, *cough cough* guys *cough cough*), so make sure you are as eager to give as you are to receive. On that note…

17. Ask the hard questions, and be prepared to answer them.

These are the questions that all the TV shows say you should never ask until at least a few months in, and then only indirectly. They include but are not limited to ones about finances, morality, preparedness for marriage, the past, and all of your deal-breakers. This is also one of those times the TV shows got it wrong – it’s important to find the courage to ask these questions kindly, but directly, and at the beginning. You have a God-given right to know some things that are difficult to address, and addressing them once you’re already emotionally invested is unfair and dangerous – once you’re head-over-heels for a guy, you will be more willing to put aside concerns that would have at one time set off a million alarms in your head. You might convince yourself that he will stop drinking for you, or that you don’t mind as long as he doesn’t do it in the house. Don’t put yourself in that compromising position and through unnecessary heartache, because even if you find it in yourself to break things off, it will hurt. A lot. Protect yourself and each other by making your priorities clear. If he’s the sort to be scared off by straightforwardness or doesn’t have similar questions for you, then he doesn’t understand the gravity of the decision you two are making. You’re about to be put through each other’s wringers to see if you work together; in order to arrive at the right conclusion, both of you have to be ready to talk about the hard stuff: Does he have a problem with you working after marriage? Do you expect to have a joint bank account? Do you want kids? Are you okay with a drinker? Are you okay with someone who does or does not eat zabiha halal? If you don’t know where to start, check out the book Before the Wedding by Sister Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine to get the wheels turning. Ask, answer, rinse, and repeat. And when you get confused…

18. Bounce your thoughts off of someone you trust.

The cultural norm in the West is to introduce friends and family to the guy you’re with after you’ve already talked for a while, and the decision to marry is often made solely by the couple. Muslims, on the other hand, come from cultures in which third parties do most of the work. Many of us grew up with parents who were so united and who could not carry a conversation with each other unless it was about the weather, the kids, or dinner. And so we run – nay, sprint! – sweating indignation and clutching our pride, as far as we can in the opposite direction and insist on doing everything ourselves. There’s some good in that, because after all, you and not your parents are going to be living with your spouse after the fact; you need to be intimately involved in the process. But in a country where most marriages have little third-party involvement and the divorce rate is 50% (meaning you’re as likely to separate as you are to stay together), something must be going wrong. And in fact, researchers studying “arranged” marriages (that is, marriages that involve your family’s opinion) have discovered that they hold an advantage – namely, parents catching onto factors that may “drive [a couple] apart.” In marriage as in medicine, there is something to be said for the value of a second opinion: This is a huge decision, and you’re fallible. You may miss things or blow them off because you’re emotionally invested or simply because you haven’t done this before. But you’re in luck, because there are people out there – parents, siblings, trusted friends – with experiences different from and maybe greater than yours. You probably already have someone in your life who plays the role of confidante, who wants your happiness and safety and is capable of objectivity. Those people will be your support system after marriage, too – the ones taking care of your kids, encouraging you to apologize to each other when you fight, and just being there when needed. So stop running, swallow your pride, and call upon them. Don’t neglect their weathered perspectives for the shiny new one in your life, and…

19. Don’t forget to live your life, too.  

The guys you consider will occupy a good deal of your thoughts, and that’s normal; finding a partner is an important stage of life and deserves your attention. But in the process of considering people for marriage, don’t forget who you are. Continue to do the things you love to do – hang out with friends, spend time with family, and don’t forget to pray. Not only will God be your ultimate Guide through this process, but prayer will serve as another gauge of whether he’s right for you – if he makes you want to skip praying just so you can talk to him, think twice. It’s unhealthy to neglect your emotional, social, and spiritual well-being for a potential partner, and the guy who is right for you will never ask that of or inspire that in you. The right person, rather, will bring the best out in your other relationships by bringing the best out in you, so if you find yourself forgetting who you were before him or getting restless, take a breath and reevaluate. No relationship with a guy is worth compromising the relationship you have with yourself, your loved ones, or with God. And finally…

20. BE READY.

This is the most important Thing to Keep in Mind of all, which is why it’s capitalized, italicized, and bolded. WordPress will not permit me to underline, otherwise it would be underlined, too. I’m going to say it again: Be ready for marriage. This is different from being excited for marriage, and the let’s-go-off-into-the-sunset “readiness” is not what I’m talking about. Before anyone comes along, there is an objective level of emotional, psychological, financial, and physical level of readiness and maturity that you must attain, all on your own, with a high level of certainty. Stop for a minute when you’re brushing your teeth tonight and ask yourself: Do you want to get married? Are you willing to let another person into your life, your business, and your house? Can you support yourself and a partner in all the ways a marriage would entail? Are you prepared to be a parent, even if you’re not expecting it, and turn in your two-door sports car for a suburban with a car seat? Marriage, when done right, is one of God’s greatest blessings, but it comes with an abundance of responsibility. You need to make sure that you are ready for all of it before you or your family begin the search. If you’re not ready, don’t allow anyone to pressure you. If someone tries, for God’s sake, speak up and say no. There will be a living, breathing person on the other end whose heart will be at stake, and it’s not okay to play along for the sake of pleasing your parents/relatives/friends/community when there is someone else involved.

Be patient with yourself. There is time. You do not have an expiration date. Wait – because anything worth having is worth waiting for – and the moment will come when you are prepared and eager to be someone else’s garment, to cover and comfort them for the rest of your life. When you are ready and when it is the right time, God will send you your other half, and you will wonder why you ever thought you needed to read this series at all.

A summary, for your convenience:

  1. If he wants you, he needs to be able to put up with your father.
  2. It’s okay to have standards.
  3. It’s not okay to judge.
  4. You cannot not know everything.
  5. Know what is important to you, and reevaluate frequently with an open mind.
  6. Trust your gut and keep your eyes open – there will be plenty of time to fall in love later.
  7. There is no such thing as wasted time, missed opportunity, or saying the wrong thing.
  8. There is no perfect family.
  9. Be yourself.
  10. But don’t be looking to marry yourself.
  11. Honesty is everything.
  12. It’s neither a confessional nor a private investigation.
  13. Communication is everything else.
  14. Take time to heal and collect yourself.
  15. Don’t allow yourself to become jaded.
  16. Be the partner you wish to find.
  17. Ask the hard questions, and be prepared to answer them.
  18. Bounce your thoughts off of someone you trust.
  19. Don’t forget to live your life, too.  
  20. BE READY.

Cheers, and thank you for reading :).