Monday, September 7

Just Make Sure You Get Their Names Right

The current question of the day (both online and off) seems to be whether or not it's okay to be talking (you know, about marriage) to more than one someone at a time. The overwhelming majority of people have responded with an outright no, saying that they would end things pretty quickly if they found out that this was the case.

I'm actually quite surprised at this reaction, especially since it's by the same people who also complain about how far and few between good potentials are. These aren't commodities we're talking about here, and in my opinion saying no is just as strong a gesture as saying yes, and I guess for me it takes more than the indecision of my opposite for me to declare the former.

In reality I suspect it's more to do with having a different idea of what "talking" actually means. I consider it as a kind of due diligence; fact finding of the obvious to see if there's anything there to base something on. I'm also looking to see if I get on with the person, not as a spouse but more as someone new; someone who I don't even know I like as a person yet. As such I don't think either of us really owe each other kind of exclusivity or commitment - that stuff comes a bit later, and usually after some kind of declaration. I will say that I'm probably a bit peculiar in that I have remained friends with potentials even if we (mutually or otherwise) decide it wouldn't work out, so perhaps I'm able to remain some kind of dis-connectivity during the process which others aren't? I don't think this compromises the process itself though.

But the fact is that we all consider multiple people all the time. Perhaps it's on a less official basis, but each time a single person who's looking meets someone of the opposite gender, they'll be sizing them up even if that is being done covertly or even subconsciously. I'm sure no one has a problem doing this or even being sized up themselves in this manner, so I don't see how being introduced in a more direct or formal manner becomes an issue. As mature people as long as we know where we stand we should be able to handle and choose how to proceed.

So I guess what I'm saying is that the explicitness of a situation shouldn't dictate the level of commitment you owe someone, unless that's precisely what's being made explicit (for example via an engagement or even a "let's go steady" proclamation). And by definition before any point of commitment you have the option to bail, be it because of someone else or any other reason - it's why we'd happily talk to someone who might be leaving the country in the next month for good. You know, just in case they don't.

But it is true that under a formal approach people aren't there just for friendship, and also that for most people marriage will be a monogamous thing. As such there are certain specific rules which do apply, many of which will dictate whether or not you can even talk to more than one person at a time:

  1. Honesty. Proactive honesty at that. Tell them that you're not at a stage at which to commit and are still figuring out where you are. As adults, they have a right to either stay or end it (something you should respect). In the latter case, you could choose to give them the exclusivity they want. The point is that this should be a bilateral and explicit dialogue.
  2. Availability. You should be as engaging as you would if you were only looking at one person. Talking to two people doesn't mean you give them half the attention each, so no delays in returning calls or emails. Of course there is a practical limit to this and for lots of people that's just one. Don't look for numbers if you can't deal with them.
  3. Non-abuse. Probably the most difficult to stick to. Don't let the attention get to your head, don't lead anyone on and don't play any games. Consider it an honour to be in the process, not a right. You're talking to figure out if you can marry someone and if they could marry you, not to set up multiple options and backup plans. Focus on establishing what you need to know as quickly as possible and once you do (or know that you won't), let the relevant parties know. Do not keep anyone hanging. If you find that you like more than one person at the same time, well then you need to choose who you want to be exclusive with immediately.
  4. Reciprocity. You have to be okay with your opposite doing the same. If you're not (perhaps you're at a point where you need their attention to proceed), then you should tell them and let them decide if they're ready to change the situation. Although this point can come at any time, it's a bit unreasonable to expect it from the start (love at first sight aside). Personally I assume it as the default position (that they are looking at other people), but I'll always ask anyway.
  5. Clarity and objectivity. That means no comparing potentials to one another. And definitely not mixing up their names or what you've said or done with each other.
To be honest across all these rules it's probably difficult to talk to more than one person anyway, and if you did not for more than a few days at most. However it is possible to legitimately look at more than one person at a time.

Perhaps I'm just unlucky in that potential rishtas arrive like buses for me - ones on a six month route - so I really can't afford to write people off just because I'm two emails into talking to someone else, especially if I don't even know the current person all that well (and in all likelihood won't marry them for some other reason anyway).

Similarly I wouldn't want to say no to someone I do actually like, just because she's yet to realise how awesome I am. If anything allowing her to talk to other losers will just increase the chances that she'll say yes to me.


  1. I enjoy reading your posts, yet I've never really made the effort to comment before.

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying, I always say to potentials we should try to be 'friends' first before marriage partners, that's a definite quality I seek in a spouse-to-be; somebody who I can get on with easily, and talk to about stuff. I feel it takes the pressure off as well, and it feels less like an interview, where people can write you off too easily.

    Like you, I have stayed in touch with some of the people I met on this route, I don't consider that a bad thing at all. We get on genuinely well, just not to spend the rest of our lives together. You end up having you own singles network, where you have somebody to sound off to about how difficult the whole process can be at times, and we can always cross recommend potentials to others.

    You sound like you have a good head and a plan. May Allah swt make it easy for you, and grant you a good partner Inshallah.
    It's the month of Ramadan, may it bring you many blessings and happiness.


  2. Do you really think its possible to not compare? I know people who do this even after they're in a relationship.

  3. I was going to write something similar glad you saved me the time.

    good post.

  4. "due diligence" - you're such a romantic!

    so that's how you keep increasing your facebook friend count?

  5. honestwaffle,

    Thanks for the support and kind words. As for a good head and plan... well perhaps.


    There'll probably be a human level of latent comparing going on. But like you imply being exclusive might not overcome that either. I'm talking about something a bit more literal a la Ross in Friends (credit to Mash for the tip) which can and should be avoided.


    Don't hate. You of all people should know what I'm like. Although yes maybe there is a danger of being too non-committal/detached at times.

  6. I'm all for due diligence so long as there is full disclosure. Getting to know someone should initailly be based on friendship so until you know it's going somewhere you can talk to more than one person.

  7. I tried to not consider more than one potential at the same time, because of your 5th rule. I personally found it very difficult to be objective.

    The other thing is that I feel that sometimes having too many options can actually work against the individual. Probably make them more indecisive and confused about what is it that they are actually looking for.

    Loved the post btw :).

  8. Rachem? What is that, some kind of fancy dinosaur term that I don't understand 'cos I'm just a waitress??

  9. Anonymous09:35

    Consider potential rishtas of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one.

  10. oh god, that was liek the coolest reply ever.

  11. some random bloke02:54

    an interesting post. well posted. i wish you all the bestest in finding someone to share your life with.

    however, should you wish, consider a life of being detached. imagine the possibilities, the potential. you could even get by, living at your parents, and living off part-time work, as you go through a life-time of serious projects (serious soul searching type thingies). the countless hours you don't have to spend in the work place, doing the 'orrid stuff, specifically social interactions, including those dreaded 'socials'.

    the future is bright, in fact it beats marriage in so many ways. i implore you to seriously consider this possibility.

  12. some random bloke,

    What can't you have both? I'd be the first to admit that I just want a mundane life full of rat-races and school runs, but there are many others who live the life you describe as well as being married. I don't see how they're mutually exclusive.

  13. some random bloke17:11

    "What can't you have both? I'd be the first to admit that I just want a mundane life full of rat-races and school runs, but there are many others who live the life you describe as well as being married. I don't see how they're mutually exclusive."

    i agree, there are always possible worlds, but realistically? you need to pay a mortgage, then there is the bills and children, as well (unless you wish to have no children, very unlikely).

    you will need to spend nearly all waking hours doing something you just don't want to do. you can be productive in other ways, it is not about being lazy.

    then there is:

    not getting married and living at your parents. you do work and make a living, but only for basic expenses. working two days a week is possible. not only that, you get a good amount of dispensable income, there are other options with that. the biggest plus, you don't waste on average half your life in the workplace. ok, some disadvantages (breaking social convetnions is just not one of them)...but still...

  14. Anonymous12:21

    some random bloke needs to get laid.

    In his imaginary paradise, he never would.