Thursday, 7 April 2011

Coz it's as simple as this...

One of my sisters’ friends approached me this past weekend wanting to know if I’d be willing to counsel her through some of her issues before she gets married. She said that she didn’t want to approach any of her friends because she needed an objective point of view and thought that they'd be too biased; and that she valued my opinion and advice. I agreed.

I usually counsel people and couples, but it’s more of a community service then a profitable enterprise because I’m not a qualified Therapist and I don’t intend to be. However, I do not mind sharing my acquired knowledge of the world with anyone who asks and is willing to listen.

Our "session" wasn't deemed strictly confidential and there were no formalities... so we sat in my room while I packed my cupboard and listened to her keenly and intently. I heard about her personal woes as well as all her troubles with her significant other. And after I gave her some input and we agreed to meet again on another day, she left.

As she pulled out of our driveway, my youngest sister who is generally wise beyond her years, and who had no doubt overheard some of the conversation, approached me and said the most profound words that I had heard in a long time.

She said:
“It’s like men don’t know how to love anymore. They don’t know how to love women. And they don’t know how to love themselves”.

And with that, she shook her little head and walked away... obviously disillusioned by the picture of love painted by Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in a movie she’d seen the night before.

I couldn’t help agreeing with her.

That's not to say that women aren't at fault or that there aren't other mitigating circumstances that dictate each case. But in all my life, I’ve never come across anything as plain, simple and accurate as this:

“If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away.
And if a man doesn’t want you, nothing can make him stay.”


  1. I've been attending Islamic Love & Marriage Philosophy classes (for no particular reason, ahem), and one of the strongest things coming out of that is the strange expectations of "Love" people have.

    There's almost always this (incorrect) romantic unpacking of what a Loving Partner is;, doting, attentive, pre-emptive, empathetic - and these assumptions absolutely skew behaviour. If I genuinely think you can interpret exactly how I feel about something without communicating it any way (and not wanting to communicate for fear of looking small, petty or vulnerable which is an entirely different rant), I'm going to be angry when you don't magically respond to what I'm feelings.

    The unpacking of Lust - which tilts strongly towards the male, and Infatuation - which will wear out in two year, out of Love is also important to know.

    I'm sorry, I've started shouting for some reason.

    The point I meant to make was that Love between two people isn't just chemistry. Loving someone is a decision you make. And it's a kind of magic - we commit to a lifetime of actions, like doting, caring, and the like, which we trust will earn us the appreciation and respect from the other to endorse our decision, and inspire (and sometime require) reciprocation.

    And we need to keep this stuck in our pre-frontal cortex so that we can always override the laziness, boredom and depression when it seems stuck and stale, and there's no compulsion or compelling making us *want* to do something. Instigation and initiative will always be required, we'll just have stronger motivations for always re-starting.

    At least that's my incredibly naive view of all of it.

  2. I'm not surprised your little sister was impressed by Bogart - he was a great lover in real life too, as Lauren Bacall has testified. Although, the unfortunate wife he divorced saw him in a different light.

  3. “I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me.” - Bogart

    Unfortunately ardor cools over time and reality sets in. You're left with this: Do you like the person you're with? If you do genuinely like the person, you can make a go of it. If not, nothing but guilt, social conventions & pressure and children will keep it together.

  4. i think the same can be said about women. well, at the least, the women i know here.
    if she wants you,nothing can keep her away, and if she doesnt want you, nothing can make her stay.

  5. M Irfaan - which classes are those exactly?

    I think the unrealistic expectations are largely down to portrayal of "love" in the movies and other forms of entertainment we take in.

    And, even if a person KNOWS that that's all fake - and that reality will be different - the fact is that when you're not yet married, you don't know what it will be like. You CAN'T your ideas - whether you like it or not - will largely be based on those influences you took in from the screen.

    When love is based on infatuation, looks, or any other temporary characteristic - then the foundation is weak, and it's at risk of collapsing - UNLESS the parties recognise that the relationship needs you say - it's a choice; and it's a lifelong 'work' to maintain that relationship and ensure that it succeeds.

  6. Oh boy Azra...can you see the worms crawling everywhere? LoL
    I can only speak for myself and my experiences...I agree that men today don’t know how to love.
    The thing about love is that you can NEVER define it. No matter how many times you try. That’s why we are so obsessed with it. It is really our own fault. Both men and women are caught between the fiction and the reality of love.
    For humans, in order to define relationships we look to our parents, the two people who have the most influence in our lives as children. And that’s where your first identification and definition of love is constructed. Then it changes with our experiences. But I find that most times, people constantly use their parents relationship with each other as markers of their own relationship success.
    For me love is putting someone else’s needs before your own and to be honest, I’ve seen very few men who actually do that. Is all about the food, car, house, sex that they want.

  7. I recently heard a story about this women who is a wife and mother. She cooks (making fresh samoosa’s, rotis, masala’s etc), cleans, and takes care of kids. All by herself, with no help from her in-laws and her family cause they are very far away. One day her husband sits her down and tells her that she is a good wife, but she doesn’t give him enough sex, so he wants a divorce. The husband was very fair is discussing the matter, but the outcome? She now forces herself, even after cooking his food, cleaning his house, washing and feeding his 3 & 4 year old children, putting them to bed and finishing her chores late into the night, to please him. And no, he doesn’t help her with the house, because that is not how he was brought up. She sacrifices what she wants to please him. I don’t know if this woman is stupid or really very brave. Its stories like this, that make single women never want to get married.

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  9. Azra you tweeted this sometime ago and it struck a chord. At the time I was in a marriage with a non-existent husband. I was so hell-bent on fixing the mess and when I read these words they made me realize that I could go to the ends of the earth, nothing was going to change my situation.'

    Powerful words that did me a world of good :)

  10. Irfaan - People's notions of "Love" are fallible and selfish because it's all about *them*. Everything they associate with the concept of "Love" is about how THEY FEEL and what THEY WANT... and the expectations they have that arise from that.

    I agree whole-heartedly with your sentiments. Love is essentially a conscious interplay of actions that requires one to be *self-less* to a large degree.

    The problem comes in when you find that MOST males today are weak and flawed. By weak, I mean they have become needy and selfish. This girl’s fiancĂ© is a good example. He's constantly at odds with HIMSELF. He's got major parental issues - emotionally absent mother and autocratic father - which means that he's constantly seeking some kind of approval from just about everyone. Add to that, since most males are innately selfish, he only knows how to *take* from his relationship, leaving her with nothing but empty promises. Add to THAT, he often bathes in self-loathing... so we have to wonder how he can love her when he can’t even love himself!? On a good day, she ends up Mothering him.

    Not that she's completely fault-less. She has her own issues to deal with, in addition to his.

    As someone put it so beautifully for me a couple of years ago, "These days, men are lazy and women are desperate."

    What most men don't realise is that by nature, most women are emotional folk - we are governed by our emotions whether we like it or not and no amount of fucking-Feminism or Westernised-concepts in the entire world will ever change that. Hence to a large extent, that "doting" and "caring" is essential for any kind of positive reciprocation. A man can't demand his food, degrade and humiliate his wife and then expect her to be all ready and willing for him later in the evening.

  11. With regard to the woo-ing stages, we have become a world where very few men out there willing to "work" for the woman. No one wants to court or buy flowers to win affection... hence "Men have become lazy"... why? Because there's so many desperate women after their asses, why should they work for anything... why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free elsewhere?

    And this is where I blame women. I blame all those mothers who over-indulged their sons, making them believe they are God's gift to women and that they never ever need to be kind or gracious. And I blame all those needy, desperate fucking women whose fathers never loved them so they turn to any male utterly DESPERATE to fill those emotional voids...

    Add to that, we had LIES churned by Feminism, making women believe that they have control - that they can sleep around without any Oxytycin affecting their emotional levels, that they can go out and do as they like and compete with men and grow hairy testosterone infused balls and do whatever the men were supposed to do to prove females are good enough and worthy of their places on earth.

    And the repercussions of that were men saying "ok, go ahead and carry all the dead weight while I sit here on the couch in front of the tv and btw, thanks for taking the load off... I don't need to be responsible for anything anymore".
    Thus making it IMPOSSIBLE for the rest of us to live in a decent world!!!

    (I'm sorry, getting really passionate here... but)
    There was a time when men were like Lions... the Protectors of their families. They were the ones that their kids could turn to for comfort and security. Today, in most cases, they're the ones responsible for the destruction of their families through neglect... because they're either too lazy or selfish to put their families needs before theirs, or because they're too busy consumed with their own feelings of inadequacy, feeling sorry for themselves because their Daddies were assholes or their Mothers smothered them to death...

    But then you have to ask yourself, why should they make the effort? When all he'll get is some woman criticising everything he does, emasculating him because someone lied to her and told her that she doesn't really need him to do anything because she can do an equal, if not better job herself.

    And at the end, she wants to cry that he doesn't love her and that she has to do everything, and he goes off on a romping spree to prove that he’s still man enough for *some* woman out there who’s utterly DESPERATE enough to fall for him because she’s trying to fill those latent emotional voids when all she really wants is to win the approval of her father.

    It’s a VICIOUS cycle I tell ya.

  12. To be clear - I'm not male bashing here. I think the degradation of societal values on the whole are responsible for the state we're in, and both men and women have played their part in that.

    GB - I'm sure women must have been beside themselves after watching Bogart in action.

    LL - Reality is the name we give to our disappointments. And the reality of ardor is that most times it's based on preconcieved notions of who the person is. It's only real love when we love self-lessly and wholly, warts and all.

    Jaya - I agree, it goes for women too... the difference is that women can be won over more easily - being emotional creatures and all that.

    dreamlife - I do agree with you. In fact, I believe that you can't love someone wholly and completely until after you're married - because then you know the person for the good and bad that he/she is... and not for who you THINK that person is.

    Trinity - Again, I will stress that love can only be real when it's self-less... when it excludes your needs and wants from the equation. Thats not to say that we're not entitled to have needs and wants. So yes I agree with your sentiments. We have a warped perception of love and what it means when someone loves us and what "love" essentially looks like.
    And that husband is a selfish ass... why doesn't he do the cooking and ironing and so she has a little more energy for his demanding ass.

    Blue - I'm happy that it helped you let go. It's difficult to do that especially when you've invested so much of yourself in your relationship with him.

  13. Hey Azra

    Well said! I guess I need to start accepting and realising this as well.
    You think you can wait for guy to realise it or grow up, or to realise that he ain't Brad Pitt so he's not going to get an Angelina but anyway I'm sorry to generalise but unfortunately majority of males care mostly about beauty and I think sometimes you need to hear it out loud from someone else so you can move on and realise that he really isn't worth your time and your thoughts... you can't sit around hoping he will change!

    M Irfaan - nicely said! You should really take along as many males as you possibly can to these classes, God knows there's desperate need for most males get a reality check!

  14. Hmmm.

    I can feel a post coming up!
    But you're right on many levels...I think, though, unless a man fights for it, he will never appreciate the worth of what he has.
    Caveman complex? Or just plain contrariness? :)

  15. safs786 - Irfaan knows how much we love him. He's our boeta & he has 3 sisters here in JHB :) Great points made all around.

    In fact, if Irfaan and Dreamlife ever had a son together and called him LL - we'd have The Perfect Man haha :D

    pserean - I believe that a man has to fight from the very beginning, on some level, for the woman he wants. He has to WANT her and be prepared to go to any length to make that happen. Thats the only way he'll truely appreciate her. If he doesn't "fight" for you from the beginning, he will never fight for you or your relationship. It's definitely stems of that "hunter" gene.

  16. I am going through a similar thing with a friend at the moment. I'm so proud of her, because after years of putting up with a bad boyfriend, she's finally decided to up and gracefully leave the situation.

    What struck me most is that although he's cheated on her (and countless other scummy things), she still respects him enough to talk it out and set things straight before walking out the door. I mean, how nice is that? Personally, I'd give the guy the bird and peace out with half of our stuff before he could blink.

    I think that it is partly our fault, as women. Mommies spoil their sons, and girlfriends allow men to walk all over them. We need to teach girls to have confidence in themselves so that they don't grow up thinking that they need to put up with crap. Or that they are only valued via a man's eyes.

    You know what the saddest thing is? A girl from town told me that if you don't a boyfriend, you are "no one."

    How do we save these young women?!

  17. Love- its all those things you talk about and all those you dont. And darn you people who say its not about looks or lust/infatuation :-P nothing wrong with it being that too (with your spouse thankyou very much). Heck, why do people think that a marriage is fine if it is devoid of those things? or that its more worthy or more profound if theres some *real* substance to it.Tis not- it can be about all those serious thing (commitment, sacrifice, patience) and also about all the immature stuff too :-D Wheres the magic and excitement in a marriage if all it comes down to is the selfless-ness and the sacrificing? People need to start having more fun in their marriages- they seem to think that the fun and games is all for before marriage and after marriage they turn into old grannies and grandads and become whingepots. Its annoying. I always think of the Prophet SAW and how he (saw) used to race with Aisha RA and how he used to tease her when he raced her and she had put on a little weight and therefore lost *throws lovehearts everywhere* thats just so so beautiful subhanAllah and how when she (Aisha RA) got mad at Hafsah RA sending the prophet SAW food and said, "What, does she think i dont know how to make this?" and she physically threw the food in Hafsah RA's face. The prophet SAW LAUGHED! he laughed and told Hafsah to get her own back by doing the same to Aisha RA! SubhanAllah what a man!!! :-D

    I had a rant with my husband the other days saying these days (no offence) men have become pansies! Seriously they have no concept whatsoever of what it means to be the "Amir" theyre dumb asses who like to get all walked over and then blame the woman when he goes out and has an affair. You didnt know how to be the head of your household (and ofcourse by that i dont mean he should be oppressive or anything of that nature- just assertive and balanced)! and then blame the woman for being as she is when Nabi SAW already said- "if you try to straighten her, you will break her."
    How long before men realise that she comes from you- the women is an extension of the man, that is how she 1has been created. She is your rib- your crooked bent rib and there is beauty in that crookedness and of you try to straighten it you will cause damage and destruction. Know a woman, udnerstand a womans nature and then there will be bliss in your marriage.

    Same with the woman- nowadays you get women who want the world and bleeding well everything in it! Theres no sense of sacrifice, no sense of honour or dignity- she will let anyone and everyone walk over her and whinge and lament over his misfortune of how this guys took advantage of her and this guy did that- well what the frig do you expect when YOU allow him to do that?! have you no sense of honour? the honour that Allah has bestowed upon a woman since the beginning of existance? SubhanAllah i see these western women asking and fighting for their rights and the muslimah joining her in these misinformd endevours! Allah has given us our rights- they surpass any other rights that people can give us. We are held in such esteem that we are given glad tidings of being the mothers of the mujahids inshaAllah! The woman- at whose feet jannah lies, the woman- whose jihad is carrying her child and then not only labouring it but breastfeeding it! and these are not the only blessings upon us. Look at the women in the time of the Prophet SAW. Nusayba! what a warrior subhnaAllah Allahu Akbar! She was amazing- she took blow after blow, she defended the Prophet SAW and she was there on the frontlines of war. These days we dont even fight for our own dignity and modesty- we let other people decide for us or take those rights away from us and then we wodner why we are in such a pitiful state.

  18. Umar RA once said that marriage is about mercy. If it was based solely on love then there would be very few people married. This is what Islam is about- mercy. It is compassion and that compassion extends to all areas of our life. People think that "love" is something they have a right to by default. It happens automatically and those who are in "love" think that it will always remain so. Not realising that muwadah (affection/love/mohabbat) is a rahma from Allah. It is a mercy from Allah, it is HE who instills it into your hearts and just like everything else in this life- nothing and absolutely nothing is in our control!

    We ask him to bless us with spouses who are the coolness of our eyes, a comfort to us, a solace, a companion, a guide. To instill love, rehmaa and understanding between our hearts,bless us with pious mumin children and to unite this ummah under the banner of haqq. Ameen Ya Rabi.

  19. I guess for me, Love has different stages and depending on where we are in our lives, the definition of Love changes accordingly.
    Teenage love is invariably lust.
    Newlywed love is most often infatuation.
    I'm at the stage where coming home and seeing the sparkly eyes of a 4year old as she runs toward me for hugs and kisses is the clearest definition of love a man can imagine. Love is contentment for me right now. The home I love shared with the woman I love and blessed with the company of the daughter we both love. What better definition of love in contentment and bliss?
    Of course I'll soon reach the stage my parents and grandparents are at now, where they have themselves and only themselves to each other all day, every day,more often than not. Insha-allah if and when I get to that stage, NIRVANA. The Holy Grail. The answer to what "Love" truly is, answered by the holding of two wrinkly hands as they walk together side by side, having lived a life complete and not having to define this word "Love" with words.

  20. Zesty - you should write a book...seriously...

  21. Michi - I agree! And I believe that as women, we have a duty to raise Men, not boys. Our sons or future sons are going to be Men one day... someone elses husband and someone elses father. Most women need to realise that their sons are not theirs to own, they rear them for the world.

    Zahera - I agree that you need a little bit of companionship, lust and infatuation in a marriage. But if talk about the nature of real love, it's ultimately self-less. Think of a mother and her child. The love is unconditional. The concept of "love" between adults is more complex and somewhat more fickle in nature. There's nothing wrong with lust in a marriage - I think too many Indian couples here in SA are sexually repressed because of their cultural norms and then turn to adultery to find what they can't get in their marriages!

    And I think for a successful marriage, alot of patience and mercy is necessary.

    And yeah, Dreamlife is correct, you should write a book!

    Kaloo - Love does go through it's various phases. Thats what they teach you in Psychology... there are 7 different types of love. The most common being lust, infatuation and companionship, which is ultimately what every long-term married couple strives for.

  22. It's a complicated world we live in, still.

    I never expected that in can actually get quite cold in South African winters.

  23. Merisi - Our winters may be cold but they're nothing compared to the winters in Europe or the UK. In mid winter our temperatures drop to 0 or sub-zero (between -1 and -5 Celcius) in the evenings and early mornings but they usually pick up substantially by mid day - anywhere between 13 and 23 Celcius :)

  24. oohh Azra my love! i havent even replied to your email yet where the hell do i get the time lol!

    Very kind and complimentary of you and dreamy to think i am worthy of writing a book-thats really sweet.
    Now that time has been discussed- lets not even talk about my lack of discipline :-P