The change of season seemed to have brought about a change in relationship status for three of my girlfriends. One, her boyfriend broke up with her, the other, her fiancé called off the engagement, and the third friend, sadly, her and her husband made the ultimate decision to go their separate way; yes, they are getting divorced.
I felt as if the cold weather was not only physically chilling, but also that our souls were facing a polar vortex as love diminished and yearlong commitments were broken. I tried to think of ways to beguile the pain each of these girls was going through, but I felt something was so emotionally consuming that I actually had to distance myself from them for a while. The distance took me all the way to Montague, Michigan, where I’m sure the population was no more than twenty. The trip was a short one, only two days, but it was exactly what I needed to bring me back restored and recharged to Chicago and to the many broken hearts’ cry for help that had flooded my phone and Inbox while I was away.
The moment I saw the city skyline,I decided to call the girls and do what I described as, “A Broken Heart Huddle,” a gathering of the girls who were broken hearted, the very girls who saw me through my many ups and downs in my relationships, engagement, and single life. We met at the Trump Towers, ‘Sixteen’ where we chatted about everything that had happened. What led to their relationships, their un-engagements, and marriage being over and it all came down to one thing: the romance was dead. The romantic gestures, words, and gifts given to each girl in the beginning of their relationship had slowly made the couples drifted further and further apart. Although the girls communicated to their partners what they wanted, but they just didn’t see it important enough to actually change and meet them at least half way.
“I always told him this is what I like, or that’s what I like,” said Isra, a twenty eight year old girl engaged to this, oh! so romantic fellow, only to find herself single again. “…and he wouldn’t do it, but it’s like he was this really romantic guy in the beginning. I mean, where did that person go? Did he just do it to get me and once he got me it was over? I don’t want that. That’s not love to me, that’s marketing strategy.”
All of them agreed, and I found it hard to argue that the romance has turned into complacency and then indifference. Does this mean the only temporary thing we can hope for in our lives is hardships? I have yet to meet someone who believes love, or anything else perceived to be good or enjoyable, to be temporary. Yes, we women want these things and also need romance, and we need it to be forever. Although I found myself in agreement with the broken hearted ladies, I couldn’t help but wonder if in fact a lack of romance was just cause to say goodbye to someone you’ve dated for two years, or the man whose picture you posted as your significant other, or the man you’ve been married to for three and a half years? I wondered: is forever possible without romance?
“I can’t be with a guy who, for whatever reason, I am unable to call, or text him, doesn’t bother to find out what is wrong,” said the newly unengaged Hanin.
“Was he always like this?” I asked knowing very well that the answer was no. I mean if he was that indifferent, Hanin wouldn’t have never agreed to been with him. The girl is a bright thirty year old pharmacist who graduated with GPA of 4.0/5. She has always known what she wanted, when she wanted it, and how to get it. Consistency is one her personality traits, especially when it comes to relationship.
“No! In the beginning, he was the most endearing and attentive man, showing up at my front door with a bouquet of yellow roses –my favorite-, or brought me coffee, or taking me for long drives because he knew how much I liked it,” she said her eyes beginning to tear. “Then, one day, all this stopped. But I still got engaged to him thinking things would go back to the way it was. But even on our engagement day, he turned to me and said You look nice! Nice?”
“Ugh…” we all said in unison. The last thing any girl wants to hear from her man, especially on her engagement day, is that she looks “nice”. Let’s face it, yes, the grass is nice, the weather is nice, but to tell a girl that she looks ‘nice’ come across like he doesn’t really care.
“I tried to talk to him and tell him to show a little enthusiasm about being engaged to me and start doing the things that make me feel special and wallah he just wouldn’t care enough to bother. If I’m not special enough for him to want to be kind, caring and considerate, then what the hell are we doing together. It just got to the point when I knew and felt in my gut that this relationship isn’t going to work because I didn’t feel special when I’m with him. I haven’t for a year now.”
“Have you told him that?” I asked.
“More times than I can count. He always says I’m acting like a baby and just being a drama-queen–all the while he’s sitting at dinner texting– … to who is anybody’s guess. I’m so done with this!”
“I understand completely,” said Amira whose husband surprised her and filed for divorce. “I have to tell you though; a part of me was actually relieved when he said he wanted a divorce.”
“How?” I asked.
“I think I knew this would happen. He was never romantic. Never! I can’t remember the last time that he ever bought me flowers. On Valentine’s Day, he left his card on the counter and told me to buy myself roses BUT make sure not to spend more than thirty dollars. I mean, he never even held my hand in public. Ever! He said it made him look like he has been whipped into submission.”
“That’s Araby guys for you!” said Hanin.
A long silence fell over our table. I had to agree with Hanin–Arab guys, or at least the ones that any of us have known, are about as romantic as a pile of dead leaves, I mean my ex, Hani, wouldn’t even open the car door for me because he believed that it made him look henpecked. I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions, hell I know a girl whose husband posts Facebook status’ for his wife every single day, just to let her know how much he loves and appreciates her. I mean it’s embarrassing but it’s sweet. Last week, he thanked her for switching to raspberry jam, as opposed to their usual grape, “You really know how to surprise me with the little things and for that, I love you with all my heart. Marrying you was the best decision I ever made.” Annoying but romantic nevertheless. So, who cares if people think he’s whipped, henpecked or whatever else you want to call it, but he loves his wife and has no gripes or hesitations about letting the world know how he feels about her. But despite these exceptions, why is it so hard for Arab men to be romantic?
We understand that you are men and that you want to project a certain image, strength and machismo, but is it really necessary for you to humiliate and crush us women in the process? What do you have to gain by making us feel like inferior being with no value whatsoever? Aren’t we the ones who will fulfill your lives, bare your children, and be there for you when life is being unfair?
I’m not saying that a guy has to buy his girlfriend, fiancée, or wife gifts every day. Yes, gifts are romantic, but there is so much more to a meaningful relationship between a man and a woman. Romance is a very big part of that relationship and it is about creating magical moments. You don’t have to be born romantic, it can be learnt–which is obviously not an alien concept to these men since they were romantic when they first met the women they were involved with. But then all went to the wayside and all the niceties vanished once they “reeled her in.” That is not love; that is not romance. That is a horrible and cruel game they play and if that is one thing we women detest. Why? Because in the end, everybody loses.
My heart went out to the broken hearted at my table who hadn’t yet touch their cappuccinos. I wanted to tell them to try to work things out with their partners and that perhaps they could make them realize that change is necessary for their relationship to last, but I would have to have told myself that about the two men of my past who would never have changed. No matter how many times I asked Hani to surprise me with flowers, or open the car door, or surprise me with a ‘Thinking of you!” text, it never happened. I’m sure it never would have because they don’t understand why they should. You can’t always teach and old dog new tricks unless he is willing to learn.
But despite this, there are men who do want to please the woman they meet. Men who believe they have been graced by an angel, who may be a little stubborn at times and have flaws, but it doesn’t mean that they will ever stop treating her like a queen. It won’t matter if they have “reeled her in” because they’ll feel so blessed to have her heart that they’ll do anything to keep it. A man who will know that consistency, love and respect is how to make a loving relationship last a lifetime. Someone who won’t stop texting you sweet messages, or tell you that you’re nagging him or acting like a baby when you’re only trying to express yourself, or worse, walk out the door and say he will be back after you come to your senses. Someone who doesn’t give an over-fried falafel what people label him as, because he’s going to show the world that he truly loves you and, at the end of the day, you are all he really need forever.
On my drive home, I asked myself again, if a relationship could survive without romance, and the answer was unequivocally: No! A relationship without romance is simply a temporary infatuation, it doesn’t last forever. Like a houseplant without water, it withers and dies. A relationship without romance has one name: ACQUAINTANCE! But that is not what we are looking for in a guy. We deserve better. We need a man who will treat us like the queen that we are from start to finish.
True relationships are hard work gentlemen; to be fruitful it takes consistency and a conscious and constant effort to want to make it work. I think it’s about time you put some real effort in your relationships!