By Yaser Birjas & Megan Wyatt
A couple of days later, her father brought me a marriage resume. After looking through her marriage resume, which was quite long, I told the father:
“I thought you wanted me to look for a potential husband for your daughter, not a job!”
What she described in all those pages could be summarized in two letters: MD.
So, how did she really need to describe herself?
That's the focus of this article, and that's just one of the three critical mistakes Sister Megan Wyatt and I shared with everyone very recently in this webinar.
From my years of teaching on the topic of love and marriage, and counseling singles, married couples, and their parents, I can tell you this:
By knowing about this one critical mistake, you will, in sha Allāh, learn how to speak about yourself in a way that attracts the kind of brother you are searching for, allows you to keep at bay the brothers you do not want knocking on your father's door, and prevents you from turning off the very kind of person you are seeking.
Now, let's get into the details of that one mistake.
When Sister Megan Wyatt was conducting interviews with single Muslim sisters ages 25-30, she asked them to do the following:
“Describe yourself in a few sentences so I could in turn describe you to a brother who I think may be a potential suitor.”
Almost every sister told her what she does not want in a marriage; the kind of brother she does not want to meet. Hardly anyone actually answered the question. The few sisters who did answer gave short, one-liner responses.
The realization was this: many sisters have no idea how to present themselves.
You may be trying to get married in a way that worked in the past, while you are not like the women of the past.
Sixty to seventy years ago, even in this country, a woman's role in marriage was clear.
Today, at the age of 19 or 20, most Muslim women expect to complete at a minimum a college degree before getting married.
Along with that degree, there is the question of whether or not you want a career, or perhaps just to dabble in the workforce for some time. Do you want to pursue grad school, and if so, who will take care of the kids, if you have any?
We are looking at this without judgment — however, there is something essential to be understood:
The majority of practicing Muslim men in the West, based on our interviews, blogs, and personal conversations with them across the country, despite growing up here are looking for a wife who will fill a more traditional role, that of a stay at home wife; and at the least to be home with future children, in sha Allāh.
And we have also learned that many of you want to do just that: get married, and eventually, be there for your family and children in a more “traditional” role.
Now, many brothers are willing to be flexible to a point, but if you ask most of them their preference, this is what they want…
…leading us to that critical mistake:
Not knowing how to describe yourself for marriage.
What happens when the first thing you say about yourself, or your friend says about you is:
“She is 26 years old, and has a degree in chemistry, and she is currently in grad school.” Or, “…is working in a lab called xyz.”
From the brother's perspective, he hears a description that says little (or nothing) about what he is looking for in a wife, aside from “educated.”
Let's take another example:
“She is strong and active in Da'wah, is working on memorizing the Qur'an, has a degree in journalism, and teaches in her local Sunday school.”
Again, excellent qualities. It says a bit more about you, but still, for a brother: what is it that he is seeking?
The difficult reality is that brothers are looking for specific qualities, and when they hear them, it alerts them that this is the kind of sister worth considering.
But what happens if no one is describing you in a way, on your behalf, that speaks his language — that highlights the qualities he desires?
The idea of sitting around and waiting for others to find you someone is an option, but it is not necessarily the most proven option, especially these days.
Many brothers are asking other sisters to help them find a wife, because their families may be abroad, or their parents don't share the same kind of values as them in terms of the deen.
The fact is that today both men and women are taking more of an active role in searching for a spouse on their own, which means that you may need to learn how to represent yourself to some degree — to explain who you are, and what you want in a husband.
So you need to think: How can I describe myself in a way that is truthful, while also telling him about me in a way that interests him?
So many sisters write about themselves as if they are looking for a pen pal! Seriously.
We sifted through the marriage resumes and bio-data of many sisters that we found online. (That's another point altogether — having full access to a sister's photo and her details available to complete strangers, without even having to log in!)
Let's share two examples:
“I currently work as a Respiratory Practitioner and I intend on pursuing my Master's degree in Occupational Therapy. My hobbies include spending time with family and friends, taking road trips, and traveling the world. I love music and cooking ethnic cuisine! I come from a very loving, understanding, and supportive family.”
“My sister is 26 years old. She is a graduate of ABC University. Currently she is working as a chemist in a big name company. She is a great person with an open mind and a great heart. I am so glad that Allāh (swt) blessed me with such a great sibiling. I love her and inshā'Allāh if you choose her you will know why she is so great. My sister, XYZ, enjoys reading and going out. She is slim and tall with a great smile. She is not a TV person. She is independent. We are 2 brothers and 2 sisters. XYZ is no. 3 in our little family. I am the older, married sister and I want to help my sister also get married so she can enjoy life like I am doing.”
We got bored reading through these. If we were searching for our own brother, we would think: “Forget this! Everyone sounds the same. Everyone likes to travel, shop, go to the cinema, eat, and everyone says they are a nice and caring person.”
So, what makes those two examples bad?
Reading through thousands of ads like that, here are just a few qualities that we found common in all of them:
- Too long (too many details)
- Not to the point
- Confused or overconfident
- Too personal
- Too professional
- Too flirtatious
- Too good to be true
- Too girlish
- Too picky (race, culture, qualities etc.)
- Confrontational (expecting a war for rights and obligations)
On the other hand, what are the qualities that are common in good descriptions or marriage resumes?
- Very realistic in self description and in spousal demands (sounds real)
- Balanced in personality and professionalism
- Family first
- To the point
- Very clear language (Accurate spelling and good choice of words)
- Natural flow of thoughts
If you're serious about really getting this concept, we'd like you do a quick exercise (without anyone's help, just by yourself).
First part of the exercise (three questions):
1) Write down 3-5 sentences describing yourself.
2) Write down 3-5 sentences about what kind of man you are looking for.
3) Write in only one sentence what you will not consider in a man.
It is important that you know how to speak about yourself confidently. It is not humility to be unable to describe yourself, and just smile and fumble over words.
Oftentimes, when we think we are acting humbly we are actually attempting to hide our lack of self-esteem and lack of recognition of the qualities that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla) has given us to share with others.
Remember: you are not going around praising yourself; you are describing yourself for marriage. Think about it.
Now, for the second part of the exercise:
Go back and re-read your answers and ask yourself the following:
1) How true are the things I just wrote down? Is this really me? Is this how my friends and family would describe me?
2) What have I said that would be interesting to the kind of brother I am looking to meet?
As you think about the words, phrases, feelings, and qualities that you would choose, you will find that you may have some of the qualities your 'Mr. Right' will like and you may have some qualities your 'Mr. Right' will not like.
Being too personal is not a good idea. Same is true for being too professional.
Whatever the case is, the keyword you need to remember is: “balance.”
Here is the key concept, the bottom line: Learn how to speak about yourself, learn how to describe yourself in a way that allows you to be confident, and beautiful in your modesty, that will connect with the words and thoughts in the mind of your Mr. Right.
Think about how you want to present yourself — the qualities you want to highlight which matter a lot to him, not what makes you fall in love with your own self!
After all, you are looking for a husband, someone from the opposite gender (not a female friend or a buddy).
Just a side note: if you do use a picture in a marriage resume (with permission from your wali!), please do not try to look like America's next top hijabi model like the ones you see online, and particularly on the infamous Facebook. Too many sisters try puckering their lips, looking over their shoulders with some sultry pout, etc. which turns off the kind of practicing man you are really seeking.
So, stick to a photo that has hayaa in the image; something normal and natural.
While you are searching for your Mr. Right, remember that in these moments there must be hidden gifts. As Muslims, we are to believe that there is an advantage to every situation in which we find ourselves.
Look at the time that has elapsed, and ask yourself:
“I'm not married, although I've been trying for a long time. What is it that Allāh wants me to learn? What message, what lesson is waiting for my heart?”
We ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla) to bless you with sabr, first and foremost, because Allāh loves those who have patience, and He is close to those who have sabr.
We ask Allāh to bring into your life the kind of husband you are searching for, and to allow your journey from start to finish to be a means of growing closer to Allāh, finding His rahmah, and leading you to ever-increasing levels of īmān.