Religion, Relationships and Reality

This post was originally published on 5th November 2018 and updated on 19th July 2019.

I’ve never been one to take the easy route in life. God only knows why! Sometimes I long for less drama. But in reality, I would probably be bored without it.

Throughout my late teenage years, into my twenties, I moved from one disastrous relationship to the next. Not that they were all bad boys or men. Many of them were lovely. But the relationships I had with them were far from healthy.

Some of the time there just wasn’t enough there to keep me interested. 18 months seemed to be the maximum time I was able to stay in a relationship.

It became a bit of a running joke within my family, particularly at Christmas. Who will Becky be bringing this time and will we see them again next Christmas?

I’m sure someone out there who is far wiser than me, would be able to analyse this pattern of behaviour and tell me where it stems from and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If anyone knows the answer, I would love to hear from you.

When I was younger, I wasn’t very selective with the boys I dated. If a boy showed an interest in me, I wouldn’t stop and think about what qualities they had. I didn’t stop to consider whether they were boyfriend material, or if we had enough in common to make things work.

When I met my ex who features in my blog post Change Part 2 , I could almost feel a sigh of relief from my friends and family when he joined us for a second Christmas. And then a third, and so on.

But that one wasn’t meant to be either. 6 years later, there was another sigh of relief from my family when I left him.

Shortly after I moved to London, I discovered the world of dating apps. And what a mad world that was.

Moving to London was the first time I had a real choice in men. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of single men in Northampton. But they were all white, and predominantly English.

When I moved to London, it opened my eyes to the possibility of dating guys who were from all over the world. And with that, came men who had different religious backgrounds.

I met Ali on one of these dating apps. We hit it off from the start (although he never let me forget the number of times I turned him down before we finally met up!).

Ali had been living in the UK for about 5 years when I met him. He was originally from Lahore, Pakistan. He was a few years younger than me. And he was muslim.

I had always had an interest in religion, despite not being religious myself.

I had been brought up in a village, and part of village life in the 80s and 90s revolved around the church. I spent many Sundays at Sunday school, but as I got older, I just lost interest and religion (Christianity in particular) was no longer important to me.

I had dated a couple of muslim’s and hindu’s before I met Ali. But they had made it clear to me that although they liked white English girls, there was an expectation from their families for them to marry someone of the same religious background.

When I met Ali, he seemed different. Although his religion meant a lot to him, he wasn’t what I would call a ‘practicing’ muslim. He would drink alcohol, didn’t pray, and we were effectively living in sin (we moved in together after just 6 weeks of dating!).

There were some traditions he kept to. He would predominantly eat Halal for example, and wouldn’t go anywhere near pork products. As a result of this, my diet also became pork free, and most of the meat we would buy would be halal.

He would often get incredibly emotional talking about his religion. I remember a time, not long after we first met, and he was telling me a story from the Quran. He was really moved telling me the story. It was the first time I had realised how much his religion meant to him, despite him not being a practicing Muslim .

Having a relationship with someone from a different religion isn’t straight forward.

When I started to tell my friends I had met someone who was from Pakistan, people would ask me if he was a terrorist. They would tell me to be careful, and would tell me to keep my eyes wide open, to make sure he didn’t try to convert me to Islam.

On top of that, within a year of us meeting, there was a rise in acid attacks in London, with many of those being aimed at Asian’s. There was also an increase in terrorist attacks.

This left me feeling nervous. It left me worrying for Ali’s safety whenever he left the house. It made me worry about the reaction of those who didn’t know us. What would people think of a Muslim dating a white English girl?

Early on in our relationship, we would talk about whether we wanted to have children in the future, and if so, what religion would we want them to be? Not many couples I know have had to have this conversation. How do you even begin to talk about that and come to a conclusion that suits everyone?

It’s the same with marriage. Had we stayed together, would we get married in England or Pakistan? Would it be traditional? And if so, Christian or Muslim? Or a combination of both?

Then there are the different festivities different cultures celebrate. Whilst Ali didn’t fast during Ramadan, he would try to avoid drinking alcohol, and would abstain from other ‘pleasures’. I would try my best to make sure we did nice things to celebrate and honour his traditions. I always encouraged him to celebrate. However, he found it hard being away from his family during these times, especially during Eid. Most muslim celebrations are normally full on family affairs. I would often forget, that I was the closest thing Ali had to family in the UK, with most of his family living in Pakistan or America. He hadn’t seen his family for over 7 years.

I was lucky, because he threw himself into Christmas, and loved all the traditional hype that surrounds it. We would always get a real tree, and he enjoyed helping me to decorate it.

We also had the added complication that he was going through the visa renewal process, and sadly, in the end, that was partly to blame for our relationship to breakdown.

I often get asked by my friends and family if I have regrets over any of my failed relationships. I can say hand on heart that I don’t.

I don’t ‘do’ regrets. I have learnt something from each and every relationship I have been in. Whether it has been trying new food types, a new interest, learning about different religions, or simply learning something new about myself.

I don’t know why I couldn’t follow in so many of my friends footsteps by meeting a man, settling down, getting married and having babies. But do you know what? I have a sneaky suspicion that a nice quiet life just isn’t meant for me.

And I’m ok with that.

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