Over 29 and single in 2020: What I wish people knew

In 2020, the world is more “connected” than ever, with half of the world’s population (that’s over 3.5 BILLION people) having online access. If one in every four relationships begins online, why are there still females past the age of 30 struggling to find mates?  

We asked multiple women who are living in the United States, Egypt, and Saudia Arabia why they are still single well into their 30’s (don’t worry rishta aunty/matchmaker they are not sitting at home depressed waiting for their prince charming to come to save them). Contrary to what you may think, they are living the best versions of their lives today. We asked them to share comments people have said to them in the past that they did/did not appreciate. Also, what they wish people knew about being single today, what they would tell their younger self, and why they are single today (after all, being single is a choice).

Here is a glimpse into each of their single lives and what they wish people knew about being single in 2020: 

The three women interviewed were: 

  1. Ilham is an Egyptian born and raised in the USA; she is currently 40 years old, never married, and never engaged officially. I asked Ilham why she said, “not officially.” She explained, “I was 28 years old, young and stupid. There was a guy that came and we were speaking to get to know each other for marriage. He actually checked off a lot of my criteria and he wasn’t a jerk. I wasn’t 100% attuned to myself back then. I knew I would have been able to like him as a friend, but not as a husband. When it finally ended, I was relieved. Ilham has a masters and doctorate, and has a passion for working on personal growth – emotionally, spiritually, and professionally.
  2. Hadeel was born and raised in Egypt; she is currently 29 years old, never married, and never engaged. Hadeel has lived and conducted volunteer work in Germany, Morocco, Malaysia, Poland, and India. Hadeel isn’t spending her days pinning interest ideas for her dream wedding, but instead is working on her masters and studying the deen. 
  3. Dalal is a Syrian born and raised in Saudia Arabia; she is 34 years old, never married, and never engaged. Dalal has been spending her time working behind the scenes for some of the greatest edutainment shows in Saudia, with world-renowned Ahmad Alshugairi. Currently, Dalal works as a project manager for start-ups in the digital world.  

Let’s start with some positive vibes; here are some moments where single-ness comments  were appreciated:

  • When Dalal was 28 years old she had a proposal from a family friend that was previously married and had two children from his first marriage. She was confused and asked an uncle figure what he thought of the proposal. His response gave Dalal the reassurance she needed at the time: “Why would you consider such a proposal? You’re still young. Don’t throw yourself at just anyone.”
  • Hadeel was asked if anyone has ever told her something about her marital status that she appreciated.  “No, none at all. All my friends are single too, we are in this together.”
  • When Ilham was asked what she appreciated people mentioning about her marital status, she replied, “I’ll try to think of something. I am sure there is something someone has told me that was appreciative, but it gets overclouded with all the negative comments.” This initial reaction is a reflection of the negative feedback these women often receive about their marital status. So before you comment about someone’s marital status, reflect on the Prophet’s hadith, Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.” [Related by Muslim]

Of course, she was able to dig up a few good memories, which were both comforting and reassuring: “Finding the right person is really important.” and “Don’t give up hope; we’re looking out for you.” When they said this, they didn’t make her feel like a lost cause. And the most comforting comment actually came from her mother who said, “It’s not like we found someone good and we shooed him away.” Ilham felt like she wasn’t making her feel guilty or ashamed about her marital status, and that meant a lot to her.

Next, here is a list of comments that you should avoid telling any woman regarding her marital status (friends, family, and well-wishers, this includes you too! :))

  • “Is it really that you never found the right partner?”… Like am I lying about my marital status?
  • “You don’t want to get married?”
  • “Are you being mutakberah (conceited or stuck up)?” 
  • “Tomorrow, inshaAllah, when you get married you can do that with your husband.” Baba and mama, please stop telling me this. If it’s halal and I’m allowed to do it, let me live.
  • “Why didn’t you get married? How come?” What’s wrong with you? You don’t even know me and you’re judging me. Definitely not appropriate to ask, especially when I am first meeting you.
  • And here’s one based on a reaction from younger Muslim sisters: When I  told two 25-year-old girls that I was not married, and they realized my age, they looked horrified. They commented to each other saying, “Oh we have to get married as soon as possible. We have to go to this matrimonial event.” It was shaming. It was as if they had to do anything possible to not be in my shoes.

This may not be every older woman’s experience, but it’s a lot of them. Some well-wishers do see how hard it is to find a suitable spouse and don’t comment on their single friend’s status. 

For those ladies nearing their late twenties, don’t worry, after 30, the commenting calms down a bit.  

For those wondering, just how can these women reach such a milestone age and choose to be single till now? I say choose to be single because just like marriage is a choice, being single is a choice as well. Let’s see if they simply rejected a slew of proposals from knights in shining armor or if their story is different.

When asked why she is single today, Dalal mentions that she hasn’t met the right person that she clicked mentally with yet, she knows exactly what she wants and she has no intentions of throwing herself into a marriage just because.

Hadeel mentions that her past experiences have created trust issues, which has forced her to take a longer time in the “getting to know” phases when she is talking to a potential partner. Honest, transparent, decent, well-balanced Muslim men are very hard to find these days, they are either too lenient or too strict. She is also looking for someone who is not afraid of having a voice in society. That when he sees an injustice, he has the will to speak out against it. “I want a life based on action, not on the mundane,” she summarized.

Ilham posed a question: “Define picky? Do you mean I want someone who does something more than just breaths?” This alludes to the fact that when women are seeking more than a “good brother” we get labeled as “being picky.” And at the end, it is Qadar Allah, it is the will of Allah. If he would have willed it, it would have been, but this is the will of Allah.

But before we turn this into a pity party for these women, this is what they would like you to know about what it means to be single past the golden years:

  • There is more to a woman’s life than her marriage. People tend to ask “what are you doing with your life?” like your life has no value if you’re not married, however, women are busy doing other things besides being married. They could be busy memorizing Qu’ran, tutoring kids, taking care of their parents, there is life beyond marriage. 
  • Life is amazing and being single is amazing, there are so many things to do and to discover. There is a hadith of the Prophet (saws) which says: “there are blessings in 2 things, free time and health.” Because I am single, I can travel to different countries and explore different cultures and ways of life. I get to go on frequent adventures and hikes, I simply love it.  
  • Enjoy the time you have now because your life could change in a matter of a few months. And as Imam Al Ghazaly beautifully states, “There is nothing more wonderful than what is happening in the world, better than what is happening to you right now.” 
  • I am more grateful to be single in my 30’s than to be stuck in an unhappy marriage. I have seen enough people that have married for the wrong reasons. They simply aren’t compatible, and the hardship is real and cruel.
  • I wish people would understand how hard it is in terms of: finding someone compatible, finding friends who are on the same mental wavelength, not to be judged, not rushing into things, to find that community feeling (even though you’re single), and how hard it is to find a spouse….especially when you have no social support. Everyone is either with a spouse or with family. Simply, my kids can’t play with their kids because I currently don’t have any.

For our younger single lady readers, here are some words of advice that these amazing women would like to share with their younger self:

  • Don’t wait for a husband; there is a whole future ahead of you without him. He will not change your life, live your life to the fullest, even if it goes against culture. As long as it is halal, and allowed in Islam, go for it.
  • Learn about psychology and the way people think, act; their motives are really important knowledge to have in life.
  • Man, it’s hard, but just keep going.
  • Don’t put off things you want to do for the sake of “I will do this with my husband,” do it now. 
  • Work on loving yourself wholeheartedly; it’s a long journey, but no one is going to love you as much as you would love yourself. People will love you, but when they aren’t available, you have to love yourself. Not just self-love, but also self-acceptance.

I leave you with this beautiful quote from Ibn Ata’Allah which so beautifully summarizes the differences in perspective of what good things are in our lives: 

“You might think that He is giving you, while in reality, He is depriving you. And you might think that He is depriving you, while in reality, He is giving you. If through your deprivation, He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is exactly a gift. You feel bad about your deprivation because you do not understand. He might open the door of worship for you, but does not open the door of acceptance. And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him. A sin that produces humbleness and needs is better than an act of worship that produces arrogance and prejudice.”

We hope that you learned a thing or two about being over 29 and single, and we are sure we did not cover everything, so be sure to share your thoughts, experiences, and views for us to discuss together in the comments below! 

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