Posted on Oct 30, 2019
Meeting a potential spouse is hard enough as is, but finding your other half as a Muslim in America is a whole other ball game. According to The Washington Post, Muslims "represent no more than two percent of America's population, so finding a mate is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack." Growing up in America also may make you look at marriage differently than your parents and can sometimes leave you confused as to what your values are.
Add to that the Islamic guidelines on what is and isn't permissible in gender relations and communications plus a mixture of cultural expectations, and finding a spouse can be hard! The old way of doing things doesn't necessarily work for this generation. And so, Muslim dating apps are on the rise, and it's becoming increasingly normal to meet one's spouse online.
Hoda gets ready for date night with her husband wearing our Perfect Satin Hijab in Silver.
Enter Hoda Abrahim, matchmaker extraordinaire. She recognized how hard it is for Muslims to find their other half and get married and wasn't satisfied with the options that were out there – whether it was the local matchmaking aunty or online dating apps. So, she started her own Muslim matchmaking company, Blend Matching in August 2018 to provide Muslims with a tailored and personalized matchmaking experience that has seen 16 (and counting!) success stories, Masha'Allah, and operates in 20 countries with 34 different ethnicities in her database!
I sat down with Hoda to talk with her about why she started her matchmaking business, the challenges that come with online matchmaking and how someone can set themselves up for success. She even shares some fun date night tips and talks about the best way to keep the love alive after the honeymoon phase!
Matchmaking is hard enough as is, let alone doing it online! That's a double whammy! What got you into starting a Muslim online matchmaking service?
I was always matchmaking, even when I was single. I always had a knack for it beyond [just] romantic purposes, even for friendship or networking. In general, I value connecting people and building connections. Of course, my favorite kind of connection is for romantic purposes. It catapulted because I have two older brothers, and Alhamdulillah I introduced both my brothers to their wives. My oldest has two kids now and the younger one will be married for two years in December.
What advice do you have for anyone searching for "the one?" How do you navigate around the taboos associated with matchmaking?
The first reason I started doing this professionally is because of this "auntie network." They sometimes have different values when setting people up. They want the guy to have the most amazing girl ever, but when it comes to the girl, she's always told she's too picky, etc. I always thought that wasn't fair, but I think they just have different things they consider than we would because it’s a different generation.
There's a responsibility as a matchmaker to realize that some people won't know what's best for them, and you have to help them see what is. It takes someone who really wants to understand a person to set them up with the right person and make a quality recommendation.
There's a hesitation and a stigma around meeting people online, but not too much. We do a really good job screening all our members. We conduct a video chat with each person – personal communication between us and the client is very important for our company. No one gets access to our database except for the Blend Matching team. We then make one recommendation at a time, and they can each decide if they want to move forward and get to know each other.
We do maintain and respect privacy and confidentiality and have a face-to-face interaction going on with each person. At the same time, no matter how you meet someone, you have to do your due diligence. Ask around about them and their families. I think people overlook the importance of that because our generation feels like we know better or we can trust them. But, there are certain parts of our culture that need to be valued, like keeping family involved and looking at the big picture.
I'm actually vehemently against the "Tinder model." I've seen it work for some people, but for most people, you get so exhausted if it doesn't work, because you end up talking to minimum 3-5 people at a time, and that's a really difficult way to get serious and put in the amount of time and effort needed to realize if someone is going to be right for you. I've seen it work, but I think the majority of people misuse the tool. It gets you trigger happy, and you get caught up in the excitement of talking to a bunch of people at one time.
(In this photo and the one below, Hoda is wearing our Perfect Satin Hijab in Adobe Rose.)
I was reading one of your blog posts on dating apps and the danger of first impressions. How can you filter out who's good and who's not? How do you know when to decide someone is not the right person for you?
This is something I see even outside the dating apps. There's a thought that if we didn't click in the first conversation, then it's not going to work out. And we decide right away, it's not for me. Or vice versa – you click really well right away, and you're enamored and think you're in love. That is not real. You don't always learn enough about a person in one or ten conversations to make the right decision.
You can't know right away. I do believe in gut feeling, but sometimes that's confused with having wrong expectations. I do blame social media and dating apps for creating these false expectations that everything is supposed to be instant. There are a lot of things that go into the first interactions with a person, from nerves to different communication styles. There are so many more layers than did I get butterflies or not?
How do you navigate these expectations as a matchmaker?
It's actually a really fine line, and I'll be honest, I'm still learning. There are some people willing to be coached and receptive to advice, but others who are not and can take it as an attack if you try to alert them to certain things. There are the clients who are like send me my match and back off, and they don't want your opinion or help, and that's ok because it's a paid service. But, generally it doesn't work out for these people because they're not willing to learn and take advice.
As a character trait, that's also important for a relationship. Then there are the clients who really value your advice and perspective. Those are the couples who end up getting engaged and married because it's a quality they take into their relationships too. I test the waters with each client to see how they respond to my advice and opinion, and based on that is how I decide what the rest of our relationship is going to look like.
What advice would you give someone who's on the brink of giving up? They've talked to 1000 people at this point, and it's not happening.
First off, I would never advise anyone to talk to a bunch of people at once. I think that's an easy way to burn out and get jaded, and you see it happen so often. If you get to that point, even if the right person walks into your life, you probably won't even recognize it because you're so jaded. Take a step back and focus on other aspects of yourself and your life and try and strengthen those things first before you focus on getting married.
Self-knowledge is key. Reflect on the process, rediscover yourself – sometimes you seek the wrong people, or you find yourself drawn to people who aren't right for you.Improve yourself just because it's something you should do, and then come back.
What about advice for those who are already in a working relationship – getting to know someone? How do you know they're the right person?
What I tell people to look for when they're getting to know someone is to see if your core values align. For me, for example, do they value religion the same way that I do, family, principles, the way they treat other people? It's really important to establish what YOUR core values are and seek out people who match you there. These are things that will keep you together or drive you apart.
A lot of people think you have to find someone with the same interests as you, and they use those to be indicators if it's the right person. And that's great, but at the end of the day, those will not be the things that will make or break your marriage. Pay attention to the core values and look for someone who feels very similar to you on these things.
Also, don't rush the process but don't draw it out longer than it needs to be. I have this rule of three – it's a good guideline to have. Give someone at least three weeks of your time before cutting them out or thinking they're the one before you decide if there's any potential or not. By three months, you should kind of know if there's a real future here or not. This is, of course, with consistent and regular communication. If by then you're still not sure, nine times out of ten it's not the person for you.
Beyond three months, get family involved to confirm your gut feeling, and just trust in God to show you if they are the right person for you.
Let's switch gears a bit and talk about what happens after you get married. What are some ways to keep the love alive beyond the honeymoon phase?
Understand that when you do get past the honeymoon phase, things will not all feel as perfect, but don't let that make you feel like your marriage is wrong. A lot of people get confused and feel like once they start fighting more – which is normal, by they way – that this person must not be right for me. Your marriage and relationship is going to go through a lot of phases, positive and negative.
Try not to see things as a failure when you're in a lower point in your marriage. Also, try to appreciate each phase for what it is. Don't keep comparing each phase of your marriage to another phase. Certain things are different now, but there are new things you can focus on. Don't panic when you're in a lower point in your marriage – because they will come, without a doubt. On a more positive note, try to focus on "we time" every once in a while. I think it's important.
Me and my husband, for example, are a really social couple, so we tend to go out with other people a lo, and not enough one-on-one. But, you need to focus on making time to nurture your relationship with your spouse. It takes upkeep – you can't only rely on the fact that you're married to keep the love alive.
Love that!! Any fun date night ideas you can suggest?
I love trying new things, because you get to share a new experience together. A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I tried indoor rock climbing, which was really fun to do it together. Sometimes it's hard to do something when one person is really good at it and they want to bring you in, but trying something new together is a great way to experience all those fun emotions that come with [doing] something new or meeting someone for the first time.
You'll discover things you didn't know about your spouse, and that's beautiful. We just go on Groupon and find something random ( and budget-friendly). Also, take advantage of local seasonal activities. There are usually so many things going on that we don't know about. New experiences provide new opportunities to bond with your spouse and fall in love with them all over again.