"I am with her/him ... until I find someone better."
If I had a dollar for the number of times I have heard someone in a relationship say this, I would now be able to buy the land for that large animal sanctuary I've been dreaming about.
Maybe I will start asking for a dollar each time someone says this from now on.
Everyone is free to marry who they want and not all relationships have to lead to marriage. However, I find it disrespectful and mean to keep someone hanging around just for the sake of not being alone, without clearly stating what your expectations are -- or, even worse, by lying about them.
Someone I know left his partner after three years. All that time he was telling her that he was saving money, it was not the right time, to be patient and that "We will marry soon". Meanwhile, he was searching for a "better" partner. The minute his parents found what he described as a more "suitable" wife, he dumped the girlfriend and married within a month.
Lying, sometimes even to oneself, being selfish, fearing being alone and stringing somebody along just to feel good about oneself is not acceptable. It is immature.
Of course, as is typical, especially in the Middle East and conservatives societies, nothing happened to the man's reputation; people say he "did what he had to do". But the dumped fiancée's reputation is tarnished. "She stayed with a man who was not her husband for three years," people say in that "I am shocked" tone. Well, sometimes love is blind and sometimes relationships don't work out. It shouldn't be held against anyone.
Society is always more judgmental about women and their choices and behavior. What she does, what she wears and even who she once loved is held against her by both her family and any future potential suitors. Life is hard enough for women without all this extra baggage.
What also doesn't help relationships these days is the "modern" type of dating, where one of the partners avoids "labeling" a relationship, keeping the other guessing, keeping their options open, preferring to text over calling, able to chat and check out other potential dates while keeping the other hanging... it is a real challenge looking and finding a serious partner these days.
Back to "not good enoughness"... From the small sample of people I know, I asked and they gave me different reasons for not settling down with the person they are with.
For some, no matter how "liberal" they say they are, they end up trying to do what their families expect of them. Sometimes, the apple does not fall far from the tree, so those entering relationships should take note of their potential partner's family and upbringing.
I have met people who are far kinder and broad-minded than their parents, and are willing to risk having a relationship with someone their family doesn't approve of. But as some male friends have told me, they want "comfortable", easy lives, and they don't want to struggle and support a family on their own. This "hero" that will come to save the day, is the stuff of movies and something men of "previous generations" did.
Anyways, going back to the reasons why someone is not good enough for marriage as told to me by several people. Again, can't generalize, but these are what they felt were crucial factors.
The top reason I have heard from people who have not pursued marriage with the person they are with is that she or he is not from the "right" family. A partner must have a particular last name or be from a particular tribe or social class. However, I have often seen this one scrapped if the person involved happens to be filthy rich and generous with their money. All of a sudden, this rich girl or boy is suitable.
The second top reason is the person's origin. For instance: that he or she was not pure Arab -- or, if they were Arab, they were not the "right kind" of Arab, whatever that means. Some of us can trace our family trees back hundreds of years, but does that make us better than others? I think each person should be judged on their own actions and what they can add to that family tree, rather than rely on someone else's sacrifices, values and deeds.
A third reason was: "Well, it would be embarrassing to introduce him or her to the family." This entails a combination of nationality, religion, education level, the way the person dresses, speaks or holds them self, or what they do for a living.
I feel the most important factors in any relationship, be it intimate, friendship or within a family, are honesty, integrity, kindness and respect. If you have these, you will treat people well regardless of what role they end up having in your life.
Rym Al Ghazal is a senior feature writer and columnist for the National Newspaper. She is working on her second book, Single in the City.