Source: HEART Women and Girls and BeyondChai
BeyondChai is committed to helping you find a match. We understand that this is an exciting journey and we want you to enjoy the process of getting to know your match. At the same time, we would like to remind you that your safety during this process is important!
Please read the following guide created in partnership with HEART Women and Girls, a national non-profit organization committed to sexual health and violence awareness in the Muslim community. The following guidelines are applicable to both men and women and have been tailored for Muslims and designed for wellness of community in mind.
Initial communication stages:
Trust your gut instinct. Many people are nervous when first communicating with someone new (especially with the opposite gender), so some initial awkwardness is to be expected as you both learn to talk with one another. Generally speaking, it is good practice to pay attention to how much and in what manner the person is initiating communication with you. Compliments are great, but they can cross the line when they’re suggestive, out of context, or make you feel uncomfortable. (e.g. “I just read your Facebook post, and wow, you’re so incredible and have such a good soul!”). If it feels like they’re trying to win you over, then they probably are.
Trust your intuition. Don’t gloss over these attempts and be firm with how you handle them. Some people do this to test the water before further pushing your boundaries.
Research. Do a quick search for your match’s name and see if you have any common friends on Facebook.
Privacy. Never give out any personal information, including where you live, financial information, or details about your day to day activities (i.e. the specific location of your gym, the time you’re usually there, etc).
Pictures. If they’re asking you to send pictures, ask them why and listen to your gut instinct. A polite but firm “I’m not comfortable with that” can suffice as a response. If they continue to insist, take this as a sign to discontinue conversation. Note that you should never have to state “no” more than once. Your boundaries should always be respected.
Block and reach out! If you have requested that communication end between you and your match and you’re still receiving text messages and/or phone calls from them, use the “block” feature and let your BeyondChai matchmaker know.
Before the first meeting:
Notify. Tell family, trusted friend and your matchmaker about your meeting such as location and time. You may even ask someone to be in the location you’re meeting for greater comfort.
Location. Select a public place and think about keeping the first meeting short (e.g. 2 hours). Coffee shops are great for this.
Timeframe. Notify your match of your availability to meet. For example, you need to leave at 4pm for another commitment. This gives you an out and a set timeframe for the meeting.
Daytime. Plan to meet during the daytime such as mid-afternoon. Night-time first meetings are generally not the safest idea – there’s more risk involved.
Plan ahead. Brainstorm a response to your match asking you questions that are too personal or inappropriate/suggestive. An example would be, “I’m not comfortable answering that question, perhaps down the road when we know each other a little better.” Again, if they try to change your mind, take this as a sign that they’re not respecting your boundaries.
Attending the first meeting:
To and from. Always drive/transport yourself to and from the meeting. Use Uber/Lyft, public transportation or arrange a ride with family member/friend.
Notice. Pay attention to how your match acts around you and with other people such as those working at the coffee shop/restaurant. Notice their body language as much as how they speak. Pay attention to how they act when you’re communicating with them. Are they listening and being present, or are their responses indicative that their mind is wandering?
Self-assessment. Analyze how you feel in their company. Points to consider include feeling respected, safe, comfortable, and at ease.
Exit. If at anytime you don’t feel comfortable, leave the situation. Brainstorm an excuse you can use before the date so you’re not having to think on your feet.
Phone. Make sure your cell phone is charged and ready to use if need be. Arranging for someone to text you after 2 hours, for example, would be a good reason to not only check in on you but also to wrap up the meeting and head out.
Following the meeting:
Checking in. Note how they communicate with you after the meeting – do they follow up? Has how their communication changed? If you don’t hear from them in 1-2 days, a brief/polite check in may be needed. BeyondChai team is available to help you brainstorm what to do in different scenarios.
Reflect. Reflect on the first date and follow and trust your gut instinct. Talk with someone about how it went, anything you noticed/red flags, and what your thoughts are. Writing out your thoughts and observations can support this process.
Update. Keep someone informed about how things are progressing with the communication/getting to know process. A relationship should never be secret. If for any reason you don’t feel comfortable sharing details, this is and of itself should be a red flag.
Expand the circle. If you decide to move forward with communication/getting to know the person, think about introducing them to close friends and then family members; looking into research and resources about healthy relationships; and premarital counseling if you’re on the path to marriage.
Communicate boundaries. Be clear and direct with your comfort level on physical boundaries during your initial conversations. Everyone has different thresholds and it’s good to lay things out if you’re going to continue communicating and meeting with them.
Resources on Healthy Relationships:
HEART Women and Girls: https://www.heartwomenandgirls.org
The Gottman Institute: https://www.gottman.com/
The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman): http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
Futures without Violence: https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/is-your-relationship-affecting-your-health-safety-card/
Resources on Self-Development:
Emotional hygiene: https://www.ted.com/speakers/guy_winch