Dear Marwa,

I’m a 29 year old woman raised in a fairly open-minded family, but I’ve always been conservative. Ever since I was young, I was extremely old fashioned in my thinking, and the idea of being friends with guys and even communicating with them was absurd. I also wanted nothing but to get married and have kids.

When I was only 22, I thought I was getting old and never going to get married, since no one had proposed to me at the time. As soon as I got a proposal from an arranged marriage I agreed, even though my family strongly disagreed with the guy because he wasn’t good enough. Later, the engagement broke off, and I went into a depressive state. A couple of years later, someone else proposed, arranged as well, and I again agreed even though my family disagreed.

The engagement phase had many red signals to break it, but I still went on with it, because I feared my reputation after 2 failed engagements would be bad. Obviously, the marriage failed after 6 months, and we got a divorce. I was 28 and had done nothing; I never had real friends or went out in large groups. After my divorce I decided to live my life and wanted to experience it all.

Now I met a guy at my new job. I like him, and he said he does too. The problem is that with everything that has happened I feel stuck. I don’t know how to act or what to do with him. I’m fairly old now, and I’m scared of screwing things up. How do I keep the relationship, and how do I not let my past haunt me? 

Dear looking for advice 

First of all, let me assure you that you are not old! You are just beginning an exciting new phase in your life. In the past phase of your life you acted upon the experience and tutoring of your parents, peers, and social circle, but now you are about to discover who you really are! You are discovering the fire within you and your passions, your true beliefs, your own priorities, your special code of ethics, and your personal values, mission, and vision. Most people start that journey of self-exploration towards their thirties and I have known people who started in their sixties. It is never too late to truly embrace yourself.

My advice can be summed up in one phrase: SLOW DOWN! If you rush yourself into another marriage, you will end up exactly where you are now – only with deeper scars. I want you to grow more familiar with yourself and to feel comfortable in your own skin. Get to know many people from different paths of life who share a multitude of interests with you and get to know them in depth.

As for your colleague, I would advise you to slow down again! Hold on to your heart and do not confuse attraction or addiction with love! Enjoy the steady and slow pace of getting to know him; get to know what he likes, what he enjoys, and what he stands firmly against. Go out a lot, visit places together, read books together, and gradually open up to one another.

Your worst enemies in this process will be: the fear of loneliness, societal pressure, and your own comfort zone! Your only defense will come from the desire to enjoy your life instead of putting an end to it – yes! Refusing to know who you are is equivalent to extinguishing the fire that keeps your soul alive.

Enjoying the journey will help you avoid the heartache that comes with unmet expectations, rejection, and judgment! Everyone will judge you for the things you did, for the things you did not do, and for the things you want to do. During the upcoming phase of your life, you will learn how to become your own judge and guide and this is how maturity is defined.