To experience love is to experience life with a whole lot of new emotions and a new pair of eyes. However, for a few couples, restrictions have them tied up real hard.
The Arab world's social and cultural norms often make falling in love an experience like no other. When you're from this part of the world, being in a relationship brings with it a set of complexities and challenges that are unique to the region.
We spoke to Arab couples from different backgrounds and ethnicities about dating, love, hardships, and openness in their lives.
Here's what they told us:
"We exchanged a four-sentence conversation and did not think much of it," Noura and Mohamed
This relationship is the real-life four-cheese fondue you get to see in movies but, it's nationalities and cultures instead of the addictive dairy product.
"One of my favorite stories to tell but long story short, through mutual friends," the Lebanese journalism student told StepFeed about how they met. As she sat on a table with 10 people surrounding her that night, she managed to ignore Abu Egaila for the entire night.
"I literally spoke to every single person on the table, including Mohamed's brother [...] The only time we spoke was when we all were about to leave and he stood in front of me and introduced himself 'Hi, I’m Mohamed' and we exchanged a four-sentence conversation and did not think much of it," Abou Zeinab continued.
The power of social media later had them cross paths; weirdly, but understandably enough, bonding over fattoush (Lebanese green salad).
"As long as our families know and are fine with it, we're fine," remains the most important bit for the young Arab couple, as they wish for their families to be comfortable and okay with their relationship for it to grow.
"Things just developed quickly and after much discussion, we decided to give it a shot," Leila and Khaled
Love isn't restricted to one country, one skin color, or one society. For Kuwaiti doctor Khaled, meeting his U.S.-based Lebanese girlfriend, Leila, was a leap of faith and a lot of miles away.
"We have a lot of friends in common. It wasn't until he came to visit me in the USA that we really got to know each other. Things just developed quickly after that and after much discussion, we decided to give it a shot," Leila, who's also a doctor, explained to us.
Their relationship remains a secret to both their families, as it will create a conflict when they go public about it. "It is difficult having society dictate who you need to be with. [...] I hate the fact that they don't have your opinion on the matter," Khaled said about how Kuwaiti society considers it a "mistake" to step outside the line.
For Khaled, hardships in the relationship mainly stem from him belonging to a society that doesn't easily accept those who date or marry outside their nationality.
"Our society has negative ideas and mentality towards inter-cultural marriages. The typical stereotypical thought is that foreign women trick Kuwaiti guys into marriage to benefit out of them," he explained.
For Leila, the difficulties are centered around the conflicts that might arise when the couple face their parents. "When it's just me and him, it's perfect and easy, but as soon as I start factoring in family, I start panicking, and that's certainly taken a hit on our relationship," Leila added.
"After a while, we got to know each other and I told her I liked her," Sarah and Omar
U.S.-based Jordanian medical doctors Omar and Sarah met while attending university in Lebanon, and it was love almost instantly.
"We met at med school, at a meeting for a magazine I was working on at the time. I remember talking to her and then asking if she'd want to be on the cover. After a while, we got to know each other and I told her I liked her," Omar said.
The couple, who are now married, faced a huge deal of obstacles before their parents blessed their plans to get engaged. "Arab parents have very traditional gender roles in mind so they want the guy to be financially stable and they want him to be of a certain socioeconomic class and for his family to be the same as well," Sarah told StepFeed.
Arab parents always want the best for their kids, but can they really expect their kids' partner to be financially stable in their mid-20s?
"It was a really big challenge because no one our age is really financially stable but we still wanted to get married and so it was tough to convince them that you don't need to have everything figured out in order to get married just like they had been able to back when they did. I think it's this generational gap that made things harder for us," she explained.
The traditional unspoken taboos that pester the Arab region affected their relationship at first. They couldn't be open about their love with their families, which had them hiding an important part of their lives for a while. "You feel like there are two things pulling you into different directions," the couple added.
Will love always win?
And isn't that the one million dollar question?
For now, we don't know and can't tell - though we hope for it - but Closeup is here and ready to carry on the fight.
Each and every person's heart is worth it, and everybody has a role to play.
So, will you let love in or keep it behind the fence? Join the movement by sharing your own love story accompanied with the hashtag #GiveLoveAChance.