Being a mother of two married daughters, I noticed that the girls like most brides of this generation (I’ve always wanted to say that line!) are so caught up in the details of the day that they didn’t have a lot of time to think about what came after the wedding.
Like most couples, they all wanted their wedding a day to remember. Lucky for my daughter who was the most beautiful bride, her day was a day to remember even though the power cut and it was so hot. I was practically in tears, people thought it was because she was leaving; believe me heat was behind the waterworks.
After the bouquet is tossed, the food, drinks and desserts are over, and they get back from their honeymoon, most newlyweds notice that being married was a whole lot different than being engaged. Many couples expect their first year of marriage to be nothing short of a fairy tale and are caught by surprise when the first year proves to be filled with challenges as opposed to an extended period of honeymoon bliss.
It’s here that we need to remind our daughters and sons; actually we all need to remember that, however down the marriage track we are, one of the fun things about marriage is that we have another person, a partner, the love of our life, for which we can lavish attention. In fact here is a ready-made opportunity in the form of the most important person in the world, and opportunity to give of yourself. The Quran beautifully explains it where it reads:
And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; verily, in that are signs for people who reflect. (30:21)
Too often, as a culture and a society, we spend all our time reaching for more, reaching for better, reaching for something and not spending enough time to stop and appreciate what we have.
In a marriage, this is wrong as it may happen, there are always facets that we are working on, whether it’s getting our spouse more involved in the housework or looking for more involvement in some area or another. Sometimes it’s just the struggle to get all the commitments taken care of in order to have some time together.
If however we spend all our time looking for more, reaching for more and planning for more, it’s only natural that we will forget to look at what we already have and to appreciate the here and the now. It’s all about getting our expectations right.
The more successfully we can lower our expectations of our significant other, the more time we have to develop our personal sense of responsibility and the more effort we put into living up to our personal responsibilities, the more we experience responsibility as joy and fulfillment.
Are You Perfect?
Before marriage, people often have unrealistic ideas about their spouse-to-be, expecting perfection in all aspects (you know the prince charming and Mr. Perfect no wrong doer image?) This rarely, if ever, plays out in reality and can lead to unnecessary problems and concerns.
We should recall that God created humans as imperfect beings, which means that many mistakes will be made throughout a lifetime. By turning the table and expecting imperfection, we will be pleasantly surprised and pleased when our spouse is much more than we ever hoped for. This, in turn, will lead to contentment within the marriage.
With lowered expectations, we learn to appreciate and become grateful for what we have and we are more likely to enjoy what we have instead of letting dissatisfaction or more darken our days and lead to unhappiness in our marriages.
One good exercise, and even those married for years can do, is write down what we appreciate in our spouse. Whether it’s his sense of humor, his generosity or the way he tries to hang the towels or mop the floor… it all depends on the way you choose to look at it.
Embracing what you appreciate now encourages thankfulness every single day. Remember as we mentioned acknowledging no one is perfect (yes even you), definitely makes life easier. This is illustrated where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) encourages spouses to express encouragement, praise, and gratitude on a regular basis, to strengthen these qualities and to encourage developing others. He narrated:
“A believing man should not have any malice against a believing woman. He may dislike one characteristic in her, but may find another in her which is pleasing.” (Muslim, 1468)
So in short, partners should look past their flaws. I’m sure we would definitely want our husbands to look past ours.
Are You Kind?
Another significant practice for married couples regardless of how long we have been married is the art of kindness. We have heard of random acts of kindness before. Typically, in practicing this, we look for opportunities to do something nice without the chance of reward or acknowledgment.
Most of the time, the person who receives the act may not know it was us that performed it or even that it was performed at all. I mean don’t we all do something nice for neighbors, colleagues and even strangers?
This should be the same with our spouses who need to hear a kind word or experience a kind act just like the next person. A loving look, a soft voice, an encouraging word, a gentle touch and a thoughtful act is always a win-win recipe for your spouse to understand that you care and you’ll always be there.
It’s possible to completely turn around a situation by returning harsh or unjust words with a sweet response. Often our meanest moments come from our own discouragement or feeling of defeat. It is then that we must realize the significance of our actions that means emotional kindness as well not just generosity or abundance.
Many times a smile and a kind word are all that it takes. Like any art, kindness must be practiced repeatedly and untiringly in order to really master it.
The Quran reads describing kindness:
And live with them in kindness. (4:19)
Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And Allah is Free of need and Forbearing.(2:263)
How Do You Communicate?
Now we can’t acknowledge the significance and necessity of being kind without highlighting that this includes good communication.
Our spouses need our love but our love is an active verb (this is where communication is important) to love her or him in a way that they understand that we care, that we get it and that we are there for them when any problem arises.
We need to learn to master the art of both listening and speaking. Husbands and wives need to talk to each other. It is better to deal with problems early and honestly than to let them pile up until an explosion occurs.
No one wants to feel that their emotions are a burden, or based on some irrational idea so when our other half vents, we must show we care no matter how small we may think their issue is. Maybe solving the problem might be helpful if they want it solved, but showing we care involves making time for listening, being there to hear, and respecting the right to feel bad at times.
Bottling feelings and emotions will indefinitely lead to an emotional explosion and may very well result in hurtful words from one or both sides. Remember love is a feeling and emotion that is inspired by kind words, mutual respect and exchanging words of love and compassion.
Every once in a while, we may get into a problem with our marriages and our relationships because we’re not getting our own way, remember we said we are human we are not perfect.
Tackling the Challenge with the Least Losses
This is where we need to be smart and reframe our thinking. It’s at this time that we should think and realize that there are many things we don’t say and don’t do that we should. Similarly there are also things that we do and say that we shouldn’t.
I’m not saying to go out and publicize it but just recognize for a marriage to be successful it has to be acknowledged and we must hold ourselves accountable.
During arguments, we should free ourselves from the statements that hinder us and hold us both back and create more problems than they resolve. The Quran reminds us that anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the mind and this we should avoid.
“Whoever curbs his anger, while being able to act, Allah will fill his heart with certainty of faith.” (At-Tirmidhi, 2021)
Bear in mind that if you speak when you are angry you will definitely make the worst speech you will ever regret. I know I’m guilty as charged sometimes. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Whatever’s begun in anger ends in shame.” Do you really want to look silly after arguing and being angry over something which otherwise could be overlooked?
One story relays that a man said to the Prophet Muhammad:
“Advise me!” The Prophet said: “Do not become angry and furious.” (Al-Bukhari, 6116)
It may sound difficult but remember practice makes perfect and certainly saves a lot of apologizing later.
So we’ve gotten angry and made the mistake. Now what?
Just as we ask God to forgive us when we make mistakes, we should also do the same with our spouses. The stronger person is the one who can admit when he or she is wrong, request pardon from the other, and work hard to improve the aspects that are in need of change; in turn there will be much growth and development in the marriage.
One last reminder is always making time for your better half. Of course Facebook may be fun but how about developing the relationship that is not just based on likes, comments and shares. Seriously how will you get to appreciate your partner if you don’t spend quality time together?
You may just realize that you have a good humored partner and enjoy it and remember always, always, always tell your other half you love them, you don’t ever want to regret not saying it enough.
So turn off your PC, go to your spouse and just say it and take the Prophet and his wives as the best example and role models for marital bliss.