Marital truths and everything in between
I know, I know…many of you will look at me and say that 3 years is NOTHING and definitely not a long time to know all that you need to know about marriage. I’m not claiming that I do. What I am claiming is that I know more today than I did yesterday and what I’ve learned will help me and hopefully many others tomorrow. My marriage and the past 3 years with Husain have taught me MORE about myself than I have ever known my entire life and despite the struggles (which let me say, have been plenty) its truly been a blessing. I wanted to share openly what I observe to be some of the tests many of US face today in our marriages and hopefully paint a VERY REAL picture for those hoping to get married. Marriage is both a test and a blessing. In the end, we hope that by the end of our days, the last day was better than the first day.
- Your partner is NOT God. Stop worshipping them. This may sound harsh but it’s the cold hard truth. Many of us have made our partners the center of our lives to the degree that it consumes us IMMENSELY. If we get into a fight with them, our entire day is affected negatively which is EXTREMELY unfair and ungrateful. Our emotions, decisions, ambitions AND even self-worth is often dictated by HOW this person makes us feel. This is unhealthy and a consequence of us handing them that power. God is perfect, our partners aren’t – but we often expect them to be. God makes no mistakes but our partners do, yet we often expect them to always do things right. God is beautiful, majestic and ALL knowing but we often assume that our partners don’t have an ugly switch. That they have the answers to our every sorrow. They don’t. Worship God as HE should be worshiped and show gratitude to Him for the partner HE has blessed you with. ALWAYS remember that God CREATED this individual with flaws and imperfections for a reason. These are meant to remind you of your ultimate purpose, of God’s perfection and to serve as a path leading back to Him.
- Marriage is a SUNNAH and a preventative measure for those who feel they may fall into sin -but it is NOT an obligation. When you realize that marriage is not an obligation, you realize HOW much time we spend obsessing over marriage and finding the one. Knowing that something is not an obligation helps put things into perspective and prioritize. If as a community we clearly distinguished what is obligatory and what isn’t, perhaps less men and women would feel pressured to get married and find a picture perfect partner. Instead they would be able to focus more on perfecting their deen and character. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t get married or seek a partner. But if you begin your journey of becoming a better person on your own, a partner will feel like more of a blessing that just came your way in your journey rather than feeling depressed over the lack of one. I cannot say what the pressures are for men but when it comes to women, I personally know HOW stressed marriage is in our cultures and how “incomplete” a woman is without a man. This pressure is JUST the beginning of many other societal pressures which unfortunately, in some way or another all come back to having a man in your life. From women lacking self-esteem because society says that you aren’t desirable if you wear size 10 jeans to the world assuming we are PICKY because you aren’t married at 28…the list is endless.
- Find happiness in being alone. I personally struggled with this for years. I was constantly surrounded by friends or family who contributed A LOT to my happy mood. While this was a blessing, it became a challenge when I moved away and had to start from scratch without a social circle in sight. I was that person who was obsessed with constantly being around people. I sometimes even felt a sense of uneasiness if I wasn’t hanging out with my friends or family…and if I wasn’t, I just went on Facebook to feel connected again. Until I wasn’t forced to be alone, I had no idea of the PLEASURE and benefits of being alone. Until I was truly alone, I don’t think I knew myself too well. Most of what I knew of myself was the kind of friend, sister or daughter I was or others thought I was. My opinion of myself was never formed by me but mostly by relationships around me. I was lucky because for the most part, people made me feel great. The hard part was seeing your flaws and all you’ve got to work on – when it’s just you and yourself. The feeling was almost debilitating because I didn’t know where to start and when I thought about starting, I was ridiculously overwhelmed. Time alone helped me work on myself and face myself which is something many of us run from.
- Work with your flaws, not only your strengths. When many of us look for partners, we look for someone who will match our strengths. When I met Husain, I thought we would work because we’re both laid back, we have similar values, we want similar things in life and we’re both driven. Everyone has great qualities but not everyone has the tolerance to deal with your flaws. I learned over the years that the reason Husain and I work is not because we’re both driven or we have similar values…it’s because we are both okay to help the other with their flaws and make up for it in some way or another. If you are an impatient person like me, it has helped me tremendously to be with someone who has something I don’t have – rather than something I do. It’s like a class project-while there are many benefits to finding someone exactly like you, it’s probably more beneficial to partner up with someone who is better at something that you aren’t.
- Spell it out. Partners are not mind readers. They are people with an equal amount of mental and physical capabilities who would MUCH RATHER be told very clearly how you feel and WHAT you want than play the guessing game. Now this sounds a LOT easier said than done for someone like me who hasn’t always been great at communicating my feelings. When it comes to Husain and I-we’re different in our communication approach. Husain is clear and direct (which sometimes can be perceived as too blunt by me) and I bottle up my feelings when I feel upset or angry. Part of assuming that our partners are everything and they’re perfect, I expected Husain to know how I felt and what he did that pissed me off and that not only should he apologize for what he did but he should also say sorry for NOT knowing what is wrong. How has he lived with me for this long?!!! As we realized through tests and arguments that something wasn’t working, we tried talking ….and guess what, it worked! Now I feel the need to tell him my every single thought and feeling – which I can imagine drives him crazy (but I would much rather argue while he KNOWS how I feel rather than expect him to figure it out).
- Intimacy is important. I was recently watching a video somewhere online that stated some stats on our generation being one of the least sexually active generations. That was very surprising to me because of HOW hypersexualized everything is around us. I personally think we live in one of the most SEX obsessed times, so to hear that people aren’t equally active was definitely surprising. Intimacy was made permissible after marriage with that one partner for a REASON. No, the reason is not JUST for you to reproduce. Islam ACTUALLY encourages intimacy for your pleasure and that of your partners. So what’s the problem? Why are many having less and less of it? Like our expectations of marriage and our partner, we’ve also build expectations around what intimacy should feel like. If you turn on any TV show, what goes on in their bedroom is most likely not what is going on in yours….and that is FINE because what you see on TV is NOT what it is actually supposed to be like. Intimacy in marriage comes with an emotional bond that constantly needs to be worked on. When you work on your heart and mind, your body is also better capable of showing how it feels; however when your heart and mind are not present, it is harder on your body to constantly desire being intimate. Being “in the mood” requires work outside of the bedroom. It requires you to take care of yourself mentally, to not constantly be drained in stress and work. It requires two partners to help carry the load outside of the bedroom in order to turn their bedrooms into their sanctuaries. Intimacy may also NOT always be pleasurable for one or the other every single time…and that’s OKAY. You will not always wear the nicest clothes, eat the most delicious pasta or have the most mind blowing sex…and that is OKAY. The point is that you recognize that it is a part of your marriage that needs to be worked on and practiced in order to become better…just like ANYTHING else.
- Financial independence is underrated…work hard and get yours. One of the leading causes of divorce is money matters. From one partner’s inability to provide the lifestyle we want to another partner having problems managing money, too many relationships fail because we are not financially educated or responsible. For a woman, feeling financial empowered contributes to the health and wellness of a relationship. When a woman feels empowered, she does not feel threatened to stay and rather, she stays because she wants to. Once again, I cannot speak for men but it is unfortunate the amount of times I have heard women say that they won’t know where to go or how to provide for their children if they leave their partner. I don’t think we speak ENOUGH about women and money and I think we should. For those who aren’t married, save! I cannot stress HOW IMPORTANT it is for you to feel like you’re okay financially on your own. This doesn’t mean that you need to be rich or marry rich…it just means that you need to have your own personal financial goals and when seeking someone, find someone who respects your goals and someone whose current financial situation you are content with. Do NOT marry thinking that he’ll be rich tomorrow. Marry him because you STRONGLY believe that what he has today and what he has tomorrow is not because of him but because THAT is what is written for him.
- Tell your partner you love them and thank them as often as you can. Sometimes we become very comfortable in a relationship where we think it is no longer necessary to say things like I love you or thank you. The reality is, though your partner may KNOW you love them and you appreciate them, EVERYONE loves to hear those words. This doesn’t make your relationship more “formal” or less comfortable-it just makes your partners day. I’m a huge believer in the power of thank you’s and I think if we applied saying thank you a little more often in our homes, it would go A LONG way.
- Do one activity together AND one without each other. With the lives we all lead with work, families and all other priorities, it can become hard to spend QUALITY time together. There was a period Husain and I both worked from home. Though I felt like I saw him a lot, that was just a result of our jobs NOT an effort we made. Since we were both home, I don’t think I always felt the need to make plans or go out because….well, he was always there. Seeing each other and being with each other are two different things and sometimes we forget. Find something that you both do together. For example, Husain and I used to play volleyball with a few other couples. It was amazing and I felt like him and I looked forward to this activity even though it wasn’t just us. We prepped together, we ate before we left together and we had fun together. Now on the flip side, it’s also equally important to find something you do without one another. For example, Husain goes to basketball Tuesday nights and I’ve begun going to the movies with one of my friends. Doing things separately from each other helps you feel like you’ve got a life beyond just your marriage and partner which is actually healthy for BOTH of you.
- Worship together. I remember reading a quote online that said “Those who pray together, stay together” and it really stuck to me. Whether you choose to pray Fajr or Isha together or you both sit on your individual bed sides and read a page of Quran before going to sleep, do it together. Your partnership was made for the dunya AND Jannah so there’s no better way than to prepare for it together. Some couples attend a weekly halaqa together or some religiously eat dinner together; remember every action can be turned into an act of worship if you intend for it. I also feel like God places greater respect in your heart for your partner when you SEE them turn to Him. When you see him/her commit to Allah, there is a sense of peace that hopefully out of their love and fear of God, they’re commitment to you will also be true.