Sunday, November 3, 2013

Advice for Husbands and Wives

AlhamduliLlah, one of my close cousins recently got married. I spoke at his walima to share some advice on marriage. Here's what I said:

A belief prevalent among ‘single’ individuals is that the solution to all of one's problems lies in marriage. That is, that marriage will fill the void in one's life, give one that lifelong companion, and satiate ones need for intimacy.

While indeed marriage may solve many problems, inevitably it also gives rise to new challenges and a new set of responsibilities that crowd out certain freedoms that were once enjoyed during bachelorhood.

In fact, the point of life is not to free one's self of all of life's problems so that one can live happily ever after, but to anticipate and embrace problems in life as opportunities for growth and as tests from Allah to draw closer to Him. 

One source of problems in marriage is not understanding that men and women think, behave, and feel differently than each other. And if spouses don't understand that, then they may treat their spouse the way they themselves would expect to be treated, and then not understand why the spouse is upset at him/her. 

The correct principle to follow is this: treat people as they expect to be treated. But to follow this principle, one has to understand the differences between men and women.

To illustrate the difference between men and women, take, for example, the concept of stress management.

Men manage their stress by 'going into their caves’ and sorting out their issues in their heads. They like to be left alone during these times, and trusted by their spouse that they will work out their issues by themselves. In fact, the Prophet would literally go into a cave - the cave of Hira - just to break away from the urban stress and focus on his Lord. (Unfortunately, the ‘caves’ of men today are the television, music, internet, all of which may offer a temporary symptomatic relief, but at the same time pollutes their spirit.)

Women manage their stress by sharing it with others. They want their feelings to be understood. They want to receive emotional support from the man that is supposed to be her guardian.

So, when the husband is in a state of stress, if the wife interrupts that state by trying to encourage him to express himself and share his feelings with her, she will actually driving her husband further away from herself.

And when the wife is in a state of stress, if the husband leaves her alone to work out her stress herself, and not show an understanding of her feelings or provide her with emotional support, she will feel abandoned by the one she expects to be there for her.

For more guidance on how to understand the opposite gender better, one can read the classic, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”

But marriage is not just about surviving a problem-filled relationship. There are great blessings in it too.

I an earlier post, I talked about synergy - about this new energy that is created through two or more people coming together - about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, two individuals can do more when they are together than when they are alone. We see this everywhere - at work, in sports, even in the natural environment in symbiotic relationships.

This same phenomenon - synergy - can be witnessed in a marital relationship too. The Quran confirm this when it says, “And He (Allah) has put between you (husband and wife) deep love and mercy.” [30:21] In other words, when that marital bond is formed, Allah puts between them love and mercy - added elements that did not exist to the same degree when the two individuals were apart. Therefore, while marriage may limit one’s freedoms, it also brings about new possibilities and opportunities through that synergy that is created. 

The Prophet’s marital relationships are a beautiful example of synergy and how they helped fulfill the Prophetic mission. This post would get lengthy if I discussed details of the Prophetic seerah (biography), but just as an example, Khadijah (may Allah be please with her) provided the Prophet with the moral and financial support, and guidance that he needed during the most trying period of his life.

May Allah grant my cousin, you, and I, lifelong, synergistic and happy marital relationships, and may Allah give us a better understanding of the opposite gender.

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