Marias Marriage Advice
- Maria's Marriage Advice
February 6, 2009
A friend of mine is planning on writing a book on marriage from the
Islamic perspective so I put my 2 cents in:
Christians tend to fall in love and get married. They usually have a
wonderful first year of marriage, and then it goes downhill. So, in
order to rescue a marriage they have to remember why they fell in
love in the first place, and practice having good manners and
But for Muslims, the problem is that they tend to marry someone they
hardly know. The first year of marriage is usually very hard. There
is no period of happiness to look back on. Marriage is almost like a
job. It's worse than a job. The main focus seems to be
on "tolerating" each other. Our approach should be to help Muslim
couples learn to like each other hopefully before they get married.
I think also one of the hardest things in the Muslim world is because
a lot of people are emotionally damaged from witnessing acts of
violence or some emotional family trauma from the past. This can
cause people to shut down and not really view others as human. So the
wife becomes "that irritating woman" - the man is just a "dick with a
wallet." Once you label a person, then anything they do is seen
through this distorted lens.
Probably a good approach would be to emphasize marriage as a path to
spiritual awakening (half the faith), which leads to joy and more
importantly, the emotional maturation process that comes from
gradually learning to detach from your ego.
Many people think it's enough to just be married. You don't have to
learn how to love with your heart, or how to keep on giving and being
just even when you don't feel like loving. Muslim men often think
that love and true friendship is not a requirement of marriage, as
long as they are paying the bills. They just shut down, and submit to
an unhappy existence, trapped together due to societal expectations.
Marriage should be emphasized as a spiritual practice for learning to
reduce ego attachment, a form of meditation and seeking God [dhikr].
When the relationship has problems, it is a mirror to help you
discover your own inner self, your reactions and motivations.
In Catholic churches, when they do pre-marital and marital
counseling, what they do is ask questions that give you topics to
discuss that help you understand each others' feelings.
For me, the questions I would advise my kids to think about first and
foremost before marriage:
Do you enjoy each others' company? Do you laugh together? Does
conversation come easily or with difficulty? Are you attracted to
each other? When you are apart, can you feel the other thinking about
you? Do you share the same plans, dreams and goals in life? Do you
like talking about the same topics? Are there any activities that you
both enjoy? Do you have the same expectations of the requirements of
the wedding, marriage and family? Do you feel strongly about the
other person's bad habits? Does the other person admire or feel
alienated by your strongest qualities? Are you hoping the other
person is going to change after marriage or can you take them as they
are? Will you still enjoy their company after they lost their good
looks? When you are with them, do you find yourself toning down your
true personality in order to seem more pleasing?
Other factors include language, culture and social class differences.
Is the extended family going to give your spouse a hard time? If so -
is it fair to expose them to this type of long term emotional abuse?
It's important to find out ahead of time: Is he or she the kind of
person that says everything they think as they are thinking it, or do
they hold back information? Do they ask for their needs or wait for
you to notice?
When I decided to leave my husband it was because he told me "I love
you but I don't like you." I felt that if he couldn't find anything
about me to like after 5 years, we cannot stay together because there
is nothing more insulting than someone just staying with you `for the
sake of the kids'. I believe the dislike came from his tendency to
label me negatively if he didn't understand a behavior, rather than
try to understand where I'm coming from. I was always just his "white
lady." He didn't know how I am different from other white women. His
main concern was that I should fit in with the other Muslim women. It
turned out that I was holding him back from what he wanted to do with
his life, namely fit in with the group, and he was holding me back
from fulfilling my goals and dreams, which involved forging ahead of
the group in order to solve the problems of the world.
In the end I realized that he did love me but the bottom line was he
really just wanted to have sex with me. He didn't actually have the
strength to incorporate me into his life full time. He should have
just made a private marriage with me if he was smart. It was the
involvement of the family and community that destroyed the
relationship. They told him that because he married me, that he had
betrayed his people, and that kind of thing. He was filled with guilt
and shame that people thought it was a "love marriage." The truth was
that I was not even attracted to him. I married him for religion.
I believe that in a successful marriage, "I" and "You" become "We."
The couple thinks as a team and feels as a team. There are probably
some spiritual exercises that can help this happen. It's really
important to put "We" before the rest of the world. Otherwise every
time you go out, the spouse becomes embarrassed of you. I remember my
husband always judging me after a social occasion on the way
home. "You talk too much, it's humiliating." or "Why didn't you talk?
You embarrass me." Clearly he was determined to view me negatively no
matter what I did.
If we had done a temporary marriage first, or if we simply had gone
out for dinner like normal Americans, we may not even have had a
second date. The truth was we didn't have much to talk about. I would
have found him too boring and he would have found me too wild, and
that would be the end. It was because we were trying to be so Islamic
that we married a near stranger and went through so much pain
learning that not everyone is compatible.
He finally took the time to take me out for fun somewhere finally,
when I was threatening to divorce him - and it was really
enlightening and almost amusing to realize how little he understood
about me and how little he cared to share. After five years of
marriage, we had no idea what to talk about other than politics or
Dajjal. We just didn't find each other that interesting.
Before I was Muslim, I briefly dated an Indian Hindu man. What
happened was he took me out to dinner a few times and he always sat
like 5 feet away from me. He was very modest. I found him nice but I
had no attraction to him. He had an experience though, which my
husband unfortunately only had after I left him. When the Hindu man
was visiting my home, which I shared with a friend, he saw my room.
It was just a mattress on the floor, a rug for prayer and meditation,
a brick that I used for a table that had some dried flower petals,
and a small bookshelf. Something about glimpsing my private space
made him tell me, "All the other people at work always say bad things
about you but the truth is, you are the nicest person I have ever met
in my life."
He seemed like a sweet child who liked to give me presents. His
mother found out he was seeing me, had a fit, and forced him to break
up with me. I didn't even consider him my boyfriend, to me he was
like a friend. He came over crying and saying he couldn't marry me. I
was surprised because I had no idea he wanted to marry me. Truthfully
if he had asked me, I would have gently but certainly told him no! I
had no attraction to him whatsoever. True, I could have grown to love
him because he was so nice, but I was not heartbroken - not even a
little - that he couldn't marry me. In fact I found the strange
situation slightly funny though sad that he suffered for me. He
actually quit his job where I also worked, because it was too painful
for him to see me anymore.
I believe that with my first husband, had we gone out to dinner a few
times before marriage, probably by the second date I really would
have been clear that I didn't want to marry him. OR, we might have
had a chance to become good friends and got some inner glimpse of
each others' true selves, before trying to start a family. In which
case the marriage would have had more team spirit because it would be
based on admiration and respect for the inner person.
My ex-husband told me, after he got married to another woman, now he
realizes what a kind and forgiving person I was. However, his sisters
like her so I guess that's what matters most in their culture. And
people call Islam a patriarchal society?
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