Upholding Love and Mercy in Marriage
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ ﴿٢١
And among His signs is that He created spouses for you from yourselves for you to gain rest from them, and kept love and mercy between yourselves; indeed in this are signs for the people who ponder.
Marriage. The one thing on every young Muslims mind but once we finally get there — how do we maintain it? Divorce rates are skyrocketing, the youth are entering marriage unequipped and society is continuing to place a focus on a nice wedding instead of post marriage success. Marriage is a huge topic and this blog aims to touch the surface and provide some context and tips to help Muslims lead healthy marriages. Knowledge is power.
The Stages of Marriage:
Honeymoon phase: This is the “wow” stage. Lots of new things to discover with your spouse. The newness, the freshness is amazing. Sleeping on the same bed, wearing the same attire, doing house chores together. Loads of fun and excitement.
Irritation phase: This is when you begin to notice weaknesses that you have overlooked or blissfully wished would go away but didn’t. The repetition of such weaknesses begins to work on your nerves and you are getting irritated. You both start to think, “What’s just wrong with him/her?” You think aloud as well which is part of marriage.
Resentment phase: This is when the repetition of such weaknesses gets on your nerves and you display your resentment. It’s the stage you begin to wonder: “have I really married the wrong person?” No, you most likely did not, you are simply going through this natural phase together.
Resolution phase: When you both begin to face the reality of marriage and acknowledge your partner’s weaknesses. You eventually realize resentment does not solve any problem and begin to find ways to deal with your differences, both of you begin to compromise here and there and adjust to each other. Expecting the Irritation and Resentment phases before marriage and acting accordingly can soften their impacts
Acceptance phase: When it dawned on you that some things are just part of your partner and may never change. You resigned from resentment and choose to accept them, lovingly adjust to them and enjoy them regardless of their weaknesses.
Restful phase: This is the stage where you permanently accept them with all their strengths, weaknesses, shortcomings and flaws and love them unconditionally regardless of what they do. This is real love — agape, divine and true. You reconnect emotionally, spiritually and physically at a deeper level and enjoy the honeymoon again while building a lasting marriage regardless of the challenges you face.
There is no perfect marriage. Every marriage goes through these stages. How you handle it will determine if you will come out bitter or better. Do not be disappointed if you go through the unpleasant stages in marriage, it’s a natural part of marriage. Handle your marriage with mercy and wisdom and keep loving regardless of the challenges you face.
The Three C’s:
- Chemistry/Compatibility: Have common things between your spouse and yourself that can ignite the initial spark and when the honeymoon subsides, can be reignited to sustain the marriage
- Communication: Communication is key. It is important to not bottle things in. Communicate anything in your mind in a respectable manner with your spouse, and appreciate them when they are communicating to you. Don’t shut them down.
- Compromise: Marriage is all about compromise. Your lifestyle will change and you are sharing a large part of your life with your spouse. Both sides will need to sacrifice and true love is wanting to sacrifice for the other.
The Three A’s:
- Attention: You need to direct your attention 100% towards your spouse when you are choosing to spend time with them. For example, coming home, don’t be distracted with your phone. Quality time is important, and that time should be free of distraction, directed only towards your spouse
- Appreciation: Acknowledge all the good of your spouse. Positive affirmation is much more important than negative affirmation. E.g “I really appreciate you doing this for me”, “You have been incredibly supportive throughout this entire process”. It also allows you to be grateful. There is a hadith which says if you have not thanked the people, then you have not thanked Allah.
- Affection: Love is the foundation of marriage and the romantic love found in marriage cannot be sought from any other relationship. Go out of your way to show your affection, through words of affirmation, gift giving, intimacy, acts of kindness and small gestures such as hugs and kisses.
24 TIPS TO HAVE A HEALTHY MARRIAGE
- A good, Islamic marriage is dictated by love and mercy. Have Mawadda — this special type of love that is different to what the world and society has conditioned us to believe what love is. It is a love that comes from compromise, loyalty, unshakable commitment, encompasses affection, keenness and care. Have Rahma, this is caring for your spouse and doing good as an expression of this care. Rahma as well as mawadda are rooted in the heart but they are expressed in one’s actions, words, responses and ways of being. The way you respond despite if your spouse is being reasonable or unreasonable, if you have been wronged or not should be expressive of love and mercy. You get what you give.D U A. Make constant dua to Allah for a healthy marriage and all the little things that will lead to this.
- Don’t expect everything to be exciting, romantic, fun, smooth, and consisting of consecutive moments with deep connection and understanding. Lower your expectations and always counteract your fantasies with reality checks in order to protect your relationship from unrealistic expectations.
- Hold yourself accountable first. Don’t always focus on how your rights need to be met and what you want — marriage is about you trying to do your best first. Constant reflection of ‘how can I uphold love and mercy in my marriage’ allows for a successful marriage. When you’re unhappy about something, first have very deep introspection as to why this is the case before you bring things up as issues. Is this your own flawed thinking, internal issue you are projecting or an irrational expectation overall? Sort out your own issues, break out from unhealthy cycles and heal in order to minimise the baggage you carry into a marriage.
- Know each other’s needs and speak to each other in one another’s love languages. (Physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts).
- The centre of all relationships should be Allah. In order to be serious about marriage, you need to have spiritual commitment that causes you to not only have longing for Allah and commitment to turn to Him in remembrance and worship, but also causes you to realise that the basis of your relationship with Allah is your character. The key to all relationships including marriage is to deal with all people on the basis of good character, uphold good character in actions, attitude, the way you respond, etc. The relationship with your spouse is at the end of the day the epitome of your own character being manifested.
- Have an emotional bank: for every negative interaction with your spouse, give out at least 5 good things. (John Gottman’s magic ratio).
- Strive to be a person of serenity: act in a way that promotes sukoon and ease in a marriage, make things easier not more difficult for your spouse. Don’t disturb the marriage with petty conflicts.
- D U A. Make constant dua to Allah for a healthy marriage and all the little things that will lead to this.
- Give criticism in a way that does not hurt the nafs but has wisdom in approach and intention.
- Allah is the goal, marriage is only a means and not the primary object of all of one’s fulfilment. Allah is our main relationship and then marriage, family, friends, community are all relationships that come after. People make marriage the goal, or it becomes everything in their life — this should not be the case.
- Give time to both your spouse and the other people in your life. Respect and show care, attention and love to your spouse’s family. Your spouse is not all yours, so be good to the people that raised them. You are not entirely your spouses.
- You are your own person, your spouse, friends and family are your compliments. Don’t lose your own individual spark eg. your own hobbies, dreams, quirks.
- To avoid harming your relationship and hurting your spouse: Do not get angry. Say good or remain silent as words can inflict wounds that are deep and ruin a marriage. Don’t speak when you are upset and heavily emotional, talk when you are both calm, overlook flaws, don’t retaliate, be forgiving and understanding. See from their perspective. Before you respond, say bismillah.
- Don’t be stagnant in your relationship — do things together, grow together, read together, seek knowledge together, challenge each other, etc. It is crucial to have constant renewal in your relationship: create a project together, grow something or someone together.
- Define what respect is on both sides. Honour your spouse, speak to them with respect, don’t allow others to speak ill of them and don’t dishonour your spouse with the way you speak about them.
- Know your worth, your rights and the boundaries. Knowledge, speaking to people, Islamic examples will destroy the ignorance that may lead to mistreatment.
- Men often need to be told what to do. Don’t expect them to read between the lines so be straightforward but kind from the beginning. Know the psychology of both genders.
- “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” (Muslim). Embody this hadith in your marriage.
- Be gentle. Overlook the little things.
- Know how to do conflict resolution. Learn how to not criticise, don’t attack the character of your spouse and who they are as a person. Underneath criticism there is always a need (find out what that need is) eg. “I really wanted to spend time with you” may translate to “you don’t care about me, you’re always just out”.
- Treat marriage like a friendship that grows, is nurtured and takes effort to sustain. “How do you feel today?” Not “do this, that”. Asking open ended questions, admiration, expressing appreciation, don’t enter the house and scan for negatives in the environment. It is healthy to love your spouse every single day more than when you first got married. Keeping the spark is not a one off event, it is the same concept of staying fit and healthy — consistent and part of the everyday routine.
- Be aware that the main reasons we disconnect in marriage is due to unmet needs, unrealistic expectations in marriage, one’s relationship with Allah and one’s relationship with themselves. The number one enemy in any marriage is Shaytan who makes you feel what you have is never enough, could be better, etc.
- Make speaking an effort. Every week, sit down and review your relationship. Set aside a dedicated time and talk openly with each other. This should be a stress relieving conversation where there is attentive listening, being curious, no unsolicited advice, switching between roles of speakers and listeners. What is working well, what isn’t? Where can we improve? This will help grow the relationship.
- Expect disagreements and conflict. Marriage is two imperfect people sharing the most intimate parts of their lives together. People will never be completely the same, and thus disagreements will arise. When they arise, approach them in a dignified manner. Listen to your spouse. Know when to keep silent, especially if you are angry. Apologise even if you think you are in the right. Mercy is greater than justice. Take each conflict as a learning opportunity — a chance to strengthen yourself and your relationship. Don’t have a naive expectation of no conflicts.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors’ and may not reflect the position and viewpoint of UNSWMSA. All information aims to be accurate, however Islamic rulings should always be taken from a trustworthy scholar.