As a newly weds you expect marriage to be just rainbows and butterflies. You assume that you’ll be madly in love and everything will be the way it is shown in Bollywood movies, but in reality it never is. This article talks about the struggles and challenges that my husband and I have overcome, and are yet to understand.
Our first conversation was through a formal facebook message. Prior to us chatting with one another our families had already connected and agreed to tie the knot as soon as we approved of each other, and as promised once we approved they surely did. My husband his family flew in from London to Bangladesh, while my family and I flew in from New York. Within one month of knowing each other, we were married. The first time I saw him in person was on my wedding day, it was the greatest leap of faith I had ever taken in my entire life. After getting married we only spent three months together and then we were separated for almost an entire year.
When I tell people about how I met my husband they think it’s completely insane to marry someone who is practically a stranger, but in all honesty, it’s not strange at all. Prior to getting married my husband and I spoke to one another for an entire month. Each time we spoke we made the effort to learn more about one another and understand each other. Maybe one month is not enough, but if you think about it neither is a year, or two years, or even ten years. People stay in love for years and somehow they fall out of love. So many other people get to know each other before jumping to marriage, and yet they still choose to separate after marriage. I don’t think knowing someone well determines whether a marriage is successful but rather it is the act of wanting to know and to learn about a person for the rest of your life. Meeting my husband felt very effortless. It was as if I was speaking to someone very familiar. As if we already knew each other from before. There was a level of comfort and contentment present whenever we spoke and each conversation felt real, genuine, and heartfelt. When we spoke to one another it couldn’t be measured in hours, or minutes, it had to be measured in moments. He spoke about his family, his friends, and his experiences as if I was already a part of his life and not once did I doubt his honesty. I can’t quite explain why I felt the way I did about my husband. It was an inner feeling, similar to an instinct that assured me he was the one. I don’t encourage others to make the same choice that we made, but what I do encourage is that when you make a decision, to be sure that you are completely content with what Allah grants you.
Our patience and willingness to make things work were really tested when we were both separated for almost an entire year. For months our relationship was dependent on international video calling, messenger, phone calls and pictures. While my husband was in Bangladesh I was back on campus finishing up my third year in undergraduate studies. The difference in time and limited network services often made it difficult for us to communicate. In between classes, homework, work and everyday life it was often difficult for me to make time for us to have a conversation. Often times I would fall asleep while talking on the phone with my husband. At the time these challenges made me question whether it was a good decision to get married so young.
Alhamdulillah! (All praise and thanks be to Allah) With time and perseverance, I became more confident and content in my marriage. My husband and I worked together to build and strengthen our relationship. We made sure to communicate with one another regardless of how busy we were with our responsibilities. When one of us backed down the other stepped up to take lead and make sure everything was running smoothly. We learned to balance our own lives and each other’s hectic lifestyles, and we agreed to try harder each time we failed as a couple. There came a time when I hated having to text my husband about my day, I hated telling him anything about my life. It was probably the most difficult period for both of us, but we stuck it out. My loving partner waited for my calls even if they were for a few seconds. When I refused to speak he agreed to just listen to me sleep, read, or we just remained silent together on the phone. Our conversations at one point lost magic but our relationship didn’t. We didn’t hate talking or making time for one another, we hated not being able to just be next to one another. It is essential for a spouse to understand unspoken pain, but it is just as essential for the other spouse to express pain when it’s difficult to comprehend. If my husband was not patient with me, and if he didn’t keep trying when I decided to stop it would have been difficult for us continue being together. This period in our relationship taught me a very valuable lesson and that is to never give up on the person you love and to never let time, distance, or technical difficulties come in the way of you expressing your emotions for one another.
My husband moved to the United States in 2015 and after two years of being married, we were finally going to live together as a family. Words cannot describe how badly we wanted to live together. Two years felt like centuries for us but our patience paid off well and by the grace of Allah (swt) we were finally starting our family.
Prior to my husband coming to the states, I had been living alone away from home for about two years. As a young adult, it is an amazing experience to finally start being completely independent of your family. I genuinely loved being the head of my household and having the freedom to make choices all on my own without the suggestion or interference of others. Being on my own made me realize how much I loved independence, but it also brought a lot of fear of living with my husband. I often wondered what it would be like when we’re living together because I didn’t know how it would feel to share my own sense of authority. I wasn’t sure if I would like not completely being the boss. I was also fearful that he wouldn’t understand my need to be independent, and that he would expect me to give away a lot of my freedom. My feelings at that time were completely justifiable, everyone loves their ‘alone’ time and it’s scary to imagine ‘alone’ time completely vanishing, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. When my husband moved in we both spoke about us living together, we spoke about things we would decide together and things we could decide independently.
There are certain things that a family must decide together and it would not be fair for one person to make all of those decisions alone. However, there are also independent decisions that each spouse is entitled to make for him or herself, while still expected to share with the other partner. Aside from major decisions and adjustments, I think the hardest part for both of us was trying to understand when each of us needed ‘together time’ versus ‘alone time’. For example, when I had a rough day at school or work I was usually in need of ‘together time’, but when my husband came home from a bad day at work he usually needed a few moments of ‘alone time’ just to feel relaxed, calm, and approachable. As individuals, we function very differently when under stress and pressure and as a couple both partners must learn to respond to each other appropriately in difficult times. My husband and I both have struggled with this concept.
Often times when couples are under pressure or stress they take it out on each other, which makes the situation worse. Through trial and error, we have both learned to focus our negative energy elsewhere rather than each other. It is very easy to scream at your partner when things are not going as planned but it’s not healthy. A good way to relieve stress is to sit down and talk about the issues at hand because you and your spouse should be able to talk about anything and everything that bothers you. Even if a solution does not appear right away a feeling of comfort will. You’ll feel happier and less angry when you share your troubles and worries with your spouse, and it will positively impact your relationship overall. Talking about things is probably the most effective form of finding a solution as well as finding sukhoon (relief, peace, tranquility).
In times of difficulty couples are more likely to argue and bicker with one another and it is important that each partner takes the time to cool off and reevaluate the situation. Remaining calm and choosing to walk away for a few minutes can also help to cool the air. When angry we often say things that will irk our partners, we try our best to get under each other’s skin adding more fuel to the fire. In times like this, it is best to hold your tongue and walk away, engaging in other activities like dishes, laundry, cleaning or homework can help to divert your thoughts and you can slowly come back to your partner and try to resolve the issue at hand.
Love, Mercy & Forgiveness
Love is a major component in marriage but we often forget that mercy and forgiveness are just as critical. When walking into a marriage we must be prepared to sacrifice and adjust ourselves to a completely new lifestyle that is both foreign to our partners and ourselves. It is impossible for our partners to know about every preference and detail about us, just as it is impossible for us to know theirs. With that being said it is likely that our partners won’t always know how to keep us satisfied and nor will we know how to satisfy them. In such times it is critical that we are both merciful and forgiving towards one another. For instance, cooking for the two of us was really exciting for me. I always looked forward to preparing new recipes and ideas. Sometimes what I put together would be awesome, and some days they would be a disaster but regardless of how my cooking came out my husband encouraged me to keep trying. What really touched my heart was him eating the plate clean regardless of how the food tasted. Rather than criticizing my culinary skills, my partner chose to encourage them and that improved my cooking and essentially our relationship. It’s best to avoid criticizing your spouse because that often leads to negative self-esteem, trust issues, and tension in relationships. In many cultures, it is the norm for men to be served and fed by their wives but in reality, that kind of power dynamic is unhealthy and un-Islamic. In fact, it is a sunnah of our beloved Prophet (saw) to share household chores:
It was reported by Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her), when she was asked about what the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to do in his house; her response described what she herself had seen. “He was like any other human being: he would clean his clothes, milk his ewe and serve himself.” (Reported by Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad, 6/256; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 671)
Dear brothers do not depend on your wives to do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. A marriage is a partnership in which work and responsibilities should be split between spouses equally. When a spouse or partner feels equal to the other, rather than inferior there is more love and compassion between the two. Sisters must learn to share the kitchen and encourage husbands to prepare meals and take care of cleaning and laundry. Taking care of household chores together makes more room for bonding and having fun.
Another concept that not many people talk about is keeping ‘love’ alive! Of course, love doesn’t suddenly disappear but in order for there to be romance and excitement couples must keep investing time and effort into their marriage. In the first year or so keeping things interesting is pretty much effortless but once you’ve gotten used to your spouse you start to live in a more regular and conforming lifestyle which is usually unavoidable in working schedules. My husband and I have found that spontaneous date nights, random lunch outings, and outdoor activities have helped to keep us both happy and content. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or planned out things, in fact, simple gestures like taking a walk with your spouse can make a big difference and is actually another sunnah:
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH used to go walking with Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) at night while talking with each other. (Bukhari)
Taking time out of our busy schedules to spend time with our spouses is critical in a marriage and as one may note even our Prophet (saw) understood and encouraged this act. Whether it be a small tea break, a walk down the block, or a simple conversation, spending quality time with your partner will only lead to a stronger relationship.
We often walk into marriage with certain expectations of how our relationship will be, and about how our spouse will treat us. Unfortunately, we forget that having these expectations from a relationship that has yet to be started is already setting us up for failure. Limited expectations make room for our marriage to exceed our expectations. Respect, sharing of responsibilities, love, and being treated equal are not the expectations I am referring to. I am talking about materialistic expectations such as travels, holiday plans, gifts, the ability to spend time and money on materialistic things. When we over emphasize things that don’t matter we forget about things that are very important like behavior, character, morals and personality. Materialistic things can’t buy happiness, and no matter how stable a person is a relationship will not succeed if there is no love or respect.
I remember speaking to a sister from the United Kingdom who assumed that my marriage was perfect and that I was blessed to have this relationship. It blew my mind away, that pictures on social media of me and my husband made her feel as though her relationship with her husband was lacking because it was different from mine. Although I did not intend to do so, my social media content was impacting how she perceived her own marriage. Rather than seeing how unique and beautiful her marriage was she felt that it was somehow lesser and this is a common misconception that we all make. When something of ours is not the same as what we see on social media it is somehow registered in our heads as ‘lesser than’. Like the sister in the UK, many of us compare our life and our relationships to that of others. In this case, she was comparing her marriage to mine. I took a few minutes to digest my thoughts and this is what my response to her comments was:
No relationship is ever the same. If no two people are the same how can we assume that a bond between two different people will ever be the same as ours? When you see content on social media you are looking at an image, video, or comment that has been carefully planned, edit, and illustrated. You are not looking at the actual subject but rather a perception of the subject that is shared by the subjects themselves because they want it to be perceived in a manner that THEY think is appealing. In other words, a picture of my husband and I is not enough to tell you who we are as individuals. It is not enough to tell you how much effort is being put into our relationship and it does not tell you the unedited version of our story. I love my marriage, and if your marriage is healthy, stable, and beautiful you should love yours too. Love your apple for being the beautiful apple it is, there is simply no use in trying to make it resemble an orange if it is indeed an apple.
Marriage is unique and we would not be doing justice to our partners or ourselves if we were expecting our relationships to resemble someone else’s. Loving your partner also requires you to love the bond and partnership that you both share. It requires that you are fully confident in the foundation of trust you are building. If your marriage is unappealing because it doesn’t mirror what you see others have, it is important that you evaluate where you and your partner are standing. A marriage requires time, sacrifice and commitment, and it’s impossible to become an expert in the field without the experience.
I’m no expert but being in an intimate relationship is in and of itself a learning process that will go on for as long as two people are together because you can never completely know the person. It is simply an infinite process. Everyone has there own set of struggles and perceptions of how to build a successful marriage based on their own preferences, but when in doubt I have found that turning to the Sunnah and lifestyle of the Prophet (saw) and his spouse’s has been and will continue to be the most beneficial piece of information for me and my husband. Whether it is intimacy, finances, in-laws, or a simple date night the Prophet (saw) has set forward some amazing relationship goals that I pray we all can achieve with our significant other.
May Allah bless our marriages with love, mercy, and barakah.