Marriage can be a wonderful experience or an awful one, but for most, it is somewhere in the middle, with ups and downs, twists and turns as we get to know and understand our spouses.
I am not a marriage expert but I have a keen interest in what is it that causes these marital difficulties and what can be done to bring love and fulfillment back into the relationship. After all, this relationship is the most intimate that one will experience. Like the hadith mentions we are like garments to each other, so let’s try and make it a good fit.
I have read a number of books and one I especially wanted to mention is called ‘Fall in love stay in love.’ It is written by an American and Christian psychologist who has years of experience in the field. I will briefly review and give an overview of the book.
One thing to mention, whilst reading the book, was that The Author assumes most couples fell in love before marriage. Some of us however may not have had love marriages. We may have had very little information about the spouse to be and the marriage was arranged. So can this advice relate to those couples who were not in love in the first place?
Well yes, I feel it can, as although the couple may not have been in love, each individual still brings their own needs to the relationship. Each individual brings expectations, hope dreams and images of what marriage is meant to ‘look’ like. The reality maybe different and upsetting.
This article will concentrate on the first principle mentioned in the book, of needs.
The author explains in the book, that we as males and females, all have needs. A need is a craving that when satisfied makes us happy and fulfilled and when unsatisfied makes us unhappy and frustrated. We need to identify what these needs are and communicate these to our partners. So none of this ‘well he should have known it was my birthday today and bought me a present’. ‘Oh, I wish ,my wife would give me a hug every time I came home from work’. If these are a person’s needs, what makes them feel valued and loved then they need to communicate this to their partner. No one can mind read the wishes of another person. We may do to others what we expect they should do for us but this will not be appreciated or seen as a loving deed unless that person values it that way.
Unless we marry people who are similar to us with similar needs it can be difficult to predict what makes the other happy. By default we end up doing for our partner what would make us happy, but that may not be the result, even though it be the intention. Some of us may have married someone very different to ourselves, opposites attract after all. This makes the challenge even harder.
From the book 10 main needs were identified and surprise, surprise, usually the top 5 for the females was different to the top 5 for the males. I have listed the needs below in no particular order;
2. Physical Attractiveness
3. Domestic support
4. Financial support
5. Family commitment
6. Sexual fulfillment
7. Recreational companionship
10. Honesty and openness
The author invites couples to identify their needs and try to pick 2-3 to work on fulfilling for teach other over the following months. There are questionnaires that are in this book and on the ‘Marriage builders’ website which can help identify ones top 10 needs and details of these needs are available too.
How does, fulfillment of our needs help us in our marriage? Well, if we fulfill the needs of one another, this will increase our love and affection for that person. If we don’t then this takes away that love and affection. Some couples do not fulfill each other’s needs to the extent that love withers away and the couple become like strangers living together. Resentment may build up, one may feel devalued, unloved, and this will lead to negative feelings for their partner. Lack of fulfillment may even lead the partner to seek fulfillment from another person, leading, God forbid to affairs, which this book hopes to avoid.
Fulfilling needs needs to be done in an agreed fashion. There is no point agreeing to do something your partner wants, if you loath that action. Some negotiation needs to be made. Both partners need to enjoy being together and engaging in behaviour that makes the other happy.
Another big challenge is spending quality time with each other. Who has time in this day and age of financial strain, with 1 or both partners working, rearing children, looking after the home to spend time doing something just the 2 of you enjoying each other’s company. By the time I’ve sorted out my 4 little ones, cleared up the kitchen after dinner and got them all to bed, I’m exhausted. I’m usually asleep by 9pm so when is there time to chat about the day’s events and outstanding issues let alone anything fun and enjoyable. Well impossible as it seems there are ways, after ‘all where there is a will there is a way!’ Again it does require a bit of lateral thinking and rearranging of priorities to achieve this but the investment of one’s time and energy will be worth it in the end. One may need to organise ones daily events to get the kids into bed at a reasonable time so husband and wife can spend time alone. Maybe bed time for the couple needs to be delayed till later or the day needs to start earlier so that chores can be done and out of the way for the couple to free up time for one another. Family or friends may need to be recruited to do some baby-sitting to allow time for the couple to go out. Don’t get me wrong it is not always so simple, the first time I remember leaving the kids to go out for a meal with my husband resulted in us discussing them the entire evening and being worried over if they were ok. Then we ended up skipping dessert, my favourite part of the meal to go home early. However we didn’t give up, after a few times of leaving the kids we started to enjoy the time we had together, peace, quiet and a chance to reconnect with one another. Try it!
I am not claiming this book to be the answer to all marital difficulties but it has much in it that makes sense and is worth reading. There is a website called www.marriagebuilders.com which has much of the information in the books and more. There are also ‘you tube’ videos of shows and radio phone in conversations which are useful to hear .There are many people out there suffering from the same marital challenges and sometimes it helps to hear how others have dealt with it in their situations.
InshAllah this is just one tool in the step to helping resolve marital bliss, there are many others but none should be without the sincere dua to Allah swt to help. Challenges are from Allah swt and contentment is the key. Trust and patience are hand in hand and as it says in surah Talaq, ayat 2 and 3:
‘Then when they are about to fulfill their term appointed, either take them back in a good manner or part with them in a good manner. And take for witness two just persons from among you (Muslims). And establish the witness for Allah. That will be an admonition given to him who believes in Allah and the Last Day. And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty).
And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.’