Who should change first?

Marriage is about two different people coming together in harmony. This harmony survives on love, sacrifice and forgiveness. Understanding that the other person is different from you based on gender, or family values, religious practices, level of education, and possibly culture, should help you do your part to change, or “bend.”  In other words, BOTH husband and wife should be flexible and willing to change certain behaviors in order to adapt as a couple. Marriage disputes should not be treated as a court ruling every time a problem arises.

I truly believe that each person should constantly strive to make himself/herself a better person rather than demanding or expecting that the wellness of the relationship only works out when or IF the other spouse changes! Many verses in the Quran spoke about self-purification (Tazkiyah) as a method to live life in piety, inviting tranquility and peace within oneself and reflecting it on others. General success in life is defined in self-purification. Allah (SW) said: {Truly, whoever purifies it has succeeded. And truly, whoever defiles it has failed.} 91:9/10.

Equality vs who is in charge

When Allah gave the husband the responsibility of maintaining affairs of the family (Qiwamah), by no means is it to be interpreted as a dictatorship ruling of the spouse! Let us not forget that Allah described each one as part of a pair (Zawj). Allah said: {Yet it is God [alone] who has made for you from among yourselves pairs} 16:72. The word “pair” describes unity, equality and sharing. Allah also described the husband and wife as “garments” to each other. Allah said: {They (wives) are a garment for you and you are a garment for them.} 2:187. The term “garment” represents closeness, attachment, warmth, safety and beauty.

As for the man being the maintainer of the family, the verse was so specific about the reason behind that. Allah said: {Men are maintainers [of the affairs] of women, for God has preferred in bounty one of them over the other and for what they spend [to sustain them] from their own wealth} 4:34. Look closely, the verse said: {one of them over the other}, it did not say: (preferred men over women!), which means men are better suited than women in specific areas according to their role, and women are better suited than men in specific areas according to their role.  The husband’s role in establishing the family, spending money on them, and the children carrying his name, gives him this role of responsibility in maintaining the affairs of the family. The women are also maintainers of the well-being of the family as the prophet (SAAW) said: “And the woman is a caretaker over the family members of the husband’s house.”[1] Did we forget Khadijah’s (RAA) role in bringing comfort to the heart of the prophet (SAAW), or during Hudaibiah when no Sahabah would act on the prophet’s call, Um Salamah’s (RAA) role in suggesting for him (SAAW) to shave his head and slaughter his sheep whereby all Sahabah then followed!

The husband is the maintainer of the family under two conditions. First, the husband’s role should always fall under the ordained limits of God (Hudood Allah), for no husband should lead his family to anything displeasing to Allah (SW). Allah said: {Whoever transgresses the ordained limits of God has truly wronged his own soul} 65:1. Second, his role should always be to guide his family toward righteousness and honor (maa’rouf). Fairness and reasonable decisions based on righteousness and honor secures the husband’s role in leading the family. Allah said: {So consort with them [only] in accordance with what is right [and honorable]} 4:19. Allah also said: {Yet for women there are [rights] equal to what is enjoined upon them, in accordance with what is right} 2:228. In another verse which speaks about rights of divorced women, the same term is used, Allah says: {And let there {also] be [reasonable] provision for divorced women, in accordance with what is right} 2:241.

The husband is to maintain the matters of the family under this understanding, and the wife is to be in harmony with her husband, not competing for authority.

Communication tips

In the midst of a relationship while working, raising kids, keeping up with social obligations and dealing with stresses of life, neither spouse should stop focusing on each other but rather put time and effort to support each other mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

All spouses need to hear words of gratitude, support and praise. Each one should feel he or she is in the center of attention of the other. When spouses start missing that type of caring, the companionship and closeness in the relationship will start to fade away.

First, in general, men speak outside their homes more than inside their homes for a variety of reasons. The husband views his home as a place of quiet refuge and relaxation, a sanctuary from the stress of the outside world of business, and may not feel the necessity of constant communication with his wife. On the other hand, women view constant communication from their husbands as proof of the love and connection between the two, and if it’s missing she may feel a disconnection. By understanding this point, both husband and wife should be lenient toward the other to offer them what they need. The wife should give the husband the time needed to relax and de-stress, and the husband should converse with his wife so that she feels needed and valued.

Second, women generally use communication as a sounding board for their feelings and emotions. By sharing everything on their minds, they feel a closer connection to their husbands. They feel they can speak freely without being judged, thereby being reassured of their husbands’ love and care. Men, on the other hand, are generally reluctant to speak about their problems or worries forthright and prefer to find solutions without projecting any vulnerability. That is why they might be silent whenever something is bothering them. With this being said, every husband should try to talk to his wife about issues which are important to her, and every wife should give her husband some space when he needs it.

Third, the language of the husband is sometimes different than the language of the wife. The husband may speak from logic to express a specific point, while the wife may speak more emotionally. For example; a wife might say: (I have a headache), hoping for some words of support, or a comforting presence from the husband, maybe putting his hand on her head and reading some verses of Quran! While in reality, the husband’s response might be: (Take some Advil!) Here I ask the wife not to judge the husband as: (he never feels what I am going through – I never saw him caring about me in his life!) The husband might have looked at the statement as a request to solve a problem. Although at the same time, I ask the husbands not to be dry or avoid showing their feelings and emotions especially in dealing with their wives. If you can’t show your emotional side with your wife, your Halal in this life, then who will you share it with? Each husband should learn and practice how to show care beyond logical solutions to problems, it will make life enjoyable for both if they always try to embrace each other’s commonalities and understand each other’s differences. Marriage is a beautiful union in which spouses can learn so much from each other, expand their horizons, and experience life in a way they never would have alone. Compromise, share, and try to understand and respect each other’s point of view, only then will you prevent minor issues from becoming major issues.

By Sh Kifah Mustapha

[1] Bukhari