Causes of family conflicts include: not living up to one’s responsibility, unreasonable expectations, economic issues, and intimacy dissatisfaction. This article addresses conflicts in general and how they can be addressed by the involved parties. Here are some tips—
- When you agreed to marry, you agreed to think us and ours, not me and mine.
- We are all well versed in what our rights are, but how about learning what our responsibilities are.
- Evaluate yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of your spouse, and try to correct your shortcomings. Ask yourself, why am I doing/saying the things that cause friction? Address your concerns head on instead of playing “get even” games.
- Do not let your frustrations build up. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to your spouse.
- Don’t stop talking to each other, eating dinner together, or sleeping in the same bed when you are having problems.
- Do not advertise your problems, and do not let others give you bad advice.
- Set the stage for talking. Begin reconciliation conversations with affirmations that you want to fight for your marriage and not fight with your spouse. Don’t let your pride wreck your marriage. Proving you’re right at the expense of your marriage is not a good strategy.
- Start with a supplication together and remind each other of your Islamic values. Let your spouse know that you plan to live up to your responsibilities.
- Do not try to outsmart or fool your partner. You soon will be discovered.
- Listen more than you talk, and give your spouse a chance to talk.
- Be prepared to present well thought out solutions and practical suggestions. Promises alone may not be enough. Don’t propose “take it or leave it” ultimatums or hint at divorce as a threat. Avoid reverting to rehashing old wounds.
- Use “I” to reflect on your feelings. Example: “I feel like my efforts aren’t appreciated when you complain about my food”, versus “You always complain about my food, and I’m sick and tired of it.”
- If the talk is turning into a heated argument both should say “A’ootho Billah mina Ashaitan Arrajim” ten times. Ask for a break without making your spouse feel that you do not want to talk. A break for wudu, salah, or even a cup of coffee can help.
- Say I am sorry and you will correct your faults.
- Ask for “action items” for both to work on to improve the relationship.
If you cannot resolve your issues internally, suggest to your spouse seeking help from people who you know have your family’s best interest at heart and who knows his responsibilities. Keep the following in mind:
- Ask your spouse about meeting with a sheikh, a marriage counselor or a trusted friend. Evaluate what role in-laws can play before you get them involved.
- Together, pick an arbitrator.
- When talking to arbitrators, do not introduce old problems that can complicate things and could come back to haunt you. Keep focused on the immediate problems. Present your concerns in a way that does not suggest that you are pointing the finger.
Keep steadfast in your ibadat and supplications, and get closer to Allah (subhanahu wata ‘ala).
By Dr Bassam Jody