Being in a relationship, particularly a good one, requires a measure of hard work and considerable calculation, yet few people are willing to make the necessary efforts to sustain a good relationship. Just as employees are regularly assessed and evaluated for theirs skills, attitude, and performance (and fired for a lack of said qualities), couples require the same level of self-evaluation and relationship assessment in order to maintain a healthy, working and efficient rapport. It’s easy to deflect our problems onto one another and play the blame game. It takes a rare and selfless person to say, “I may have been a jerk, and I’m sorry,” instead of the oft-retorted “You’re the one… It’s you, it’s you, it’s you!”
And yet there are times when the blame does fall squarely on one person’s behaviour and their actions need to be called into account. Loving someone means looking them in the eyes, past one’s own anger and seeing their hurt. Loving someone means recognising a problem and having the courage to fix it and welcome change. Calculation in a relationship does not mean putting on airs or feigning interest where there is none. Calculation means being deliberate in your words and actions whilst considering the proper intentions for each one.
With these points in mind, here is a list of questions you and your partner can use to assess where you are in your relationship and then work towards building a better understanding of each other and more meaningful habits. Be honest. Do not use the list as a way to exonerate yourself of all fault or seek fault in your partner. A loving relationship means you are reading this because you want to make things work and care about your partner; indeed, you want to love them.
On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (RA) – the servant of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said :”None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” (Bukhari)
Write your answers down and assess your own responses. The results should be self-explanatory. There is no grade or written assessment. Let’s Begin:
1. Do you find that you become easily angered when speaking to or dealing with your partner?
2. Do you respect your partner’s opinions or suggestions or even allow room for their suggestions and opinions at all?
3. When arguing, do you resort to an “I don’t care anymore” frame of mind?
4. If your partner cries in front of you, does it soften you?
5. When your partner cries in front of you, do you find yourself feeling detached?
6. When you apologise is it said with sincerity or with spite?
7. Are your apologies followed by quantifiers; e.g., “I’m sorry, but…” whilst your point of contention is repeated?
8. Is your intimacy self-focused or do you make efforts to fulfil your partner’s needs?
9. Do you try to honour and fulfil requests made by your partner that impact the health of your relationship e.g., please stop smoking, please lose weight, please wear your hijab, please earn halal income?
10. Would your partner describe your relationship as, “It’s their world, I simply live in it”?
11. In general, when sitting alone with your partner, do you find conversation comes easily or do you sit in silence?
12.When you find yourself admiring your partner or some quality of theirs, do you communicate it or keep it to yourself?
13. If you find that your partner is sad a lot of the time or only every-now-and-again do you try to find out why (with the intention being one of love and concern) or does it irk you? i.e., Ugh, what now?
14. Would you describe your relationship as a friendship and a team or a convenient business contract?
15. What do you want the most out of your relationship? Be honest. And when the opportunity allows, share your answer with your partner.
And they say, “Our Lord, let our spouses and children be a source of joy for us, and keep us in the forefront of the righteous.” (Al-Furqan :74)
“Our Lord, and admit them into the gardens of Eden that You promised for them and for the righteous among their parents, spouses, and children. You are the Almighty, Most Wise.” (Ghafir :8)
“Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think.” (Ar-Room :21)
We live in complicated times. Our lives are not as simplistic as perhaps our own parents’ may have. Yet, simple doesn’t always mean easier. Indeed, our parents lived simpler lives but may have endured more hardships than we. At the same time, we live relatively easy lives, facilitated by so many modern comforts, yet despite this era of relative ease, everything about our modern existence is extremely complex. Within the context of this Brave New World, the dynamics of society have undergone a multitude of paradigm shifts, affecting every aspect of our human interaction. It goes without saying; the Muslim community has not been exempt. A lot of the “simplicity” that may have once distinguished the Muslim household from other faiths and society in general has now been swept along a fast-moving current, largely due to the ubiquity of social media and smart gadgets. In a world of instant messaging and instant responses, video sharing and popular culture, relationships in general are struggling to keep up.
With so much competing for our time, we wind up numb and oddly desensitized when we are forced to slow down. Hence, couples are losing things to say to one another with silence pervading most close encounters, leaving no choice but to return to the comfortable distraction of a smart device. The problems that further extend from what is then projected onto our psyche from within social media add a whole other layer of complexity. We have come to develop fanciful expectations of our spouses that each cannot possibly live up to. Of course there are an abundance of other challenges facing Muslim couples today that do not stem solely from the technological era we live in, but it is without doubt the hallmark of the times in which we are living.
For the Muslim family to survive these challenges, we must default to what is at the heart of our beliefs through, not only, patience, prayer and perseverance, but a real and true understanding of what it means to “complete the other half of the religion.” In essence, we are recognising marriage as an act of worship that has been made compulsory upon every able man and woman, to be performed to the best of one’s ability and seeking of Allah’s reward.
Every Muslim family is facing some sort of battle. There is hardly a family that can contest this reality. But it is our duty to rise above and distinguish ourselves as we once did, as our Muslim ancestors and the Companions did. As husbands and wives it is incumbent that we check our intentions with regards to those in whom Allah (SWT) has made us responsible and make our actions deliberate and meaningful, knowing that we are accountable before Allah (SWT). Sometimes, we lose focus and get caught up in this so-called “human experience”, which is really a euphemism for giving in to one’s whims and desires. Strength of character is not in dominating others and seeing your will exacted, rather it is overcoming the whisperings of Shaytaan and choosing peace for the sake of Allah.
“I guarantee a house in Jannah (Paradise) for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a house in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even when joking / for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.” Prophet Muhammad (SAW), (Abu Dawud)
This is by no means easy and does take practice. No one is perfect and Allah Who created us is best in knowledge of that. It does not mean that you suffer in silence or that the Muslim should be relegated to a loveless and unfulfilling marriage. We should all constantly assess and reassess our relationships: with our spouses, with our families, with our children and indeed with Allah. That is the closest to truthfulness and uprightness. Allah is Just and loves those who are just. So if you and your spouse find that you are at a stalemate, take the time to quietly and thoughtfully assess which elements are missing from your relationship. Do it regularly; at least twice a year. Be honest about what you need to feel loved or validated and do it with the intention of pleasing Allah as well as endearing your spouse to you, and out of Allah’s abundant Mercy and with His permission, He will make your affairs blessed.
Jasmin Roberts, is a Muslim American writer and poet living in Saudi Arabia. She is author of The Color of My Sky: A Collection of Poetry as well as other short stories. She enjoys spending time with her husband and four rambunctious boys. www.amazon.com/The-Color-My-Sky-collection/dp/1304371131