Someone once said that, “A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
I believe there is much more in a marital union to learn from than just the differences. During the several chaperoned drawing-room meetings I had with my husband-to-be for the purpose of gauging our marriage compatibility, I remember sharing with him my idea of a good relationship. I defined it as one where the partners are able to constantly learn and grow with time. A thriving marriage, I had told him, leads to improvement in every sphere of life; from emotional, intellectual and social to physical and spiritual. Alhamdulillah, over the years, we have both found this to be true. Hence, we continue to work on our union and carry on learning from it.
Here are a some lessons I’ve gleaned thus far:
The Secret of success
The secret to a satisfactory relationship is not owed to any elaborate personal grooming rituals, well-managed households, fat pay-cheques, gourmet cooking, sensual pleasures, love potions etc. Real contentment and bliss is a direct manifestation of barakah in our lives. The barakah between two people, in their homes and in their lives comes only from Allah (SWT) and through Allah (SWT).
Mistakes happen. When faced with an ‘unforgivable mistake’, it is still possible to adopt the forgive-and-forget attitude. This is because forgiveness benefits me before it benefits my spouse. With the intention of seeking Allah’s forgiveness for my own sins, it gets easier to practice. Thinking about my own sins and shortcomings leaves me humbled and softened towards my partner. It’s a win-win situation.
Power-play & domination
A well-intentioned but evidently unwise lady had offered her advice a month before my wedding: “The first few days of marriage are your opportunity to wrap him around your little finger. Then you can play him like a fiddle….”
Wrong! I knew it then and know it now. It’s never about a struggle for control or aiming to be the boss. It’s simply about following your roles with ihsan. The roles, delegated to us by Allah (SWT), complement each other harmoniously without stepping in the others’ sphere. Playing against your partner only bogs you down and you both lose in the long run.
‘Compromise’ isn’t a bad word
We grow up believing that settling on something that we didn’t initially set out for means we were unsuccessful in terms of our goals. However, in a marriage, the goal is to reach contentment together, not the journey. Hence, the give and take that is necessary to find a middle ground is one of the most significant provisions of that journey. I can’t stand his constantly connected Blackberry life, for example, but I roll my eyes and let it pass. He cannot understand my need for “extreme privacy” in all aspects of my life, but never the less, makes concessions for me to facilitate that all the time.
‘Brutal honesty’ is a bad thing
No matter how comfortable or confident you are in your relationship or how open and forthright your communication is with each other, there are still certain boundaries that cannot be breached. Men and women are sensitive beings with weaknesses, vulnerabilities and egos. Untamed, tactless or even ‘in jest’ remarks on the other’s looks, financial abilities, race or ethnicity, in-laws, past life etc. are a recipe for disaster. In a relationship that is built on kindness, there simply is no room for anything brutal, whatever the facts.
You don’t have to agree on everything to be on the same team. My husband and I have very contrasting views on politics, social life, business management etc. and we are both very vocal about them with each other. But when either of us is confronted by any third party, we cover each other’s back.
Aspiration vs. Inspiration
Which person doesn’t have a list of things (beliefs and habits) that they want their partner to adopt or eschew? I have learned that change simply cannot be and should not be forced – only inspired and prayed for. That’s exactly what I did. The same person who never had time to attend a two-hour dars is now independently going for full-day Islamic seminars and who was once a chain smoker is now on to three-a-day with the intention of gradually quitting completely, bi idhnillah.
Weaknesses that strengthen
The modern woman, as well as man, is taught that to share our weaknesses with another leaves us exposed to getting hurt. I agree, as it makes sense during the initial stage of a relationship. But, with time and an increasing level of trust, showing your vulnerabilities actually lends strength and depth to a relationship. During Ramadhan’s qiyam al-layal, we combined all of our private dua’s and together supplicated to Allah (SWT) for all our hopes and fears. This laid bare all our secret vulnerabilities and apprehensions in front of the other. From then onwards, we have been more appreciative, supportive and protective of the other than before.
Love in action
If you sit in wait for some cupid’s arrow to strike you pink with love-dovey emotions, then you’ll be waiting forever. I entered my arranged marriage with the will to do my part with sincerity and with fervent dua’s to Allah I to take care of the needs of my heart. He I answered my supplications by gradually turning our actions of mutual giving and sacrifices into actions stemming from love and leading to love.
Filling the void
Even the most fulfilling and happy relationship cannot satiate all the needs of the heart. Despite my husband providing me with everything including spending quality time, I would still pine for more companionship during the early period of my marriage. I realised later that the certain space in my heart that I was seeking to occupy with my spouse, was actually the void that needed to be filled with the closeness of Allah (SWT). Marriage can take away loneliness from your life but it cannot fill the emptiness inside every heart if the connection with its Creator is missing. But a dhikr-enriched heart certainly can dispel any loneliness or emptiness of a marriage and make it flourish.
Marriage challenged my long-held criterion of the type of partner who would be right for me and with whom I could find bliss with. Now, I know that only Allah (SWT) knows what is really ‘right’ for me and that is why He (SWT) is the best of planners. The word ‘happiness’ has acquired new meanings for me as I see that the pictures of happily-ever-after could be painted with a myriad of colours.
I met a couple recently who had been married for over 35 years and during a conversation with them, the husband proudly looked at his life partner and stated: “I am what I am today due to the positive influence and companionship of my wife. She has taught me to be a better person than I was before her.” I listened to his warming comment and prayed that Allah (SWT) makes me a better person too, through the influence of my marriage.
Umm Zayed hopes to learn, share and inspire others to see the perfection of what we have been blessed with.