I’m on the verge of a divorce, and I need to improve my marriage, but I fear that we simply do not have anything in common except Tawheed. My husband fulfilled many ambitions, but he cannot maintain them. It appears that what he has given up for Islam is haunting him. He wants me to be an “arm candy” kind of wife. And I try: I do the things he has expressed he likes (make-up, hair, clothes, lingerie, offering my affection to him), and yet he’s not interested. He often rejects my efforts, and I’m left feeling insecure and humiliated (not to mention the painful put downs over the years which will never leave me). I’ve always been honest about how I feel and so has he, but when I attempt to discuss things now, he thinks that I have created an archive of ‘wrongs’. Sometimes this is true, although I try to let things go over my head, but they usually come back at some point. I simply cannot continue in a marriage that is void of affection, sensitivity, empathy and sexual intimacy. We have not been together for nearly three months, despite the fact we have spent every night since then under the same roof. Any words of advice?
First of all, may Allah (SWT) reward you for putting so much effort into your marriage and being open to trying so many different things to make your husband happy. You are not getting the level of appreciation that you deserve, so let me be the first to to acknowledge you. It is very difficult for most women to consistently work with an empty “love tank” and keep going without turning bitter and resentful. Those who manage find comfort in knowing that Allah (SWT) is who they are serving and from Him they are seeking their reward.
You said something that really caught my eye: “It appears that what he has given up for Islam is haunting him.” It sounds like your man is struggling with his own personal issues of significance in the world and instead of truly making a man out of himself, he is stuck, and so you become the next means within his reach to feel like a man. He wants you to give him significance, a sense of pride, a place to feel like he is a king. Unfortunately, the way he is going about getting that with you is only backfiring, for both of you. He is no longer satisfied, and neither are you.
So what are your options? Here is a suggestion: instead of trying to be an “arm candy” wife, focus on who you truly are inside. Maybe you don’t look like a cheerleader, but you’re loyal. Maybe you aren’t like other women, but you are his wife. Perhaps he does reject you, but put forth that you are indeed a sexy, beautiful woman who also fears Allah (SWT), unlike other women out there. Stop trying to be his fantasy wife to match his fantasy self and thus enabling him to live in delusion. Start being who you are, and stop letting his comments lead you to feeling insecure. You know deep down you are a good woman so let that goodness shine.
No doubt, he still wants a woman to come home to that believes in him and gives him a safe place to be himself, but he also needs a woman who isn’t going to let him use her to make him feel better. These are the boundaries to create for yourself.
If your feelings are hurt, say so, and then leave it at that. If you feel disappointed, express it, and then let it go. I know we all are tempted to dig up the past when we are hurt, but right now what you both need, rather than hurting each other, is to find a way to hear each other.
If he isn’t willing to talk and open up, then you can. Your husband’s attitude towards you is there to avoid letting you see the way he truly sees himself deep down. Stop falling for it and see through it. If there is any part of you that still loves this husband of yours and the father of your children, then see through it so that you can look truly into his eyes and his heart for what he is not capable of doing and feeling right now.
Let him know that something has to change, and it’s time for you to both move forward. If you think that voice needs to be a soft and gentle one, then use that voice. If you feel in your gut that your voice needs to more firm, then speak with that voice instead.
Express directly what you want. It’s going to require a lot of vulnerability on your part. Many of us, when running on empty out of our hurt, desperation, anger or disappointment, cannot do anything except complain, nag, complain some more and start listing off all the negative qualities regarding our spouse.
I encourage you to break that cycle. Express what you do want. For example, “I want to be hugged,” or “I miss long talks, “ or “I want to laugh with you” or “I feel despair regarding the situation of our marriage, and I want a solution.“
These aren’t the same as nagging and demands; they are clear expressions which invite your husband to think about what you are saying at the very least. Unless his pride has covered his common sense completely, he should hear these phrases and likely inquire as to what you mean, what exactly you want and so on.
I know you don’t want to open up any more because of the rejection you’ve faced, so I don’t blame you for finding such advice burdensome. But you are also saying you want to improve your marriage which means you can’t continue to do the same things you’ve always done and expect different results. It’s a place to try, a place to give him a chance to hear what you need and want and for him to respond.
It takes two committed people to make a marriage more than a contract, but sometimes it only takes one person to create that shift and bring about a change.
You may want to consider speaking with an Imam with your husband so that these struggles can be addressed from a spiritual perspective as well. As a husband, he is obligated to take care of you as his wife, and his inability to do so speaks of a spiritual void as well. Some of us have a lot of knowledge, but our iman and connection to Allah (SWT) can still be very low. Get some outside support instead of managing everything alone.
And take it easy on yourself. You have done so much, and what he needs to make him truly happy isn’t going to come from you – it has to come from inside of his own self. When he finds himself, he can appreciate and truly enjoy your feminine nature. But as long as he sees external things as the solution to his problems then no one, not even marrying a “footballer’s wife”, is going to make him happy.
Last but never the least, make du’a to Allah (SWT) for insight and guidance for your marriage. Ask Him for help, support and direction, and make sure you have created in your busy schedule ways to rejuvenate your iman. Stay connected to good sisters in your community, and spend time with beneficial halal friends and families, for yourself and your children.
Megan Wyatt is the founder of Wives of Jannah, a rapidly growing organization of thousands of Muslim wives who are inspired by the core goal of rekindling marriage as an act of worship. She coaches wives and couples to learn the art of her key technique Fearless Vulnerability. SISTERS magazine, an international publication now online, features Megan in their relationship column where she answers questions from wives around the globe. She is also the co-founder and key trainer for Find Your Mr. Right where she guides single Muslim women in finding, meeting, attracting, and marrying their future husband. She co-authored and published a book with her 13 year old daughter called “How to Get Hijab Ready: A Guide for Muslim Girls Ages 8-11.” A homeschooling mother of four, Megan resides in Southern California with her children and husband Zeyad Ramadan.