What kind of marriage did you dream about when you were single? When you finally fell in love and were swept off your feet, you couldn’t wait for that moment to finally be alone with your future husband. How did you imagine it would feel like to sit alone in the car, go out to eat, or sleep next to him at night? The day of the nikkah came, your cheeks sore from smiling, and for the first time you could brush arms, then hold hands, and in the privacy of your hotel room, hug one another. Those first few moments were almost magical, weren’t they?
Flash forward to today. Are you still waking up living your dream, or have you found that you both talk less over dinner, chewing in silence while your children fill the quiet with their innocent questions? Does he fall asleep after you, staying up to work on the computer instead of lying with you in bed? Where are the hugs, the text messages, and smiles when you greet each other? A mumbled “salam alaikum” seems to suffice these days.
If you have resigned yourself to the belief that once the in-love stage is over, so is true love, happiness and romance, then I invite you to reconsider. There is something more, something rich, deep, and beautiful waiting for you in your marriage. But in order to find it, you will first have to dive into your own self, your own dreams. Who are you today? Whatever you want your relationship to bring to you, be it love, passion, or fulfillment, you’ll soon discover that you first have to bring those very elements into your relationship.
If you are missing passion, you have to ask yourself “How passionate a person am I?” Have the years eroded your zeal for life, adventure, and your ability to experience life with all five senses? Passion comes from being truly alive, experiencing the gifts Allah (SWT) gives us fully and allowing those gifts to shape us, change us, and mend us.
If you are missing depth in your relationship ask yourself “How deep have I allowed myself to go?” Deep with your own thoughts and feelings when you journal or ponder, and deep with your husband when something he has said or done stirs a warmth in your heart. You cannot swim in deep waters with your toes barely dipped into the shallow edges, can you?
If you are missing love, ask yourself “How have I been loving?” As a woman, our nature is to be loving, but how have you loved your husband as the man he truly is in your life? Have you shown him love in a way that he desires, craves, and yearns for? When you love him like this, you can feel free to express your own loving desires, but it is after you have given first.
To bring your marriage back to life, you have to be brave enough to dream again, to desire again, and then go after what you want. Think about the months (years) you spent searching for your husband. How many months were you preparing for the wedding and getting to know your husband? The planning and the “getting to know you” can’t stop. Not then, not now, not ever. What dream could you start planning for today?
How do you forget the past? We’ve sometimes said or done very hurtful things to each other in the past, but in every argument the past keeps being rehashed? How do we avoid this?
One of the main reasons people continue to bring up past experiences is because the wound created by that experience has not been healed.
When we are hurt by someone, we often need a safe space to fully feel whatever emotions were evoked. During conflicts in our relationships, the predominant emotion is usually hurt, beneath all the other knee jerk reactions. We need to acknowledge that the hurt is there and feel it. Our tendency is to protect ourselves, so instead of feeling hurt and crying, which may come to us naturally in such a moment, we set up the “ego protection walls” to hide the hurt, appear stronger than we really are, and then move into attack mode. We start screaming, accusing, blaming, name calling, and firing stabbing words. Our spouses, in turn, hide the hurt, put up their ego protection walls, and another round of unloving and disrespectful words begins. The cycle has begun.
When the past is dredged up, it arrives at precisely this moment. Either an emotional wound has been touched and the pain reminds you of a previous pain that hasn’t healed yet, or out of fear of there being another painful moment, you remind your spouse of what happened in the past.
What’s ironic about such a moment is that your intentions deep down are good. Your intention is to protect yourself from hurt and to release your hurt in such a way that your spouse can feel your pain and repair the damage they may have caused. However, when both of you are in defence mode no-one can repair anything, and the cycle persists.
What’s the way out?
First the ego walls have to go down. It’s scary to show your true feelings at times, but this level of vulnerability is the only door out of that dark and angry room. My husband and I have this rule we live by as much as we can: We never try to deny or minimise what each of us felt during our interactions. For example, if he says “Your comment wasn’t respectful,” then I have to agree, because no matter how I want to see it, or explain myself, the truth is for him it wasn’t respectful. For him to let go and move on, I have to accept what is true for him. If I found an action of his frustrating, he doesn’t try to explain away what I feel. It’s true for me, and it’s as simple as that.
There is little resistance in a conversation like this. Instead, we find acceptance and the ability to honour each other’s feelings without needing to defend ourselves.
In order to forgive and move on, where the moment literally ends right then and there, you each need to feel heard, honoured, and finally loved. Apologies, and understanding what is at the root of an argument brings you both back together as a team again, as you both look to solve what is the true source of conflict between you. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as being tired and needing more sleep! Other times, it’s that baggage from our past being triggered in us. One of those unresolved childhood issues needs begging for attention. Whatever it may be, when you have truly felt your way through all of your feelings, honoured what you and your spouse feel, and then worked through it together, love will be restored and the past will have no need to come up again in a future conversation.
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.