Having reached the tenth year of my marriage alongside other couples, I have witnessed some marriages thrive. Many retain the loving bond despite bouts of frustrations, while other marriages flounder under the veil of cultural expectations.
So what is it that separates a happy marriage from others?
According to Gary Chapman, author of New York best seller The 5 love languages: “The secret to love that’s lasts, once you have learned to speak your spouse’s primary love language, I believe that you will have discovered the key to a long lasting, loving marriage.”
Just like children, in order to grow and thrive we need to feel loved; our ‘love tanks’ need to be full. Only then can we grow and prosper in other areas of our life. Similarly, a child’s frequent misbehaviour is more likely the result of an ‘empty love tank’ rather than anything else. An empty love tank can cause us to lash out or argue within a marriage.
What is my love language and how can it improve my marriage?
Chapman states that there are five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts and acts of service. Each of us leans towards a particular love language that results in us feeling loved and happy. More often than not, our spouse will not share the same love language as us. However, by understanding each other’s love language, both spouses needs will be met and both marriage partners will feel truly peaceful and content.
One easy way to decipher our primary love language is to think back to the reoccurring issues we have when conflict arises within a marriage. For example, Zainub feels frustrated that her husband often works late and on his days off, spends time with his friends. This has led to many tense moments within the marriage. She has often requested her husband give more time to her and the children over the past five years. It is likely that Zainub’s primary love language is quality time and her needs are not being met; her love tank has been half full for many years leading to frustrations within the marriage. However, her husband Ali has lots of pressure from work and needs hugs and affection when he returns from work, but he often finds Zainub’s attitude cold and often asleep when he has returned from work. In Ali’s instance, his primary love language is physical touch; his love tank is also half full resulting in him spending more time with friends. If both husband and wife focus on meeting each other’s primary love requirement, the chances are the marriage would flourish. However, if needs are continuously not met, a stagnant marriage could lead to greater marital problems or separation later on.
According to Umm Rumaysa: “For me being loved is when my husband spends quality time with me and makes me feel like a queen. This is only achieved when his attention is undivided on me alone. That’s what many women probably want: to be more important than his laptop or phone”
As Muslims we are fortunate to have the character of the Prophet (SAW) that perfectly illustrates how he met the love requirements of his wives. It was narrated that ‘A’isha said: “I would drink while I was menstruating, then I would hand it to the Prophet (SAW), and he would put his mouth where mine had been and drink. And I would nibble at the bone on which some bits of meat were left while I was menstruating, then I would give it to the Prophet (SAW) and he would put his mouth where my mouth had been.” (Sahih Bukhari, volume 5, book 58)
Additionally, the Prophet (SAW) would help his wives around the house showing that he manifested acts of service as an illustration of his love.
Umm Rumaysa adds: “Help around the house shows that a husband understands how tiring it is running a home. He also appreciates the hard work his wife does and does not treat her like a servant. This also shows that he is trying to be the best of Muslims as he is emulating the best of creation: the Prophet (SAW).”
For me, receiving a gift from my husband, never ceases to fill me with joy and fills my love tank up to the brim. I feel it is the ultimate display of love as my husband had to think about it and make an effort in selecting the perfect present. Buying a gift after ten years of marriage with the financial restrains that come with a growing family could be easily perceived as unnecessary expenditure – this makes receiving a gift all the more valuable and heartwarming. It had often been a topic of debate until I articulated my needs better and with time, my husband saw the benefits of paying attention to my primary love language. Furthermore, giving gifts is highly recommended by our beloved Prophet (SAW), another great incentive: “The Prophet (SAW) said, exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another.” (Bukhari)
Sister Alayna whose love language is act of service adds: “Small gestures such as helping around the house, putting a wash on, hovering or loading the dishwasher would make the wife feel appreciated for all her hard work.”
It is also interesting to note that a love language may change during the course of a marriage. Sister Maryam whose primary love language is quality time and is still newly married says “Quality time is better than material things as I would prefer loving time than a diamond ring. It makes me feel special, for example, going on a vacation with hubby”
Figuring out my husband’s love language and improving our marriage
The most obvious way to find out your spouse’s love language would be to ask. Then follow this up with an immense effort to meet that need over the following weeks. For example, if your spouse’s love language is acts of service, a creative way to increase their feeling of being loved could be to give your spouse a love note accompanied by the act of service every three days for a month.
Additionally, to help you decipher what type of love language they require most, ask your spouse to list ten things they want from you in the next month. Then categorise which of the five love languages is reoccurring the most.
You could also ask your husband: “If I was the perfect wife, what would a typical day be like with me?” Not always a comfortable answer to anticipate I know, but the answer may help to rejuvenate the marriage.
Furthermore, while making the changes stop all complaints and other negative behaviour. In conjunction, write down any complaints that you do feel on a list and think of ways to restructure them to achieve more positive results. But only make the one request at a time. Bring up only one a week after your spouse says they have seen a positive change.
Even within a marriage that seems to be flagging, a strong commitment to discover your spouse’s love language and meet their needs over a period of three months could make a life changing difference. Chapman encourages “if your marriage is in serious trouble..you risk further pain and rejection but you also stand the chance to gain a healthy and fulfilling marriage. Count the cost; it’s worth the attempt.”
The most positive examples of marital bliss that I have witnessed with other married couples show a common trait: it is almost always when the spouse shows an unwavering commitment to fulfill the other’s needs without demanding their own. When one part of a couple adopts a proactive rather than reactive attitude, wouldn’t the other naturally want to reciprocate?
Aliza Qureshi, a mother of three lovely bundles of joy and also a secondary school English Teacher loves to self-reflect through her freelance writing.