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Why Couples Fight: Sex, Money and Babies

Raidah Shah Idil looks at 3 common triggers of conflict within marriage and how to resolve them.

Marriage is a  sacred contract between husband and wife and  kindness towards your spouse is a tremendous means of pleasing Allah (SWT).



Despite the tremendous blessings and joys of marriage, no couple is immune to the conflicts inherent in a marital relationship. Just as the blessings of marriage are opportunities for gratitude, even the difficulties of marriage are opportunities to draw closer to Allah (SWT).


This article will discuss the top three reasons for marital conflict – intimacy, finances and family planning – and offer coping strategies.


1. Intimacy
Few topics are as sensitive and secretive as what goes on in the marital bed. Many Muslims are raised with differing beliefs on sexuality and much of what we know is shrouded in myth and sometimes, shame.


Mismatched libidos is a common issue facing many couples. What happens when one partner wants more intimacy than the other? We commonly hear of the parable of the sex-starved husband, but this can also apply to wives whose husbands do not have strong libidos.


Sometimes, the poison of pornography adds another layer of pain to the marital bed. People who engage in pornography create unrealistic expectations of their spouses and objectify the act of intimacy.


Connect with our Creator
One of the quickest remedies for any marriage solution, even the tricky bedroom ones, is a realigning of intention. Marriage is a sacred contract between husband and wife, and kindness towards your spouse is a tremendous means of pleasing Allah (SWT). View marital intimacy as an act of worship and a joyful expression of your love for your spouse and his/her love for you.


Connect with each other
In his famous book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, author John Gray describes how women feel more interested in physical intimacy after their husbands make an effort to be emotionally intimate with them. Men, on the other hand, are wired differently – physical intimacy makes them feel emotionally closer to their wives. What’s the solution? Take turns reaching a middle ground. Husbands, it helps when you make intimacy an all-day affair – helping your wife with the groceries, babysitting and dishes will help her warm up to you. Wives, initiating marital intimacy with your husband will be a welcome surprise.


The incredible #staymarried blog describes how when it comes to marital intimacy, men are like microwaves, and women are like crockpots. Men can be switched on instantly but women need time to be warmed up. I recommend their articles!


Connect with ourselves
Remember to spend the time to nourish your own relationship with yourself. Expecting your spouse to fulfill all of your needs means setting yourself up for deep disappointment. If you or your spouse have past trauma which impacts on your enjoyment of marital intimacy, then this is something to look into with a trained professional.


Seek professional help
If both you and your spouse are stuck in a rut of resentment, hurt and increasing distance, then a visit to a trained relationship therapist may be just what you both need. Sometimes, compassionate guidance from an objective therapist can help you both come to some workable solutions. Breaking pornography addiction may also require therapeutic guidance.


2. Finances
If you’re a saver, chances are that your spouse is a spender. What was once endearing can now stress you out. Bills and taxes are part of married life, but finance-related arguments and tantrums are a choice.


Communicate compassionately
Most of us don’t like talking about money as it can bring back bad memories of old wounds. The bad news is that if we don’t air things out, bad feelings will continue to fester. The good news is that the more you bring up money issues, with compassion, the easier it will be. Remember that the tone of your conversation will be remembered long after the content is forgotten. Avoid any sort of name-calling, blaming or shaming.


Empathy, empathy, empathy
Empathy can be defined as putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Imagine what it’s like from your spouse’s point of view. As hard as it might be for you, the careful saver, to imagine why  anyone would spend that much, try!


Remember Allah’s (SWT) generosity
Every single living thing in creation has his/her/its provision ordained by Allah (SWT). Fretting about every dollar or cent is not the answer, nor is flagrantly wasting you and your spouse’s hard-earned income.


See a financial planner
Objective financial counselling may be the best way to go, especially if you or your spouse face credit card debt due to overspending.


3. Family planning
For most Muslim couples, having children is an unspoken given. However, this isn’t always the case.


Heartbreak happens when couples aren’t honest with each other from the outset about their desire to not have children. Not being on the same page is a breeding ground for disappointment and resentment.


What if both husband and wife want children but aren’t blessed with any? Even newlywed couples are immediately faced with the question, “Any good news?” It’s mind-boggling how soon the expectations of childbearing are raised. Ultimately, the decision to have children is a private matter between husband and wife, but intrusive cultural expectations make us think otherwise.


Although it’s a wonderful thing to be part of a global Ummah that loves children, this is not written for everyone. Our deen is one of compassion. The Prophet (SAW) was sent as a mercy to the worlds. His youngest wife, ‘Aishah (RA), was not blessed with children, but her life-giving mother’s milk came in the form of her vast transmission of ahadith. Similarly, as heartbreaking as it can be for couples who are infertile, Allah (SWT) has His plan for each of us. Couples who do not have children have the opportunity to be uncles and aunties to other children and confidants to them when they cannot speak to their parents.


Practice acceptance
Ibn Ata’illah said in his aphorism, “The mightiest ambitions cannot breach the walls of destiny.” If Allah (SWT) has not destined children for you or your spouse, then no force in creation can change that. Grieve that loss and make space for acceptance.


Set boundaries
Years of being harangued by well-meaning aunties and uncles can set anyone’s teeth on edge. It’s important to maintain good character in the face of hurtful prying, and it’s also critical to draw boundaries. A statement like, “Thank you for your concern, but this is a private matter between my spouse and me. Please keep us in your du’as,” is better than smiling falsely and stewing for weeks. That’s also better than completely losing your cool!


Consult a marriage counsellor
Infertility is one of the hardest tests any couple can face. Seeing a marriage counsellor can help both of you overcome this hurdle and draw closer to each other.


Consider adoption
Speak to a qualified Islamic scholar about the possibility of adoption. Rules of inheritance, mahram relationships and so on are important to clarify before you take on the trust of an adopted child.


In the Hanafi school of thought, breastfeeding an infant within two lunar years will establish a nursing relationship, making hijab unnecessary if the infant is male and marriage prohibited (see SeekersGuidance answer below). Above all, remember to keep your adopted child’s lineage clear in his/her name – it is unlawful to change an adopted child’s name and obscure his/her lineage.


Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray.





Raidah Shah Idil is a writer, poet and creative instructor based in KL, Malaysia. She is the author of Finding Jamilah and The Story of Yusuf. Her writing and poetry have been published in The Elephant Journal, The Feminist Wire, Lip Mag, Daily Life and Venture Beat.