By Maulana Khalid Dhorat
The best marriage counselors are the elderly or our community activists who have had at least 20 – 30 years of life experience behind them after adulthood. Such people are not only book-learned, but may have actually experienced many of the issues that the younger generation may be experiencing today.
One such person said: “Now that my husband and I have been together for over a decade, we look back at our time of preparing for marriage and realize that there is so much about the day-to-day aspects of marriage that no one really told us about. From the practicalities of sharing a house to the practices of conflict management, a lot tends to be left unsaid.”
Many people, especially women, after struggling for years in their marriage and then overcoming all their issues, discover that they can be of benefit to others who may find themselves in the same sticky situations. They then either do volunteer counseling work, or become professional counselors. Counseling for such people, is not just a job, it’s a passion driven by the belief that most relationship problems can be overcome – with love and perseverance. According to many such counselors, many relationship issues may crop up in time, but the majority of couples who are struggling in their marriage could have avoided them. They are struggling simply because of a lack of preparation.
So, here are five very simple golden tips, that you most probably didn’t hear from anyone:
1. Both of you have to relearn how to share:
We all bathe in the deep spiritual and physical benefits of oneness, but do we ever consider things like one house, one bed, one bathroom, one mirror above the bathroom sink, one bank account, one budget, on a practical level? There’s something really hard about this truth, but also really beautiful, because it offers an opportunity for selflessness.
In marriage, you relearn the preschool lesson of “sharing.” But you learn it in a very non-preschool kind of way. You learn to let go of the mine-and-yours mentality, because in marriage, everything is truly ours. This can be very difficult for people who have become accustomed to an independent lifestyle, not having to consider anybody in the decisions he or she makes.
2. Conflict is a healthy part of marriage:
Many people initially prided themselves on the fact that their marriage experience didn’t consist of much conflict, but they had to swallow those same words a few months down the line. As partners grow in years and look back, they come to realize that conflict isn’t the enemy. It’s how you manage your conflict that can make or break your marriage. Didn’t you hear of the perfect couple who never ever fought with each other, and then all of a sudden they divorced? Well, such couples fall in this category. When the arguments eventually caught up with them, they didn’t know how to handle them, and they just snapped.
Binding two different people into one, marriage forces you to get to the heart of your opinions, needs, feelings and desires. It forces you to learn how to share those things in a meaningful and healthy way. It requires you to look at your differences, and learn to work through those things with as much selflessness and sacrifice as you can muster. There is no avoiding conflict and sweeping things under the carpet, but there is always the choice of getting through it, and then coming out even stronger on the other side.
3. Your intimate life is a small fraction of your married life:
Your intimate life with your partner is the super glue of a marriage relationship that offers you sensual experiences with your spouse shared with no other person. It’s an Allah-given gift that points to the creativity of and majesty of our Creator. But the truth is, being intimate in bed with each other is a small fraction of how you actually spend your time in marriage – maybe less than 1 % of the time.
More than anything else, it’s the day-in-day-out routine of life that takes up most of your time in marriage. From the laundry to cooking to chores and errands, you find that your time with your spouse is spent doing thousands of insignificant things—but with the opportunity to do them in really significant ways. As important as it is to serve each other sexually, it’s just as important to serve and love each other through the monotonous routine of life. To give your time, your energy and your willingness to meet the other person’s needs: That’s what a truly loving marriage is all about.
4. At some point, you’ll want to give up:
Even in the most nourished marriages, we all come to a point where we’ve reached the end of ourselves. “What did I get myself into?” we ask ourselves. It’s that time where we’ve given everything we can and feel like we’ve got nothing left to give. Rest assured, in marriage, there will be a day when you want to give up – to give up on trying, on forgiving, on healing, on growing or on loving. But it is in those very moments that true love always intervenes.
Those moments in marriage are life-changing, because it’s in those moments that you learn that the end of yourself is exactly the place where you need to be. It is in those anxious and frustrating moments, when we are reduced to kneeling on all fours, that we need Allah the most. It’s a test of our spirituality and our maturity.
We often forget that Allah is always in control. He is in control of our happiness and our marriage too. At such times, we need to repent and turn to Him, to examine where we went wrong. It’s a deeply spiritual feeling to then experience His grace in solving our issues, and this is exactly what we need.
5. Getting married isn’t your final destination:
“A women marries and all her problems end, a man marries and all his problems start,” so goes an adage. It’s easy to become consumed with the goal of finding a spouse and getting married. But for those who had the privilege of truly experiencing marriage, they realize that this relationship is just part of the bigger picture Allah has planned for them. Marriage is a significant part of your life, but it’s not your entire life.
When we see marriage as our sole purpose in life, we find ourselves with nowhere else to go or to turn to when we hit a brick wall. Marriage is not our final destination in life, pleasing Allah and achieving paradise in the hereafter is. Yes, marriage is a great thing, but it’s only a temporary part of our Allah-given story. Allah’s purpose for each of our lives is never-ending, starting from the moment we are conceived and all the way into eternity. Our lives extend beyond our marriages and as human beings, we are meant to reach out and touch so many other people’s lives in a meaningful way.
Just like anything in life, having more knowledge creates the environment for a better experience. Marriage is certainly a lifelong process of learning along the way. May Allah Ta’ala grant all couples happy and successful marriages – Ameen.