Archive for August, 2008

Newlyweds : The Same Old Story

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2008 by Shaz

Sally Rawhey

It has to be what I want! No, what I want!

These are the two sentences each newly married couple scream out in total silence. It is unusual that they would express it to each other, but their actions indicate what is going on in their minds. Who will lead the battle, who will carry an army of patience and who will allow his armies to attack?

They entered this marriage in the name of love, or even in the name of mutual understanding and respect, however, the first months and years of marriage encourage a lot of destructive weapons, strategic planning and explosive intentions.

Let’s not be too dramatic. Let’s move in slowly and see what it’s all about.

He walked in and closed the door behind you….. You smiled, that’s the moment you have been waiting for so long. Just you and him finally in your home – husband and wife – and a future of happiness. He is all yours and you are all his… what could go wrong? Simply nothing!

Take some advice, cross the ‘no’ out of this dialog, because unfortunately there are a lot of things ahead. A lot of it is negative. It is not a smooth road ahead! No! Marriage is so far from it. It is sweet yes, but bitter sweet! Here are some bites for you to taste.

Some Money …. Less money…. No money

Here’s the situation: You had the wedding you wanted, you furnished the flat you struggled for, and you spent on the honeymoon you fancied. You are now back to reality with no money, some debts and a lot of blame!

Hubby: ? told you there was no need for all the expenses you insisted on for the wedding!”

Wife: “You didn’t seem to mind adding 20 couples to the list after we finished our budget…”

Hubby: “ We were not supposed to buy all that stuff on our honeymoon…”

Wife: “You were supposed to make better calculations..”

Money is among your first enemies; actually the lack of it straight after you have tied the knot. If you believe that the word “I” is spoken more than any other word, take this dare, the word money will pop up more with a newly-wed couple. Who takes the salary into his hand? Will he save any money? Will this money be enough for the month? Where did your money go? You said you would give me more money?

Money, money…money…is the much hated friend that shares your marriage. It can even destroy it, especially in those early days when its scarcity can be translated by both partners as stinginess, selfishness or even failure.

Habits…Habits…and More Habits..

These will surely create some waves of fury as you swim your way into your life-long relationship with your spouse. She takes all the covers to herself and rolls in it like a salmon sandwich. He snores like a rhino all night long. She spends hours showering and there is only one toilet to use when nature calls. He doesn’t seem to mind the suffocating smell that comes out of his shoes and takes it lightly. She does not pick up her clothes and leaves them piled on the couch.

He and she both have different habits that they have been living with for years and years and simply do not care to change after marriage, no matter how annoying these might be to the other party. One woman complained at the beginning of her marriage that her husband insisted on carrying her once he stepped into the house, like some kind of obsession, he would lift her off the ground immediately as soon as he saw her.

At the beginning it was cute and sweet and you name it, but when this habit continued on a daily basis even after they had their first baby, she was greatly alarmed. Her husband was more interested to carry her than he cared to carry his baby son.

And years went by and the habit never lost momentum with him; he continued to carry her unless he was sick. And the son grew, watching his father carry his mother all around the house. Then one day the mother walked into the house to find her son moving towards her and sweeping her off the ground, carrying her in his arms just like his father. That is when she could not take it any more.

What an interesting habit! Too bad she didn’t like it! But then again one finds it difficult to accept other people’s habits that are alien to him. Often time makes it bearable but at other times a habit is painful and a continuous topic of arguments between husband and wife.

My family Vs Your family…

Dividing time among the in-laws is a major issue to newly-weds. It is an issue that is better discussed and finalized before marriage. This is one issue were six people have to be satisfied, not just the married couple, and it also includes two sets of parents who are still learning how to let go of their “kids” to their new life. It requires a lot of sacrifice, a lot of understanding and a lot of patience to reach a deal that is accepted by all.

It is so difficult; .a task that even Superman would consider “dangerous”! Both spouses want the day off with their parents; each wants the first day of Ramadan with their parents; each wants the first day of Eid with their parents…and so on and so forth.

Who Stole the Fire?

The fire of love will often lose its glow after the first few months of marriage and the intensity of the emotions that used to shift and turn them in waves of romance, will lighten up. Usually a woman spots this case first and turns to her husband with another fire in her eyes asking, “What changed you? You haven’t said you love me all week? You come back from work and sit in front of the TV in total silence! You don’t want to drive me any where, after you used to beg me to drive me any where! You don’t love me any more!?!”

Or a husband could even be the first to track the situation, and cynically accuse the wife of changing, “Why is your hair such a mess, and what is this you’re wearing, you look like Hassan Metwaly, my buddy from my army days!

You only talk about what the house is missing but you never make me feel that you’re happy; we’re happy together…bla, bla, bla “

It is a long list of complaints that rise to the surface when the strong churning feelings of love sink below the normal routine of a married couple. In life, nothing remains with its strong intensity, everything eventually fades out. A scientist would tell me that this is the law of Osmosis, or is it diffusion…the diffusion of the strong, burning heat of love to a cooler existence that all married couple eventually live in.

There are countless problems that could plague a new marriage and shake its roots before it has time to grow deep and strong. The newly-married couple could well be struggling with financial difficulties, in-law problems, lack of accommodation, full working schedules combined with the unfamiliarity of living under the same roof with a spouse. What to do? Grab two chairs, put a smile on your faces and two, big breaths from each of you. Better set the rules now, and make your agreements before it turns into a ‘blame war’. And remember as you sit before each other with demands, that marriage is all about sacrifices.

A more important part of smoothing your relationship during those tough, first years is to do beautiful things together. The first thing to do is to snatch any chance to Pray together. Encourage your partner to read or recite Qur?n together. Visit each of your families together. Do anything that brings good to other people and do it together. You will find that nothing will get you closer to your spouse than yielding good deeds together. It is only by being together that will you stay together!

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The Marriage Project: Building a Renewed Matrimonial System

Posted in Marriage Coaching on August 7, 2008 by Shaz

Article by Rami Mahmoud Elsawah

Islamic matrimonial services….

Auntie networks…

Friends who can’t even get married themselves…

The average Muslim waits two to three years to get married from the time he or she begins searching, according to a friend of mine in the matrimonial business. I did not believe him until two years ago, when I began actively searching for a spouse myself. I thought the process would be easy as pie. After all, I can cook very well, am kind to my mother, religiously conservative, and have been told I have good character. Yet now, single and frustrated, I have come to take aim at the disdainful state of the social networks available for Muslims to get married. You would think after all, that the cooking factor alone would have had the sisters lining up out the door with applications in hand.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I have met some very nice sisters along my path towards marriage; though unfortunately ethnicity, her ‘education’, lifestyle compatibility, (i.e. the usual culprits of delayed marriage) played a factor. I know many brothers in similar situations. With almost seven million Muslims in America, should not at least a few dozen candidates out there fit like a glove? The problem is where are they hiding, and how do you find them? I believe a better system exists out there which we as a Muslim community can integrate and adapt.

An Introduction to the Problem: “Auntie Network” Defects

Let me introduce you to a few scenarios from the Auntie scene:

a) He’s a man; she’s a woman, perfect match!

b) “Brother, I have a good religious sister for you.”
“Okay, umm…does she wear hijab”?
“Well…I don’t know”.
“Great, thanks”

c) “Sister, I have a religious brother for you”
“Okay, please you tell me a little about him.”
“Well, he’s 35, born and raised in a country you’ve only visited a few times in your life, speaks broken English, and needs a visa.”

The first place a Muslim turns to when looking for a spouse are a set narrow enclaves of families and friends which are unskilled and give the average Muslim only a handful of candidates to choose from. These micro-independent networks — aka “the auntie networks’ — are riddled with manufacturers’ defects, all of which are well known and need not be named here. Generally, in a macro view, the problem sums up to two issues:

1) Few choices – Considering the fact that approximately seven million Muslims live in America, even being introduced to 10 candidates is barely scratching the surface of possibilities.

2) Poor matching criteria – Really, enough said.

A Bigger Network with Bigger Issues: The Online Matrimonial Service

Online Matrimonial services attempt to remedy the first issue of few choices within the micro-independent networks by widening the scope to national and even international candidates. Yet bypassing the human networks leaves the candidate with impersonal and cold matching criteria — and many times ridiculous. Here are some examples:

Zawaj.com: Gender / Age / Height / Country. (That helps much!)

Muslima.com: **Horoscope Sign** / Education / Occupation / Country / Ethnicity / Physical (Age, height, Appearance, etc).

Icmarriage.com: Education / Occupation / Country / Ethnicity / Physical (Age, body type, etc) / Head Scarf? / Practicing pillars of Islam? / Marital Status / Have children? / Want children?

Now, I ask two questions:

1) Where are the Religious Criteria? ICmarriage is the only one that even mentions religious criteria at all, yet all profess to be MUSLIM matrimonial services. I don’t know about you, but wearing a head scarf and practicing the five pillars is the absolute, positive, and any other word you can mention, minimum religious criteria.

2) Are Her and My Software Compatible? None of the online matrimonial services address personality issues which are essential for a lasting marriage. Emotional stability, sexual desire, personality agreeableness; why are not any of these aspects addressed?

Behold Progress! But Sadly not from the Muslims:

What makes a person really have a good marriage?
What is important to him or her?
Why are so many young Muslims single?
Why does practically every Muslim in America have at least one friend that is divorced?

“In 2000, backed by over 35 years of clinical and empirical research, Dr. Warren transformed the way singles are introduced online when he launched eHarmony – the first relationship service on the Web to use a scientific approach to match highly compatible singles.”

I decided to do some research into eHarmony. The service was created for one purpose, to lower the divorce rate in America. How, you ask? By matching people according to factors that contribute to healthy marriage. I checked it out and give a comparison to Muslim matrimonial sites. Needless to say we don’t even come close.

“At eHarmony our patented Compatibility Matching System ® narrows the field from millions of candidates to a highly select group of singles with whom you share deep levels of compatibility. Where other sites match on a picture and a paragraph, eHarmony matches you based on compatibility in the most important areas of life – like values, character, intellect, sense of humor, spiritual beliefs, passion, and up to 24 other dimensions.”

You would be hard pressed to tell an auntie that intimacy in marriage is a five out of seven in importance to you, or that being around someone who is unable to keep their cool is three out of five; but these are just two of the 436 questions used to rate you on Agreeableness, Openness, Emotional Stability, Conscientiousness, & Extraversion. It is quite impressive; check out a little sample of my ten page personality profile:

Conscientiousness:

Your approach toward your obligations is:
FLEXIBLE

Words that describe you:
Spontaneous, Natural, Intuitive, Somewhat Disorganized, Perceptive, Unpredictable At Times

A General Description of How You Interact with Others
When there’s a job to be done, like most people you want to know what the goal is and when it’s to be completed. For you, that’s a start. Next you want to know what the plan is to get to the goal. So you lay out a plan, or at least the major points of a plan: “Organize the kitchen sometime this spring” or “Get the project at work done as soon as possible.” You don’t need an in-depth specification of every little detail; in fact you prefer not to work that way. You lay out your goals, develop a general plan, and then you get things done. “

Negative Reactions Others May Have Toward You
“People may have problems with your style for two reasons. First, you don’t always follow the rules or go along with detailed plans, whether at work or at home. Those who need the details to stay on task just don’t quite understand how you are going to get it all done. Second, while you get things done – the way you veer off course at times and use your creativity may leave others wondering what went on. Some people find all this creativity and thinking “out-of-the-box” at odds with their desire to follow a clear course. And this causes not only some confusion it may also spark some anger toward you at times. Even you would likely admit that living and working with you takes someone who is able to let you do your thing at times. If someone is really tied to a rigid approach to how things should get done, there is clearly the potential for some conflict with you. “

Believer it or not, this was only a small sample of the entire description for conscientiousness. In the end, I was matched to two Muslim sisters whose personality traits seemed to fit quite nicely with mine. As a Muslim though, we have other criteria which are essential to an Islamic marriage i.e., things such as dress, prayer, staying at home, relationship with Allah, etc.

I suggest going online and taking the questionnaire. Having a ten-page personality profile for marriage is great to have and keep for reference. Share it with potential spouses or with your current spouse. Even just answering the questionnaire gave me some insight into what degree I consider certain factors important.

What our next step should be:

Needless to say, the Muslim matrimonial systems, whether personal or online, need drastic reform.

Firstly, we need to refine our criteria based upon deep levels of compatibility in order to create more and better lasting marriages insha Allah. Secondly, once people begin to see how successful and happy these relationships can be insha Allah, we can build on that success and further expand our networks to increase the likelihood of finding a candidate. Thirdly, friends, family & aunties need to sit down and evaluate each candidate on a deeper level. For once, try for meaningful matches based upon real personality, religion, lifestyle compatibility, not X & Y chromosomes.

Perhaps a Muslim with a flair for business and a heart of sincerity could set up an eHarmony style matrimonial service to give Muslims the extra ability to match on religious requirements needed (wears hijab, prays, etc.) and at the same time, match you based on how your personalities fit towards marriage.

Conversely, perhaps if enough Muslims write to eHarmony and ask for the few extra religious search criteria for Muslims, we can save ourselves the effort of re-inventing the wheel and build off of their foundation. Insha Allah, I will be the first to do so.

Your comments, more than anything, will insha Allah help us as a community to at least get this issue out in the open and on the forefront of needs to be addressed. Imams need to take place in this discussion. Some voices like Yaser Birjas have been very vocal on a national level on this topic, but all imams deal with marital issues on a day to day basis. Now it’s time for all of us as brothers and sister to join in the discussion.

According to Dr. Muhammad Sadiq, Muslim families have problem with the following issues: anger management & impotence (men), anxiety disorder (women & children), and depression & paranoia (men & women). Evaluating core traits such as Emotional Temperament, Social Style, Cognitive Mood and Physicality like eHarmony does, might be able to help us get rid of so many of the marital issues facing Muslims today.