What Did You Say, Honey?

Posted in Marriage Counselling, Tips for a Happy Marriage on December 31, 2009 by Shaz

Negative Communication Patterns Can Destroy Your Relationship
by Amal Killawi

Communicating effectively is essential for building a happy family.  Effective communication is a skill that should be acquired and practiced regularly because it reduces misconceptions and misunderstandings between family members and helps them avoid conflict.

Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him) advised us to be gentle, kind, compassionate, and lenient in our dealings with one another.  On the authority of Aisha (radi Allahu `anha – may Allah be pleased with her), the Messenger of Allah (saw) is reported to have said: “Allah is kind and He loves kindness in all affairs.”  (Bukhari)

Successful communication strengthens the family bond and makes it less likely that issues will spill over into physical abuse.  Communicating effectively begins with the couple.  Regular, poorly handled conflict between parents is difficult on children.

Couples often fall into negative communication patterns if they don’t handle conflict well.  Negative communication patterns can tear marriages and families apart, leading to unhappiness and divorce.  Research has shown that negative patterns and behaviors have a much stronger effect on marriages than the positive ones.  It is estimated that in order to maintain a happy marriage, a couple must engage in five to twenty positives for every negative (Gottman, 1993; Notarius and Markman, 1993).

The four main negative communication patterns are called the Communication Danger Signs.  Couples should prevent or change these patterns if they want to build and maintain a successful marriage.

Communication Danger Sign #1: Escalation
Definition: responding back and forth negatively so that the conflict increases

We often begin talking about an issue calmly.  Then someone says something to upset the other person, who then responds back negatively.  The calm conversation soon escalates into an angry argument full of hurtful comments, loud voices, and intense emotions.

For example, let’s say Sarah returns from a meeting and finds the kitchen to be a mess.  The following conversation might ensue:

Sarah: Ahmad, why don’t you ever clean up after yourself?
Ahmad: (exhausted after making dinner) I was busy making dinner for the kids.  You never clean up after yourself either.
Sarah: (getting upset) What do you mean I never clean up after myself?  I make dinner all the time, and the kitchen doesn’t look like this!  All you did was make a little bit of pasta!
Ahmad: (getting upset too, and becoming sarcastic) Of course!  You’re right; all I did was make some pasta.  I didn’t do anything else.
Sarah: (increasing in intensity) That’s right.  You never do anything else.  I have to do everything around here.  I don’t know what I got from marrying you; just more work and more headaches.
Ahmad: (hurt) Ok, then maybe you shouldn’t have married me!

When we allow arguments to escalate, we say horrible things to each other even if we don’t really mean them.  Unfortunately, some things we say can’t be taken back.  What’s dangerous in the scenario above is that Ahmad and Sarah began talking about the dirty kitchen and ended up questioning their decision to marry each other.    Because they were tired and stressed out, they let their conversation get out of control instead of hearing each other out and resolving a simple issue.

Solution: De-Escalate.

To change the negative pattern of escalation, do the opposite: de-escalate!

  • Soften your tone. Change the way you’re speaking from harsh to calm and kind.
  • Hear and acknowledge the other person’s point of view. Put yourself in your wife’s shoes or your husband’s shoes.  Try to understand where they’re coming from.
  • Give up the need to win. Winning is not going to bring any benefit.
  • Call for a time-out. Agree to talk about it at a later time when everyone is calmer.

So, what could Sarah and Ahmad have done differently?

Sarah: Ahmad, why don’t you ever clean up after yourself?
Ahmad: (exhausted after making dinner) I was busy making dinner for the kids.  You never clean up after yourself either.
Sarah: (softening her tone) Actually, I do clean up.  But I guess you’re pretty tired after work and dinner.
Ahmad: (calming down and acknowledging Sarah’s point of view) I am tired, but I know you hate a dirty kitchen.  Sorry for the mess.  Can you help me clean up later?
Sarah: Sure.  Thanks for making dinner tonight.

The goal is to stop the negative process before it erupts into a full blown, nasty fight.

Communication Danger Sign #2: Invalidation
Definition: putting down the thoughts, opinions, or character of the other

When we talk with our loved ones, sometimes we subtly or directly put down their thoughts, feelings, or character.  We disrespect them by calling them names, questioning their character, and de-valuing their opinions and feelings.

Invalidation can be subtle or extreme.  Examples of subtle invalidation include: “Why can’t you ever do anything right?” or “Someone’s feeling a little insulted.”  Examples of extreme invalidation include: “You’re such a loser” or “We should have you checked into a mental institution.”

Solution: Be Respectful.

The Quran tells us in Surah Al-Hujurat:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers. (49:11)

  • Treat each other with respect. Give respect. Expect respect.   Remember the famous hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (saw): “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [al-Bukhari, Muslim]
  • Listen and acknowledge the other person’s words and point of view. Even if you don’t agree with everything your wife or husband says, you must still validate their feelings.
  • Do over. When you realize you’ve blown it and said something that hurt the other person, just say: OK, let’s do that over.  Immediately backtrack and talk about it in a different way.

 

Communication Danger Sign #3: Negative Interpretations
Definition: making negative and unfair assumptions about what the other person was thinking

Too often, we engage in mind-reading by making unfair assumptions about the other person’s intentions.  Instead of looking for the positives, we make negative judgments about the other person’s thoughts and behaviors, believing that they purposely meant to hurt us.  Because of negative interpretations we believe the worst instead of the best in each other.

We can do this in two ways:

  1. Verbally: “You did not want my mother to come over, anyway” or “You couldn’t have cared less about what was important to me.”
  2. Unexpressed thoughts which fuel our own anger: “She knows how much that bothers me, but she just keeps on doing it.” “He made me wait on purpose because he’s still angry about yesterday.  How immature!”

Sami engaged in negative interpretations when his wife Amena told him that she wasn’t sure they could visit his parents during Eid.  Amena was concerned about not having the financial means to cover the expenses of the trip, but Sami became extremely angry and assumed that Amena hated his parents and was trying to avoid spending time with them.

Interestingly, children learn to do this as well from their parents.  For example, when Omar hit his brother Musa, Musa said, “I know Omar did it on purpose!  It wasn’t an accident.”  Everything is seen as intentional and personal.

Solution: Fight Back (against Negative Interpretations).

The Quran also tells us in Surat Al-Hujurat:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (49:12)

  • Assume the best, not the worst.
  • Give the other person excuses. Give them the benefit of the doubt.  We all know the following saying: “Try to find up to seventy reasons for your brother/sister, and if you can’t, then say, “Maybe he has an excuse that I am not aware of!”
  • Look for evidence to the contrary. Think of all the times the source of unhappiness didn’t happen or wasn’t true.
  • Stay positive!

Communication Danger Sign #4: Avoidance and Withdrawal
Definition: unwillingness to engage in or stay with important discussions

Sometimes, we think it’s easier if we ignore the problem or end difficult conversations as soon as possible.  During a discussion, we might withdraw by getting up and leaving the room, becoming quieter and then not talking, or agreeing quickly to some suggestion without any intention of following through.  Sometimes, we might avoid the issue by preventing the conversation from happening in the first place.  We can do that by changing the subject, not being available to talk, or just saying the subject isn’t important to talk about.  Usually, one person pushes the issue while the other tries to avoid it or pull out if it.

There are some gender differences.  Not always, but most commonly, men tend to withdraw and women tend to pursue.  Many men will abstain from discussing issues because they don’t want to get into a fight.  They will withdraw and try to get away, while women will “turn up the volume” and try harder to get a response.

For example, Halima walks up to her husband Yusuf and says, “I really want to talk to you about helping around the house.”  Yusuf tries to avoid the discussion and says, “I can’t talk about anything right now.  I have to leave to the masjid.”  Meanwhile, he’s looking for his keys.  His wife becomes annoyed and says, “You never can talk about it,  but I have to have some help.”  Yusuf insists that he can’t talk, so his wife becomes angry and begins to yell.  Yusuf becomes quiet and walks out the door.

Solution: Change the Cycle.

  • Start a discussion gently and calmly.
  • Don’t push the issue.  If the other person starts to withdraw, then….
  • Set aside a new time for the discussion.
  • Talk with each other about the fact that avoiding a problem won’t make it go away

In the example above, Halima might have approached her husband during a better time and could have said instead, “We have to talk about this sometime.  If you can’t talk about it now, what time would be better?”  Similarly, Yusuf would have been better off making time to discuss the issue instead of ignoring it, as the problem would most likely never disappear and instead cause resentment in his wife’s heart.

Conflict is inevitable, but we can change our communication patterns.

Conflict is an inevitable part of the human experience.  How we choose to handle conflict will impact whether our relationships with our spouses and families are positive or negative.  During any type of conflict, it is helpful to do the following:

1. Recognize the four Communication Danger Signs:

  • Escalation
  • Invalidation
  • Negative Interpretations
  • Avoidance and Withdrawal

2. Stop.  Call for a time out.

3. Do something healthy to calm yourself down.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) provided us with the following strategies when feeling angry:

  • Seek refuge with Allah from Shaytan.
  • Change your position. As recommended in a hadith, if you’re angry while standing, sit down.  If you’re still angry, lay down.
  • Perform wudu. As counseled in a hadith, “Anger is from Shaytan, and Shaytan is created from fire, and fire is extinguished by water; so if one of you become angry, let him perform wudu.” [Abu Dawood]
  • Remain silent.

4. Call for “Time In” to finish the discussion safely.

When we are upset, we often don’t share what we are really thinking and instead say something to win or hurt the other person.  To prevent this during a conversation, let us ask ourselves: “What is it that I want to accomplish?”  If our goal isn’t to resolve the issue, then engaging in the four negative patterns will work well in destroying our relationships.

However, if our goal is to strengthen our relationships and move forward positively, then we need to counteract the four danger signs with effective communication that will allow us to express our concerns to one another in a gentle and respectful manner

May Allah (swt) help us in communicating effectively, and may He strengthen our families

This material was adapted from the leading divorce-prevention/marriage enhancement program called PREP© (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program), and the corresponding book 12 Hours to a Great Marriage by Markman and Stanley.

When It Comes to Marriage, Know Your Real Enemy

Posted in Marriage Coaching, Marriage Counselling, Tips for a Happy Marriage on December 17, 2009 by Shaz

(instead of turning on each other, turn together to face your eternal foe) Sadia Yunus

THE ARGUING BACK and forth ceased, him starting at the floor, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Why is this happening? She asked herself, too scared to say a word. It seemed like a nightmare, but she knew it was too much of a reality. She and her husband had just had the worst fight in all of their six years of marriage. Images of good times kept flooding her mind in those bitter, silent moments. “But, wait!” she thought. Something inside her gave her strength to speak: “Satan is probably really happy right now. He gets the happiest when a husband and wife fight like this.” She waited a few moments. He remained silent, so she went on. “Why are we fighting in each other? We should both be working together to fight Satan, because he’s our eternal enemy, not each other.” For a miraculous moment, truth came to light, and they both instantly understood their goal-to strive together with all their might to fight their common enemy. About this very fact, the Quran says: “Indeed, Satan is a clear enemy to man” (12:5). Our Lord and Sustainer, who knows us better than we know ourselves, has made it plain to us exactly who our foe is. Should we not then make Satan our adversary? Knowing who our enemy is makes it easier to oppose him. But who said fighting Satan is easy? The Prophet (PBUH), said: “Indeed, Satan runs (unnoticed) through the veins of the son of Adam as does his blood” (Bukhari). Fighting so stealthy and determined an enemy may seem impossible, but if we take Allah as our ally, our struggle to defeat Satan’s whispers is not only doable but divinely guaranteed. But it takes knowing-knowing Satan and knowing what God has provided for us to prevail in this lifelong fight. Married couples must understand that Satan’s ultimate goal and highest priority is to dissolve marriages and break up families. This best serves his aim of leading individuals and all social institutions into harm’s way. If you doubt it, just look around you no matter where you are. Satan’s plain is simple and evil. The idea is to go after one of the strongest and most safeguarding of human bonds and make it useless. For marriage is the “binding contact” which God describes in the Quran, as meethaqan ghaleedha, ” a most solemn covenant” (4:21), something so essentially firm that breaking it is extraordinarily bad. To do this, Satan uses his top soldiers and rewards the successful with the best he can. The Prophet (PBUH), said: “Iblees (Satan) has his throne above the water ( at sea) and sends forth his detachments. The closest of them to him (at day’s end) are those who cause the greatest trial. One of them comes back to him and says: ‘I did such and such. Satan replies: “You’ve done nothing.’ Then another comes to him and says: ‘I did not leave him along until I caused division between him and his wife…… So Satan draws him close and says: “Well done!”(Muslim). My mother tells me this hadeeth should raise hope in all married couples because it confirms to them where the real issues are. It allows them to show more love, ease, and mercy to one another and to save all their fighting capacity for what is truly harmful and a common threat to their sacred love, beautiful home, and earnestly established family. The good news is that Allah is with you. You will have to do the work, but if you strive to get through the hard times with patience and a strong will to defeat Satan together, as a couple, you will do so, by the permission of Allah. As for Satan, it seems the odds are against him. Not only is it two against one, but Allah is your ally-and most assuredly the alliance of God-it is they who are the truly successful (58:22). (Courtesy: Al Jumuah Magazine)

When Parents Don’t Approve

Posted in Marriage Coaching on December 4, 2009 by Shaz

Getting Married

Parental disapproval of their adult child’s mate selection is a big problem for the fictional ‘Ali and Khan families.  

Mrs. ‘Ali wants her daughter to marry a doctor from their culture.  Mr. ‘Ali thinks the person his daughter is interested in is not good enough for her.  Their daughter Amina argues:

“He’s a good Muslim, and he cares about me. Just because he isn’t a doctor it does not mean he cannot support our marriage”.

Mrs. Khan thinks the girl her son wants to marry is not good enough for him.  Her son Tariq says:

“Mother I love you, and I value your opinion.  I realize Mariam is not from our culture but she is a good Muslim, I care for her, I want to marry her and I want your blessing”. 
Arguments over differing perspectives regarding who our children should marry impact on healthy family relationships, which often leads to future marriages starting off with a really rough start.

The Prophet peace be upon him, reminded us that people marry for four reasons-beauty, wealth, status and piety.  The qualities of piety or strong faith are considered to be the best reasons to marry. However, even though the person you want to marry is a good Muslim sometimes your parents feel he or she is just not suited for you or they just can not get past some of their personal or cultural preferences and expectations about who you should marry.

So, what should you do when your parents don’t approve of the person you want to marry even though he or she is a good Muslim? 

· Of course you could argue with your parents and ruin your relationship with them.
 
· You could determine that you plan to marry the person you’ve chosen whether they like it or not.

Both of these strategies have challenging consequences. Marriage is difficult enough when you have your parents support.  Married people need the support of family and friends.  Starting off your marriage without your parents support can cause undue stress in the new relationship. 

You risk blaming your spouse for the discord between you and your parents. It inevitably pulls the family apart at a time when the newlyweds need the most support. Yet, what are you to do when you really care for the person you want to marry, and you want to maintain the pleasure of your parents?

Consider the following:

· Try to soften your parents’ hearts by showing patience, kindness and generosity to them.  Have someone they respect talk with them to try persuade them to consider the person you have chosen to marry. See if that family friend or imam can encourage your parents to see how much you love each other, and want to establish a marriage built on strong faith and God consciousness.

· Spend time developing your personal relationship with Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  Get to know Allah, and what he wants for you.  Spend time in sincere prayer and worship. 

Tahajjud and Fajr prayers are among the best times to spend sincerely calling on Allah for guidance.  Get to know Allah by getting to know his 99 names.  Spend time pondering over His signs in creation.  Spend time reading, reciting and pondering over the words He left for us in the Qur’an.  
· Get to know the family life of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as the best example of family life.  Work to implement as many of the Prophet’s behaviors and characteristics in your family even before you meet your future spouse.  Practice his example on your parents, your siblings and other relatives.  The Prophet’s kind treatment, patience, care and concern for his family are examples we should all work to emulate.

·  In addition to developing your relationship with Allah spend time improving your relationship with your parents.  Spend time with your parents.  Visit them regularly.  Have dinner with them often.  Participate in mosque and community activities with them regularly. Join them for their special events and projects.

Demonstrate your concern for them. Talk with them about the kind of person you would like to marry, the characteristics you would like your future spouse to possess so that your choice is not a surprise, and they feel you have involved them by sharing your thoughts with them.

Communication, love and respect between parents and young adults are a secret ingredient for a healthy relationship. Pray to Allah to guide you to the person who will love you and your parents.  Pray that your parents will come to know and love the person Allah chooses for you.

· Serve your community while you are waiting for Allah to send you the person He has chosen for you. There are so many needs to address in our communities. Join an organization that addresses poverty, homelessness, hunger environmental problems, youth development, or global warming. 

Not only has Allah placed a trust on each of us as stewards or khalifa, staying active while working on a good cause will hopefully give you time to put your marital choice into perspective.  Allah has a plan for you.

·  Remember that your ultimate goal should be to fulfill what Allah wants for you.

· Exercise patience.  Be patient and ask Almighty Allah to help you recognize the person that is truly right for you, that fears Allah, and loves you and your parents. Ask Allah to bless your parents to accept and love the man or woman He sends for you and not put up obstacles to your marriage.

 Dr. Aneesah Nadir is a PhD level social worker and CEO of Dr. Aneesah Nadir & Associates. She provides marriage education and preparation programs for singles and couples throughout the United States.  Her Before the Nikah © Marriage Education and Preparation Program is a must for Muslims planning to marry today or in the future.  Learn more about Dr. Aneesah’s programs and services at www.DrAneesah.com.  Dr. Nadir is also President of the Islamic Social Services Association-USA and manages ISSA’s Sakinah Healthy marriage Initiative and coordinates MANA’s Healthy Marriage Initiative

The Household Chores And The Husband!

Posted in Advice for Husbands, Advice for Wives, Marriage Counselling on December 3, 2009 by Shaz

Question:

As salamu aalikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!
Our beloved Prophet Muhammed (SAW) was a great leader, a great teacher, a great preacher, a Prophet, and he still had time and the mood to be a great husband. Why is it so difficult for men to be cooperative with their wives in house chores?

I’m a housewife, but I work as well at a company (temporarily at home as a freelancer). I love my husband very much, al hamdu Lillah, and generally I’m happy with our married life; however, I think it could be improved, insha-Allah.

Sometimes I can’t stop feeling that my two only functions is to clean the house (clothes, cooking, etc.) and satisfy him. Although I feel I’m right, sometimes, I also feel guilty because of that. I want to believe that a woman can be more than that! True! Because of the lack of cooperation and these feelings, I have started to become lazy with my house chores. I think it could be a lot easier for both of us if there was more cooperation, and I mean cooperation! I don’t want my husband to do all the chores, just to help sometimes. Whenever I request him, timidly, he gives “the annoyed look” and does some other chore that I didn’t ask him to do.

Answer:

Hwaa Irfan

As salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh dear sister…

Yes, Prophet Muhammed was a great leader, teacher, preacher, and husbands who helped with the household chores too, but guess what? There is only one Prophet Muhammed (SAW). We can always compare what we have with role models and make ourselves pretty miserable. If everyone had the same experiences, and learnt in the same manner, and applied themselves in the same way to all aspects of life, it would be very dull life do you not think? Al hamdu Lillah, Allah (SWT), got it right on our behalf, and provided us with variety. As much as 20th century man has tried to make everything the same between the sexes, somehow in real terms, it just does not quite translate! The reason why it does not translate is because we as humans like to re-write the rules without considering the consequences.

What was the above all about you might be thinking sister. Well, it would seem that because you go out to work, and you work at home as well you expect your husband to do the same. However, Allah (SWT) did not design the whole creation thing in that way, and made husbands and fathers the providers as stated in the Qur’an. This does not mean that only men can go out to provide, it means that it is their responsibility to provide. For wives it is a choice Islamically speaking, albeit that there might be a decision by both husband and wife that the wife should/could go out to work.

What your husband earns is for the benefit of the family, and what you as the wife earns is at your discretion. If your income is for the benefit of the family, it is because it is a decision made by the both of you. Having no knowledge of what your husband’s occupation is, in general men do like to return to the sanctuary of home which should balance out the demands of the outside world.

Before you blow steam, yes, you too have a demanding job both at home and at work. However, do you carry over the work mind set into the home? For example, if you have people working with you and under you, do you talk to your husband in the same manner in which you talk to them. Your day may be full of a set of instructions and orders in order to keep on top of the work, but by the time you return home, that social psychology should be left at the company you work for. When you arrive home you should be the wife, the friend, the sister who your husband looks forward to being with at the end of his working day. To enable this you too have to slow down. Yes, there are many things to be done when one gets home, but if you go at it the same way you do at work, there will be no difference for you or for your husband.

Take a look at the things you do when you get home and make a list of them all, then prioritize them. The colour code them into most important, less important, and can wait. The chores that need to be done every evening (most important), look at them again, and see how you can schedule you in! Schedule you in? Yes, by doing this you will provide yourself with the opportunity to unwind, to slow down, and to relax enough to be there for yourself, and for your husband. Less important tasks can be set for 2/3 time weekly, and least important once-a-week. 

  • Take that long shower or a hot bath, put some nice smelling oils in, then put on something comfortable.

 

  • Do your prayers on time, and give thanks for what you have.

 

  • Make du’aa’ that you will always understand and appreciate each other

 

  • Prepare the kind of meal that is good for the both of you, but does not require you to be in the kitchen all throughout.

 

  • Prepare the meal based on what you have. This helps to avoid unnecessary panic for an ingredient which results in a tiresome stint to the shops.

 

  • If your husband is present and has had some time to unwind, invite him to share in the preparation of the meal with you. The time could be used to talk about light subjects, and even share laughter.

 

  • While the meal is cooking, relax and do some reading. If your husband is home, sit and talk with him – share your day, or talk about something more interesting to the both of you.

 

  • The washing does not have to be done every day.

 

  • The cleaning can be kept to a minimum, especially if the home is not cluttered with furniture and furnishings.

 

  • Anything you need you husbands help in invite him e.g. “Could you help me to…” which goes much farther than an order.

 

  • Invite your husband into the kitchen to help set the table, dish out the meal, etc., with you.

 

  • Allow for each the time for a little privacy or quiet moment.

 

  • Shop for a week instead every time you run out of something. This can be done together, take turns, or he is responsible for certain types of shopping, and you other types of shopping.

 

  • With time on your hands, you might even be able to visit a friend, a relative, or attend an event together.

 

  • Most importantly, do not do the same thing every evening, otherwise routine will get the better of your marriage.

 

  • Always ensure that there is something that you can both do together.

 

Dear sister, have a happy life!

Jazakum Allahu khayrun…

The Nikah Kitaba (Katb Al-Kitab) Survival Guide

Posted in Engagement, Marriage Coaching on December 2, 2009 by Shaz

By Saqib Saab

Nikaḥ kitāba, otherwise known as “katb al-kitāb” or “celibate marriage,” has become an increasingly common and preferred way of marriage for many young Muslim couples. A young man and woman may find themselves wanting to marry one another, but at the time are unable to live together. So instead of being engaged for long periods of time and making things difficult for the two, they choose to wed by nikaḥ kitāba.

This practice is actually a tradition of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who married Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, and delayed consummation until she was older.

After over 18 months of being married by nikaḥ kitāba, today marks the day my wife and I will be having our “ruksathi” wedding party after which will begin to live our lives together forever, inshaAllah. After a wonderful year and a half of a beautiful relationship Allah blessed us with, we came up with what we feel is an essential survival guide for couples undergoing the same journey we just completed. If you are married by nikāḥ kitāba or will be in the future, then this list is for you.

1. Know your intention

Unfortunately, having the correct intention is often overlooked as the typically cliché and skip-over introduction point to anything. However, here as much as always, you will find it to be critically important. You, your spouse, and your families have agreed to join together in marriage and delay living together until later. In addition to being a tradition of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, it may also serve as a means of worshipping Allah. You could have decided to practice other less sound relationship methods, but instead chose to perform nikāḥ right away. Always remember this goal of pleasing Allah, as remembering Him in times of good as well as bad will make it much easier to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Don’t play games

With long distance relationships, communication via the phone or internet may become your relationship’s only lifeline. With such limitation, you’re going to run into some roadblocks in getting important cues and messages through to your significant other. Since you have no avenue to use physical gestures to express your feelings, don’t play guessing games with your spouse. If you’re upset, just say it! Both of you don’t want things to drag and the sooner you speak up, the sooner you’ll find yourselves laughing together again.

3. Understand that your spouse has another life

You may find yourself at times frustrated that your spouse is busy and can’t speak on the phone, or they don’t pick up the phone whenever you find the chance to call. Don’t stress it. This is simply a natural result of having a long-distance relationship. Whether the distance is across the globe or across the street, understand if the other is busy or cannot visit. Always believe they wish they could talk to you or see you more, and never accuse them of the opposite. There may be things on the other end you just cannot see to understand why they are so busy (i.e. actual fatigue, stress with school or career, family responsibilities, etc). Understanding that your spouse can be busy will help during times when communication and visits are hard to get going.

4. Increase your relationship with your in-laws

Use your time wisely to get to know not only one another but each others family while you’re at it. Of course it may be difficult to remember your in-laws when all you can think about is the wonderful new person in your life, but don’t forget the people that helped culture them in the first place. Make time to speak to in-laws on the phone, and remind your spouse to do likewise. When you visit one another don’t only try to run off alone. Instead, spend time with your parents and siblings-in-law and build a relationship while everything is still sort of “casual”. Making way for in-laws may require more effort than is needed for one’s spouse, but it will only strengthen the bond between you two for the long-run.

5. Make effort to schedule physical meetings

Not every couple in nikaḥ kitāba can easily visit one another, but if the means are there for you, take them. Physical interaction with one’s spouse is very important, and must be a part of your relationship if the possibility exists. Sure you’re limited to not being able to live with one another, but based on your agreed conditions in your marriage, make ways with your family and schedule to visit your spouse as much as you can. Being able to see one another can be one of the best ways to get through the time period which you have to endure before you eventually get to see each other every single day.

6. Strengthen your Iman with your spouse

You are undoubtedly going to find ways to visit one another, and even if you don’t you will find yourself talking to each other every day. Remember that you’re not just some random couple “dating” or in a relationship, you’re married and you’re Muslim. Therefore it’s important to build your Islamic relationship with one another. Find local events, seminars, classes, halaqahs, or conferences and make plans to go attend them together. Buy each other Islamic audio CDs and books to read and discuss. Or, just take it back to the basics: maintain a consistent daily reciting of Qur’ān and reading of the meaning to one another over the phone. Do something, anything; but just make you’re sure doing it and doing it consistently. You can have the best emotional, mental, physical and family relationship ever, but without a solid spiritual foundation, everything else will collapse.

7. Be yourself

Marriage can be a bit scary in the fear of wondering what the other person will think about your habits, tendencies, and weaknesses. However, one of its beautiful aspects comes when you are able to be yourself in front of your spouse just the way you are, and your understanding and acceptance of one another further strengthens your love.

Don’t try to hide behind formalities of what you think a spouse should or shouldn’t do. This is the time to be who you are and let your spouse get to know the real you without the added pressure of living together. If your spouse becomes familiar with your actual self before your wedding party, the transition should be a lot easier when that cherised time eventually comes, bi’ithniAllah.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve benefited from this list for your current or future marriage. This advice is in no way exhaustive, and there are many other tips for couples in nikāḥ kitāba, so if you have anything else, please feel free to share it here.

We ask Allah ‘azza wa jal to bless all couples everywhere and give us all the ability to preserve our communities’ relationships into the future, and that He makes marriage easy for those whom it is difficult and serve as a means to Jannah and His pleasure.

Break up to Make Up

Posted in Tips for a Happy Marriage on November 24, 2009 by Shaz

Have A Break to Revive Your Marriage!

Huda Gamal Al-Deen

What is the ‘break’, is the break to maintain a healthy marital relationship. A Break in a relationship could have a positive outcome for some of us, if one wants to avoid a ‘break up’.

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My first time to hear about the notion of a ‘break’ in a marital relationship was from a friend of mine who was newly married. My friend was joining us on a 3 day trip. I could not hide my astonishment when I found her joining us on her own. She had only been married for a year at this point and I thought it only logical to see them as a married couple. I did not discuss the issue with her, as I thought that there must have been a kind of personal problem between her and her husband. I was sure that my speculations were right when on the first day of the trip she did not receive any phone call from her husband.

By the second day, I noticed that my friend was on a pretty long phone call, and it was very obvious that she was enjoying that conversation, while walking on the beach at sunset.  I knew then that she was talking to her husband.  I decided to go ahead and ask her directly, why her husband did not join us on the trip? I was surprised when she told me that her husband was with his friend on a three day trip, and I was astonished when she told me that they were having a ‘break’.

For a while, the word ‘break’ sounded so strange to me, it was more like ‘break-up’ or something else with a very negative meaning. I asked my friend about the meaning of the ‘break’.

A Way to Breathe Life into the Marriage

She told me that the ‘break’ is a healthy way to revive, strengthen, and give life to the marriage. My friend, who was taking the advice of a marriage counselor, as her marriage was not working out well lately. She said she had started to get bored with marital life, and lots of problems were creeping into their marriage.

After trying lots of unworkable methods to control the constant arguing and quarreling, her counselor told her that this is the right time for both of them to have a ‘break’.  A ‘break’ whereby each of them can calm down, relax, think alone, and get their energy back to continue the marriage in a calmer manner. 

I contacted my friend later after the trip, and she said that al hamdu Lillah things were going better between her and her husband. She told me that the ‘break’ gave both of them the time and space they needed to get rid of their personal loads, think clearly, and honestly evaluate themselves as partners in this marriage. Each partner is responsible for the success of this valuable marital relationship. She also said that the ‘break’ made them both long for each other,  a feeling that they both have not enjoyed for such a long time, due to the wear and tear of everyday routine.

There are some concepts you may need to make a use of. A successful ‘break’, as I figured out applied in the wrong way could seriously lead to a tragic ‘break-up’.

Make sure that it’s the right way: The first thing you should know about the ‘break’, is that it’s not always the right way to solve the problems between married couples. That is why taking the decision to ‘break’ should be based on a marriage counselor’s direct advice, and with both the partners approving. When taking a ‘break’, both partners should be involved and should enjoy the break. This means that each must have a time off in the way he/she would prefer.

Willingly not forcibly: If a partner decided ,after consulting with the counselor, that the ‘break’ is needed to heal their relationship, he/she should firstly take their partner’s permission.   A ‘break’, is not a decision that you can take on your own, and then force your partner to accept. It is a decision that needs both of the partners to sit together and discuss whether it is the right solution to the problem or not. If one partner sharply refuses the ‘break’ concept, the partner in favour, if not able to persuade, should review the idea and be patient. Then they should try to search for more workable solutions that would suit both of them.

A pause not a separation: When taking the ‘break’, both should keep in mind that it is only a temporary stop to think quietly and clearly. The ‘break’ is only a method that can lead to solving the joint unsolved problems between couples, thus it is important for both partners to remain in touch with each other. It’s not a ‘break up’ or separation period, but a pause. Marital life should resume in a healthy manner.

To think not to run away: Some couples do treat the break period as if it is a period to run away from marital problems.  Nobody can deny that the break can give both partners time to unload the daily stresses of life, but marriage is a responsibility.   

Use the time to think about solutions and methods to make marital life more balanced. If both consider the ‘break’ as only a vacation from their marriage, their unresolved problems will remain the same when they both come back together. The ‘break’ is not only to relax it is an opportunity to think. 

Short not long: As some old words of wisdom say “distance makes the heart grow fonder”, the long term ‘break’ is the shortest way to ‘break-up’. The affective ‘breaks’ are those short periods ‘break’, which only make a couple longing for each other.

There’s no specific duration of a successful ‘break’, as it mainly depends on a couple’s personal needs and nature.  For those who experienced a successful ‘break’, the acceptable period never passes a week.

The most important thing to realize at the end is that, the ‘break’ is only a suggested method to heal your marital problems, and it is not always the right solution.  A warm discussion, an outing together, or straightforwardness could be more effective than the ‘break’ in some cases. You as a couple are the best to decide the right way to solve your problems, and how to sail your marital ship safely on the rough sea of life.

Surviving Infidelity

Posted in Marriage Counselling, Sexual Issues on November 17, 2009 by Shaz

Question:

Hi, I’m a Muslim woman who has been married for 14 years. I have three children. I have been searching for a long time for an answer to an aching problem that has prevented me from being happy in my marriage. All throughout our marriage my husband has cheated on me. The last time was when I was pregnant with my last child 3 years ago. This has made me severely depressed. I have tried to understand him and forgive him yet I cannot.
I am now at the point whereby no matter what he does I cannot get over his cheating, so I want to leave. He does not want to separate. My mind tells me to leave him as he has caused me so much pain, but my heart feels sorry for him. I am confused. How can I ever find happiness in my life if I decide to stay with him? I have turned to God, and I try to pray and pass my days using Islam as a way of survival, but the pain is too great. I just can’t forgive him.

Answer by:

Hwaa Irfan

As salamu ‘alaykum sister…

 

It could not have been easy for you to cope without knowing where it will a

all end. Infidelity is a form if betrayal, which undermines the level of trust one has in another. Trust is the basis on which we as human beings can have enough confidence in one another which leads to a feeling of security. Without that level of security in a marital relationship, we are less able to develope the level of mutual respect, compassion, and commitment that is required to nurture and build a marriage on. These factors are important foundations to a marriage which provides the basis on which to raise children, who will then be more likely to develope positive attributes on which to form their level of trust, self respect, self worth, and the ability to form healthy relations in their lives.

 

In addition to the above qualities, one of most important skills a human being can have is the ability to cope, and rise above the challenges that we as human beings will face in life. In fact, it is not so much what has happened that make us go onto to having the necessary inner resilience, it is how we react that can undermine, or strengthen us as human beings, and our ability to make the most of our lives, and our relationship with our faith is one of those essential tools. When we react negatively to what is presented to us, and that reaction becomes all consuming, we rob our selves of our coping mechanisms, our creativity, our agility, and our own intuition, all of which if not undermined, can lead us consciously towards redeeming and learning from a situation that presents itself.

 

For 14 years, you have been exposed to a situation, which seemed to have put the final ‘nail in the coffin’ when you was pregnant. How betrayed you must have felt at a time you were going through the process of cementing the relationship further by carrying for 9 months something special from the both of you. It may have felt as if your husband did not even respect the gift that you had created together of which your body was the vehicle. By holding onto that hurt, your ability to heal has been arrested, and as much as you have tried throughout the years to forgive, your attachment to those feelings prevents that from being a possibility. Your unconditional self may feeling sorry for him, but your unconditional self cannot. This may have been the ongoing conflict you have struggled with for so long, of which the conditional self has won! It has won over you, over your children, and over your marriage, leaving you unable to learn from the lessons of life, and the skills one developes in the process.

 

We do not go into marriage as perfect people, we go into marriage as people who have the opportunity to enrich our lives from the jihad an nafs (struggle with the self) of marriage. This why marriage is so important in Islam, because it is the only social mechanism that can teach  us how to rise to our better selves via the mechanisms of compassion, taking responsibility, self sacrifice, and how to access the higher self through commitment. The mundane way in which we approach marriage today has become a series of conditional agreements based on manipulation, control, exploitation – all of which limits our potential as human beings, and therefore the society in which we live. In so doing, we never really learn how to give to each other, to share, and to want the best for one another. When we grow up in such an atmosphere, we also learn to repeat the pattern. We may learn to ‘mask’ this disappointment by separating emotionally, and live under the same roof cordially. Even in doing so, we have failed to do what we as human beings are supposed to do, as determined by the higher laws of nature – i.e. to transmute!

 

Your husband, despite his inability to take control of his weaknesses, knows one thing that he does not want to separate from you. He has allowed his lower self to control him, just as you have allowed your reaction to his weaknesses to control you leading to a ‘lose-lose’ situation. If in that process, the strength he needed from you to stop was caught up with the hurt, the wisdom needed for him to mature as your husband. This is of course not helped by the hypocritical social values, which allows a young man to do as he pleases, yet regardless, your husband pays the price, but it is a price that is accepted or has become accepted in societal terms. Obviously you do not accept that ‘price’ because you and the children have become a part of that ‘price’, and if you stay together continually hurting each other that price will have been paid, and if you divorce that price will also have been paid. Equally, you cannot ‘hold him to ransom’ because by doing that, the price will still be paid.

 

If you had made a decision about your marriage, I doubt that you would have written to us. Yes, you want to leave, but is it because you just want to stop the pain? Is that not enough of a reason you might be thinking, and yes it is if you really want to end the marriage, and if you are unable to rise above the pain.

 

Let us take it that deep down inside, you want to continue with the marriage. Consider:

 

  1. It was three years ago that your husband had an affair. It was while you were pregnant. As painful as it may seem, can you look back and notice when your husband had an affair? Is there a particular situation that gives rise to him doing this?

 

  1. Sometimes, we make the kind of sacrifices in marriage that do more harm than good. By this I mean through how we have been raised, especially as women, some of us are made to feel that we have to be submissive, unquestioning, and selfless. In the process we become weaker and vulnerable, and unable to challenge the situation. Some men are caught between a desire for this type of women, and a woman who has the kind of character that helps free them, not entrap them in their bad habits.

 

  1. Some husbands feel neglected in the presence of children, or when a wife is pregnant because for whatever reason they have not matured beyond that boyish self indulgence.

 

  1. Your husband’s self perception as a man before marriage was confronted with a role after marriage, which he felt he was not up to, or feared that he might fail in.

 

  1. Your husband was not ready for the realities of fatherhood, or never learnt from his natal family what it means to be a father

 

  1. That despite your sacrifices, your husband is actually realizing what is important to him, and that now he needs your help to become a living reality.

 

  1. That you need to appreciate yourself more, so that your husband can in turn appreciate you more

 

  1. Have you ever criticized him to the extent that he feels overwhelmed? This is called “flooding” and results in distorted listening to what is said, an inability to organize their thoughts, and falling back on primitive instincts, particularly in men.

 

One or some of the above may be applicable to your marriage. Not all of the above will you have to comprehend by yourself, and one or two of the above can be discussed with your husband in an open, warm-hearted discussion which can help to form the kind of mutual agreement, which can lay a new foundation on which to build your marriage. However, in order to do that, the hurt within you needs to be healed.

 

  • Try to find a friend you can talk to, or a counselor. If this proves difficult for you for whatever reason, a notebook where you can write everything you feel down can be just as useful.

 

  • There are always valuable lessons from anything that happens, so look at what you written, or reflect with a friend/counselor on what you have shared, and hunt out the valuable lessons you have learned.

 

  • Do the same with the bad things you have learned

 

  • With the valuable lessons, write them down in a separate diary as a source for you to refer to whenever you forget.

 

  • With the negative things you have learned write them down too, each on a separate sheet.

 

  • With the negative things you have written down, takes the pieces of paper, set a small fire in the outdoors somewhere, and as a part of the process of letting go, take each hurt, and say goodbye to them as you drop each piece of paper (hurt) in the fire.

 

  • Forgive yourself

 

  • Forgive Him

 

  • Seek forgiveness from Allah (SWT), for not being up to the challenge – not because you have done anything wrong.

 

  • From the good lessons, begin to appreciate this is a valuable spiritual lesson, which can help retrain the mind, and the brain as well.

 

  • Invite change into your life

 

 

To forgive and forget is easier said than done, because when we are hurt deeply by the one we love over a period of time. Women go into marriage as emotional managers, and men have to learn this skill. Women are attuned to the problems, whereas men are not. Where your marriage is at now, your husband is slowly becoming more in tuned. This means that new lines of communication need to be opened through which you can learn about each other’s needs, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, so that you can understand one another better.

 

  1. Learn to listen and talk with one another about everyday experiences, and how one feels about those experiences as opposed to specific issues

 

  1. Learn to listen and talk to one another without being defensive. You can help each other to do this, by giving each other the permission to say “Oh that’s a bit defensive”, and the other would say “Oh! I didn’t mean to be”. In this way you give each other cues, which help to make each other more aware of the undertones of the conversation. If however one finds that the other is exploiting this situation, call for time out, and then explain: “When you did ‘A’, it made me feel ‘B’, and I would prefer if you did ‘C’. This would then give the other spouse the option to do say “Well ‘C’ is difficult for me because…” 

 

These two steps take time to establish, but once done, all the good is waiting to happen insha-Allah.

 

Remember:

 

{ And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from among yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect} (Ar-Rum 30: 21)