A continuation of our ‘In Conversation’ series, where we speak to subject experts, thinkers and leaders and try to get their crucial view on a relevant subject of our times. The subject of this discussion is Love & Mercy in Marital Life.
A.I have been dealing with marital life in training, coaching and counselling sessions. This has been a passion for me. What I found to be a very important aspect of relationship between married couples is that there are three levels of relationship –
The lowest level, where ‘it’s all about me’, is the narcissist way of looking at the marital relationship. My decision, me first, – it is the subjugation of the other person to my happiness, it’s my way or the highway. The other partner has to just listen to and obey my commands, or else there will be negative consequences.
A slightly more mature level of relationship is ‘it’s all about us’. In that, the couple reach an understanding either before marriage or due to circumstances after marriage that ‘you look after yourself and your needs, I will look after myself and my needs, and let’s be together as husband and wife’.
The best and healthiest relationship, one to be admired, is that ‘it’s all about you’. In this, each partner considers the other one to be more important than himself or herself on all matters – financial, educational, recreational, emotional aspects of life. This should be the best way of maintaining a healthy and good relationship. It’s all about ‘you.’
A.The Quran in Surah Rum, Verse 21 says, “Among His proofs is that He created for you, spouses among yourselves, in order for you to have peace of mind/contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and mercy towards your spouses. Indeed, there are sufficient proofs for people who think.” It is a rough translation. In this verse, three vital and important terms have been used: Sukoon, Mawaddah , Rahmah.
When I deal with marital problems, I ask the spouses sitting across to name one thing which is very vital for the marriage to sustain happily. Sometimes, I get the correct answer and sometimes I myself let them know that it is “Love.” Love is the bedrock, over which the whole edifice of marriage as an institution stands. But unfortunately, people know very little about love. What they know about love is what they see in cinemas, that is infatuation. That is the lowest level of love. If you want me to tell you about one positive emotion that exists in the universe, which is love. Other positive emotions emanate from love. Love is an emotion with which, when given, the receiver grows emotionally, intellectually, educationally and sometimes financially as well. So love has more to do with the receiver than the giver. Hence to me, love is the most unselfish emotion and behaviour one can exhibit. When we say God loves us, then he nourishes us, takes care of us, pardons us, listens to us, and responds to us. So the spousal relationship is a sign of God. By seeing their connectedness, you remember the connectedness of God with humans. When love between them exists, everything exists in the house. When there is no love, it is only a material relationship and adjustment to move on.
A. In social psychology, many studies have been done on the stability of the marital institution, and what contributes to it. Out of the many studies, there is a convergence on three factors – first, similarity between spouses (of ideas, thoughts, worldview). Two partners having two entirely different worldviews is like a train running in two different directions, which is impossible to reach the destination. So before marriage, one has to see the compatibility and similarity. Youngsters neglect this aspect of life.
Second thing is that couples complement each other. When you find that your spouse is missing some aspect, you need to rise to the occasion and have that complementary trait which can offset the negative trait of your spouse. Suppose, for the sake of example, if my wife is an introvert (she’s not, but I’m telling you for the sake of example!), but to run a large family, one needs to be
The third thing is sexuality, which is very, very important. It is not about the quantity but the idea of sex; it is not an animal act or a biological act. It is a purely human and spiritual act. It has to be filled with creativity. What I have seen in my sessions is that people who are happier in bedroom affairs have a happier life outside, and the reverse is true as well. If they don’t have tranquility in the bedroom, the spillover will be found in many other areas. So for marriage to sustain, sexuality is a very important factor, and youngsters need to learn how to find contentment and tranquillity from that act, from Islamic literature. They need not learn from platforms or media wherein the idea of sex has been downgraded to an animal act.
Q.Coming to a more material debate, The Qur’an clearly states that Allah will provide the means for the sustenance of those unmarried men and women who choose to marry. Consequently, it is understood that making this decision brings rizq in our lives, but nevertheless, financial issues and other doubts often lead the youth to put off marriage. What practical advice would you have for the youth struggling with such decisions?
A.Even when I speak to youngsters, they have a lame excuse of wanting to ‘settle’ in life. I ask them what exactly that means. If a young boy looks at me, I am 54 years old, and he wants to settle like me, then he needs to wait for 30-35 years. Instead, what was I like at the age of 25, when I got married? People have a very vague idea of settling in life. To me, to settle in life, one has to have peace of mind, somebody to support you, one has to have ideas. And in earning, one has to have two brains to think and plan. Look from four eyes, and that is only possible after marriage. You become smarter; you have wider ideas, different perspectives of looking at things. Youngsters fail to understand that you need peace of mind to settle, and that you can get only through marriage. Marriage gives the impetus to move on in life with the required combination of love, warmth and support. If they mean something else apart from this when they talk about settling, then what is that something else? Material achievements? That anyway is something one can never be satisfied with. Peace of mind, love, warmth – these non-material things can only truly mean settling.
A. You say that affection, fondness and love is missing in modern marriages. Of course. It all depends upon your perception about your partner. If I feel myself as a king, then I look upon my wife as a queen. If I represent peace in my home, my wife represents light. If my home is a garden and I am a gardener, my wife is a beautiful flower. But contrary to this, if I believe myself to be like the boss, I will treat my wife as a servant or a bonded labour. If I feel myself as the owner, then I treat my wife as a slave. It’s all about perception. Those who love their wives are kings. Those who hate their wives basically hate themselves. They have an upbringing issue which remains unprocessed yet.
ee, coming to the second component of your question: the Prophet (saw)’s communication with his wives. He had normal communication with his wives, those were private talks. No one knew them until sometime later. After his departure, his wives made these conversations public and narrated them. They were declassified and compiled, and they later came to be known as ‘Ahadith’. Amazing, isn’t it? Those ahadith tell us about the communication of the Prophet (saw) – how gentle he was, how kind he was, how supportive he was, how he helped his wives by his conversations to grow intellectually, to mature.
Now the question is, if our conversations, whatever as spouses we had, whether 5 or 20 years ago, if one partner decides to make them public – do we dare to make it public? Mostly we will not like it. Presuming our conversations do not have anything toxic in it, in spite of that, our conversations will not have anything useful for society. So from this perspective of the communication of the Prophet (saw), what we learn is that we need to speak to our partner in a beautiful way, in a complementary way. Transactions should not be ulterior. Rather, it should be complementary. We should use positive language, and resourceful language in a way that both partners grow intellectually and emotionally. We should have conversations such that we should be bold enough to be able to expose them before our children or family members, so that they get certain tips to live a beautiful life.
Q.Finally – what role do children play to strengthen the bonds of marriage?
A. It’s a tricky question. The answer is not a straightforward yes. According to books of psychology, becoming a parent is likely to interfere with marital sexuality. The satisfaction of sexuality seems to decline, particularly in men. But in reality, the love has not actually diminished, but the human baby needs at least two years of continuous protection, care and love. The mother has to divide her time and love between children and the partner. So those couples who are not mature enough, particularly those couples who do not have compassionate love, feel neglected. Some drifts start. Parenthood is often associated with a decline in marital satisfaction but the decline is less if the couple have a strong companionate relationship. If the love is sound, and is holistic, then children do really play in strengthening the bond. People work together for the betterment of their offspring. Parents are the only people on the surface of the Earth, who, if their children go ahead of them, never feel jealous. They are the only people who cherish, who desire that their children should touch the skies, which they could not.