Marriage Troubles

>> Thursday, July 29, 2010

My question isnt about me but a friend who I am trying to give good advice to and not sure what to say. She has been married for a few years now and loves her husband greatly however her husband travels during the week and she only sees him on weekends. When he comes home he wants to spend all his time with his family and puts them first and makes her feel unwanted. They argue a lot about this and he refuses to compromise and make time for her. Instead they go to his parents house for 7 or 8 hours a day during the weekend and while there he ignores her and spends all his time with his sisters and parents. Her in-laws do not treat her very nice and also ignore her and make her feel unwanted. She wants to spend time with her husband (alone) yet he refuses and instead feels that sitting in a room together is sufficient. She is feeling depressed and not sure what to do. Recently he has become more religious and strict and started ordering her to become like him. She doesnt wear hijab but prays 5 times a day. They started going to counseling which has helped but he still puts his family first and makes her feel like she is number 4 or 5. She has tried to befriend his sisters and family members but they want nothing to do with her and instead compete with her husband for his attention. So my question is, what advice would you give to this sister? I have suggested listening to lectures on marriage and the requirements of both the husband and wife, but she said that didnt work, same goes for books. Counseling hasnt changed his mentality and I honestly feel that her in-laws are destroying her marriage yet at the same time her husband needs to stand up to them and make time for his wife. Her parents agree that her husband is immature and needs to grow up and on a few occasions she has stayed with her family for a few days to get away from it all. She also mentioned that he has an addictive personality, and easily gets addicted to video games, etc and will spend hours on the computer while at home or sleep late (2 or 3pm). Any advice you could offer would be appreciated!

Your sister in islam,
A Concerned Friend

Dear A Concerned Friend,

Wow- we’re so honored that you think we could come up with something helpful even though you know (right, I’m pretty sure that you do) that we aren’t married ourselves. Your friend sounds like she’s in a very tough situation. We really feel for her :( She wants to spend more time with the person she loves but he’s not exactly sharing her feelings. The fact that they both agreed to counseling though shows that they want to work it out. We don’t really know if we can add to what a counselor has said already, but we’ll try to give it a shot and hope the readers (especially married ones) can provide some helpful advice, inshaAllah.

The first thing your friend needs to remember is that we all express love in different ways. Relationship experts suggest that there are five different ‘languages of love’. These are”

  1. quality time,
  2. services,
  3. gifts,
  4.  positive affirmations,
  5. and  touch.

Every one of us has a dominant language that we speak and that we feel ‘expresses love’. It sounds to us that your friend’s dominant language would be ‘quality time’. The question is—is that what her husband’s language is? Maybe he thinks that the work he does all week (the service) to provide for her is the greatest proof of his love…Maybe he thinks ‘touch’ is the way to express love…

Your friend can try to find out what her husband’s language is (like in a fun “OH, look, I took this cool test and got….what did you get, hunny bunny? way”) ; this may help the two learn to ‘speak a common language’. It could also help knowing how to rekindle his feelings for her-  she’d be able to better know if he would appreciate  a cute note from her under his pillow/in his lunch/etc more or an unexpected hug.  

Besides knowing his language though, the next thing that came to mind is: is there any way that she can live with him during the week? Or does he travel to all sorts of different places? If living with him will cost a lot, isn't there some expenses they can cut out? Because being together is worth more than 'any luxuries' right?

Okay, if that's not possible, what else can she tackle? Well, one thing your friend needs to work on is the ‘change issue’:

We have 4 possibilities: either he has changed or she has changed or they both have changed or nothing has changed. Each one of these can be problematic in itself!

Let’s take it one at a time. Did he change? Was he always like this? Back when they were engaged/ during the nikah peirod, did he mention his family a lot or is this a sudden change? If it’s not really a sudden change and he’s always expressed the importance of visiting his family, it could be that he is just following his cultural traditions. I know in Arab culture it’s expected to visit your husband’s family during the weekend, especially if you live in the same city. (I’m not sure what his nationality is, though). We’re talking about a serious tradition. Actually, my own family does it too- my older sis goes every Friday to her inlaws. So you see it could be a cultural misunderstanding…. That might explain why the counseling is not working…

However, if he didn’t seem to be that family oriented in the beginning and has suddenly shifted gears, she needs to ask herself: Why has he changed? Obviously, marriage changes us and it’s easy to fall into the routine of everyday life, but is it possible that without noticing it, she became a little too comfortable with her role as a wife and has kinda started letting herself go? Did she change? Does he feel like she takes him for granted? Maybe her eyes no longer light up when she sees him… or she doesn’t smile the same way…All of that is expected. Marriage isn’t a honeymoon forever, but maybe he feels that she doesn’t love him the way she used to.

If she didn’t change and she’s still taking careful of herself, then she needs to ask:

Why does he enjoy hanging out with his family? What is it that his family gives him that makes him want to spend more time with them than with her? Could it be that he feels like he’s more himself with them? Or he feels like he gets to be a “kid” again? Maybe he feels like ‘he’s reliving his youth’ there? Maybe he feels like she always expects him to solve everything and he’s tired of being under that pressure? Maybe since becoming more religious he has discovered the importance of parents in Islam and feels that he has to do this?

But then again, it could be as we said earlier, that “nothing at all has changed. What we mean by that is maybe her husband feels a little bored,l ike there's nothing new to talk about.

Enough philosophical/ theoretical ideas. Let’s see what things she can actually DO:

First of all, she should make dua. A lot of us underestimate the power of dua. Remember, it can actually change qadr or destiny! That’s how amazing dua is.

What’s more, Allah is the One who holds in His Hands our hearts.

The next thing, which I am sure she has done in the counseling sessions (but just in case), is to open up. She may feel vulnerable to explain how much she misses him, but he’ll never understand how much she wants his company if he doesn’t really understand how much he means to her. She can explain that she loves him dearly, misses him...

She can also try to ‘change’ the scene of the meet-up. Alright, so every weekend they go to his parent’s house. She’s not very welcome there and his sister doesn’t like her. Why doesn’t she try asking her husband if it would be possible to meet his family outside? Maybe they could all eat dinner together in a new restaurant? Not only would that not make ‘her the only outsider’, “the one who doesn’t belong’, but it might also help to lessen the amount of time they have to spend there. If they eat at a restaurant, they can’t very well stay for 7 hours, right? What about a barbeque- it’s the summer after all? Or a picnic? When it gets dark, it’s unlikely she’s going to be stuck there for long :P

We gotta be realistic, however. She can’t totally ask him to give up seeing his family completely (and she shouldn’t as they have rights upon him, too), but she can try to ask for it to be a little less. If her husband or his family doesn’t agree to ‘eating outside’, maybe she can ask if he can just cut it by one hour, at least, and that they spend that one hour together…make some sort of compromise.

Also, one thing she should focus on is the ‘quality’ of time, rather than the quantity. Ok, so they are stuck going to the in-laws…how long does it take to go there? Can they talk a bit during the car ride? Or for example, when they are going grocery shopping, or to any place….can they have some interesting and meaningful conversations while they’re out doing routinish things? Can she wake up on the weekends and make sure to have breakfast with him- start the day with him and a nice meal? Even if it’s only a few moments, it could really make a difference, because at the end of the day, it’s not the amount of time that has been spent, but the way the time has been spent.

The next thing: she should try and find some new interesting activities they could do together. You mentioned that her husband has become more ‘religious’. How about they watch Islamic TV shows together? Even though they don't see each other during the week,they could both watch the same show (from their different places, hehe) and discuss it together during the weekend or even during the 'breaks', etc. Or listen to some lectures online? They can try to answer some Islamic quizzes together or solve some riddles. Ramadan is coming so maybe they can read the Qur’an together and share their notes on it. Maybe she can ask him questions about things she’s read that she is unclear about (or even something she knows but just to get him to read and talk with her?)

It would be great if they starting praying Qiyam al Layl together (again during the weekends). If they can wake up before fajr and pray 2 rakahs…well:D

Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:
“May Allah have mercy on a man who wakes up at night, prays and wakes his wife to pray; and if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. And may Allah have mercy on a woman who wakes up at night, prays, and wakes her husband to pray and if he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.” (hasan) by Shaikh al-Albani (Abu Dawud)

This ‘mercy’ will( inshaAllah) also mean more barakah and blessings to their marriage.

They can also try setting a goal together ! It could be fixing the house together, whether that means remodeling or just getting rid of all the clutter. And if they have a backyard, they could plant a garden together.

If they’re already happy with their house, it could even be a social goal . For example, they could agree/ volunteer to clean up a masjid together– vacuum it, maybe even put some flowers on the outside, hang up some Islamic posters, etc. They could think about sponsoring an orphan, volunteering at a hospital, or plan a fundraiser for the needy together, etc.

Or what about a religious goal? Every week they could try learning a new dua. They could even try to do dawah togher- maybe make Islamic posters, try to present Islam to a certain couple they know, make an Islamic blog, etc.

And then, of course, they could always think about a health goal: maybe they both want to lose a couple kilos. They could exercise together (during the weekends)or even 'compete' with each other, through out the week! They can report to each other what they've lost, decide on recipes to try during the week, etc. And then, when they meet up, they can walk at least 20 minutes together...

Or how about taking a class together (if there's one offered during the weekends, lol.)? It could be anything…an Islamic class, a cooking class, pottery class, photoshop class, learning a new language, even something online…

Besides trying to create a routine with him, your friend should try to add some spontaneity. She could invite him to a picnic outside, try watching the sunset with him from the balcony, send him flowers to his office, post a card to his address, etc. She could even suggest that they take the weekend away…they could go camping or to a nice hotel. Or since he’s becoming religious they could seriously think about doing Umrah together.

These are all a few suggestions! Hopefully the readers can help us with more…

But, a few last words, though, before we go:

- If your friend stays at home the whole week that could explain her frustration at her husband not ‘hanging out with her’ even more. If that is the case, maybe your friend can also try and take up a hobby herself? Maybe she can join a class or something. That way her whole week doesn’t revolve around waiting for him to come home. Also, she could have interesting stories to share with her husband, inshaAllah.

- About the hijab- dearie (Hey, I have to sound like an aunt, don’t I?), you said that her husband is being more strict and stuff and wants her to put it on. I worry that if he’s being too strict, he might repel her from the hijab (although I understand his concern- after all, he will be held accountable on how he let her go out walking in the street, right) But as much as you can, gently talk to her about beauty of hijab, about Allah and how He is our Lord, etc. Ask her what’s holding her back from hijab? We can try to talk her through her concerns, inshaAllah. This could also be a major source of friction in their marriage, so solving this could really help…

- About his family not treating her well- maybe she’s trying the wrong way. She might not realize it but she could actually be ‘passing on vibes of resentment so to speak’. She doesn’t like how they take her husband away and they may feel her ‘resentment’ and ‘resent’ her for not respecting the fact that before she came, he was their son, their brother. You know what I mean? Not only that but she should try to avoid having the relationship built only around her husband. Has she tried calling up her sister in law and asking her to hang out with her? IF her mother in law ever gets sick, does she go herself and volunteer to take her to the doctors? Did she ask her mother in law to teach her how to cook her husband’s favorite recipes? Has she asked them for advice on things? Brought them some gifts? Made them feel that she appreciates them?

- Last but definitely not least, she should also focus on strengthening her relationship with Allah subhanoo Wa’ Tala. The righteous predecessors used to say that our sins not only come between us and Allah, but they affect our relationship with others. One of the salaf said: “If I disobey Allaah, I see that in the attitude of my riding beast and my wife.” The greater her relationship is with Allah, the greater her relationship with her husband will be, inshaAllah.

The final word is for your friend to check out: After the Nikah!, a blog we recently discovered and that we think is very nice and beneficial, Ma’shaAllah.

May Allah ease your friend's situation and bless your friends' marriage!

6 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

MoOn July 29, 2010 at 3:46 PM  

I loved what you just adviced the lady mashallah. Em as a married woman i've something simple to add. Men can behave in a funny way sometimes, they can be like little ones,when they sense your tension and frustration,they behave in a worse manne (misbehave-sorry for the words lol). now dear i want you to practice for the time your hubby isnt there how you'd meet him with a smile and passion and that whatever he decides to do for the weekend pleases you deeply,dont pretend,coz he'll sense.try as much as possible to make it sincere.↲ don't nag,nor complain, and whenever you'r alone mention something sweet about your in-lows,whether food u ate,or a dress his sister wore

MoOn July 29, 2010 at 3:53 PM  

sister you'll need to be very patient for the changes to happen. Men would tolerate anything except what can touch his family.↲Now whenever you are at his parents, keep a sweet smile on your face and flatter them with simple words,plus if you can make a simple dessert and take it to your inlaws. Your husband will admire it and inshallah you will win your in laws. Inshallah give this some time and be patient and remember dua and it will work out the way you like it inshallah x

MoOn July 29, 2010 at 4:14 PM  

I am going on and on about this lool. Whenever you ask your husband to spend time alone,dont do it in a tone that shows you are blaming him. Always flatter him,tell him that you appreciate and thank him for all the hard work, do this all the time sincerely,remember your tone and sincerety can be sensed if they are fake. Men are quiet but they love being encouraged and being shown appreciation. And then you can pretend you have an idea if he'd like it. Going for a walk for few minutes for example. Dont ask for a lot to start with. When this happens thank him hundred times and show him that you appreciated this short picnic. May Allah grant you happiness

ishqia July 30, 2010 at 5:55 AM  

May Allah give u a happy married life. and in order to get one you should seek one.. so make lot and lot of dua. expect the least from your husband and try to give him more and try to please him with what he likes.

if he is addicted to video games.. u also play along with him...

he wants you to wear hijab... take a step and do it, to please him and to please Allah

Make food which he likes, and be cheery around him...

never decline him of physical relationship... cause sometimes if there is lack of physical relationship it might put a negative effect on your marraige..

send him emails and msgs, express your love in ways u can..

one thing that worked for me ... is just treat him like any other csn u might be meeting over the weekend.. trying to be the best host ever.. and expecting the least..

inshallah if you make effort you will win him over...

u often find stuff online like 60 ways to keep your wife happy or 60 ways to keep your hub happy..

i found one which said 60 ways to keep your wife happy... so i emailed it to my hub... and it was amazing that even he mailed me back 60 ways to keep your hub happy...

you are now aware of his routine that he likes to spend so much time with his family.. try to be cool with it and dont make it much of an issue..

the formula is if u feel he ignores you.. ignore him in the same way... not it a way it will break your relationship... it will just help you feel better.. stop treating him as so special.. just treat him the way he treats you..

dont take my last comment negative.. what i mean is just be normal.. dont argue back or keep complaining.. do things to please him and his family..

and inshallah pray that you be blessed with kids, because it will strengthen the love in your hearts for each other..

men usually dont like to express much of emotions..

i just hope everything works out for you...

Little Auntie July 30, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

Moon smile and ishqia, I really appreciate your input! Seroiusly, Jazakun Allah koli khair! I myself am mentally writing down your words of advice for when I get married, inshaAllah. <3 InshaAllah the sister will convey your messages to her friend.

The best part about your comments is your sincerity in helping your sister in Islam and trying to help her 'fix' her marriage. <3 Ma'shaAllah. Love 'em!! Baraka Allah feekum,

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Asalamu aialkum!
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