Assalamu Alaikum Aunty Anjum,
Please give some advice as guidance for newly weds during the first couple of years of marriage.
Now that the wedding is over and all the excitement and planning for the big day, events and dinners are long gone, you must be settling in with the routine and with getting to know your spouse, as well as each others’ families. The first year is no doubt challenging as you have to adjust to new people and new situations. Your life will take a new turn. People will look at you differently and treat you differently.
You must know that it’s in this year that most arguments take place between a couple. It’s not easy in the beginning to share your life, your space, and everything else with someone new at all times. It’s different with family. Even though a family is dependent on each other, they are still independent. Just like the solar system; all planets are close to each other in one system but they are in their own orbits. With a spouse, it’s more like a satellite. One revolves around the other.
“Dress how you want to be addressed.” –Bianca Frazier
It would perhaps sound cliché mentioning the same old advice about grooming yourself and looking good for your spouse. But its importance cannot be emphasized enough. Cleanliness and grooming are part of our religion and it is the right of your spouse that you dress up for him/ her. No more rags, no more ugly PJs. The couple (yes, the husband too) needs to wear clothing that makes them look appealing to each other.
“The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life.” –David F. Jakielo
The most important person for you should be your spouse. You are a team and no one should be a third wheel. Not your family, not your spouse’s family and not even your friends. Don’t take your spouse for granted that he or she will always understand when you choose someone else over them. (This is regarding relationships with humans, and excludes your relationship with Allah ﷻ obviously comes above anyone else). Men should know that their wives have rights over them, so they can’t just keep her waiting alone while they go on and spend all their free time with friends like they did before marriage. The same advice goes for women who keep running off to their parents’ house all the time without considering their husband’s needs. While making decisions, consult each other, especially if it affects your spouse.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” –Laurence Sterne
It’s important in any relationship to respect the person, his opinions and his decisions. Some women often make the mistake of praising their parents too much and not giving their husbands the respect they deserve. For example, comparing their lifestyle before marriage to that after marriage; “My parents never said no to me” or “bought everything I asked for” or “this didn’t happen in my family”.
The same goes for some men who compare things. For example, “My mother used to cook like that and not like this,” or “In my family, we don’t do this, so you can’t do this”. It’s not okay to show disregard for your spouse, their family or their lifestyle. It’s okay to introduce new things that will benefit everyone but it’s not okay to enter someone’s life and make them feel small. Whether in private or public, show respect to your spouse, their family and their friends. Speak to them with respect always and do not call them names or insult them in any manner. Listening to your spouse is also a form of respect. Do not interrupt when the other is speaking and do not show disregard for their feelings. Even when you disagree on something, do it respectfully.
“Privacy is something that we maintain for the good of ourselves and others.” –Mary Alice Monroe
It’s a bad habit to talk about your spouse to people- things like their daily habits, whether good or bad, and anything in general, especially your intimate life. What happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom. It’s forbidden, anyway, in Islam to reveal such things. If you have any issue or complaint with your spouse, talk to each other and resolve it rather than talk about each other. What happens between you two is your business. Don’t let people interfere in your life. Good advice is always welcome the wrong words will have a bad influence on your mind and will ruin your relationship. It’s better to not let biased opinions influence your marriage. Of course, there may be times when you need advice. At such times, seek counsel of a person who is unrelated and unbiased. A person who understands the deen well and has nothing to gain or lose from your situation will be objective in giving you advice. It’s important to seek help especially when there is any kind of abuse going on in a relationship. Abuse is not just physical (in that case, you MUST NOT remain silent at all,) it can also be emotional. In case of abuse, do not be afraid to talk to someone who can help. In fact, talk to your family immediately if any kind of abuse is going on.
People get jealous, people compare, and people have opinions which might not be appropriate for your situation. For example, one wife prefers to hire a cook rather than cook herself and her friend likes to cook for her husband. There is nothing wrong in either situation, except if one of them is telling the other she is wrong, or that her husband’s way of thinking is wrong.
“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” –Janis Joplin
Earlier it was mentioned how your spouse is your priority. Making your spouse your priority doesn’t make you less important. It does not mean that your personal dreams take a back seat or that you lose your identity. You’re still your own person. You have other relationships that are important to you and you are important to them. You need to keep in touch, and maintain those relationships. People have to respect that your priority is your spouse but they also have a place in your life. It’s all about balance.
For example, a woman is married and her unmarried friends don’t like that she doesn’t spend the same amount of time with them anymore or doesn’t call and chat like before, then they are being unreasonable and need not try to appease them. Once in a while, make time for friends and catch up with them. You need that too. You had a life before marriage and there is no need to erase that completely. Men too need some time off for themselves and should spend time with their parents or chill with their friends. This time spent with friends and family is without the wife. Every once in a while, you should take time off alone to do things on your own.
Women shouldn’t have to give up their jobs or hobbies or friendships for good. Changes will be there, sure, but others will have to accept those changes. Just some adjustments need to be made and remember, not everyone can be pleased at all times. You come first. Self-care is important. Your dreams are important. Don’t bend over your back trying to please everyone just to end up stressing over everything. Give everyone their due, starting with yourself.
“The greatest gift you can give someone is the space to be his or herself without the threat of you leaving.” -Kai Greene
This is an important factor in a marriage. Don’t be in each other’s way all the time. She needs time for her grooming? Give her space. She wants to chat on the phone? Give her time. He wants to read news in the morning? Leave him alone. He takes time in the bathroom? Let him be. He wants to go out with friends? Let him go. She wants to pursue studies? Let her be. She wants to visit mummy every week? Let her go. Respect each other’s space and desire to be alone and to pursue hobbies and activities. Don’t be possessive and jealous and stalk each other. Don’t suffocate and imprison each other.
“Communication is the solvent of all problems and is the foundation for personal development.” –Peter Shepherd
Express your love, affection, gratitude and anything else that needs to be expressed. Appreciate any good your spouse does for you. Say thank you, jazakallah khair, I love you, I adore you, etc. Show it in action as well as say it in words. If you feel anger, express that too, but with respect and with softness. Tell how you feel and tell what you felt bad about. Learn to listen as well when the other is expressing. Don’t assume things and base your opinions on assumptions. Ask. Communicate. Resolve.
“Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none.” –Richard M. DeVos
A lot of arguments happen due to disagreements over finances. If one is a miser and the other a spendthrift, then there will be a lot of conflict. Work as a team, sit and make a budget, and a plan together and be open to compromise on some things. Do this right at the beginning of your marriage.
My personal advice is to wait for sometime after marriage to have kids. You need time to see if you have made the right choice in marrying. You need time to adjust with the situation. You need to spend more time together to understand each other. But this is your choice eventually.
Living with in-laws
“ A mother gives you a life, a mother-in-law gives you her life.” –Amit Kalantri
This is addressed to women as men rarely have to live with the in-laws. The best option is to live separately but whether or not you live with them, you must know some things.
- You’re not obliged to serve them.
- You don’t need their permission to go anywhere.
- They have no right to interfere in every small matter between husband and wife. You have the right to privacy.
- They don’t need to know where you go and what you do.
- You must treat them with kindness and respect. It is their right.
1- Good treatment
Show affection and appreciation whenever you can. Treat them honorably like you’re supposed to treat any other Muslim. Do not forget that Muslims have certain rights over you and your in-laws are Muslims first, before being your in-laws. If they’re not Muslims, then treat them like how you would treat any human.
Respect their privacy just how you would want them to respect yours. Don’t tattle. Don’t go to your family and friends and tell them things about your in-laws, that would be considered backbiting. What should be understood by this statement is that don’t talk about their lives and their business to others. Treat them how you would like to be treated.
If you feel like going beyond your rights and doing something for them, go ahead. Cook or buy something or help with something. If you get along well and they are kind to you, there is no reason why you shouldn’t spend time with them. If they are unkind to you in return to your kindness, don’t do anything that will make you feel ashamed on the Day of Judgement. Mind your words and actions as you will be accountable for them. You have the choice to keep your distance to protect yourself. You have the right to stand up for yourself.
Whether you live with the in-laws in the same house or live separately, the key is ‘making boundaries’. When we don’t draw the lines, people don’t know where to stop. People tend to take more than what we give them. Sometimes they might cross boundaries innocently, without realizing that they’re doing it. You need to be verbal about it.
How to make boundaries? First of all, we show people how to treat us. If you respect yourself, people will respect you. When you don’t allow people to do certain things, they will know that it is a boundary. For example, your husband and you have made (or want to make) a routine of spending one day in a week with each other- maybe go out or something- and when the in-laws try to ruin that plan by making plans of their own, you two can be firm about it. You can make up by spending time with the in-laws on some other day to please them.
Boundaries must be set right from the start. This is best done as a team. Husband and wife should always work as a team. Help them when needed but say no to things you don’t like or can’t do. Don’t let anyone intrude in your time or space. Speak up when you feel someone is crossing the boundaries. Express it without getting aggressive or without feeling guilty.
Often people advise you to “bear it with patience”. Patience is a virtue that is loved by Allahﷻ. Jannah is for the patient. The problem is that people think that patience means tolerating oppression. You have to strive to live honorably and speak up against wrong. If, in spite of you trying your best to keep things peaceful, things are still difficult, then you must keep doing the right thing and you must keep trying. This requires patience. There are things you cannot change. So you let them be. This requires patience. For example, you have to spend one day in a week with your in-laws for lunch and you don’t get along that well. But you do this routine for your husband. This requires patience. If your In-laws are not particularly kind to you but you still treat them with kindness- this requires patience.
So, you must understand when to be patient and when to stand up for yourself. For example, your mum-in-law has a habit of taunting you, do not take it quietly. Speak up and express your displeasure at her comment. If she backs off, be normal. If she doesn’t, then walk away and that will let her know that it won’t be tolerated. This is called “being assertive”. Now, where does patience come in here? You will exercise patience by not taunting her back or being rude or unkind. Keeping a lid on your anger will need patience. Not overreacting will need patience. If she gives up her nasty habit, then you must forgive her and this requires patience. If she doesn’t give up being nasty, keep doing the routine of walking away from conflict, but after expressing your displeasure in a dignified manner.
Do tell your family if your in-laws are abusing you and your husband does nothing to stop it. Do tell your family if your husband is also abusing you. This doesn’t come under backbiting. Abuse includes physical assault, as well as verbal. Verbal or psychological abuse cannot be proven as there is no evidence to show, but you will know when it’s happening. This includes saying bad names or nasty things about you or your family. Taunting, cursing, any words that are meant to hurt or bully come under verbal abuse.
Any kind of threat of harm, or make you feel bad about yourself also comes under abuse. There is no need for you to be a doormat and take abuse. Stand up for yourself without fear. You deserve to be treated with respect.
Life is no bed of roses. There will be happiness and sadness alternatively. The same goes for marriage. If you expect a garden, then you must sow the seeds and water the plants. You have to work for it. Respect yourself first and then respect others. Husbands should treat their wives like queens, and wives should treat their husbands like kings. Treat each other, with fairness and equality. Allahﷻ created you as mates for each other so be mates.
And they say, “Our Lord, let our spouses and children be a source of joy for us, and keep us in the forefront of the righteous.” [Al-Qur’an- 25:74]
“And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” [Al-Qur’an- 4:19]
“The best among you is who is best to his family” (Tirmidhi Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3895, Graded: Sahih)
Written by: Aunty Anjum
Edited By: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog
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