My husband told me about an article that he stumbled across, which was written by a happy newlywed. She shared her insights about what she learned after experiencing her first year of marriage. This got me thinking – if she learned all that in 12 months then what have I learned in 12 years?!
There is so much to say but I will try to mention the lessons that are universal. AlhamduliLlah our marriage is still a work in progress, but I pray that my personal stories will help others InshaAllah.
Marriage Lesson: He doesn’t have to be my clone. In fact, it’s better that he is not!
My husband and I are complete opposites.
He is British and I am American. He is a white convert and I was born into a brown, Muslim family. He is a quiet, introvert and I am an outgoing, extrovert. He is more logical and I am more emotional. He is from generation X and I am a millennial. His love language is definitely not the same as mine.
You get the point. We are culturally, intellectually, emotionally, experientially, and psychologically different.
Differences can create an initial attraction to someone because of the mystery involved, but when conflict happens, that appeal can go out the window.
For example, in conflict my husband would become quiet, withdrawn, and more inwardly focused whereas I wanted to say everything on my mind, hold hands, emotionally connect, and hear his side. In order to feel fulfilled, I expected him to react the same way that I did. I couldn’t initially see the fruits of his way.
It took some time to troubleshoot this issue, but we eventually got to a place where we both worked towards seeing the strengths in each other’s differences. Yes, he is more reflective, but his logical insights help me to gain a more balanced perspective on issues. I have learned to appreciate this side of him over time, and now I openly welcome it.
My husband would say the same for me. At first he found it difficult to look at life through an emotional lens, but now he highly values my emotional insight, especially when it comes to dealing with people and relationships.
With each day that passed, we learned to view each other’s differences in a positive light and avoid wasting our energy on trying to change each other. He doesn’t have to be my twin, and I am happy that he is not because it helps us to grow as people, see our blind spots, and strengthen our weaknesses.
Marriage Lesson: Needs don’t get met unless you ask for them, and it’s not only about the words you use, but how you say it too.
I meet women in my coaching practice who expect their husbands to just ‘know’ what they need. Their supporting argument is built around the idea that they have been together long enough, or they’ve told him so many times, or they’ve found that he is not receptive even when told.
Yet, when journeying into these marriages, I have found that we can sometimes think that we are expressing our needs clearly, but we really are not. It could be that we want our spouses to decode what we need from the complaints that we utter or the frowns on our faces, but sorry to say, this is not the way adult relationships work! Yes, tone of voice and body language can indicate approval or disapproval, but they cannot EXPLAIN what the need is and how it can be met.
I learned that I must clearly state my need and with compassion. It is not just the words that I use that matters, but how I say it too. I go into the details of this in the book ‘Say It With Love: Communicate, Connect, & Cure Conflict,’ along with wife bloopers and personal accounts from my marriage.
The upshot is that communicating effectively is a process that can be learned and implemented. By changing the way that I asked for things, my husband heard me better and would feel more motivated to follow through with what I wanted.
To my delight, he also learned from my style over the years and has become more vocal about his needs in a way that I can hear him. However, it took me doing it FIRST (and practicing it a hundred times over) for him to recognize the benefit in effective communication tactics.
Marriage Lesson: I am responsible for my own happiness and he is responsible for his.
Wow, I wish I could stamp this one on my forehead so that I never forget it. What I have found is that my happiness plays a HUGE role in my husband’s moods.
When I am upset, he feels uneasy. When I am stressed out, he feels like he is walking on eggshells. When I am busied in my thoughts, he feels ignored.
Yet, when I am my cheerful, normal self, he is comfortable, confident, and happy too. The home life is calm and serene, and a place where we both feel secure and loved. We are both present with each other and able to connect.
As spouses, we feed off of each other’s positive energy. Yet, it is important to note that no one can make you happy; rather, happiness is a blessing that Allah Most High creates in each person’s heart.
This means that I have to take responsibility for cultivating my own happiness and my husband has to take responsibility for nourishing his. We can help and inspire each other along the way, but we cannot burden each other with the work.
It is not realistic to expect another person to fill your emotional and spiritual holes. Our husbands have their own problems and stresses, and if we burden them with ours to an extent that it stresses them out, then we are setting ourselves up for relationship failure. Each human only has a limited capacity to bear so much of another person’s problems. Spouses are there for additional support, not daily round-the-clock emergency support.
I accept that I am responsible for my happiness, which means that I must discover what makes me unhappy and how to fix it.
My biggest mood changer is when I take on too much. My remedies are to prioritize better, have clear limits of what I can do for myself or others, learn how to politely say no, and fit in relaxation time.
I still make mistakes in this area, but because I understand how I operate, I am quicker at noticing the warning signs when they appear. I know that when my ship starts sinking, it is time to throw things off deck and focus on what’s truly important to me. Only I can choose to do that and not my husband.
In summary, my marriage is my biggest self-improvement project. It teaches me to practice every single relationship and life skill that I have ever learned. It may not always be easy, but from my experience, it is definitely worth it.
© Muslima Coaching, 2019.