Harmonious Home: A Guide to Spousal Serenity

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society Topics: Marriage Values: Contentment Views: 8880
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One question has been explored by every outlet imaginable and every social circle: "What is the secret to a successful marriage?" With the increasing divorce rate in the U.S. stretching beyond 50 percent, and above 30 percent among North American Muslim communities, the question is more than relevant.

In light of this, three married couples- all having more than seven decades of marriage merit under their belts-discussed their secrets, methods and advice on the key to cultivating felicitous families at the ISNA Convention.

RELIGIOSITY IN THE RELATIONSHIP

"Religion is a factor in my own marriage. When you're in a marriage, especially an intercultural marriage, there has to be something that pulls you together," says ISNA president Imam Mohamed Magid. Magid, a Sudanese Muslim American, took part in the convention panel with his wife, Aamarah DeCuir, a Native American.

There are two essential factors to incorporating religiosity in a marriage, according to Magid. The first is the establishing of rituals in the home. This includes prayer, thikr or remembrance of God, and a constant reference to Islamic values. The second is establishing a sense of belonging to the Muslim community. Magid believes that these are the primary factors to fertilize a spiritual growth for the married couple with which they can create a sense of harmony.

Catapulting from Magid's point, Dr. Iqbal Unus, headquarters director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and devoted husband for more than 40 years, chimed in with his own thoughts. "You have to create a culture of faith in the home, maintaining an overall perception that everything you do is Islamic."

Implementing Islam is one of the key ingredients for a successful marriage, according to Humaira Basith. "When we began our married life, we decided that whatever big decision we made in our marriage would be an Islamic decision. Not an Indian decision or a Mexican decision." Basith, married to Edmund Arroyo for more than a decade, emphasized the role of religion in her own intercultural marriage. "We made a distinction between culture and religion," Basith says.

Each couple reflected on their own marriage and came to the ultimate conclusion that marriage and religion are interwoven. Like all other aspects of the Muslim way of life, Islamic values are not entities unto themselves but tied tightly to daily life and even the smallest gestures, according to the couples.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Any sociologist or psychiatrist expert will say the key to any successful relationship is developing communication. Marriage is no exception. Knowing how to speak, how to let others speak, and knowing when not to speak are the fundamentals for establishing positive communication with your spouse. Seemingly simple, these basics are often overlooked by married couples. Dr. Altaf Hussain says communication is the top problem among married couples.

Where does the communication begin to fall apart? Arroyo says it all begins with a lack of listening skills by each spouse. "I train couples to learn to listen properly," says Arroyo, founder of Heartspeak Institute, a company that focuses on family and marriage counseling. "You're not trying to find holes in what the person is saying but really listening to try and understand what they're saying, especially about a difficult topic."

Experts agree with Arroyo, listening to others while being devoid of an agenda or motive is essential. Many couples focus on clinging to singular statements or exclamations that will eradicate their responsibility or serve as justification for begrudging the other person. Arroyo explained that this is both unfair and unproductive. Listening wholly with full context is the only way to understand what it is your spouse is trying to communicate.

Acknowledging purpose is another important part of communicating, according to Unus. "Communication has to be very natural and must come from the feeling that you need to connect with this person," he says.

Communication professionals agree that, increasingly among couples, what takes place is negative communication circles. The proprietary form of communication is one person blaming the other or waiting for a reason to angrily express how they feel. This causes the other spouse to become defensive and retaliate reflexively. Conclusively they create a never ending circle of negativity where no one is heard and both are hurt.

The marriage experts believe to avoid these problems and to establish a more harmonious way to express what they're feeling, couples should adhere to the following tips:

Make sure the person you're talking to is ready to hear what you're saying

In the heat of the moment, anger overshadows any real absorption of what you're trying to say. Wait until you're both collected and prepared to listen.

Don't assume your spouse is a mind reader

One of the most common mistakes couples make is assuming the other automatically knows what they want, need, or expect with- out ever expressing it directly.

Stay on track

When you agree to sit and discuss one specific problem, don't use this as an opportunity to dive into other emotional issues or to criticize mistakes of the past. Focus on one problem at a time and with sensitivity.

Don't generalize

Once your spouse makes a mistake it does not give you precedence to brand them with that mistake for the entirety of your marriage. Specify what's troubling you in that particular moment and avoid hurtfully pointing out a list of past blunders.

Keep talking.

Once an issue is resolved and things are alright again doesn't mean conversations should desist. Having a frequent flow of pleasant exchanges can enhance your mutual respect as well as reassure your spouse of your affection towards them.

HANDLING EXPECTATIONS

Two types of expectations can lead to creating a disconnecting and conflicting marriage. In a marriage, according to Magid, couples must contend with hidden as well as external expectations. "The person has to adapt to the limitations of their spouse," says Magid. "In return, spouses must also exert their maximum effort within their capacity."

He adds, "What brings tension to a marriage is having extreme expectations."

Oftentimes, couples, before marrying, conceal hidden expectations like the husband who expects his wife-to-be to wear hijab after they marry. Or the wife who convinces herself that she will make her husband start praying once they are married. This is a dangerous way of thinking when beginning a marriage, according to Magid. "You have to develop a 'what you see is what you get,' kind of attitude."

Battling another bout of outside factors that can harm a marriage are external expectations. This is where the issue of handling in-laws presents itself. Arroyo believes there is an important recognition to be sought not only by the spouses themselves, but their older counterparts. "A concept I want everyone to remember is the concept of different versus deficient. Just because someone does something differently, doesn't mean it's incorrect or deficient."

He further explained that realizing that everyone is an individual with their own way of doing things and developing routines can be different from what the other is accustomed to, but this does not mean their way is inherently wrong.

Aamarah DeCuir, organizer of the ISNA Matrimonial banquets and wife to Imam Magid, has her own methods for making in-laws less of a problem. "The most important thing for me that I've learned about in-laws, is having knowledge. Take the time to learn the manners and etiquette of your in-laws." She explained that knowing more about the family and their customs beforehand can help establish an appreciation for your effort to learn. Speaking to in-laws themselves, DeCuir pointed out that they need to create a leeway for that spouse to make mistakes.

Most couples view their parents as a SWAT team, waiting by the phone for their back-up call. Ready to tear down the door and rush to their child's defense, leaving the spouse outnumbered and defeated. Experts, as well as Magid, agree couples need a new outlook. "If your spouse does something you don't like, don't call your family to complain so they can take your side," Magid says.

Similarly, looking at one's in-laws as some obligatory acquaintance met with groans and plastered smiles is also a mistake. "One of the golden rules of a marriage is to have a relationship with your in-laws independent of your spouse," said Magid. "You have to have the ability to pick up the phone and start a conversation and not because your spouse is sitting there beside you."

*****

Source: Islamic Horizons


  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society
  Topics: Marriage  Values: Contentment
Views: 8880

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Older Comments:
SHAMMY FROM QATAR said:
An inteesting article indeed. marriages r easily breaking these days. a premarital counselling should b advised to every youth who r going to marry. it wl b nice if some article about this type of counselling is published. may Allah reward those who r behind this.
2011-10-06

SANUSI FROM NIGERIA said:
This article is very interesting and is sufficient enough for both the married and the youth in keeping their marriage and having a blissed joy throughout their marriage life.
2011-09-22

JAMAL FROM USA said:
It's an extremely imformative article and a blessing! I think it's content should be
duplicated around the nation of Muslims in America!
2011-09-20

NAFISAT FROM MALAYSIA said:
This article is very interested, I like it.
2011-09-17

ALIYE FROM CHINA said:
I like it ...
2011-09-15

GARY FROM UNITED STATES said:
This is a wonderful article on coexisting within marriage. I wish it was expanded somewhat for it did touch on many issues that couples should be aware of in marriage
2011-09-14