Wa ‘Alaykum As-Salam,
I am so sorry to hear this story. It seems in recent years we are hearing more and more about such turn of events and betrayals in relationships, causing marital pain and suffering of families. Islam is such a beautiful faith and an extraordinary path that if followed with a healthy spiritual intention, it will bring the seeker to higher levels of understanding about the relationship with himself/herself, with Allah, the Universe, our Earth and humanity. It is a path that empowers us to move on our own insecurities and our ego identities toward harmony and cooperation with the nature, Allah, and our fellow human beings.
Indeed, in recent years a “new Islam” seems to be emerging that is counter to the goodness that Islam, the path of peace represents. Much like Christians in the West, who were not able to understand the dangerous militant/cult groups that purported to be motivated by a new brand of fundamentalist Christianity; most Muslims are not able to understand or relate to the brand of Islam that preaches separatism and militant terror. These groups not only affect human society on a large scale but the families whose family member or whose friend is caught up in the snares of these paths. They are afraid for what the person is becoming and confused as to what they can do to help themselves and their loved one. Falling into the snares of radical groups with ideologies of separatism and militant agendas is much like falling into the snare of a cult.
For several years now, I have been talking about how we must adjust to a world that is changing at an exponential rate. With that said many people are having difficulty making the adjustments and there is a tremendous amount of fear, both realistic and unfounded, that causes many human beings on our planet to become quite overwhelmed and disoriented about whom they are and what they represent. This is happening to many human beings at this time, and often in the mist of such chaos, humans turn to something which seems to represent order and structure to stop the exponential rate of change and to defend certain cherished principles and values. This is a fear-based behavior which is unfortunately unconscious and has a tendency to make things worse and not better.
Combine these issues with low self-esteem, injured narcissism, and paranoid tendencies in a man and you will have a very troubled and possibly dangerous man, indeed. We are living in a time where men cannot simply go from living with their families to providing and protecting a wife and family. As you have experienced, this model is no longer supported as it was just one generation ago and we, as a society, including our men, really don’t know where to turn to get a sense of “normalcy”. Many of our men are moving back into the homes of their aging parents in order to find some financial respite as they work hard to gain marketable skills in a world where what is “marketable” keeps changing. There aren’t clear lines for men’s work and women’s work, so if a person relies heavily on gender roles for a sense of self identity and value, this person will likely suffer from some level of insecurity, low self-esteem, and narcissism.
There is much debate about whether we are evolving or devolving, and the outcomes will likely not be in for a few more generations. But one thing is certain: society is rapidly changing and many people are having difficulty adjusting to these changes. Many men are struggling with gender role and gender identity issues and doubt their own manhood. We are living in an age where we must change it up to where we are measuring a person’s worth by their character, integrity, and morality, which are inner evidences and not tangible. We are living in a world where crimes are taking over, governments are corrupt, and social morality is sadly lacking in dangerous proportions. All of this fuels the fire of cults and radicalized militant type groups regardless if these groups operate in the name of Christianity, Islam, or any other “named faith”. It is possible that your husband has found a group of men where he feels he can express his “manhood” by joining a radicalized group of men.
Your husband’s behavior of talking to other women and seeking out their attentions is not very “Islamic” in the sense that most Muslims would consider. This kind of behavior is also a result of poor self-esteem and a man questioning his own manhood. The degree of the issues that your husband is suffering from appears to be severe. It is likely that you cannot, nor should you try to change him as that would position you to become a target of his projections of what is causing him distress. You could become a target of violence as well. It would be wiser for you to seek out counseling in your community where you can begin developing a support group for yourself and to develop a network system so that you have a safe way out of this situation if it does not get better.
Meanwhile, if it is safe to do so, you can attempt to open up the dialogue with this person and ask him if something is bothering him. You can suggest counseling for both of you. It is unlikely that he will be interested in counseling, but it is worth a try. It may be a better thing for you to take a few steps back, detach emotionally from this person, and develop a strategy to use to ensure that you are taking care of yourself emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically.
I doubt that you are going to have this person as a “life partner” or someone who “has your back” with mutual goals, mutual respect, and healthy love. Whether you choose to remain in the marriage or to find a safe place in life for yourself, you will have to make some decisions for yourself, and you are on your own for the time being. This is why I recommend that you find a support system, get counseling for yourself, and take care of yourself while taking your focus on what this person is doing or trying to get any of your own needs met by him. This is most certainly not ideal. In fact, it is sad and I am feeling sad about this also; however, it is real and we are in such a state within our global human social system that many women are being forced with this reality. We must first survive and then hopefully thrive. To do that, we must make healthy choices for ourselves and for our future families.
With that said if you choose to separate, consider having an imam who can talk to him and help you to make safe arrangements. This way, he will not be able to physically hurt you. Take the time to put together your support system so that you have your emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical needs met. Call your friends and your family and connect with the community groups that you feel comfortable with. Make sure that you have a plan in place before you attempt to leave and before you say anything to this person. This way, you minimize the risk of being hurt by his bad behaviors.
If after you are separated your husband wants to get counseling, I suggest that you give him a chance. It is possible that he is really confused or is legitimately going through something and he wants to change. If this is the case, then he truly has a lot of work to do that is genuinely his work to do. By giving him this opportunity, you are fairly giving the marriage an opportunity to survive this current turmoil while keeping yourself safe and sane. In cases like this, I have provided separate marital counseling first before ever bringing the two people back together or under the same roof. However, no two stories are alike, and the outcomes are always unpredictable. Some couples resolve their issues, work on themselves, and develop healthy and strong relationships between themselves and with the communities they live in. In other cases, one person in the union continues to grow and become healthier while the other one remains in their original state, leading to divorce. By proceeding in a safe and slow manner, thinking things through and developing your support system, you set the foundation that will provide you with the best chances for success whether that success is defined by saving yourself from a very bad situation or by healing both of you and your marriage.
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