In this counseling answer:
• When it came to anger, we were advised to control ourselves and it is better to be quiet than speak harsh words.
• Cultural expectations and nuances around respect are different and the only way to reconcile this is to have clear and respectful communication.
• Take the time to explain that you want his mother or another mediator to help both of you communicate without hurting the other’s feelings.
• I strongly suggest that you set aside couple time every week.
Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa barakatu Sister,
Thank you for writing and sharing your struggles with us, that is not an easy step to take. It is my understanding you are in a multicultural marriage during the first year of living together, arguably one of the more difficult years of marriage. While adapting to life together and blending cultures, you are also pregnant. You noted an increasing amount of arguments and an inability to communicate as a team.
Sister, the good news first, inshallah this is a phase you and your husband can work through together and come out of it more bonded. The first year of marriage is a period of change that requires compromise on both sides, patience and a lot of mercy. No matter how much we love someone, when you are learning to live together you will disagree with them sometimes or notice habits you perform differently.
Sometimes, the smallest of things such as how the towels are folded will feel so frustrating because they see it as one of many things changing. A multicultural marriage during the first year while pregnant, oh Sister, please understand this is normal to have misunderstandings and conflict.
Takes Two to Argue
We want to work towards healthy communication, which is impossible when it is heated. No matter how right you think you are, and you might be when things escalate to the point of arguing you should shut it down. Your husband will thank you in the future. Remember the advice of the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) when it came to anger, we were advised to control ourselves and it is better to be quiet than speak harsh words.
Be aware of your body language, you don’t want to be squaring off challenging him when upset nor do you want to be cowering and enabling. Turn your body sideways to his with your hand resting on top of your pregnant belly, look him in the eyes and say in a kind manner something such as “I care more about you than this argument, we can discuss this when we are both calm, I love you” then be quiet.
You are visually cueing him about your baby, which is important as stress is not healthy for the baby. If you lower your tone of voice and disengage as an accusatory party, then he is more likely to calm down himself.
“The strong man is not one who is good at wrestling, but the strong man is one who controls himself in a fit of rage”. [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
An important skill in marriage is to see your spouse’s perspective. You mention your husband gives you the silent treatment and refuses to talk things out. He has two extremes, one is to completely shut down and the other is to be accusatory. While this is not healthy, imagine that your husband is being silent because he feels being silent is kinder to his wife than continuing to yell?
Please understand I am not saying his actions are correct, just that the better you understand his intentions the better you understand his heart and how to help him change this negative behavior.
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You mentioned he feels disrespected. Cultural expectations and nuances around respect are different and the only way to reconcile this is to have clear and respectful communication. Ask him clearly, what sort of expressions or actions make him feel disrespected and why then tell him what makes you feel disrespected. This is a prime opportunity to express why it hurts you when he gives the silent treatment.
You stated that your husband said you were cold and distant after pregnancy. Perhaps he was trying to reach out to you, asking for more affection and close conversation. Validating your husband’s emotions will go a long way in getting him to validate yours. Let him know that you hear him and are sorry if he ever felt you were distant. Ask him what he needs and don’t be shy to explain to him how your pregnancy makes you feel and all the thoughts you struggle with.
Your husband may have taken it offensively when you wanted to contact his mother, as though you are telling on him. Take the time to explain that you want his mother or another mediator to help both of you communicate without hurting the other’s feelings. Make sure he understands it is not about blame; it is about healing. Then approach the topic of asking his mother or possibly an Islamic marriage counselor to be a mediator for both of you.
Many factors go into the success of a marriage, but communication skills or a lack thereof can make or break a bond. To begin with, practice active listening with your husband and ask him to do the same. Active listening looks like putting down technology, looking him in the face, listening with the intention to understand not to respond. The goal is not to win the conversation, but to better understand one another and seek resolution.
Occasionally repeat back to your husband summaries of what he is expressing and ask him to do the same. This is to make sure you are both understanding one another.
Use I-statements not accusatory statements, such as “I felt rejected and that my feelings didn’t matter when I was left all alone crying” instead of “you made me cry and feel rejected when you walked away”.
Touch his hand while talking or put your arm around him dependent on what is comfortable. That physical affection validates to him your intent is a loving one. Ideally, he will learn to be more vulnerable by seeing you set the example.
Make your needs known and clear. If you have certain expectations or needs from your husband, let him know what they are so he is fully aware.
I strongly suggest that you set aside couple time every week. A time when you talk, cuddle, play a game, cook a meal together or anything else that both of you enjoy. Make it a priority, not something you passively do once a month but put it on the calendar for every Saturday evening or whenever is convenient. Remember, you are both still learning about each other. During this period before the baby arrives, use your time wisely because once he/she are born inshallah you will both be tired and busier.
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between [you] affection and mercy. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [Quran 30:21]
Sister, inshallah you and your husband will grow in your communication skills and understanding of one another as time passes. This is an emotionally charged period of your marriage that requires patience, but in time things will improve inshallah. Work on effective communication with your husband, worship together and set aside time for both of you to enjoy each other.
May Allah (most gloried, most revered) grant you both patience, understanding and mercy. May Allah (SWT) make your pregnancy a healthy one.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.