“Sunny days, everybody loves them. Tell me, baby, can you stand the rain?”
— song “Can You Stand the Rain?” by New Edition
Happily Ever After?
Just as Hamid was settling into an engaging conversation with friends, his cell phone chimed indicating a text message. Groaning, Hamid reached into his pocket and withdrew the phone. He had prayed Dhuhr with the congregation an hour before and still sat on the carpet of the masjid.
“Is it ok if I drop by Dana’s today?”
At the sight of his wife’s name and message, Hamid felt the warmth of pride in his chest. Though it had been almost four years since he had married Maryam, it was still difficult to believe it was real. Maryam had been the woman all the brothers wanted to marry. She was attractive, intelligent, and religious. Proposal after proposal had been turned down…until she and her father accepted his.
“Sure, baby,” Hamid texted back. As he slid the phone back into his pocket, he couldn’t keep from smiling.
Hamid returned home late that night and was a bit saddened that Maryam was still at her friend’s house. “I’m home, baby,” he texted her as he slid into a chair in front of his computer, deciding to browse online to pass time. “Hope to see you soon.”
He typed in the web address for his email account and started to sign in when he noticed that his email was already logged in. He silently chided himself for forgetting to sign out. As he scrolled through his messages, he saw that there was an unread message from the imam. He creased his forehead in confusion as he clicked on the subject line next to the imam’s name.
Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,
No problem. You are welcome any time. We look forward to seeing you. As always, I am here if you need to talk.
It took a full thirty seconds for Hamid to register the meaning of the email…and that it was not intended for him. Heart racing, he scrolled down and realized that the message was part of an exchange of several messages…between the imam and Maryam.
His heart sank.
But, how did this reply get to his account? It was then that Hamid saw the name at the top of the email screen: Maryam Umm Muhammad. This wasn’t his account after all!
Head throbbing, he read the messages one by one, his shock and hurt allowing him to process only some of them.
Thanks for being such a good listener. I’m sorry for keeping you on the phone so long last night, but Dana told me you wouldn’t mind. Please keep us in your prayers. I swear, I feel like I’m not even married Hamid’s gone so much. MashaAllah, Dana is so lucky to have someone like you.
BarakAllaahufeeki, Maryam. I appreciate the compliment, but I think it’s Hamid who’s the lucky one. But, no need to bring up the past. You chose who’s right for you, so stick with it, okay? May Allah bless you both.
I need to talk to you again today. Sorry for calling you so much. I didn’t realize I kept you on the phone for three hours! But I can’t get even five minutes from Hamid. Maybe it’s better if I just stop by. I’ll bring Muhammad too if that’s okay…
Hamid was trembling when he heard the familiar chime of his phone and glanced reluctantly at the message from his wife.
“Sorry, sweetheart! I’m on my way now. Muhammad fell asleep & I had a hard time waking him. Be home in about 10 minutes isA.”
Hamid threw the phone against the wall, and pushed himself out of the chair. Fuming, he walked over to the front door, where he waited, jaw clenched, for the sound of Maryam’s keys…
What Is Trust Anyway?
The fictional account of Hamid and Maryam is one that is all too common in many homes. Whether it’s the husband or the wife who feels betrayed, the reaction of the heart is almost always the same: But I trusted you!
I’m not a relationship expert, but I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves when we make the grand proclamation that trust is the foundation of a relationship. No, I certainly don’t doubt the critical importance of trust, but before we can gauge how important trust is, we must have an unambiguous idea of what trust is.
Merriam-Webster defines trust as an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Chances are, very few would disagree with this definition. But there are two major problems here: This makes trust neither measurable nor attainable, and its existence depends entirely on something outside human knowledge or control—the heart and mind of another person.
Trust Is Never a Guarantee
“O you who believe, when you deal with each other in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing…”
In both religious and secular life, the necessity of establishing an environment of trust is well-known, and one of the most popular means of establishing such an environment is the written contract. However, in both business and personal matters, establishing an environment of trust is not necessarily a guarantee of trust.
A guarantee of something is solid and unshakable, but an environment must be constantly tended to. By nature, humans forget, err, and sin; so there’s not much we can “guarantee” another person. In fact, there’s not much we can guarantee ourselves. The most we can do is remain committed to not giving ourselves to our inevitable faults and sins.
Struggling to Trust Again? Change Yourself
In his book, Buck Naked Marriage, Corey Allan says,
“Trust is frequently thrown around in marriage as an attempt to control situations and make things ‘safe’ for oneself. We think we must be able to trust our partner, thus freeing us to be ourselves…So is that really about them or me? …But isn’t this statement, ‘We have to work on rebuilding the trust in the marriage,’ really another way of the hurt spouse saying, ‘I want you to make this up to me’? Trust is really more about oneself than it is the other person.” (Cited November 21, 2012 onhttp://www.simplemarriage.net/trust-from-buck-naked-marriage.html).
As difficult as it is to face, the reality is that you cannot control another person; you can only control yourself. Though it is certainly natural to feel hurt and upset when someone you love has been dishonest with you, it is up to you to decide to trust again.
No, this doesn’t mean remaining married to someone who has over and over again—in tangible, unambiguous ways— shown that he or she cannot be trusted. But it does mean that whatever you decide you need to regain trust, it can’t rest entirely in the actions of someone else. Yes, your spouse will need to take responsibility for his or her actions, but, more importantly, you need to take responsibility for yours.
Move On…By Moving On
Imagine part two of the story above: Hamid confronts Maryam, and she realizes her mistake. She apologizes, seeks Allah’s forgiveness, and works day in and day out to reestablish trust in her marriage. But Hamid is unable to move on…no matter what his wife does.
He monitors all of Maryam’s emails and phone calls. And after years of this routine, he finds nothing tangible to validate his suspicions. But, still, he doesn’t trust his wife. So he forbids her from going out. He openly questions every detail of how she spent her day. And in almost every argument, he reminds Maryam of what she did to destroy his trust. Not surprisingly, in the end, Maryam can no longer bear to live with Hamid, so she seeks a divorce.
What then did Hamid gain from putting on wife the entire responsibility of his “regaining trust”?
As Corey Allan alluded to, too often people use a single incident of hurt or betrayal as a means to control their spouse or the relationship itself…until they ultimately destroy the very thing they hoped to rebuild.
Can You Stand the Rain?
If we continue to think of trust in marriage as a guarantee given from one human to another, the idea that trust is the foundation of a relationship can destroy our marriages. This is because a foundation established on a spouse’s guarantee can be destroyed by a single incident. And as the example of Hamid shows, our “justified” blame of the one responsible can lead to mental illness, abuse, and losing someone we love.
Nevertheless, we are not completely off-track when we think of trust as the foundation of a marriage. In fact, we’re not completely wrong to imagine we deserve a guarantee of it also.
But our mistake is in where we look for this guarantee.
How did they stay married so long? What is their secret?
Well, the answer to a lasting marriage is not such a secret after all. Even popular singers know it:
Sunny days, everybody loves them.
Tell me, baby, can you stand the rain?
And you “stand the rain” by placing your trust in a higher power…
“If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation.”
And in these words is the guarantee of a marriage’s firm foundation…if your trust is in the One who revealed them.
First published: February 2014