Editor’s note: Interviewing a Muslim husband about what men generally want from their wives, we would like to post more of his answers in this second part of “What Do Men Really Want?” series. Find the interview below and share your input.
What’s the solution when things go bad in a marriage? What brings the man and woman back together?
Well, I would have never said this years ago, but I think it’s just talking through problems. But there must be mutual respect when you’re talking. You have to know you’re not at war with each other.
You have to want reconciliation. You have to want to put your best foot forward. You have to talk it through. And I think that’s the main thing, being able to understand where the other person is coming from. To cut it short, you need to compromise.
Is compromise hard or easy?
No, it’s very difficult. As a man, it’s easier in a way because you can be a “tyrant,” and the woman sort of has to follow you [in the final decision you make]. It’s a very interesting test for men. But the one who is the most powerful and understands and respects his power, he compromises a lot. Because he knows his role as a leader and he knows the power in this role, so there’s no need to come home and act like a tyrant.
But when you want your wife to do something, as a man, what makes you most happy?
That she does it. [Laughs]
And that’s it?
No. It’s nice to sit and explain to your wife certain things so she knows where you’re coming from. That’s the best way. That’s better than coming home and yelling and expecting her to just listen because you said so.
What are some common mistakes women make when they’re trying to get what they want?
Honestly, I have to think about that. But I think what a lot of woman don’t understand is that they own the relationship. And they have to be very patient with it [i.e. this responsibility].
What do you mean?
As we know, for example, statistics show that when a man and a woman have been together for some time and the wife dies, the man is quick to die after that. But if the man dies, the woman can live for many years after that. So, men really need their wives. And if women are just patient, their ways go- at least most of the time.
In history, you see all these famous rulers and their strength come from their wives.
What are some ways women are impatient?
When they don’t understand that point [i.e. that they own the relationship]. They get impatient and frustrated and say and do things to express their frustration. But instead of a woman repeating herself over and over again [when she feels strongly about something], she should understand that, with time, the man often changes his opinion based on what his wife thinks and wants.
Yes, it’s true. Obviously, this is the case.
Well, to many women, it’s not obvious. You have to take a step back and realize this. Right?
You do. But it’s hard because a woman is thinking, “Oh, he’s not going to listen to me because he has all this power and he can do whatever he wants to do.” But no. If he loves you and wants to see you happy, you’re going to have your brown curtains. [We both laugh because I love brown curtains].
Eventually, you’re going to have your strawberries and things like that. That’s just an example. But eventually [if a woman is patient], after some time, the man will be doing exactly what she wants him to do. It’s really funny.
And I think that sometimes women are afraid of this when a man wants to marry another woman. Because they know, the other wife can change him. So [subconsciously] women do understand this point [i.e. how much influence a woman has on a man].
So do you think a woman has the power to really control whether or not a man ever marries another wife?
No. That instinct is too strong. And when I say instinct, I mean in the sense of the urge itself.
But could women influence how plural marriage is done?
Yes, definitely. But a man has an innate instinct that is not nurtured [i.e. his nature is irrelevant to his environment or culture]. And I think this has a lot to do with what Allah says men are supposed to be doing [with regards to caring for women].
What I find interesting in Allah’s creation is that there is a type of bird that builds a house for the female, and she comes and inspects the home, and if she doesn’t like it, she won’t be with this guy. She’ll mate with someone else.
Really? This is a type of bird?
Yes, but I can’t recall the name of it. But the “husband” is working really hard to make this beautiful house for her, and if she likes it, she stays. And they end up having chicks together.[We laugh].
Yes, it’s really interesting.
What are some mistakes men make when trying to get what they want in a marriage?
They try force.
Is using force a male instinct?
It’s definitely a male instinct. For many men, they try to exact power over a situation, especially at work or out in the world. But they don’t realize that they can come home and use gentle methods to convince a woman of what they want. There’s no need to beat your chest and say, “I’m the man. You need to listen to me.”
A real man does that. He understands his strength. And he understands his natural physical prowers over the female. There’s no need to harm her with this. I think a gentle reminder is the whole point of the verse about hittinh. Even if you feel the need to do this, a miswak [a small tooth stick] is the most that should be used. The point is gentleness, even in this last resort. It’s just a reminder, a tap to gently say to her, “Hey, I’m the man here.”
Do you think men really imagine their wives would leave them for another man?
Well, I don’t know. But men don’t even want that possibility.
But I think the real issue is that men don’t understand a woman’s love, like women don’t understand men’s. We just don’t understand it. We see the movies, but this isn’t how life really is. But men don’t even want that problem. They don’t want another man interested in their wife, and I think it’s because, deep down, they know how they are [as men].
Let’s say there’s a woman who’s doing da’wah and she has her picture online [in hijab]?
Well, for men, the first thing they think when they see a woman’s picture is she’s pretty, or not.
That’s true. I think even women do that to other women.
It’s different though for men. Because we can marry them [potentially].
But is it really that deep? I mean, to me, I think, “So what? Okay, she’s pretty, or she’s not.” You move on.
That’s true. For many men, it’s like that too.
But of course, as a man, I have a natural jealousy, especially for my wife. But for me, I look at the Qur’an and Sunnah, and if I don’t find anything there that would make her actions wrong, I don’t think of my jealousy beyond that. It’s just a natural feeling you deal with in life. The point is we shouldn’t go to extremes.
I also think of the example I saw in my father and how he treated my mother. In my upbringing, I never saw my father hold my mother back because of his jealousy.
So, do you think men’s being overly protective comes from women’s actions?
No, not necessarily. Because she can be totally fine and not have done anything, ever, and he is still like this. But we know that, naturally, women are somewhat vain, right?
Yes, definitely. If a woman chooses a picture of herself to share online, she’s going to choose the best one. She wants to look her best.
So I think men are thinking they don’t want her to have a lot of exposure and get caught up in that [i.e. her vanity]. And sometimes our protection can go overboard and become oppression. But a good man doesn’t necessarily want that. He wants to look out for what’s best. He cares about his wife’s safety and honor, and he wants to protect that.
Many women complain that men don’t want them to have any sort of exposure [i.e. being active in the Muslim community, working on projects, etc.] but that’s how they met.
And the men [who keep women from it] didn’t like it from the start, at least not for their wife. But they liked what they saw and went after it. And the men think, “Well, now you’re mine, so we don’t need that anymore.”[We both laugh].
And they’re thinking, “Now other men are going to try to get you, but you’re all mine now.”
But that sort of thinking [by men] contradicts initiating the relationship.
What advice do you have for men and women in marriage?
Prayer. Build your life around prayer.
First published: March 2013