Many problems that appear to be very monstrous in the beginning of a marriage, automatically get sorted out with time and the winds of change.
“Such a lovely couple!”
“Her face is glowing, Masha’ Allah.”
“They look so good together …”
“I love her henna and jewelry.”
Such comments are commonly heard at the walimah receptions of most Muslim weddings, as guests heartily congratulate the couple and give them dua’s, and matronly ‘aunties’ nudge each other while casting furtive glances at the bride to gauge how ‘happy’ she is.
Scratch the surface under the toothy smiles, flashing cameras, coordinated designer bridal wear, carefully administered makeup, glittering chandelier lights, and exquisite flower wreaths, and there could be traces of fear and apprehension in the fluttering hearts and minds of the bride and groom:
“Will my marriage work? Will we be compatible? My spouse and in-laws have been angelic towards me throughout this wedding week, but what if they change afterwards? What if we start having big problems? What if …?”
Skeletons in Closets
Before their own marriage, almost every bride and groom has heard “urban legend”-style horror stories about other people’s marriages that went awry before hitting the first-year mark, or those that crumbled as soon as the skeletons hiding inside closets emerged, rather clatteringly, after these marriages were convened.
Here are a few examples of such ‘skeletons’:
A presumably ‘bachelor’ (never married before) husband who is discovered to have been married before in the past, if only on paper, to a foreign woman, so that he could immigrate abroad.
A wife who turns out to be so babyishly immature that she starts cribbing and whining about little things right from the start of the wedding night.
A husband whose obsessive, clingy ex-girlfriend is still stalking him, online and on his phone.
A wife who is unable to conceive because she has fertility issues.
A husband who is a closeted smoker or social drinker.
A wife who cannot even fry an egg.
Let’s not even discuss any real-life examples about the in-laws’ overbearing behavior right after the wedding that can send newlyweds into a speechless, dazed state of shock. I think we all know too well what that can be like.
When a skeleton comes dangling out of the closet unexpectedly for a newlywed, it is not surprising for them to suffer the combined effect of shock, anger and disappointment.
However, because a young newlywed man or woman lacks life experience, and because they usually enter their marriage harboring unnaturally high expectations about it, they might mistakenly jump to extreme conclusions regarding the seriousness of the nature of the newly discovered negative aspect/secret regarding their spouse, and make the worst mistake anyone in their position could make: impulsively blab to their parent(s) about it.
Little do they know that their naive decision to offload their apprehensions regarding their newfound, shocking discovery to their parent(s) is the biggest blow they can give to their fledgling marriage.
As they say: hook, line and sinker.
Disparity in Deen
We all say that we believe, as Muslims, in Allah’s preordained decree (qadar), which is part of our creed (aqeedah). As I grow older, I can’t help but be amazed at the absolute truth of our Islamic belief in preordainment, through my personal experience of having little control over my own fate, or that of my children.
At some point in our lives, each one of us is hit with the realization of how little we actually control about our own selves: when such circumstances happen that prove to us that, despite our having everything needed to acquire a certain blessing, we are still unable to get it. At that point, each one of us feels, humbly, the absolute power of Allah as the Controller of all affairs, and our own absolute helplessness before His Majesty!
The same applies to marriages of our children. During their early childhood, because children are so young, helpless, and dependent, sometimes their busy parents can lose sight of the fact that it is Allah, not they, who is rearing and providing for these children.
The parents – who appear to be their children’s providers and nurturers – are merely the human ‘tools’ or means in the hands of Allah that He is using for enforcing His decree upon their children.
Parents whose belief in Allah is weak, might end up thinking that they are the ones calling the shots, and controlling every aspect of their children’s lives, including marriage. This becomes obvious in their highhanded and nitpicking behavior when they set out to seek a spouse for their adult son or daughter.
One of the most awkward and difficult parental pressures that a young Muslim must therefore endure when they reach marriageable age, is to have their parents insist that they marry someone who is much more, or much less, religiously practicing than them.
On the one hand, parents cannot be angered, disobeyed in ma’ruf matters, or rebuked. On the other hand, it is absolutely horrifying for a young person to consider marrying someone who is on a very different page than them as far as the practice of Islam is concerned.
Even though a mismatch on this basis is a clear recipe for marital disaster, sometimes, the situation becomes so intense and complicated due to other factors and social obligations, that such a marriage does end up taking place, albeit grudgingly and reluctantly for all the parties involved.
What is a newlywed bride or groom to do then?
Patient Optimism vs. Reactive Rashness
What young newlyweds who are having marital apprehensions need to recall, first and foremost, is that it was the decree of Allah at work when they got married to the person who is now their spouse, whatever he or she is like.
They should therefore try not to blame their parents or other people/factors for their marriage problems, but to approach the latter with a calm, mature, unrushed and wise state of mind.
Many problems that appear to be very monstrous in the beginning of a marriage, automatically get sorted out with time and the winds of change that it brings. However, younger people are unaware of this, and therefore tend to jump the gun over trivial issues:
“Oh my God! I found an ashtray with cigarette butts in his bedside drawer! Mom, HE SMOKES! Have I married a smoker?”
“She slept in till noon again. How will she raise kids with such ‘diva’ behavior?”
“He wants me to take a bath with him. What a pervert!”
“I found some male names in her contacts list. I wonder who they are?”
“He used curse words while driving…. maybe he is an abusive man? I should Google this.”
“She can’t even make rice! I’m so bummed.”
The best advice I can give to newlyweds who are getting depressed in the anticlimax of practical married life and its teething problems that follows the superficial, glitzy wedding ceremony, is to remain patient and abstain from jumping to impulsive conclusions and making disparaging comments about their spouse for the first few years, especially in front of others.
The weaning off of one’s emotional attachment to one’s biological family, and the strengthening of the marital bond with one’s spouse takes time; there is no quick-fix shortcut to it.
In the meantime, they should enjoy their youth, energy, lack of responsibilities, and free time to engage in enjoyable pursuits that they won’t be able to avail later on in life.
Turn to Allah
Besides remaining patient, harboring good expectations for the future, being polite, and restraining their tongues during the early months and years of marriage, newlyweds who encounter disappointing if not shocking behavior and actions from their spouses should turn to Allah in their dua’s, recalling that it was He who chose this person to be their conjugal and marital partner.
Allah doesn’t dole out blemish-free finished products to us in life, ready for us to consume. Instead, He gives us the raw material and wants us to work hard at turning it into a picture-perfect specimen, with His help.
Ashtrays, television sets, dirty socks, failed recipes, dirty diapers, small apartments, mildewed furniture, and undone laundry all fade away into the sands of time.
What remains is the long-lasting good that each spouse brings out in the other; the good that lies undiscovered under the seemingly off-putting imperfections at the surface, waiting to be tapped into with love.