Short Answer: If you care about others seeing it, then the behavior isn’t really about your husband’s love. Rather, it is about people seeing an image. If this is what you mean by your question, I encourage you to try to change your way of thinking. The most important thing is that your husband loves you – not that his family knows that he does.
Alaykum salaam, sister. Thank you for your question. I can completely understand how it would be distressing if your husband used to behave in an affectionate way in front of others and now he has stopped. Let us tackle this issue from a couple of angles, insha’Allah.
Showing Affection in front of Others
First of all, I want to very clearly state that you are absolutely correct in saying that there is nothing Islamically wrong with showing your spouse affection – even in front of other people! Of course, we want to have decent Islamic behavior, so we wouldn’t kiss passionately in front of others or touch our spouse in an intimate way. However, gestures of affection such as holding hands or light kisses are a different story. I have never been presented with actual Islamic evidence that such things are haraam.
There is a Place for Culture!
However, you do want to keep culture in mind. While it would be unacceptable to promote one’s cultural norms as being the Islamic way, it is important to remember that the Prophet (saw) made allowances for ‘urf, or cultural practices, so long as they do not contradict Islam.
If it is uncommon or unacceptable in your culture for your husband to be affectionate to you in front of others, you might want to give your husband some grace. He may feel uncomfortable, or he may be conscious of making others uncomfortable.
I am from the USA and my husband is from Iraq. When we are with my family, he has no problem putting his arm around me or kissing me lightly, etc. But when we have visited his family, he won’t do more than hold my hand. Though it felt hurtful at first, I quickly realized that it wasn’t because he loves me any less in front of his relatives – but he is being conscious of their feelings, as well! They would be uneasy seeing a couple kissing in front of them. So out of respect for those cultural norms, we alter our behavior.
Respect vs. Treating Well vs. Pampering
You mention a couple of different behaviors that you expect from your husband. I would like to address each of them.
Firstly, respect: always, no matter what, no matter who you are around, your husband should absolutely be treating you with respect. He would always expect you to treat him with respect, and he should be doing the same. Husband and wife being kind and respectful to one another is the Islamic way to go about a marriage, so this should supersede any other cultural norms. If it is normal anywhere in this world for a husband to behave disrespectfully towards his wife, that practice should be abandoned, as it goes against our faith and the example of our beloved Prophet (saw).
Next, treating you well: to me, this is very similar to respect. A husband and wife treating one another well is one way to display your respect (and love!) for one another. This is decent, Islamic behavior and should also be observed at all times and in front of all people.
Lastly, pampering: here is where we come to slightly different territory. If by pampering, you mean treating you with open love and affection, please refer to my paragraphs at the start of this article. However, to me, the word “pampering” evokes an image of overt and somewhat over-the-top displays of care: rubbing your feet, bringing you sweets, using romantic language, etc. If this is what you mean, then I suggest that this particular behavior is better reserved for times of privacy. Ask yourself why it is important for you for your husband to behave in this way in front of others?
If you care about others seeing it, then the behavior isn’t really about your husband’s love. Rather, it is about people seeing an image. If this is what you mean by your question, I encourage you to try to change your way of thinking. The most important thing is that your husband loves you – not that his family knows that he does.
What Can Be Done?
First of all, I encourage you to make a list of the behaviors your husband does not display that you wish he did. Try to categorize them. Are they simple displays of affection? Are they romantic behaviors? Are they ways of showing respect? For anything that falls under the category of “romantic,” I suggest you try to be content with those things being private.
If there are things you want him to do that fall into other categories, try to engage him in an honest conversation. Do not approach him in a confrontational way, but in a way that suggests you are truly open to hearing his reasons. No matter what, he should be treating you with kindness and respect. But if you find there are certain affectionate gestures that he isn’t comfortable with, please try to see his side too.
Also, don’t forget that if you want to encourage certain behaviors in him, you yourself could be the one to display them! For example, instead of waiting for him to reach out and hold your hand, you could reach for his.
But the most important thing is to have constant, open communication between the two of you. I wish you well.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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