I am not sure how to handle a certain kind of situation with my husband. I come from a Western cultural background, and he is from the Middle East. We are both Muslims living in the West. Often, he will say something that is supposed to be a piece of advice or his opinion, but he says it in a way that is too harsh for me.
Rather than advice, it often sounds like an order he expects me to follow because a wife who respects her husband listens to him. I do not feel the love and care from his words, but that he just says it because he wants to control me and expects me to agree with him and do as he wishes.
He says the problem is with me because he says it as advice, and that I should humble myself. He thinks that in such cases he is the right so I should not argue, meaning I should not share what I feel about the issue and just accept it as he says.
He is fine with it even if I don’t accept as he just wants to fulfill his duty in front of Allah, and the blame is on me if I disobey. I cannot just simply agree to everything he says, I need to be able to express my feelings and opinions freely in front of my husband. However, he is never open to hearing from me.
I need to be able to express my feelings and have them heard and to be able to freely discuss matters with my husband. I am okay with it even if he disagrees but there at least has to be a platform for us both to communicate on the same level. I hate to feel that someone is trying to control me, especially since I am not a child. I expect my husband, the closest person to me, my safe haven, to not be harsh with me for no reason, especially if it is an issue we have never talked about before. So why this unreasonable harshness? I told him how I feel and asked him kindly not to express such things as orders that need to be followed. However, he says I should change myself not him and just accept it and humble myself.
I am unsure of what to do. Is this behavior normal? Is it a feature of a narcissistic personality? We are fine until we have a difference of opinion, especially when the issue is related to religion (wide pants vs long skirt debate, hijab, and niqab debate, etc.) I currently think the only thing I can do is just thank him when he “advises me” and change the topic.
He said he does not care if at the end I do it or not. It just hurts me that I cannot be free with my husband. I cannot freely express myself, and he often reacts to my opinion or wishes in a harsh and belittling way. Is he right or am I right? Please help.
In this counseling answer:
• Different opinions in a marriage exist. Don’t worry; you are not alone with your problem.
Respect is something that is earned and cannot be forced on any human being.
• Discuss major deal breakers as a couple.
• Look for some areas where you can show him you take his opinion into account, appreciate it, and act on it.
• You might also want to consider reaching out for marriage counseling would be helpful for you so there is a safe space to work through specific examples.
Thank you for reaching out with your question. I want to start off by agreeing with you that harshness is not a goal in marriage let alone any relationship.
Foundation of Marriage in Islam
Our foundation for what marriage in Islam should look like begins with this verse from The Qur’an:
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (30:21)
There should be a feeling of safety in your relationship along with the presence of mercy and you aren’t wrong for desiring this. The topic of obedience is often culturally misunderstood and abused by many individuals due to their ignorance.
Many men have not been taught that their role is not to order their wives around but to love them, care for them, serve them, and lead them. A man who is loving and caring will, by default, be respected when he asks something of his wife because he has honored her and cared for her in all of her other needs. Even if she doesn’t agree with his request initially, she will still maintain respect for him.
Respect is something that is earned and cannot be forced on any human being.
Consultation vs. Control
Men who embody refined characters understand that they should consult with their wives and discuss with them matters where there is a difference of opinion. They should be role models of compromise and severely limit issues of obedience. For many couples who have been married for decades the obedience request from a man may have only been used a few times on issues of great importance to the family or relationship.
Even so, the issue a man would request would still come after consultation and open discussion, the understanding that his request isn’t emotionally, physically, or spiritually detrimental to the wellbeing of his wife or family and doesn’t violate the shariah in any way.
In areas where a couple can’t agree to disagree and focus on a common goal, it’s recommended to involve a third party to help them both come to a common solution. One where both people are comfortable. Otherwise, the entire marital relationship may be at risk over the long term.
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But trying to control one’s spouse is the catalyst to a toxic relationship. Attempting to continue like that means that even if you remain married you will end up hurting yourself as you continue to agree to things repeatedly without being given any form of respect to your thoughts and feelings as a person. A loving and intimate marriage cannot thrive in an environment like this so definitely some changes are in order.
Change Your Communication Pattern
It sounds like your husband has already offered you a way out which is giving you the right to not follow what he says. If he feels he’s done his “duty” in front of Allah, then honor that in him. It is also your duty, in front of Allah, to come to your own conclusions. All of us, as individuals, are responsible for our decisions and actions.
If there is something he feels really particular about, you can invest time in seeking to understand him. Figure out what it really means to him and ask yourself if honoring his request would be harmful to you in any way. If not, then you can do something to honor his preferences. You need to be honest with yourself, however, about what your personal limitations are.
Look for some areas where you can show him you take his opinion into account, appreciate it, and act on it. Again, not by doing something that violates your own personal principles or would be harmful to you in some way. Just actions that reflect that you are indeed a fair and balanced person.
Major Deal Breakers
Discuss major deal breakers as a couple. Everyone has a few things which are extremely important to them. Many people discuss deal breakers before marriage, but some people don’t realize there needed to be discussed. What are yours and what are his?
If you can focus on a few deal breakers, and you accept them, you can ask him to then limit all the other pieces of “advice” he is giving you and instead focus on learning about each other’s perspectives while learning and growing together as a couple.
He married you as a full person but may not have been shown and taught that a woman’s mind is to be honored in order to access her full heart. In marriage, the goal is to access each other’s heart and safety and trust are required for that to take place.
Express a desire to feel close to him in your heart and the need to be heard and have open discussions. It is then up to him to decide if he wants all of you and your heart or not and whether he desires to get to know you inside out or not.
Does He Honor You?
I’d like to ask you if your husband shows you that he honors and appreciates you in your marriage. You asked me about narcissism but also said you are both fine until you discuss something you don’t share the same opinion on.
To respond to that is to ask if he focuses only on his thoughts, his feelings, and his needs all of the time in your relationship or if he busies himself also trying to impress you, honoring your needs, and caring about your feelings outside of these “advising” discussions you both have. If he is doing a good job otherwise it may be that his ego gets hurt when you don’t immediately listen to him or his opinion.
He might be sensitive to you disagreeing with him and so instead of discussing he becomes harsh and shuts the conversation down. Only you can judge if your marriage, overall, is one where you feel loved, supported, and taken care of or if most of the time you feel like you are trying to be controlled, talked down to, disregarded, and expected to do things which are harmful or hurtful to you.
Reading your question alone doesn’t answer the big picture so I’ll have to ask you to evaluate your marriage and let us know if you have a follow-up response for clarification. At the end of the day, mutual respect is a requirement for a healthy marriage. It can take time for people to converse respectfully when they feel hurt, disregarded, or otherwise, their egos are getting in the way.
You might also want to consider reaching out for marriage counseling would be helpful for you so there is a safe space to work through specific examples.
I hope this response has given you some different points to consider. May Allah grant you wisdom and patience in your path as you strive to develop a strong and healthy marriage.
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.