As-Salamu `Alaikum Brother,
Thank you for sending us your question. I am sorry to hear about the difficult situation you are facing in your marriage. I ask Allah to give you the strength and courage to overcome this hardship and to make the right choices.
From your description of the situation, your wife was involved in a romantic relationship with a man before she married you. She told you this information before your marriage to her took place, and you accepted it and mentioned that you wanted her to move on and start a new life. It seems like she accepted that idea at first.
Now, after four years of marriage, she has confessed to you that she is still in love with her former lover and is only tolerating her marriage to you due to fear of society’s stigma if she would get a divorce. If this is true, then many issues need to be addressed between you and her, and serious decisions need to be made.
The first thing that needs to be done is to have an open and honest dialogue with your wife. It would be ideal if this took place with the assistance of a marriage counselor. You and your wife both need to discuss how you both feel about the marriage, and what you want to do about your feelings. So if your wife feels like the marriage isn’t working out for her, ask her “What do you want to do about it?” There are options for her.
If she (and you, of course) wants to make this marriage work, then the both of you have to commit to it sincerely and wholeheartedly with the intention to improve the marriage. This will require a lot of patience and energy, but it is certainly worth saving your marriage.
Improving the marriage would entail the both of you identifying what needs to be changed and/or improved on pertaining to your relationship. Again, this requires that the both of you invest your time and energy for the purpose of improving the marriage.
Know that it is very difficult for the marriage to improve if you or your spouse is unwilling to contribute to its improvement. If there is a problem, then we must be proactive and diligently work to change the situation. We cannot avoid the situation and hope that with time, it will solve by itself. Things happen when you make them happen.
If your wife tells you that she is in love with the other man and cannot get over her love for him, then it is her responsibility to also choose what to do about it. If she wants to stay married to you, then that would include her choosing to get over her former lover. I would highly recommend her to undergo individual counseling in order to reach that goal (if that is what she chooses).
If she does not want to do anything about her feelings and wants to stay married to you, then you also have to voice what you expect from this marriage and state whether or not you are fine with her being “in love” with another man.
Marriage is a partnership, and it is about compromise and having empathy with your spouse. If there is no empathy or an emotional connection between the spouses, then most likely the quality of the marriage would not be satisfactory.
If she is unwilling to change her feelings towards her former lover, then you would have to make a decision on whether you want to go on with this marriage. If she wants a divorce and insists that nothing can be done to save the marriage, then divorce is a halal option for the both of you, if you both decide to go that route.
As you can see, your situation requires that the both of you are honest in order to make serious decisions and to take responsibility for your decisions. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of marriage counseling for your situation because it can help the both of you make clearer and informed decisions.
It is unfortunate that a lot of societies do not properly prepare individuals for marriage. It is true that marriage can be a wonderful thing, but it will not always be easy. There will certainly be difficult times in the marriage, and we all need to examine our expectations and understand that life is not perfect, we are not perfect, and our spouses are not perfect. Therefore, when hardships take place within a marriage, or in general, a person must be able to deal with the difficulties properly because he already knows that nothing will be perfect. He would not be powerless and devastated if a hardship takes place.
I ask Allah to help you and your wife overcome this hardship and to help the both of you make the right decision.
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