As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum dear sister,
I am happy for you that you finally got married to a good man you love and respect. Don’t be discouraged; your problem is the most common problem among married couples. Because a woman’s emotional makeup is very different from their own, most men do not understand women’s emotional needs. And vice versa: most women do not understand men’s. This is because all of us, initially, evaluate the world subjectively, from our own experience of it, until we learn that everyone does not see things the same way as we do, and that is okay. So, ask Allah (swt) to guide your husband about how women think, feel, and operate, what they need, and how to provide for them beyond their material needs. Also, ask Allah (swt) to guide you about how men think, feel, and operate, in Sha’ Allah.
The next most common problem among Muslim spouses is that man do not know the difference between “obeying” his wife and providing for her needs (which they are supposed to do as it’s in the Quran, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women” [4:34]). Providing for her according to what she says she needs is, of course, the best way to provide. However, finding out what your wife needs can also get muddled up when there is a misunderstanding of the power differential ordered by Allah (swt) for Muslim marriages in His statement “… But the men have one degree over them [in responsibility].” (Quran 2:228)
Men tend to overlook the first part of that ayah: “And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable.…,but men have a degree above them.” They overlook it because their testosterone is telling them not to allow a woman to subjugate them. So, they forget to consult with their wives first before they take their “one degree above” right. That means they don’t find out what her idea(s) are of how to do things in their marriage – as an “equal” partner in the marriage. The one degree above only becomes relevant when you disagree. If you do the equal thing and agree, there is no need for anyone to be above; you are equal.
In sha’ Allah, a way to help a man “get it” is to have a conversation about it. Ask him where is the “disconnect” coming from between what you requested and his lack of response to it. You may need to verbalize something akin to what I expressed above for him to even begin to see the problem with the behavior because his behavior may be driven by the subconscious forces I mentioned: his hormone. You can also suggest to him that instead of just having an impulsive reaction to your requests, please filter his reactions through Allah’s (swt) commands.
There are a couple of ways in which the woman can deal with this problem before the man “gets it” (which might never happen as is too often the case.) Pose your needs and choices and see how to fill those needs as questions, and/or suggestions, and/or ideas that you are bringing to the table to be considered just like any other ideas a man or another person could contribute to a discussion.
Lastly, as regards this point, be open to his ideas/ needs, too. For example, you need him to spend time with you and think that you need it every day, so you say “after work”, but he says only on the weekends. Don’t assume that your idea is the only “right” way which renders his idea “wrong”. Sometimes, there is only one way, but a lot of times there are other ways. Give his idea a chance and see if it works. You need to treat his needs as “equal”, too.
Of course, the best ways to suggest to a Muslim husband that something he is doing or not doing is “wrong” – or not working for you – is to show him where, in Islam, it says it’s right or wrong. In your case, you could show him that Islam instructs husbands to care for their wives’ emotional needs as well their material needs. The particular injunction I am thinking of is when the Prophet (saw) told us that a man is not supposed to leave a woman’s bed without satisfying her. Now, I know you did not mention anything about that, but I am mentioning it because for a man to fulfill this religious obligation, he has to have already fulfilled his wife’s emotions needs, because that is the source of her sexual response. In other words, a husband has to have made his wife feel loved and cared for before they go to bed to be able to “satisfy” her in bed. To be able to do that, the man has to understand something about his wife’s emotional make up. The reason men don’t think of this is that they do not operate that way, for the most part. Their physical needs are predominantly subsequent to visual stimuli, first, and then touch. A woman’s physical reactions, on the other hand, are subsequent to feeling loved and cared for. There is a reason for this difference besides it being one of the ways that Allah (swt) tests us.
A woman nurtures children; she supplies their emotional needs. If a baby does not get its emotional needs met, for example, the caregiver just props a bottle up in the baby’s mouth and walks away, the baby will eventually “fail to thrive” even though s/he is well fed. This emotional drain on the woman’s emotional stores makes her in need of emotional input, i.e., someone to care for her. It drains her battery, so to speak. The Messenger of Allah (saw) pointed to this reality when he said that the best men are those who are good to their wives – and “good” does not mean material provision. If material provision was “goodness”, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston (just to name a few) would not have died from drug overdoses, medicating themselves to escape from their miserable lives!
A righteous man has to have the hiqmah (wisdom; spiritual awareness and understanding) to figure out what goodness is as compared to material provision alone – which is also good, but only in the context of caring for his wife – in obedience to Allah (swt).
Assuming your husband wants to please Allah (swt), his ego is not getting in the way of him “giving” to his wife while his mind is not closed either to a discussion of what that actually means; he will be open to finding out how to satisfy you in every way. Now, don’t expect him to do it in the exact way you want (although that may be necessary in bed). If he does not want to do things outside with you, you may need to have a discussion about things that could fill that same bill but in a different way, In Sha’ Allah.
One very important point which men tend not to know about until after the fact (after they gave their wives what they wanted/needed ) is that when they take care of their wives’ emotional needs, they (the men) benefit! When a wife feels emotionally fulfilled, she is very grateful; a thing she realizes by giving back in return. Islamic marriage is all about reciprocation: “You are devoutly obedient BECAUSE he maintains you out of his means.” In other words, he slaves at work all day to provide for and to protect you and your kids, in return, you let him know how much you appreciate that by serving his “pleasure”, i.e., obeying the things he asks you to do. This is another area where things get mixed up.
Your obedience to him is in things within his rights, and “marital relations” in particular. Your obedience does not mean seeing everything the way he sees it, or have his opinions, or have his same feelings about everything. No, that is not obedience, that is worship, and worship of anything other than Allah (swt) is shirk; the only sin which is not forgiven. So, he has a right over your “will”, not your mind! And, that right has limits.
As regards your understanding of his emotional need(s): the thing men need most is respect. However, respect is something that is not a given. A woman’s right to her needs need to be met first by the man, and then his needs being met in return as in the bedroom, the obedience in return for provision and else. A lot of men see leadership as meaning the right to boss people around and the freedom to do and get whatever they want. That kind of interaction will not render “respect” from a woman because his testosterone is blinding him and his warrior and provider muscles are presenting instead of his heart and his mind muscle. However, when he sees his leadership as “doing first”, i.e., in terms of kindness and goodness and provision, that is what gets the requisite positive reaction out of women to respect him. That “wisdom”, my dear sister, does not come with us when we are born; wisdom is learned. Furthermore, Shaitan works overtime at us not to learn it. But Shaitan has no power over Allah (swt), and Allah (swt) says that understanding only comes from Him (swt). So, use the knowledge found in Islam to address this issue with your husband, in sha’ Allah.
My du’aa’ is for both of you to be guided by Allah (swt) in terms of what “good” means, what provision means, what obedience means, and our emotions mean and what their function is in our lives. Since both of you desire to learn our religion, it should make you both open-minded to grow in your understanding of each other’s different ways of looking at the world. This will, In Sha’ Allah, allow both of you to hear each other‘s needs as you go down the path to Allah (swt), in the way that pleases Allah (swt).
May Allah (swt) make it easy for you!
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