The beginning of the sacred union of marriage is marked with many bittersweet moments for the newlywed bridal couple. The new husband and wife cascade through the usual outward rituals: the nikah ceremony, the post nikah banquets, the greetings, dua’s and endless hugs from close kin.
The incessant showering of gifts; childlike enthusiasm, and euphoria at finding a life partner, are tinged with the natural nervousness and hidden fears associated with this milestone transition of stepping into an as-yet unknown realm of life.
Despite it being the most natural thing for an adult man and woman to live together as a married husband and wife, the first few weeks, months and years of this cohabitation are a crucial time of adjustment.
The new spouse is hitherto still a stranger whom the other partner is just starting to get to know.
If the spouses do not tread with care, compassion, patience and discretion, their natural disagreements in the initial years of marriage can blow out of proportion into big problems that are very difficult to solve.
Therefore, it is important for every newly married couple to remember a few important tips and words of advice when they embark upon this new phase in their lives:
1- Getting to Know the New Family
A husband or wife will have to live with, make small talk with, and answer the questions asked by, a lot of people – close ones as well as mere acquaintances. It is more often than not the extended families and circle of friends and acquaintances on both sides that come together to “jump start” the marital union, not to mention, celebrate it to the hilt over a period of a week or so of banquets and social get-togethers.
Hence, in the first few days, a marriage involves meeting a lot of new people, remembering lots of names and new faces, receiving many handshakes and hugs, and exchanging excited greetings with absolute strangers.
A husband or wife will have to live with, make small talk with, and answer the questions asked by, a lot of people – close ones as well as mere acquaintances. This can add to the pressure of the new marriage, which involves moving into a new home (especially for a bride), having and getting used to conjugal relations, and dressing up every morning or evening in order to perfectly look and act out the part of bride or groom.
In order to not let the constant barrage of well-wishing but sometimes pushy near and dear ones from causing problems between a new husband and wife, both of them should remember that with the passage of time, at the most a few weeks, this overenthusiastic deluge of meetings with relatives and friends will melt away, giving them more privacy.They will eventually get time to relax, go out, sleep in, and breathe freely in their private space.
2- Controlling the Tongue
The less a new bride or groom says to each other in front of their families in the first few weeks of marriage, the better.This is because they are almost always under close observation by those around them, and saying something at the wrong time, or even in the wrong tone, can lead to misunderstandings, ill-perceptions and giving leeway to the envious troublemakers of the extended family to have a field day with their criticism and tongue-wagging.
It is advisable for a bride or a groom to not express their opinions about everything too often, too loudly, or too voraciously, especially in large social gatherings. This is because, unfortunately, the first impression is usually the last. People tend to have very good memories when it comes to recalling and gossiping about any unpleasant situations or scandals that took place during a wedding.
Even when talking to each other in privacy, it is important to weigh what they are going to say before they say it. The first few months are a time of sensitive, nervous and raw emotions and feelings.Treading with care ensures prevention of unwanted problems.
3- Not Sweating the Small Stuff
Sometimes, trivial matters can be blown out of proportion if a spouse jumps to self-made conclusions and overreacts to them in the beginning of a marriage.For example, a wife might fall sick right after her wedding and consequently, fall behind in doing household chores due to her lack of domestic experience.
At such a point, when she needs her husband to be supportive and caring, if he instead thinks, “If I let this go by being lenient, she might make it a habit,” and starts to force her to do all the chores, even when she is sick, because of his innate insecurity that if he does the chores himself it will encourage her to be slothful, this will cause a lot of damage to their relationship.Wife will see him as harsh, oppressive and insensitive.
Similarly, if a wife gets resentful of her husband spending more time with his relatives and at work than with her in the first few weeks after marriage, she should try and quell her insecurities that might be making her think that if she doesn’t protest, he will take her silence as approval and continue to ignore her for the rest of their marriage.
Ignoring and overlooking small blows to their personal ego in the first few months go a long way in conveying to one’s spouse the loud-and-clear message that, “I will stand by you through thick and thin”. And this is one the most comforting messages that they can give to each other when their marriage is new.
4- Patience during First Pregnancy
The most important tip for a new husband and wife that can help them pass through their first pregnancy and childbirth, is to practice immense patience, compassion and empathy with each other.
The arrival of a child means a whole new world of emotions, feelings, and life experiences.
It adds value to the family unit and affects all the existing relationships. It is a fact that the arrival of the first baby, which, in many cases, is a much-awaited blessing from Allah, causes the well-adjusted, comfortable husband-wife relationship to go through its first major transition.
Most couples await and desire the birth of their first child within the first 2-3 years of marriage. However, no matter how much they anticipate it, the actual, first-time experience of pregnancy and childbirth can really task their patience and mutual understanding as a couple.
For the husband, his wife now starts to move from the realm of romantic partner, best friend and conjugal partner, to that of soon-to-be mother of his child. Her body starts going through changes that might cause her to gain weight and experience unpredictable mood swings, which can put a strain on their hitherto smoothly functioning relationship.
A progressing pregnancy also implies less physical intimacy than before, especially during the nausea-and-vomiting infested first trimester, the lower-abdomen-tasking last month before delivery, and then the almost 2-month long post-birth recovery period.
In many cases of severe pregnancy sickness requiring round-the-clock care or even hospitalization, it is not uncommon for the first-time pregnant wife to spend a few days, weeks or even months back at her parents’ home. This can leave her husband feeling lonely, miserable and resentful.
The most important tip for a new husband and wife that can help them pass through their first pregnancy and childbirth as a loving, supportive and emotionally close couple, is to practice immense patience, compassion and empathy with each other.
I would go so far as to say that the husband has a greater role to play in this situation,- that of modeling immense patience, sacrifice and forbearance, as he is not the one experiencing the physical “jihad” (struggle) of bringing a new life into this world.
Consequently, he should overlook every unjust demand, inappropriate behavior or outright atrocity of his pregnant wife, with a smile and supportive, loving words.
5- Time Heals Every Wound
They say, “If it won’t kill you, it will make you stronger,” and this adage is true for every challenge that life throws our way, including the make-or-break first few years of marriage.
It is in these initial years that Allah makes a newly married couple endure problems that eventually become stepping-stones towards higher levels of strength and mutual closeness. Allah sends their way trials that are perceived as obstacles in achieving what they desire, and apparent ‘blockades’ that hamper the smooth sailing of their marital ‘boat’.
In reality, these challenges are sent their way for a very good reason – to make the husband and wife come closer together. The more problems they overcome, the more a husband and wife become stronger as a team.
First published: May 2014