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How to Deal With Enmeshment in Marriage?


The second, very vital step couples should take towards restoring balance to their marriage is communicating their observations about their relationship to one another and expressing their needs for change.

This communication can occur in many contexts and should describe the specific needs each spouse has.

For example, expressing the need for space is not nearly as effective as describing the type of space that is needed: creative space, functional space, spiritual space, social space, reflective space.

The more spouses communicate and allow each other to develop such space for themselves, the more energy can be brought back into the marriage to improve it for the better.

When communicating their need for change, spouses should keep in mind several important guidelines.

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The first is that they should try to clearly define the problem and be honest with their spouses. This tactic is much more effective than one spouse avoiding the other or giving ambiguous clues to the other that may be misunderstood.

Secondly, spouses should avoid waiting until they are feeling totally suffocated by their marriage to ask for space.

Doing so often results in explosive communication because of the stress that feeling trapped in a marriage can bring.

Thirdly, spouses must accept that the desire to bring balance to an enmeshed marriage does not mean that the marriage is in trouble or that the spouses love each other any less.

On the contrary, it indicates that spouses care deeply about one another and want to promote each other’s emotional development in a healthy way.

How to Deal With Enmeshment in Marriage? - About Islam

Thus, if one finds that his or her spouse is asking for more space, one shouldn’t take it personally but should see it as a chance for positive growth.

Self-development, love and support along the same lines as communicating the need for one’s space is the idea of self-development.

However, in the context of marriage, self­-development should not be at the expense of one’s spouse;­­ it should be within the love and support that exist between a husband and a wife.

An example of this can be seen from the hadith of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al­’As, who was married but spent his days fasting and his nights in prayer. Fasting and praying are legitimate ways in which a person can grow closer to Allah and develop himself.

However, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) reprimanded him, saying

“O ‘Abdullah! Have I not been formed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?” he said, “Yes, O Allah’s Apostle!” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” Sahih Bukhari, 7:127.

Thus, a husband should not, as in this example, develop more spiritual and reflective space while neglecting his wife’s basic needs and emotions.

Husbands and wives must strive toward their own self improvement and encourage each other’s development with love and support, but must remember that balance is vital to success.

Strengthening the Couple’s Relationship with Allah

The last and possibly most important step toward restoring balance to an enmeshed relationship is for spouses to understand that their true happiness can come only from Allah, and that their marriage is a tool through which they can strengthen their relationship with their Creator.

The Prophet (PBUH) said in a well­-known hadith that:

“When one marries, they have fulfilled half of their religion, so let them fear Allah regarding the remaining half.”

Thus, spouses must recognize that their marriages are indeed an integral part of their faith and must not allow the marriage itself to distract them from their attachment and love for Allah.

Actions done for the spouse should first be seen in the context of being part of one’s worship of Allah and ultimately being rewarded by Him.

This redirection of attachment to Allah instead of marriage not only strengthens the couple’s relationship with Allah, but also lessens the strain on the marriage as being the only source of happiness and fulfillment.

Marriage, like everything in Islam, should be balanced, easy, and beneficial to those involved. In one hadith narrated by Abu Huraira, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gives an important reminder to

“… do good deeds properly, sincerely, and moderately…and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target (Paradise) Bukhari, Book 76, Hadith 469.

Applying such advice to marriage is essential to creating the harmony that should exist between husband and wife and allowing each other to grow emotionally and spiritually in the context of a healthy marriage.

It should be noted that no article can take the place of professional marital counseling if a need for that exists, and one would pray that couples who find themselves in need of counseling would seek it out, insha’Allah.


The article is from the archive, published at an earlier date and is highlighted here for its importance.

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About Marwa Abdalla
Marwa Abdalla received her B.A. in political science from Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Texas, and is currently working toward a degree in Islamic Studies with the American Open University. She is interested in writing about Islam, marriage and family. Her writing has been published in a book entitled Toward the Well Being of Humanity as well as on numerous websites. She lives with her husband and three daughters in San Diego, CA.