Being married is beautiful but it takes work. We asked our marriage counselor what tips she has for couples that are facing trying times in their marriages. Check out the marriage-saving advice she gives for spouses to consider.
Question: Patience is always recommended to people who are frustrated in their marriage. How can you tell when you have been patient enough but your marriage isn’t getting better? Maybe it’s even getting worse!
Answer: This is a difficult question and probably one that many contemplate at some point in their marriage. You don’t want to leave in haste with regrets. But at the same time, you don’t want to endure the frustration any longer than necessary, if it’s not going to work. Especially if being patient any longer is only going to cause you undue distress.
Here are a couple of things to consider when deciding whether you have been patient enough or if you should wait longer. Begin by contemplating over the following questions:
- Does happiness outweigh sadness and frustration? Which of these emotions are the most prevalent?
- When sharing happy times with your spouse, can you let go of frustrations or do they linger still?
- When you are feeling frustrated with your spouse, can you fondly remember the happy times or does frustration still dominate your thoughts?
If you are really feeling at the end of your tether, rather than acting on impulse, set a particular time frame. During this time, promise yourself to continue to be patient while actively trying to make the marriage work.
At the end of the time period, if you’re still feeling the same and no improvements have been observed, be confident that you have tried your best. Make istikhara and Bismillah.
Question: Seeking outside counseling is suggested as one of the steps to avoid divorce, yet it’s such a huge taboo. Is there a tactful way to convince a reluctant spouse to seek counseling?
Answer: That is correct, it is wise to attend counseling when facing marital difficulties as a means to try and work out any differences and difficulties. And insha’Allah, a divorce can be avoided.
However, in some cultures, counseling is taboo and it’s not uncommon for one spouse to propose counseling while the other spouse, for whatever reason, shows no interest.
It might be argued that if both spouses don’t agree to attend counseling in the face of marital conflicts, that the marriage runs the risk of following a course for divorce.
To some extent, this might hold true. However, before you surrender hope, there are ways that you could convince a reluctant spouse to attend, or otherwise benefit from counseling in other ways.
Typically, when one thinks of counseling, we envisage the traditional type of counseling in a more clinical setting, overlooking the less formal options closer to home; options that perhaps come with less stigma than the former.
Most imams are able to offer at least some level of counseling. It may not follow a formal structure like traditional counseling but it still offers the same space for couples to share their feelings in a mutual non-judgemental environment. And by a person who can advise according to Islamic principles.
Another more appealing option with less stigma attached is online counseling. This approach is perhaps more comfortable than attending face-to-face and therefore, it allows more flexibility and privacy.
In the case where the reluctant spouse still refuses to attend, individuals should attend counseling alone in which they can still experience some benefits to their marriage. counseling gives them the chance to work on their own part of the problem. It can be beneficial to simply get harsh feelings off one’s chest, which in itself can be therapeutic and healing.
It also puts the recipient in a better psychological state to deal with marital difficulties more effectively. Perhaps this noticeable change will even be a factor that convinces the other spouse to consider having to counsel themself, either alone, or together as a couple.
Working on one’s self
Question: A common piece of advice I hear often is about working on yourself. But doesn’t this only work when both spouses commit to working on themselves? Which is another taboo! How do I get my spouse to do some personal growth?
Answer: Much like with counseling, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the stigma surrounding ‘working on yourself’ to be a factor that deters one member of a couple from engaging in personal growth activities.
Of course, it makes sense that for the greatest benefits to be experienced in a marriage that both spouses should be engaging in personal growth exercises. However, that should not prevent the willing spouse from engaging in such exercises alone.
Certainly, first and foremost, the benefits will be experienced by the active spouse, to begin with. However, on their journey to personal growth, this will also have an impact on the marriage in time also.
Personal growth can improve self-esteem and give the person improved skills in approaching the marriage in an appropriate way, even in times of difficulty. So it is arguably not entirely true to say that it is 100% necessary for both parties to engage in personal growth.
Unlike counseling, it is not necessary to have the involvement of a third party in self-development activities. It’s easily something that can be done in the home, a factor that could otherwise be responsible for stigma and reluctance to engage.
Not only that, but it can be guided through self-help books or courses in your own time so there is a large amount of flexibility available in personal growth.
Perhaps the reluctant spouse is not aware of this and simply needs to be made aware of the same in order to overcome the stigma and/or reluctance and take the first step.
Failing this, another option is to promote personal growth in a more subtle, indirect way by creating a situation that encourages self-reflection and subsequent personal growth.
A good way to do this is through using online sources as a means to promote this. There are many reputable motivational speakers who are able to do just this through their lectures on YouTube and the like.