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Marriage: The Seven Pillars of Growth

A counselor’s Experience

5) Progress, Not Perfection

One couple I worked with wanted to make the dawn prayer every day together. Before this they did not pray at dawn at all and the wife requested the husband wake them up to have this new spiritual habit.

The following week she came in feeling like they failed and I asked why? She said “we only prayed three times this past week.” I pointed out to her “so you did make progress?” She thought for a moment and said “yeah, I guess we did.”

I helped her see that she was too focused on praying everyday, the end goal, that she overlooked the actual growth they made, praying three times that week verses none! The progress is more important than perfection. In fact perfection is practically impossible.

For those of you thinking “well what about mastery?” Mastery is still not perfection. Perfection is only for the Divine. Michael Jordan still missed some shots and Thomas Edison failed a thousand experiments before the light bulb. What recognizes them as masters in their trade is remembering the achievements and progress they made- not focusing on the failures.

This is a major block we have in relationship. We focus on the let downs and disappointments rather than the effort and small progress that is happening. We can’t get there and be there at the same time.

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Patience is at the heart of progress and staying consistent requires your will power.

We can give up easily if we frame our actual progress as “failure” in light of it not being “perfect.”

6) Relapses May Occur

Yes, old habits can die hard. You may have not shouted at your wife for three months then slipped up again. You may have prayed everyday for two weeks then only a few times the following week. You may have been at the gym all year then took a month off.

People are wired in certain ways and have habits and behavioral patterns. Change is not easy and from time to time, a pulse or trigger goes off and we may act out or loose steam.

It is not the end of the world! Get back to it and use your previous progress as a proof that you can do it again and keep that change pulse vibrant!

Some people are really disciplined and can maintain a new practice no matter what; others have relapses from time to time.

Don’t see it as a failure but a change in frequency. The important thing is to keep your pulse alive no matter what! Remember this the next time your partner seems to have “gone back to their old ways.”

7) Appreciation & Reminders!

I always tell my clients “appreciation of kind acts leads to motivation to act kindly.” As humans we feel valued and honored when we are shown gratitude. When we feel validated, we naturally want to do more for others.

Part of showing appreciation is to reward each other and ourselves through small tokens of gratitude, whether material, verbal or emotional. This helps us feel like we can keep going and set milestones to look forward to.  Part of appreciation is to remind one another of our good traits, praise the qualities and acts we want to see more of.

First published: April 2018

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About Karim Serageldin
Karim Serageldin, founder of Noor, completed his BA in psychology & religion, followed by an MA in east-west psychology with a specialization in spiritual counseling. He is a certified life coach with years of teaching and community outreach experience. His practical work and research includes developing a modern framework of Islamic psychology, relationship, family and youth coaching. He provides seminars and workshops in the United States. You can contact Br. Karim at: or