Globally divorce rates have more than doubled. Since 1970, we’ve gone from 2.6 divorces for every 1,000 married people to 5.5 divorces.
Muslim marriages are not an exception to this troubling statistic. We often prepare our children for work-related aspects of life, but are investing in teaching our youth about the responsibilities of marriage? How do we save our children from divorce and prepare them for this life changing event? Saving our families from divorce means that we must model our healthy marriages to our children.
The reality of our situation is:
Most little girls have imagined and dreamed of their fairy-tale wedding since they were little. The same little girls would know very little about how to actually build a happily-ever-after.
The same can be said for our boys. Are we bringing them up knowing that they have a responsibility towards their wives and children? That their once care-free lifestyles will be no more?
As parents, we need to do better. Instead of dealing with marital problems after they arise in marriage, we need to give them an advantage by relaying important life lessons about healthy marriages while they are still young.
Model Healthy Behavior
I always said I would never be like my parents when it came to my marriage. My parents would often stonewall each other after an argument.
But reality hit me square in the face when I realized I was stonewalling my spouse, in the exact same manner I had learnt from my parent’s marriage. It was something I detested as a child, and yet I was doing the same.
Children often pick up these nuances about relationships from their parents, absorbing information through observation and imitation.
Give children a daily example of the unique and beautiful love that can grow between a husband and wife. Try and model good behavior towards your spouse so they know what a loving and healthy relationship should resemble.
Marriage is you and me vs the problem – marriage is not you vs. me.
It’s important to let your children know that you are both on the same team. A famous quote explains:
Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person and our own selfishness can often complicate that commitment.”
But it’s vital to show a united front when you parent so that children learn that they can’t come between the two of you. Keep the team spirit consistent. You need to show them that you are not competing or keeping a score and that you celebrate all your successes together. Happy, healthy marriages consistently put the ‘we’ before ‘me’.
Embrace changes and flaws
Over the years we all grow and change. This is sometimes hard to accept but this is a life lesson we need to teach our children. After bearing children your wife might have picked up a few kilos. Your husband might be aging quickly.
Extra weight and wrinkles are the battle scars of life that we physically carry. Maybe one of you was the life of the party and now likes to sit at home and read. Still, deep down the essence of who your spouse is will still be there. Teach your children that a spouse is someone that you embrace for who they are, flaws and all.
It’s only when we feel loved and supported that we feel safe enough to recognize our own faults and flaws. And it’s only in a supportive environment that change is inevitable. Of course, we want to encourage and support each other in our efforts to improve and become better. Compliments and praise will always do more for keeping your marriage healthy than criticism will.
Teach them to lean in rather than out
Marriage is one of the quickest ways to learn that everything is not about you. The sacred union is not only about sharing one home, one room, and one budget. It’s also about combining our cultures, traditions and life goals. And that’s hard work!
In order for this to be successful it requires both spouses to trust completely, have humility, respect, and ensure that there is a healthy communication between spouses.
Inevitably there will be hard times and it’s important to teach children to lean in and take comfort from your spouse during these moments and to not retreat and be by yourself. In the same way way that our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) sought comfort from Khadijah (RA) when he received the first revelation.
In these moments we teach children that during the tough times we stick together as one and we pick each other up because we are here for each other.
Marriage is all about intimacy and not just sex
Sex and intimacy are two different things.
Erwin Raphael McManus says, “Our souls crave intimacy.” Intimacy is the psychological state of feeling wanted, and having a sense of belonging. Intimacy is vital in healthy marriages. And sex in marriage is a healthy way to develop intimacy between a couple.
Our children need to understand that men and women are different and they feel differently about intimacy. Often men need intimacy to feel loved, and women need to feel loved before they desire intimacy. But this is not set in stone.
There are exceptions to this. But what they need to understand that our intrinsic human need is to have intimacy and it is not only derived from pleasure. Demonstrate to them healthy doses of affection by hugging, kissing and cuddling some times. Show them how a couple should make time for their relationships by having time away from the children.
When they are older teach them about the dangers of pornography and how it can affect or even destroy intimacy in a marriage. This lesson is vital in our times.
Healthy marriage is a conscious choice
For me this is probably the most important lesson we can impart to our children. Having a thriving and loving relationship is a continuous and conscious decision we make everyday. Show them that choosing to love is a choice we make, and marriages often fall apart when we stop making the choice to love.
For something to thrive and grow we need to constantly work at it. In the same way once we stop giving love, it diminishes. As your marriage and relationship will change over the years, what shouldn’t change is you choosing to fall in love with your spouse over and over.
There will be turbulent times and conflict and this does not mean that you have married the wrong person. Resolve the conflict by using all means possible even if it means getting outside help. We need to give our children a realistic outlook on marriage. Although marriage is wonderful, it is not always going to be a fairy-tale.
Everyone makes mistakes; and at some point, your spouse will disappoint you. In the same way you will make mistakes, hurt them, and fall short of their expectations. A good marriage is made when both spouses learn to compromise, but most of all it is choosing to be with your spouse consciously every single day. Create an environment in your home where forgiving is the norm.
We all have seen the memes or heard the jokes with marriage being equated to being trapped or chained to someone. We need to break this stereotype. The biggest lesson we can teach our children is marriage is not a burden, it’s a gift. It’s one of those relationships where the learning and positivity really outweighs the negativity people might have towards marriage. Our children need to see us having fun and enjoying being a couple. Have a marriage which will make them want to get married.