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4 Things I Didn’t Expect When I Got Married

Marriage. It’s tricky business for so many reasons. Dealing with our own ego, desires, and irritations is hard enough. But put someone else’s idiosyncrasies in the mix, and it can make marital life seem very complicated.

Looking back on my views of marriage before “I” became a “we”, I can honestly say I was clueless about what to expect.

I Didn’t Realize how Hard Communication is for (some) Men

The basis of my marriage has always been to help each other please Allah (SWT). Some days we are better at this than others. But one thing we have really excel at, Alhamdulillah, is helping each other improve our character.

At the beginning of my marriage, every now and then, my husband would come to me and tell me he was angry and he didn’t know what about or why. And he didn’t want to act on that feeling in a way that was displeasing to Allah so he sought my help.

It would take a lot of talking to figure it out, but 99% of the time it wasn’t really anger that he was feeling. It was sadness, frustration, disappointment or anything really that was left unexpressed and turned into anger. It took a lot of time for me to understand why this was happening. Why couldn’t my husband understand emotion outside of anger? Why couldn’t he communicate outside of this?

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“Use your words” is not something we often teach our sons, but we need to. It is no secret that boys and girls are socialized differently. Boys are taught, unfortunately, that feelings indicate weakness, unless it is anger, despite the fact that the Prophet Muhammad said:

“The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.” (Bukhari)

This counterproductive culture of machismo leads many men in our societies, whether it’s Eastern or Western, to never deal with their emotions, much less learn how to communicate them in constructive ways.

When I entered into my marriage, I had no idea that my husband would have a hard time understanding his own feelings much less expressing himself to me.

Effective communication is essential in marriage. I never expected to have to teach my husband how to communicate. But I also didn’t expect that he would have to teach me how to disagree without fighting.

I Didn’t Know that You can Disagree and still Have Manners

Disagreement happens. In fact, arguing has always been a sport in my family. Arguments usually devolve into battles of condescension, sarcasm, and insults in 5 seconds flat. But entering into Islam and then shortly there after, marriage, I had to rewire this part of my brain and fast.

Every couple disagrees and even argues. If you are not disagreeing about anything, you are not communicating, and this is a good indicator that something is fundamentally wrong. But a disagreement does not have to turn into a fight. I didn’t know that.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“I guarantee a house in Jannah (Paradise) for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right […]” (Abu Dawud)

Keeping this in mind, my husband often just gave up in arguments. He would concede even though I knew that I hadn’t changed his mind. At first, I thought it was strange, but I caught on to his tactic to please Allah instead of “win”. So I started to do the same. I realized that the first one to let the little disagreement go wins the most.

However, sometimes disagreements are too important to just let go. And when that happens, my husband taught me to put the shoe on the other foot. He taught me to argue the other person’s point, to think about the other person’s perspective. And you know what, it helps ease tense situations 100% of the time. I have never had a better teacher on how to disagree with manners than my husband.

I Didn’t Know that a Little Mercy can Go a Long Way

{Among His signs is that He created companions for you from among yourself, so that you may find tranquility with them, and (He) set love and mercy between you. Surely in this are signs for people who give thought.} (Quran 30:21)

This verse is often seen on wedding invitations for Muslim couples. But all too frequently forgotten after the feast has ended.

We all have faults, but many of us also love pointing out other’s faults. I was one of those people. I have learned through trial and a lot of error, that you cannot build a loving relationship by tearing each other apart. You cannot build a loving relationship without first showing a little mercy.

Any married couple who is honest will tell you, things about their spouse get on their nerves. And some days everything about their spouse gets on their nerves. For me, one thing that sticks in my craw the most is my husband’s lack of attention to detail in cleaning the kitchen (and no, this is not my job as a wife). It drives me crazy. There is always food left on dishes or crumbs left on the counter. And I used to just get upset and lecture him on how to properly clean.

That was until I realized that people are just not good at some things. If he asked me to do math, I would constantly fail at it. My mind just doesn’t think that way. So I let his cleaning “deficiency” go.

And in understanding that I started to let other relatively unimportant things go. It finally registered that our failings are not intentional insults lobbed at each other. They are just things we might not be great at. And showing each other a little mercy in these areas can go a long way.

I Didn’t Expect to Learn so much about Myself

To me, learning about myself through my marriage is how I understand the Prophet’s saying:

“When a man marries he has fulfilled half of the deen; so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half.” (At-Tirmidhi)

It wasn’t until I got married that I really understood how much we as people do not (and I didn’t) examine how we behave until our actions impact other people. We cannot understand ourselves until we try to understand someone else. We are imperfect mirrors to our souls.

But our spouses should hold a clearer mirror up to us and make us understand what it is we look like on the inside. Our spouses should gently remind us of what areas of our character could use improving.

Our spouses can help us become better people if we let marriage do its job. No matter who you are, marriage is work. But if you put in the work with the best intentions, Allah (SWT) will reward you by putting love and mercy between you and your spouse’s hearts.

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Theresa Corbin
Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.