By Bint Mohib
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What is love? This seemed to be everyone’s favourite topic when I was a teenager. I even had a shiny purple diary in which I would meticulously write down every quote on love that I would come across. Such was the obsession with “love”, the curiosity cum fantasy. The quotes I would relate to most would then go up as my “nickname”s on MSN Messenger, the Facebook-statuses of the time.
Much further back in time, when I was a kid, my mom would shoo me away while she watched The Bold and the Beautiful; I still managed to sneak some glimpses though, intrigued. However I was allowed to watch the stories of the likes of Cinderella, Ariel and Jasmine over and over again, until I had the plots memorized (to date!). That was my TV- time. In my playing time, I’d make my Barbies go on dates with Ken. Astaghfirullah! Needless to say, my pre- to mid-teen years were filled with music, movies and books with romantic love as the predominant theme.
When Allah guided me, alhamdulillah, I put a stop to all this. But little did I know that, even after several years of mostly abstinence, the ideas and images that had been exposed to me all those years would come back to haunt me. I found this out when I got married.
I have been married for almost a year-and-a-half, so I guess I can only advise the newly-weds or to-be-weds.
Marriage, I’ve learnt, is in the beginning full of shockers and heart-breakers - if, like me, your expectations are based on the definition of love portrayed by popular culture. In retrospect, these heart-breakers were like speed-breakers - every so often, it was vital for me to slow down, stop, and reflect for a moment what this love thing was really about, forcibly putting all preconceived notions aside.
Though he was certainly a prince, my husband sometimes disappointed me by not promising me the stars or breaking out into Shakespearean verse. Instead he won my heart in a million ways, by little, everyday actions that demonstrated great consideration, care and love.
And that is the Sunnah of the Prophet sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam, isn’t it? We don’t find him picking out desert roses for his wives or buying them boxes of dates; instead, we find him wiping the tears of Safiyyah radiyAllahu ’anhaa, racing with ’Aa’ishah radiyAllahu ’anhaa, and refraining from having honey lest his wives dislike the smell that would emanate from his mouth.
That is love.
But if you are anything like me, you need to be shown a dozen warning signs or so before treading the marital path.
SOME CONCEPTS OF LOVE ARE HAZARDOUS TO HEART
If you are getting married soon or are newly-married, please do yourself (and your husband) a favour by throwing the following expectations out of your head immediately! I know they sound lovely and incredibly romantic, and they may even happen at times, but no, not all the time:
Expecting him to say, or act in accordance to, words such as “I’d die for you” or “I’d do anything for you”
Really, it doesn’t happen like that. There will be times when he may portray that and you’ll feel nothing short of fairy-tale bliss. But there will also be times when he’s lazy or not in the mood of doing something. Don’t break your heart over it, bitterly accusing, “I thought you loved me”. Of course he loves you, but he’s not your slave.
Expecting him to be “into” you 24/7
You’re his wife, not his crush. He has already attained you, so he will not always follow you around like a puppy-dog, trying to woo you. Yes, we all want to be pursued because it makes us feel wanted and special. But if he doesn’t do it like in the movies, it’s because you’re married and halaal for each other, and there’s no force of Shaytaan between you trying to make you irresistibly gravitate towards each other. Nay, once you’re married, Shaytaan’s top focus is to try to bring discord between the hearts of husband and wife, so beware of that; may Allah protect us all.
Expecting that your clothing/beauty alone will dazzle him
We’ve all seen those scenes in movies where a beautiful woman appears and she is highlighted from bottom to top in slow-motion, apparently through the eyes of the man whose expression denotes total jaw-dropping awe, while appropriate music plays in the background. Beautify yourselves, yes, but don’t concentrate your efforts on that alone, nor expect a mesmerized man every time! I don’t mean to sound cliché, but there really does come a time where your demeanor and inner beauty are attractive in a way that no amount of makeup or dressing up can induce.
Expecting him to want to be with you 24/7
This was one of those things upon which my husband and I argued over, over and over again: Time. Having the messed-up romantic ideas that I had, I had believed that since he had decided to spend the rest of his life with me, he would want to spend every waking minute with me, not wanting to leave my side for even a moment, because being together was too good to be true. Sounds like something out of a song, doesn’t it? Needless to say, I would be sorely disappointed every time he would come home from work and switch on the laptop instead of hastening to make up for lost time together.
Don’t take it personally...
If your husband does not immediately start spending time with you when he gets back from work, DO NOT take it personally; I did, and found myself crying almost every night, wondering why he was not as keen and eager as I to spend some quality time. It’s not rocket-science, but it took me a long time to figure this out: It has nothing to do with love. A man indeed needs his downtime, or fire-gazing time, when he comes home from a long day at work. It’s called “fire-gazing” because that’s what our earliest ancestors amongst the male species used to do at the end of their day. Today, men do this in the form of watching TV, reading, or going on the internet. This is a time where they unwind and are not in the frame of mind to talk. Give your man at least 30 minutes, and try to occupy yourself with something else during that time. He will eventually come to you, re-energized and revitalized.
Demand can never match supply...
Do not demand your husband’s time, nor make blaming remarks such as “You never want to spend time with me.” This will only put pressure on him and he will see it as a chore rather than a pleasure. Saying “I miss you” is safer, as it is an invitation as well as a compliment, which can never go wrong.
In her book, The Surrendered Wife, Laura Doyle says that it is imperative we take time out to practice self-care on a daily basis so that we are less likely to take our frustrations and (negative) energies out on our husbands. She instructs that we make two lists - one for the things we have fun doing, and the other for the things that make us feel good after doing them. Subsequently, we should take time out to do three things from each list every day - this could be something as simple as having a lunch-date with our friends (fun) to reciting the Qur’an (feeling good afterwards). The end result: a happier, more vibrant you, who is more relaxed and more pleasant to be around.
BEHAVIORS THAT FOSTER LOVE AND INTIMACY
Respect, Respect, Respect
Respect is as important to men as love is to women. If your man doesn’t feel respected in the relationship, you will never see his best side, and he will not love you in the way that you crave. Here are some things you can make a mental note of to avoid disrespecting him:
DO NOT criticize him, even if he deserves it
Whether he’s put the dishes in the wrong place or he’s come home late from work again, do not say anything to demean him in any way. If urgently required, then communicate in an effective manner; instead of starting your sentences with “you didn’t...” which sounds like blaming, start with “I feel” or “I want”.
Do not offer “better” solutions
If he has a solution to a problem, let him handle it rather than you offering your expert advice. If there is a broken tap and your husband is trying to fix it, don’t call the plumber while there is already a capable man in the house.
Don’t doubt his decisions
When you show skepticism regarding his decisions, you indicate that you believe he is incapable of making smart choices. So even if he is about to do something you think is a totally bad idea, bite your lip and trust him to follow through with success. If you can, encourage him. That will be the icing on the cake. When he knows you have trust in his abilities, he will feel more confident, masculine, and be more efficient in his tasks than ever.
PRAISE AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Treat him like he’s your hero
The boy inside every man wants to be a superhero. Men have a natural instinct to take care of and protect their women. Tap into this instinct by seeking his help in things which you, as a damsel in distress (sorry for being dramatic), cannot (or don’t want to) do yourself. After he has “rescued” you from your distress, make sure to actively show him your admiration and approval. This will make him feel good about himself and happily help you more in the future without you even asking.
Praise him with sincerity
Keenly observe your husband and praise him with anything that makes you proud of or impressed by him, big or small. This will encourage him to reinforce his good qualities. You can praise him on his effort to keep good ties with his extended family, his honesty in the workplace, or even his way of managing to find a shortcut to a new far-away place.
The magic word really is a magic word
If there’s any word that has kept my marriage soaring with the grace of Allah, it’s “thank you”. Don’t ever underestimate the power of this word. It is the simplest yet most effective word in a relationship. I purposely overdo it by throwing in a hug and a grin and a compliment alongside, because I know of the beautiful “repercussion”s. Be creative with gratitude and express it in as many forms as you can, as frequently as possible. Whether your husband has washed the dishes, got you a take-away meal on his way back from work, or filled up the water-bottles, go all out in expressing how much you appreciate it.
Believe it or not, one of a man’s primary concerns is making his wife happy. If you effectively communicate to him that you respect him, admire him, and that your happiness is a fruit of his (successful) efforts, then there is no greater booster for love and intimacy than that. This is a special gift given by Allah, as He has taught us in this beautiful dua:
“Our Lord! Grant us from our wives and our offspring the comfort of our eyes, and make us an example for the righteous.”[Al-Furqan 25: 74]
I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)