You’re Married…Now What?
The merits of getting married, and especially getting married at an early age, are very great. There are numerous verses of the Holy Qur’an and sayings from the Holy Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them all) which extol the virtues of getting married. Many of these traditions are almost common knowledge among Muslims, such as marriage completing half of your faith and one unit of prayer of a married person being equal to seventy units of prayer of an unmarried person. The examples in history are also there, as many of our Imams got married at an early age, and many of them got married multiple times. Through these sources, the importance of marriage in Islam is very well established.
While it is very commendable to get married at an early age, it is also very important to consider the social impact of marriage. A community consists of a group of families, and families are formed from the bonds of marriage. So it is imperative to be aware of the challenges that being married entails, and to know how to find solutions to any problems that may arise. One of the worst things that can happen to a community is a divorce, and that unfortunately is a problem in our communities. The American divorce rate hovers around 50 percent, and while there are no official statistics about the divorce rate among different Muslim communities, many of us know of someone among our family or friends who have been affected by divorce. Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said that there is nothing more displeasing to Allah than divorce, and there are many traditions attesting to this. Divorce is very harmful to society, and especially to females, as it attaches a stigma to them that is very hard to remove. And unfortunately many divorces in our community occur in the first few years of marriage, when the couple is unprepared of the challenges in marriage. Couples must realize that marriage is an active process that requires effort and wisdom to maintain. It is not a passive process that will just work itself out.
Newly married couples should definitely take advantage of marriage counseling from a religious scholar or even from secular sources in order get help in meeting the challenges of marriage. There are however some simple things couples can do to keep their marriage strong and lively. One major challenge to overcome is time management. When we are single, we have plenty of time to perform our obligations and pursue any extra-curricular activities we desire. Once married, time management becomes an issue, as time must be given to family, friends, work, the community, and recreational activities. Both husband and wife must plan ahead and learn how to spend their time wisely. Being short on time and not being able to fulfill some of our time obligations can lead to lots of stress in the relationship. There will be many events and obligations that you will have the opportunity to attend, and the couple must make the best use of their time and decide which events to attend. As an extension of this, the couple should make sure they make time to spend with each other. Between time spent with family and with the community, sometimes spending time with each other can go by the wayside. Spending quality time together will help in strengthening the bond between husband and wife.
Another aspect of marriage that can cause friction is unrealistic expectations. People can and will change. Many couples are bound to have different points of views on some issues in life. You will notice some differences in your own views now compared to ten years ago. And you will have even more different views ten years from now. As long as major religious principles aren’t affected, it is okay to expect some change in views from your spouse as time goes on. It may not be exactly what you think, but discussing these changes without jumping to angry conclusions is key to achieving happiness in marriage. Embracing one another’s differences and working to become better Muslims should be a practice of every couple.
Finally, another problem that can derail a marriage is not putting forth enough effort in giving your spouse attention. During the process of getting to know your partner before marriage, both people are very careful in being respectful and kind to the other. They are eager to shower the other with gifts and compliments. This can produce a very strong bond between husband and wife, but it can also cause some disappointment later in the marriage if similar attention is not shown to each other. While it is tough to maintain that same level of love and gentleness in the day to day activities of marriage, it is certainly not impossible. A simple gift or a kind word here or there can go a very long way. We should find out what makes our spouse the most happy, and try to give them a little bit of that whenever we can. One elderly gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting gave me a very good piece of advice about how to have a strong marriage. He has been married for over 50 years and told me that the biggest thing to remember is, “Whatever you did to get them to marry you, do the same to keep them happy.” This will be different for every couple but is essential in having a happy marriage.
There is a great book by Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini titled Principles of Marriage and Family Ethics (available online) that gives a good number of recommended acts for those that are married. Let us use these gems from our Ahlul Bayt and pious scholars to strengthen our marriages, so we are successful in this world and in the next.