Posted on Aug 14, 2019
Editor's Note: This article is part of a summer series we are producing on "Marriage and Families - A Multifaceted Landscape." We are covering Prophetic examples of marriages, blended families, questions to ask before marriage, courtship traditions in modern times, the post-divorce landscape, single parenting and other topics from a Muslim-centric perspective. Check into the blog throughout the summer to read our series.
By Rowayda Kawji
Exactly one year ago, I was in a big white dress walking arm and arm with my new husband into our wedding venue to celebrate with all our loved ones. Hard to believe it’s been a year! As the months have gone by, both my husband and I have often reflected - sometimes together, sometimes privately with friends and sometimes alone - on the question asked to us so many times that it began to sound like a broken record:
How’s married life?
It’s no question that married life, living together, having a life partner - is so completely and entirely different than everything that comes before it. (Check out this other perspective on the first year of marriage from HH blog writer Danah!) Nothing can quite prepare you for your own, unique journey, but in honor of completing my first year of marriage here are 12 things I’ve learned in 12 months of being married. I hope you find this list informative and comforting!
Rowayda and her husband on their wedding day!
1. Have realistic expectations.
From romantic movies and books to the emergence of #couplegoals, marriage has become, for many, something of an idealized fairytale fantasy. Too many go into marriage expecting just a few bumps along a beautifully picturesque road. In reality, marriage is more like a beautifully scenic obstacle course: trying but fun, challenging but rewarding. On the other hand, many who have seen first-hand failed marriages, divorce and loveless or maybe even abusive marriages may go into marriage expecting the absolute worst. I had heard “first-year of marriage horror stories” from people I know and even those I didn’t. More times than I can count, I was warned that “the first year of marriage is always the most difficult.”
From my experience, I would say that the first year of marriage is neither a perfect fantasy nor an incredibly difficult challenge, but somewhere in the middle. Of course, everyone's experiences will be different. Understanding that your perceptions of marriage and the first year might be skewed is important to how you overcome the challenges you will face.
2. Ask the right questions.
Ask the big questions. I believe the engagement period is for getting to know your future life partner, and I truly don’t think most people take it seriously enough. For many young Muslim couples, it’s their first time courting or being courted, And it’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s fun to get to know a new person (and their family) who wants to spend their life with you and plan a future together. In this time, however, sometimes important questions don’t get asked. Asking the right questions can prepare you for a future marriage or can prevent you from entering a marriage that would not have ultimately been successful. For a list of 100 important questions to ask before marriage check out this article.
3. Communication is everything.
If there is one piece of advice you take away from this list, let it be this: Communication is absolutely everything in any relationship. Make sure you talk about everything. We tend to want to treat others like they know what’s going on in our heads without letting them in on what that is. Make sure you’re sharing your thoughts, feelings and experiences with your spouse so that he can support you and love you (or learn how to do so) in the way that you need. When communication begins to wane, relationships can become endangered.
4. Choose your battles.
People always say that living with someone is the most sure-fire way to really know them. That’s because when you live with someone, you become hyper aware of all of their habits - good and bad. This is even more amplified in marriage. Obviously there will be things that will bother you about your spouse’s habits, his lifestyle, his quirks. What can you accept and/or let go, and what is worth it to you to speak up about?
It is so important to pick the battles that matter. Instead of pointing out how he eats with his elbows on the table and doesn’t separate the laundry right and leaves the TV on and snores, choose to be only critical of the things that really impact your relationship.
5. Forgive and forget.
Every couple argues. Scratch that, any two people who are relatively close will argue. Arguing with your spouse is not a failure or a mistake - it’s healthy. It’s how you handle the argument that is most important. First, make sure you bite your tongue to prevent saying anything you may regret. Take some time to cool off, listen to your spouse’s feelings, and process the whole situation.
Even after all of that, it’s extremely important that when the situation is resolved that you forgive each other and you let the argument go so that you two can move on happily and quickly. The longer you hold anger or hurt, the more it will fester into resentment. A wise woman once told me that one of the secrets to the success of her marriage is making it a rule for her and her husband to never fall asleep still angry with each other. I don’t know if this is always feasible, but the spirit of the advice is good.
6. Respect each other’s independence.
Remember that although the two of you are partners, you are not one. You do not need to spend all of your time together. You do not need to have the same interests. You do not need to be friends with all of each other’s friends. You do not have to have the same opinions on everything. You do not need to always schedule the same plans. It’s important to give each other space to be individuals, too.
7. Don’t ditch dates.
Although letting one another be independant and spending time alone is important, make sure you also make time for each other. Too many couples stop prioritizing and romancing their spouse after a few months. Dates are important because they help you reconnect and bring back memories of courting. Your dates can be anywhere from dinner at an upscale restaurant or a picnic in the park; how much you spend doesn’t matter because what matters is the time you spend together.
8. Learn each other’s love languages.
It’s so important to understand what makes your spouse tick and what is important to them in a relationship. Understanding their love language is important to understanding who they are as a person but also how to communicate with them. (Try taking this quiz!) Some people like to be told “I love you,” but some people prefer to be shown. Identifying your spouse’s love language will help you determine the best way to make him feel loved and appreciated.
9. Reflect often.
My husband and I made it a priority to reflect, every month or so, on our time a married couple. We would talk about things that had surprised us, disappointed us or made us happy or upset. We talked about how our expectations of our marriage and of each other compared to the reality of it all. These chats, sometimes brief and sometimes hours long, served as a great check-in with each other so that we knew what was on the mind and in the heart of the other and could adjust accordingly.
10. Privacy is key.
Try to keep your relationship private unto yourselves: your happiness, your challenges and your disappointments. The times it’s hardest to keep things between just the two of you is in the case of a dispute. You will want to share with your mom or your sister or your friend. Unless you’re going through something major, avoid letting anyone in on petty disagreements because the love you have for your spouse will allow you to forgive him and forget whatever had happened. Whoever you’d vented to about it though will not forget and may hold these long-resolved disputes against him.
Compromise, compromise, compromise. Ideally, both of you.
12. Grow together.
Finally, it’s important to embrace that you two will make mistakes together, learn together and grow together. When you marry someone, you pledge to be their life partner, their best friend, the parent of their children (if you have children), their support system and so much more. Make sure you’re nurturing each other in a way that makes you both grow, succeed, flourish, become closer to Allah, and feel at peace with each other and your life together.
I hope insha'Allah I get the opportunity to revisit this list after a few years to see if my advice stays the same! What are your tips for marriage? What was some of the best advice you were given? Share with us in the comments below!