the male is not like the female.' (Quran, 3:36)
There is no doubt that when
Allah created that `single soul', and from it derived the first couple, Woman
was not just a revised model of Man. And the differences, far from being the
product of chance or random whim, were the wise and compassionate workings of
our Creator, Who exquisitely designed each half of the pair to complement the
other physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
They had certain things in
common - and an absolutely fundamental range of differences!
It is true that there are plenty
of `sensitive' men and `coldly logical' women. Nevertheless, it does seem that
when it comes down to working out the mechanics of helping men and women to live
together smoothly as husband and wife, if is a good idea to remind the hopeful
newlyweds that they are not the same at all - it is easier to solve a lot of the
problems if one remembers the saying that `women come from Venus, and men come
Just like visitors from two
different planets, husbands and wives don't always `speak the same language', or
understand the same consequences from a course of action, or look at a problem
through the eyes of someone from the same background.
Quite apart from the `gender
gap', which has been carved into the chromosomes of every single cell in the
body, one obvious factor is that the two partners have come into their marriage
from two different families, with entirely different past tracks. Since
experiences in childhood play so important a role in shaping our thinking and
attitudes in adulthood, there will be unknown depths to deal with, and
conflicting views will inevitably break surface from time to time. When both
partners come from a very similar background, sharing the same religious beliefs
and practices and aims, the problems are greatly reduced -but they are not done
away with entirely. Much depends on what happened to them as individual boys and
Men who get a frequent blasting
of the repeat tunes: `You don't love me! ` `You never listen to me!' `You don't
care how I feel! ` need to ask themselves why it is that their wives are feeling
so insecure. Are they really lacking in love, or not communicating that love? A
wife who knows that she is very dear to her husband feels warm and safe inside.
However, if a wife had a cold and inadequate father who did not give her
adequate emotional support as a child, or one who despised his wife and treated
her abusively as if she was a fool or a servant, then when she is `off guard',
low and tired, she may have an overwhelming need for approval and reassurance
that has nothing to do with her husband. The perplexed husband cries: `But I
could tell her I love her a hundred times, and it still wouldn't be enough!'
This, unfortunately, is true - but understanding why might help alleviate his
irritation and bafflement.
It is a good idea for husbands
and wives to try to see each other from the perspective of their pasts, rather
than their own. This is particularly important when the partner has been
systematically humiliated and cruelly treated, or abused physically or sexually
by a parent or guardian, or was unwanted.
You cannot undo the past, nor
completely cure its effects; but you can do a very great deal to heal a
distressed mate, or at least comfort them in love. Instead of downplaying the
neglect or abuse, even though you may not have experienced it personally, you
should not underrate their anguish, but acknowledge their past and give your
Therefore, it is only fair, of
course, if the `hurt' partner makes sure the other fully understands the
problem, so far as he or she is able to communicate it. At a time when emotions
are not heated, discuss your feelings; explain why you feel hurt and what you
need in order to feel reassured.
Hurt people have such a natural
tendency to summon up all the traumas from the past and use them as emotional
weaponry when they get into arguments. Whenever you hear `It's all your fault!
`, `You should/shouldn't be able to do this!' or the deadly `You always/ never
do/remember that!' you are probably dealing with a ghost from the past. Husbands
or wives who use this kind of phraseology do not mean it really - the statements
are provably not true - but there is an old accumulated `hang up' of deep
These husbands and wives should
try to rephrase themselves assertively in terms of how they feel about whatever
it is, rather than an accusation of what the other is or is not doing.
`When you do that, I feel
unloved/misunderstood', is much more dealable-with than `You don't love me' or
`You never understand me!' It is a very good idea to get out a book on basic
assertiveness training, and have a look into its insights and skills. Most
managers who work smoothly with their staff do this - they are sent on courses.
It wouldn't hurt those trying to run a good, smooth marriage to know some of the
For a wife to feel dearly loved,
much more is required than just being pleased that she has been able to submit
successfully to her husband's will. He could have a horse or a dog that is well
trained, submissive and never argues back. But people need real companionship
and helpmates to work and live with. What a husband needs is a wife who not only
loves and respects him but becomes also a real helper and genuinely supports him
in the decisions he makes. This, of course, is not difficult when those
decisions are arrived at following mutual agreement, and are on the right road
Things are not quite so easy
when you genuinely disagree. What then? Would your wife then do her best to make
your decision work (provided it was not against the will of Allah), or would she
hold back stubbornly, and hope to see you make a mess of it, and then enjoy the
pleasures of `I told you so'?
A good Muslim wife will not try
to usurp her husband's headship of the family. Many women do, of course, and
many of them succeed, wearing down their men through constant nagging or a
constant display of their brilliant efficiency as opposed to the faults and
inadequacies of their husbands.
It makes those women very
difficult to live with, and it steadily erodes the woman's genuine respect for
her man. Constant criticism generally produces an uncertain, indecisive husband.
Don't you remember how those critical, humiliating teachers at school made their
pupils feel? They didn't teach them much, but turned them into stupid kids who
could never get anything right, who ended up either keeping their heads down or
aggressively rebelling. Wives who can see nothing but their husbands'
inadequacies need to remember how difficult it is for them to carry out their
role as leader, and how easy it is to go wrong.
Providing the couple have
arrived at their decisions with proper consultation and thoughtfulness, the wife
should `cover the faults' and weaknesses and mistakes of her husband and do her
best to boost his confidence, not knock him down. Her loyalty and trust in him
will all serve to strengthen him and ensure that he improves in skills and moves
towards success. After all, a good Muslim man should be her best friend, not her
When friends disagree with one
another, the decision-maker who proved to be wrong will soon dump any friend who
crowed and laughed at him, or who continually tried to bring him down or
This is another reason, of
course, why a woman should be so careful when choosing a husband. She should
take great care to marry the sort of man that she is going to respect and be
able to obey without feeling dreadfully trapped or helpless or frustrated by
knowing all the time that his leadership will not be up to scratch.
It can be dangerous when wives
start to act like the husband's mother! `Don't forget your briefcase! ` `You
idiot - you didn't forget so-and-so, did you?' Once the husband starts to feel
patronised and henpecked by this, he may revert to the little boy's longing to
escape through the door and get out to play.
There is also the very real
danger that he will really start to identify his wife with his mother, and since
Mother probably spoilt him rotten, the wife may not come out of the comparison
too well. Wives should remember the wise old saying - `A man can love a hundred
women, but he only has one mother'. Turn a wife into a substitute mother, and a
husband might soon start wishing he had not swapped her for the `real' one.
One regular flashpoint in
marriage comes when the husband walks in to find a wife in tears, in a mood,
angry, desperate with worry, or whatever, and he listens for a bit, decides it
is trivial stuff, mutters something and then goes off to think about his own
problems. Meanwhile, the wife explodes with the `You don't love me!' and `You
don't listen to me!' What she has perhaps failed to realise is that his
withdrawal has nothing to do with her, or anything she has said or done. He is
still involved in his own fears, insecurities and pains, and perhaps even needs
to `lick his wounds'. He doesn't intend to worry her with his problems; so it
seems doubly hard to be accused of not caring about hers.
It is usually a highly
noticeable feature of a good marriage that when husband and wife meet each other
again after a day apart, they greet each other properly, and pay attention to
each other for a few moments. Husbands need to be aware that a perfunctory peck
on the cheek does not count in the wife's eyes as `paying attention', and may
not satisfy a strong need she has for emotional reconnection.
Women are from Venus, the saying
goes, and men are from Mars. When men listen, they usually do it swiftly,
absorbing the information, working out what to do about it, assessing its
importance. At work, many men prefer to work out solutions on their own, and
discuss them only with those whose advice they really need. Some like to get
away from the problem for a while, and return to it later. When they get home,
they often appreciate solitude - and this is where many wives fail to show
understanding and appreciation.
Some wives handle a man's need
for peace and solitude badly. They intuitively sense the tension, and react by
trying to get him to tell them what it is all about. The husband may find the
thought of his wife knowing about it intrusive and humiliating, and may not wish
to talk to her about it, but to keep her and his `home haven' out of it. It
would take far too long to explain all the ins and outs to her anyway, and he
doesn't want to waste his evening. He doesn't want an hour of his wife mulling
it over for him, he wants some peace. Yet, the more he backs off (either to get
peace, or to think his problems through alone), there she is trotting behind him
in hot pursuit, still pressing to know what's wrong and wanting him to talk
When he manages to shut her up,
or to escape, the wife feels hurt, unloved, and left out, partly because he has
not paid any attention to her problems or appearance, or the food that she has
got ready, and partly because he has not shared his worry with her. He has
excluded her, as her friends would not have done. This must mean that he does
not love her!
And the poor man, once he has
had enough of chewing over the problem, turns back to the loving wife he had set
on one side for the moment only to find her seething with resentment and full of
hurt and anger. `Men are from Mars; women are from Venus'.
Communication is vital. The man
has to tell his wife that he needs some peace to think things through, and that
of course he does love her, he just doesn't want to burden her with something
from work. When she still cries words that mean `But why'? Aren't I your best
friend?', then the best deflection of wrath is the kiss and the undivided
attention he can give to her feelings. It doesn't have to be for long, just long
enough for her to note it and acknowledge it.
A lot of husband wife bickering
happens not because they disagree, but simply because the man feels criticised
and humiliated and that his wife disapproves of his point of view, while the
wife disapproves of the way he is talking to her.
Let's just think about some good
listening skills - another thing managers frequently learn on courses! Active
listening is a way of making sure that both speaker and listener really
understand each other. You have to pay careful attention, and pick out the
important message (which may be underlying and not on the surface). Try to work
out what feelings are involved, and acknowledge them. Try not to judge,
criticise or dispute until you are sure of what the speaker really intended to
put across. Let the speaker confirm that, and if you got it wrong, let them
explain again. If what you are hearing is criticism, then don't boil over -
there may be truth in that criticism, but it was simply unloaded on you in a way
that was painful. Instead of just throwing the pain back on your critic, try to
defuse the situation by acknowledging that you understand what- ever upset
feelings you may be held responsible for, and try to work out how you could
improve the situation.
If you really feel that you are
justified in a complaint, try to work out how you can best deal with it without
starting a war. You may feel that your partner was being inconsiderate,
thoughtless, unwise, arrogant, chauvinistic, etc., but probably he or she did
not mean to be. State your feelings without making sweeping accusations, and try
to phrase your comments as talk about yourself and not attacks on your spouse.
Remember that `the ego is always enjoining evil' (Quran, 12:53).
`When you did that, I felt...
`This does not accuse your partner, but simply states how you felt. He or she
cannot argue with that. They might be very surprised, since they probably never
intended to upset you at all. !f you simply charge in with `You always' or `You
never', then the person being attacked will frequently just deny it or justify
themselves, and the grievance for which you hoped to find a solution might be
deflected into just another battle over an irrelevant detail of speech.
`Will you please stop harassing
me?' is an attack. `When you did that, or said that, I felt very harassed' is
not. It is a statement that presents a problem to the other person, which he or
she may be required to solve. When people know that particular actions or words
have particular effects, then if they still persist in doing them, they will
have to take responsibility for the result.
`When you always stay out with
your friends, leaving me alone, or you don't come to bed until I'm asleep, it
makes me feel very unloved. It shakes the love I feel for you, and I am
beginning to feel resentment and dislike instead.'
Either the man will click into
his work mode of `here is a problem to be solved, what must I do?' or he will
not care less, in which case, why are you still married to him?
Sometimes the partner really
needs to be told that if they keep on doing or saying something the spouse will
not feel loved or wanted, and may indeed cease to love or want them. Take a
personal and embarrassing example- suppose the husband regularly and
thoughtlessly breaks wind in bed? She may be excruciatingly embarrassed, unable
to speak to him about what she interprets as a fearful insult, and bitterly
resent and hate it. If she does not tell him, there will come a day when this
action, which the man perhaps sees as a normal and natural need, really makes
her despise his lack of thought for her - and the marriage is thenceforth
doomed. It might seem a small, trivial matter to the husband, but then `women
are from Venus, men are from Mars.'
When women talk, good listening
skills are the key to the husband's success. In a non-extended family, the wife
is dependent upon the husband for emotional support. She does not usually want
to make decisions on her own, but wants her husband to agree with her, to back
her up. This does not necessarily mean that she wants him to tell her what to
do, but just that she needs to feel close to him and to share with him -
something that usually does not bother a man at work too much.
A good husband grants her enough
time, and does listen. A really good husband has worked out that she rarely
comes right out with it and says what she wants or what is bothering her - she
drops hints. And the irritating thing for the husband is that she expects him to
work all this out for himself. That, for her, is a major proof that he has
noticed her and taken consideration of her needs, that he loves her. When the
husband cannot or will not do this, she nearly always assumes that he does not
love her. To her, most things she wants seem such little things to ask - why
can't he even give her that?
Women generally listen hard and
pick up all sorts of signals and body language, to see behind the words to what
people feel, and what they are thinking. They frequently know intuitively what
people want, or need. This is a skill that many men do not emphasize or develop.
However, on the downside, women can become overcome with emotions over small
matters, and draw sweeping, dramatic conclusions out of a shrug or a sigh,
something which is exasperating and baffling to a husband.
Husbands could perhaps remember
that it is highly likely that throughout her childhood his wife had a close
friend, someone to whom she talked about everything, especially feelings, likes
and dislikes, loves and tragedies. They may have `lived' together through the
turmoils and passions of heroines in books and magazines. They shared and
empathised about everything, including the most intimate emotions. When
childhood is left behind and the girl marries, she very frequently expects the
husband to become her new `best friend', and take on the role of `confidant'
where her old girlfriends left off. When the man proves unable to do this, she
is often (perhaps unconsciously) disappointed, and feels left out and lonely.
Women often talk away to their
friends, pouring everything out, not hesitating to reveal their fears and
troubles. They do not expect their friends to judge them, merely to share their
emotions. It may well be that in marriage a woman also has a very strong need
for an empathetic listener. But she has very likely forgotten that her husband,
coming back to the home after a day `on the outside', has his own fears,
worries, and need for solitude and refreshment.
Tired husbands will often ignore
the petty day-to-day squabbles and upsets, assuming that if there is a real
problem the wife will speak up. The tired wife gets upset over the fact that he
is ignoring her obvious state of distress, tiredness and hints. Many husbands do
not really listen to `feelings', but to problems and how to solve them. Their
reaction to her tirade is usually that she is overreacting - her problems are
small and very easy to solve.
And the wife explodes again. How
dare he consider her problems to be small? She is doing all this, sacrificing
all her life for him, slaving away in drudgery, etc. etc., for him. Irritated,
the husband tends to withdraw, shut out her noise and the noise from the kids,
and retreat to somewhere quiet where he can put his feet up and relax, and maybe
mull over his own day's problems.
What do husbands really expect
from their wives? This is another matter that really needs sorting out. They
usually need to feel that the health of their families is in safe hands; they
expect the wife to buy the proper food and cook proper meals, and keep them fit
They expect their wives to make
some effort to look nice, on their behalf. They expect wives to watch the clock
and get themselves ready at appropriate times. Of course, if they break the
rules and pop up unexpectedly, or bring people in without notice, they are
asking for a nasty surprise.
They expect their wives to keep
their home looking decent, welcoming and clean. Children and toys all over the
place can be a major irritant. The answer is usually to have a playroom, if
possible, or at least to keep a large toy box handy where everything can be
slung in quickly, out of the way.
They expect their wives to be
pleased to see them, gentle and unharassing, and they hope that they will not be
indifferent towards them in the marital bed. In many cases, a wife's lack of
enthusiasm, or sometimes frigidity, may well be due to the husband's lack of
consideration and understanding. But wives should be aware that their
indifference hurts the husband, and a show of distaste might kill his potency,
or even cause him to be attracted to someone else.
Husbands have the right to trust
their wives, and not catch them out doing things or seeing people that the wife
knows the husband disapproves of.
not lawful for a woman who believes in Allah to allow anyone into her husband's
home whom he dislikes ... She should not refuse to share her husband's bed. She
should not strike him. If he is more in the wrong than she, she should plead
with him until he is satisfied. If he accepts her pleading, well and good, and
her plea will be accepted by Allah; while if he is not reconciled to her, her
plea will have reached Allah in any case.' (Hadith from al-Hakim.)
So once again, don't seethe
with resentment because the wife is not doing what you want. Communicate!
`Darling, I used to love it when you put on a fresh dress and perfume just for
me. I know the sort of day you have just had, but when you still do it, just to
please me, I know that you really do still care about me.' Notice the necessary
ingredients of your statement: express your hurt, acknowledge their hard work
and sacrifice, state your need for love and respect - and watch the results.
Seems too much of a performance?
After a little practice the skills just come naturally. They are the basic good
manners (adab) of Islamic marriage.
Writen by Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood