Friday, February 14, 2014

Agony Aunt: Trouble with My Husband

Asalamu Alaykom,

Maybe it's the winter never seeming to be over, but there are three women asking about their lives today on Agony Aunt.  I'm going to answer as best I can.  Any good is from God working through me.  Any bad is from me and may God forgive me.

Alaikom Salam,

I'm in total emotional turmoil.  I'm not sure if I want to stay married.  I've realized that there's an extremely low likelihood of it working out.  He is overseas and I'm back in the States.  There's too many things against us.  We don't share the same language, culture, education, the list goes on and on.  I'm being realistic now.  The fantasy has worn off.  I love him a lot.  I really do.  I just don't think we're compatible for the rest of our lives.  We don't have kids yet and I don't want a man who hits me or my kids. If I had kids with him, then I could never leave them.  It's better not to take that risk.  I just need to know that I'm right before I tell him.  He has no idea what I'm deciding.

Wa Alaykom Asalam,

I'm very sorry you are in turmoil.  

When we face BIG QUESTIONS in our lives, we tend to focus on the small issues.

The real issues between you and your husband can't be about language.  If you are in Islam, then you love learning and have been learning Arabic.  

Culture is a such an easy commodity to share.  I have dated men in my life who have made me laugh until I cried because they knew the inside jokes and twists of phrase.  Guess what?  They can do that with anybody; it's a party trick to chit-chat on the surface level and it wears thin.

You want to talk about his education?  I'm guessing that he has less than you do.  That's kind of a low blow.  Men living overseas often have less formal education but more street smarts.  You honestly want to tell me that an American man with a B.A. can slaughter an animal?  Break up a fight?  Haggle a price down?  

My husband has as much education as my first-generation Norwegian immigrant grandfather did (and that's not saying much).  Neither went on to college because of their family's need for them to work.  To look down on a man without a diploma for the rest of his life seems unfair, doesn't it?  It's like giving him a life sentence for his parents' misfortunes.  By the way, my grandfather's third try at making money made him very well off and that business is still in existence today.  Subhanallah.

I see my ability to teach my husband is a blessing to him.  He couldn't afford any more lessons so God sent him a teacher--me!  That's funny!  Subhanallah.  I wouldn't have chosen him as a student but it has been very rewarding to help him learn.  He helps me learn too as marriage always works two ways.

God has you in this life for reasons; some of which you know and some you have yet to know.  It is said that we shouldn't wish for anything except what God knows is best.  Start from that really honorable place.  Begin with The Beginner.  Go to God in prayer and ask for direction in your life.

You are going to others with this problem, right?  My guess is that you're discussing it with friends and family (and many whom are not adhering to Islam).  It doesn't sound as if you have talked it over with your husband overseas.  That's not fair.  How would you feel if he were doing the same about you?  No doubt he could have been talked out of marrying you by his friends and family but he went ahead with your halal union.

Being married isn't the same as being boyfriend/girlfriend.  Hey, you can walk away from a bad date or a bad relationship when you aren't REALLY committed.  You have options.  When you are married, some options are limited.  Those limitations themselves can be what we really don't like rather than the person himself.

You are more scared of staying in your marriage than you are scared of leaving.  Western society values those who are go-getters; movers and shakers.  A person who stays in a place or a job too long has something wrong with them, right?  Someone who stayed married 50 years is appreciated as a kind of oddity in their old age but if someone is still young then it's reasonable for them to grow apart and leave their former love.  That's Western belief.  

Yes, in Islam a divorce is allowable but it is the most hated allowable thing in the world.  You are separated by distance and now you are seeing that differences separate you as well.  Islam asks us to have patience with those times and people that are difficult.  The benefits come from working things out ---from both sides.

You are not a perfect specimen of a Muslim wife.  I'm not either.  NO ONE is.  Our faults need understanding and guidance, love and forgiveness.  As I grow older, I realize more and more how much of a blessing a halal marriage is.

Is hitting halal?  No, no one should be hitting.  Parents should not be beating children.  Husbands should not be beating wives or vice versa.  Islam is about compassion yet we all know Muslims who fall short.  If you are married to a man who fears Allah, then even if he errs there is a good chance he can reform.  If he can control himself during the month of Ramadan, it shows that he has a strong resolve.

You don't make it clear if he has hit you.  In America, it's a majority mandate to women that if he hits then you must leave.  Here in Egypt, there isn't that feeling.  It still isn't right that a man would hit his wife but it doesn't mean a woman has to leave.  It's a process of understanding limits and expectations.  A Muslim man has many other ways of expressing his displeasure other than a hit.  Help him through his fitnah as he has helped you through yours.  Everyone has struggles of right and wrong and a marriage needs to be a place where we can count on loving acceptance of our best selves and negation of our worst selves.

Not having children yet is staying outside the threshold of a happy home.  Sure, you can run away easier but is that the best way to make decisions?  Do you actually pray, "Dear God, bring me into only the situations which have good escape routes,"?  I hope not!  Pray for the best life.  Pray for the highest rewards.

Alhumdulillah your fantasy has worn off.  Don't live in half-truths and don't ask others to tell you YOUR truth.  Be quiet and at peace knowing that you have all the answers already.  Go to Al-Haqq and ask for guidance.

I wish you peace.

Salamo Alaykom,

I'm usually a very upbeat person but I'm not now because my best friend from childhood is going through a divorce.  It's really eating me up inside.  She calls me a couple of times a day to tell me what's going on.  I know everything and it's killing me.  I don't tell her not to get divorced.  I mostly listen and I think I cry more than she does.  It's affecting me because I don't know what to tell her.  It has me feeling so sad.  It makes me even wonder what I'm doing in my own life.  I can't advise her with her husband when I hear things from her that are wrong in my own marriage.  How do I deal with my friend's divorce?

Wa Alaykom Asalam,

You use two very graphic ways to describe your feelings with, "eating me up inside," and, "killing me."  Words are powerful.  Although you didn't ACTUALLY mean what you wrote, those figurative expressions are sad statements of how desperate you've become.

Something needs to change.

Can you change your friend and her situation?  No.  You can only change your part in the drama.

Before you started hearing about her problems, it doesn't sound like there was any drama in your life.  Her twice daily updates are upsetting your feelings of safety and calm within your own marriage.  She has become a magnifying mirror which is distorting your own views.  On and on, she explores her problems and you start to wonder about your own life.

Islam tells us NOT to share the secrets of our married life from inside our homes.  You have become a spy of sorts.  Is that who you want to be?  Every time she is guilty in over sharing,  you are also guilty of letting it continue.  You are not her therapist and as a friend you really are helpless to help her.  It doesn't sound as if she wants help exactly; she just wants to dump.

"Ahhhhh," she can say with a smile after your phone calls, "I feel so much better!"

"Ohhhh," you groan as you wipe away a tear, "I feel so much worse."

That's not a healthy relationship.  She is using you as a catharsis to feel emotions she is unable to feel.  You can keep her as a friend but you've got to stop the disturbing information coming in.  Tell her that you need some time to get centered again.

You might think that she won't be able to handle her life without you.  She can.  Actually, you bowing out forces her to deal with the issues rather than endlessly rolling them around.  The other and very real possibility is that she'll find another ear to bitch lament to.

Use your time wisely.  Free yourself from the phone.  Go to your husband at prayer times and have him lead you.  See once again the good, true, and kind man you married.  No, he's not perfect but he's someone you have valued for years.  Keep him; lose your job at the help center.


I know you've been divorced and remarried.  I've been married almost three months and I'm having second thoughts.  I was married for ten years, then single for four.  I know I am independent and I don't need a man to take care of me.  I'm not saying I want another divorce.  It's just not what I thought it would be and it scares me that I was wrong.  What's the right way to look at a second marriage?  I'm pretty sure I'm doing something wrong to feel this way.

Asalam Alaykom,

I'm wishing you peace.

Subhanallah that anyone makes it through the first year of marriage.  It's tough!  Lots of times we women can feel cheated that we didn't really know the man, or he lied to us about who he was.  It's not that.  None of us really know each other until we live together as husband and wife.

Marriage changes us.  We have to submit (whether men or women) to another person's schedule, preferences and quirks.  People who were perfectly "normal" while courting begin to show limitations.  It happens to EVERYONE.

Take this year and be slow and careful with it.  Don't focus on the problems.  See them as bumps on the road and not complete road blocks.  Be loving.  Be yourself...but aim at being a better version of yourself.  Allow that man to be who he is too...if he crosses boundaries which you can't accept then you can tell him (at a time he can listen).  Also, listen to him and his needs.  Respect needs to go both ways.

Don't be scared that this could end in another divorce.  If your goal is to stay married then work towards that goal.  One man is going to be much like the next; they just don't differ that much.  Imagining that you made the wrong choice will trouble your head.  Realize that you made the right choice when you married and now you need to keep on making the right choices because Mr. Right is a fantasy.

Being single has its perks.  You can let yourself go, watch all your shows, eat whatever and whenever you want, and keep yourself and your desires uppermost in your mind.  I've seen what happens to single women as they grow older.  They  become a little crazy in their attempts to live independently.  We human beings were made to rely on others.  Living alone is...wait...

Are you stuck in the past remembering the fun of dating?  I wonder if that's part of the problem.  Remember that dating is NOT part of Islam.  If your life before marriage was filled with dates and dinners out then you need to re-think.  That's not a life.  That's a diversion from life.  Real life is what you have now and it's a building process which isn't always fun.  Don't confuse a boyfriend and a husband; that's the same as confusing haram and halal.  

I swear to God WALLAHI if you were to get rid of this husband, date another batch of dudes, and marry another man, you'd be right back in this same spot all over again.  You'd still be a woman wondering if you'd made the right decision and why it didn't feel as good as you had hoped.  The first year of marriage is a huge adjustment.  As long as you have love and respect for a man who fears Allah, you can stay together.

Inshahallah, you will stay together and years from now you'll be able to look back at your time as newlyweds.

Love and Light!


Party of 5 said...

MashaAllah, you give good, sound advice Yosra.
I think when we are honest with ourselves we can move forward...

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Salma,

Always nice to get a second opinion on the blog. I value yours!

Love and Light!

Marie said...

I agree with most of what you said Yosra. It is good advice, as married life is not always easy and both spouse have to make efforts and compromises, they have to deal with problems together and talk a lot too.
The only think I don't agree with you is about the beating part. No one should stay in an abusing relationship. Some men can change but most don't. They don't even fear God, because if you fear God, even a little bit, you don't do abuse others.

Stay well and in peace Yosra.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Marie,

I know that section of my advice isn't going to be accepted by all. That's OK. I still believe in what I've said and you can disagree without the two of us falling out over it.

Just to reiterate, I don't know what's happened in this woman's life. She didn't say. She is scared of being hit or having potential offspring hit. I'm not sure if that means she has been hit.

Being hit is different than being beaten. I'm not trying to split hairs. No question that beating (leaving marks and injuries) is wrong.

Is it highly likely that a foreign man has experienced a house where hitting was normal. Kids got hit. Maybe Mom got hit too from time to time. If a Western woman marries him, she will have to deal with his preconditioned mind---and hands.

I can't say that a marriage needs to end because a man needs to wise up. Society has gotten into demanding the end to any marriage where there was a physical altercation. I believe that women then get caught between scared of society's anger and their husband's anger. How can a woman stay married AND get help?

Men and women CAN change because we are always changing until we die. It's not our job to change a husband (not theirs to change us either). There's many ways of being a rotten spouse and we are all guilty of being less than our best. Men happen to be more physical; women are more psychological. Inshahallah a long term marriage can see improvements on both sides.

I realize your past colors your comment. I'm not sure exactly what happened with you and I don't have to know. I will always wish you the best and never second guess what you could have done differently. We all do what we're able to do.

If someone else is going to ask advice about this issue, I will say what I understand to be true. If you or anyone else wants to disagree in the comments section (as long as it's respectful like you were) then that's fine with me.

Love and Light!