Expressions of Love
Expressions of Love
Oh, marriage at last!
To many people, marriage is a peaceful end to a long search for their soul mate, although life does not end here. A small addition would probably introduce a new range to our vision of understanding of this central stage in life. As a cradle for a newborn's life, marriage becomes a continuous journey of learning and development.
As marriage reaches the stage of responsibility, parents often wonder why children insist on certain actions. Why won't the child learn to say a certain word properly or behave in a certain way albeit that mom and dad repeatedly remind the child to do so? The key that young parents — and sometimes older ones — obviously have not discovered is that children, as well as grown-ups, hardly learn anything by simple repetition. Repeating a word forever or constantly reminding children to act in a certain way means that they probably won't. Rather, they learn through connecting words to situations and building on information they already know.
Every word saved in the memory entails a recollection of a certain situation or even a series of scenes. A 1-year-old child will learn the word "mom" with all its connotations of love and tenderness through the scenes of a mother's embrace in addition to the role she plays. Similarly, all new words will be added in the context in which they were learned. Play words, for example, need to be taught while playing.
This, however, doesn't apply to learning new words only, but also to understanding immaterial values. It is impossible for a child living in a hostile family atmosphere to learn the concept of "love" and to link "love" to that "family." Sons and daughters who grow up seeing a marriage full of tension would not associate the marriage institution with feelings of intimacy and love. Getting over these deep-seated early impressions is generally not easy, even after long passing years, because these initial impressions become a basic part of their perception.
Human Feelings Become Taboo
The mechanism of learning becomes highly influential when married people fail to practice what they preach. A child will never learnabout democracy when the parents are authoritatively imposing their own opinion and making decisions for their child all the way. You can tell your son to stop mocking his sister over her choice of colors, for example, but he won't change his behavior unless you have shown tolerance towards the views expressed by your children, your spouse, and people around you. The kind of attitude you show is what your child will learn. Parents who try to teach their children to be positive can't order them at other times to stay out of discussions, disregarding their views on problems arising.
And although it sounds spontaneous to say that parents are role models to their children, few families act accordingly. Highlighting this is one phenomenon in the Arab society that I was born into and in which I live. Most young girls and boys unconsciously connect love to the idea of the "illegal." Their parents probably had a wrong notion of teaching modesty and politeness to their children. In overemphasizing this value, they deprive their children of the right to see even the smallest gestures or hear those tiny words of appreciation: human notes that are necessary to the success of their relations when they in turn become husbands and wives.
Unaware of the consequence, parents take the easier choice of avoiding the topic completely. With the usual lack of dialogues and explanations, they unintentionally label human feelings as taboo. As a result, their children will connect this sacred feeling of warmth between husband and wife to "illegal" movies and illicit relationships shown on television or seen on dark streets.
Naturally, you will rarely find a young man expressing love or appreciation to his wife although he might do so in a relationship outside marriage. It also follows that young girls bred in a conservative family will hardly have the skills needed to interact with a husband or be able to show these small hints of intimacy. Not only is this the case, but we've seen many girls that utterly reject the idea of a physical relationship because of a feeling of guilt and obscenity that rises to the surface with every meeting between husband and wife. Her parents probably rebuked her when she saw a love scene somewhere, simply telling her that this is haram. They never explained that this applies in that context only. These minor actions, unimportant as they may seem, can make all the difference to the future of their child's eventual marriage. No matter how parents talk to their sons and daughters, later when it's time to get married, ideas taught in the course of a whole series of seemingly minor situations can't be simply erased from their whole minds.
Things are not that bleak though. For by the wisdom of Allah, humans are privileged with the ability to learn and develop themselves into a different formulation from what their parents had prepared. Our children can change themselves and, more importantly, so can we. At this point, I must sadly say that this is one main feature we fail to teach our children — the possibility of learning — and that's why it becomes dire to show them this concept in action. Parents who are stagnant and who present themselves to their growing children as the all-knowing and never-changing adults, are working neither to their good nor to the good of their children. An atmosphere of openness to progress is a nutrient to family well-being.
The routine of life is very likely to turn marriage into a boring, unappreciated reality. The underlying epidemic of many marriage problems arises from the fact that partners refuse to face their bad traits or, if they do, they resist any attempt to change. Routine steals into people's characters, not only into their daily lives. People can't change themselves easily, but it is always fruitful to try. By simply showing this spirit, each partner is telling the other that their marriage is alive, their life is full of hope, and that they still care about each other. Regardless of huge results, this spirit, in my view, is the vaccine against routine that very often kills a couple's marriage.
Learning is a way of living, not a stage that passes and ends. Introducing a complete model of change and development is what new generations need in order to move forward. All the more encouraging and successful will the family be when all of them learn together. Our life and our children are worth a serious and continuous effort. No ending can be more eloquent than Allah's words:
"Verily! Allah will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change their state for themselves."
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