The first five to seven years are the most challenging of any marriage. They are a time a couple spends getting to know each other better and adjusting to each other's habits and personalities.
Below are some of the main problems couples face in the early years and some possible solutions.
1. Lack of proper information before marriage
A number of problems are caused simply by the fact that the couple and their families have not discussed crucial issues beforehand. Some of these include:
- whether or not the wife will work outside the home
- will the couple wait to have children
- which city and country the couple will live in after marriage
- will they live with his parents or have their own apartment
2. Who's in charge?
One of the biggest problems is the tug-of-war between couples over who is in control in the relationship. This has led to a stalemate in disagreements, as well as bitter feelings.
Many couples today are refusing to compromise within moderation when differences arise.
While from an Islamic perspective, the husband is given the leadership role in the marriage relationship, this does not mean he runs the couple's family life like a dictatorship.
It must be remembered that Islamically, a leader is one who serves, manages, provides and nourishes. A leader must also have humbleness and humility.
A husband exercises the right kind of leadership by being listening to and consulting (doing Shura) with his wife.
Also, a husband is bound to follow the rules of the Quran and Sunnah. So differences in opinion should be referred back to these sources, instead of becoming a source of tension and problems.
3. The divorce option
Once upon a time, "divorce" was the seven-letter word most Muslim couples avoided using. Today, amongst many Muslim couples in North America, it is one of the first recourses turned to when conflicts occur in marriage.
It should be remembered that out of all of the things Allah has made Halal, divorce is the one He hates the most. Couples need to look at several other alternatives before turning to this drastic measure.
They should seek the help of older, wiser and trustworthy elders who will try to help them resolve their differences. Generally, they need to make a sincere, concerted effort to try to work things out before divorce is seriously considered.
4. Sexual problems
It is unrealistic to expect the issue of sex and sex-related problems to mysteriously disappear once a couple gets married.
In the sex-saturated culture of North America, couples tend to place very high expectations of each other in this area. They also expect instant results.
In reality, it takes time, commitment, disappointment and investment to establish a sexual relationship in marriage which is in tune with the needs of each partner.
It's important for Muslim couples to walk into marriage with proper information about sex and sexual etiquette from an Islamic perspective. They need to know what is Halal (permissible) and what is Haram (forbidden). They should also keep in mind that spouses must never discuss their sexual relationship with others, unless it is to get help for a specific problem with the right person or authority figure.
On a similar note, it's important for both the husband and wife to remember that they need to make themselves physically attractive to each other. Too many couples take marriage to mean an excuse to now let themselves go. The couple or one of the partners may gain too much weight, or may not care about hygiene and their looks in general. The reverse should be true: spouses should take the time out for these things and give them even more attention after marriage. Our beloved Prophet has recommended husband and wife both to do that, May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him.
The first few years of marriage are not just a period of adjustment for the married couple. It's one of getting used to in-laws and vice-versa.
Husbands, wives and in-laws need to practice the Islamic rules of social relations with each other. These include: avoiding sarcasm, backbiting, calling each other by offensive nicknames, and making a special effort to respect each other as family members.
As well, comparisons need to be avoided, since every individual and every couple is different. So wives should not be compared to mothers and sisters. Husbands should not be compared to fathers and brothers. In-laws should not be compared to parents, etc.
In addition, there should be regular, healthy contact between spouses and in-laws. This can mean visiting each other at least once or twice a month, or calling if distance makes it difficult to get together.
Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They live happily ever after.
This is the plot of many a Hollywood and Bollywood movie, where everyone is "perfect". Real life is very different.
Couples may enter marriage with high-flying romantic ideas and expecting their partner to be the ideal human. But all humans have good and bad points. Husbands and wives have to learn to accept each other, warts and all.