A Successful Marriage: The Missing Link

Posted by on Jan 4, 2011 in Spouse | 1,935 comments

“And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; verily, in that are signs for people who reflect.” (Qur’an, 30:21)

We’ve all read this verse on countless marriage announcements. But how many have actualized it? How many of our marriages really embody that love and mercy described by Allah? What is going wrong when so many of our marriages are ending in divorce?

According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs, the answer is simple. In his book, Eggerichs explains that extensive research has found that a man’s primary need is for respect, while a woman’s primary need is for love. He describes what he calls the “crazy cycle”—the pattern of argumentation that results when the wife does not show respect and the husband does not show love. He explains how the two reinforce and cause one another.  In other words, when a wife feels that her husband is acting unloving, she often reacts with disrespect, which in turn makes the husband act even more unloving.

Eggerichs argues that the solution to the “crazy cycle” is for the wife to show unconditional respect to her husband and for the husband to show unconditional love to his wife.  This means that a wife should not say that first her husband must be loving before she will show him respect.  By doing so, she will only bring about more unloving behavior.  And a husband should not say that first his wife must be respectful before he will show her love.  By doing so, he will only bring about more disrespectful behavior. The two must be unconditional.

When I reflected on this concept, I realized that looking at the Qur’an and prophetic wisdom, there are no two concepts more stressed with regards to the marital relationship.

To men, the Prophet ﷺ said,

“Take good care of women, for they were created from a bent rib, and the most curved part of it is its top; if you try to straighten it, you will break it, and if you leave it, it will remain arched, so take good care of women.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

He has further stressed: “The most perfect believer in the matter of faith is one who has excellent behavior; and the best among you are those who behave best towards their wives.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet ﷺ has also said, “A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” (Muslim)

Allah says:

“…Live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” (Qur’an, 4:19)

In these jewels of wisdom, men are urged to be kind and loving towards their wives. Moreover, they are urged to overlook their wife’s faults when showing that kindness and love.

On the other hand, when addressing the wife, the focus is different.  Why are women not told again and again to be kind and loving towards their husbands? Perhaps it is because unconditional love already comes naturally to women. Few men complain that their wives do not love them. But many complain that their wives do not respect them. And it is this sentiment which is most stressed in the Qur’an and sunnah, with regards to wives.

Respect can be manifest in a number of ways. One of the most important ways to show respect is the respect of one’s wishes. When someone says, “I respect your advice,” they mean “I will follow your advice.” Respecting a leader, means doing what they say. Respecting our parents means not going against their wishes. And respecting one’s husband means respecting his wishes. The Prophet ﷺ has said: “When any woman prays her five, fasts her month, guards her body and obeys her husband, it is said to her: ‘Enter paradise from whichever of its doors you wish.'” [At-Tirmidhi]

Why are we as women told to respect and follow the wishes of our husbands? It is because men are given an extra degree of responsibility. Allah says: “Men are the protectors and maintainers [qawwamun] of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means . . .” (Qur’an, 4:34)

But won’t this unconditional respect towards one’s husband put us, as women, in a weak, submissive position? Won’t we set ourselves up to be taken advantage of and abused? Quite the contrary. The Quran, the prophetic example, and even contemporary research have proven the exact opposite. The more respect a woman shows her husband, the more love and kindness he will show her. And in fact, the more disrespect she shows, the more harsh and unloving he becomes.

Similarly, a man may question why he should show kindness and love towards even a disrespectful wife. To answer this question, one only needs to look at the example of Omar Ibn ul-Khattab. When a man came to Omar (who was Khalifah at the time) to complain of his wife, he heard Omar’s own wife yelling at him. While the man turned to leave, Omar called him back. The man told Omar that he had come to complain of the same problem that Omar himself had. To this Omar replied that his wife tolerated him, washed his clothes, cleaned his home, made him comfortable, and took care of his children. If she did all of this for him, how could he not tolerate her when she raised her voice?

This story provides a beautiful example for all of us—not only for the men. This story is a priceless illustration of tolerance and patience, which is essential for any successful marriage. Moreover, consider the reward in the hereafter for those who show patience: Allah says, “Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full without reckoning (or measure).” (Qur’an, 39:10)

Also published by InFocus.

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  1. Salaam,

    Thank you for this article – it is enlightening. I would like your thoughts on reconciling feelings and actions. For example, how should one deal with the ‘feeling’ of no longer having respect for their husband (I.e. Due to deceit, lying, etc.). How does one fall back in trust and in love with their spouse, other than by merely going through the motions… Thank you.

    • Aoa .. SAZ .. I would like to know the answer to your question too .. Kindly forward me the answer ..
      Jazak Allaho khairan katheeran ..

  2. Asalamalaikum,

    Jazakallah for sharing this beautiful article. May Allah SWT bless you and all of us with the utmost toufiq to establish a beautiful marriage that pleases Allah. Ameen.

  3. Well well, well , this sister gets better and better writing wise Subana Allah

  4. Assalamualaykum Warahmatullah,

    This article contains a simple yet powerful message. Thank you for taking the time to write.

  5. Assalamu aleykum :)
    i believe the problem is that men don’t understand that respect is earned. every time he does something demeaning or makes a poor decision, he loses a little bit of respect in wife’s eyes. that’s why it is so important that men live up to a task of being real men in all aspects of life, especially those that are considered crucial by their wives.

  6. Women should obey their husbands, I’m a woman and I’m saying that. We should be so happy that they take care of us, love and protect us. Society tells us we are oppressed, that men control us. If someone says that to me as a Muslim woman I’m proud to obey my husband,make him happy, beautify myself for him. Some women look at me like there’s something wrong with me!

  7. wow i did not now that

  8. It really makes one stop and think and ponder upon these words/verses. Omar ibn al Khattab was one of the great examples we should follow. One of the GREATEST example is that of our Holy Prophet Muhammad, look at how he treated his wives…Subhan nallah.

  9. Beautiful article! However as a working woman I cannot help but wonder about all those working wives out there that are REQUIRED to work and REQUIRED to do the house chores. What happens when a 21st century working mother/wife has to compete with a woman from the prophets time; where men took it as an obligation to PROTECT AND PROVIDE for their wives? I don’t know why but I would feel hostility toward my husband who is suppose to provide but is in fact demanding me to bring home my share of the bread. How do you respec that husband?

    • A muslim woman should know her Islam. If she knows her Islam she will know her rights. If she knows her rights she will know that she does not have to accept to marry a man who requires her to work. Her husband, children and her home are priority, extra money is not necessary. It will just depend on the goals of the couple. If they aim for dunya, and wife wants to work, not only are the children neglected, but, she will eventually resent her husband because the responsibility of the home will always fall on her regardless. Yes men can help, but their duty is to provide and protect, and that is what they do best.

  10. SALAM,

  11. Thank you for the article – it is very enlightening. So much to think about and process; but I would also like the answer to the questions raised by Anisa Ve and Saz? within your four walls is where first you find Fairness, justice, understanding, accepted, support, encouragement, love, respect and the list goes on…but what if one partner I.e the wife keeps, giving the respect, kindness the understanding, she keeps waiting for tomorrow to come…… 7 children and 15 years have gone by but the tomorrow has still not come; promises are made but never kept….. That same husband provides, protects, nurtures, guides, supports, encourages, questions and challenges his own parents, brothers, sisters and their children.
    Looking back the unconfident, insecure 19 year old [me] did not know how to handle or deal with her very confident, well spoken, cultured husband who everyone liked, respected and loved! And I still don’t!!!!!!!!!!
    He is a very generous very kind person; that is why everyone within my family or his; come to us when they are going through difficulties or have problems they cannot solve. Each and every one of them knows he will help no matter what the cost time, money etc…. they are also aware that I will not stand in his way, I will do whatever needs to be done to help him achieve the objective from cooking, listening, advising making phones calls paper work etc…..
    I do not understand the Pakistani way of living….. That the wife is just the part of the furniture not important, no dreams, hopes, or ambitions! No rights at all cannot question or challenge but support in abundance. For all her effort she gets nothing; not even thanks…. as a wife your role is to be the door mat for husband, his parent, brother, sister, their children even family friends she is not allowed to have an opinion, or have needs.
    I am always left feeling what is wrong with me, as he will give me and the children nothing but has time, money patience for everyone else!
    The unconditional respect was there but now that has dwindled down to nothing due to too many bad decisions too many broken promises, lies, deceit, unfairness, injustices.
    My reactions and responses have not always been good when situation have risen. From letting him walk all over me and not having an opinion, to letting him do things his way even when I have known the outcome is not going to be good for me or the children, from giving advice and helping, to screaming and shouting, questioning, challenging him, to talking and trying to reason with him, to ignoring, not reacting or responding to him. To the point now I am not standing by him.
    All I can say is that no matter what has happened; he is not responsible for it, but everything is my fault!!!!!
    9 of us are still living in a 3 bedroom house that is falling apart debts that are spiralling out of control, while his parents, brothers, sisters and children are living the life of riley in Pakistan that he is providing for.
    There is so much resentment, bitterness, unfairness and injustice, the unfairness has caused problems between me and his family even between my parents, brother, sisters’ attitudes towards him, but he is not responsible for anything!
    I am constantly worried how this affecting the children, my sanity and our faith, how I am I going to teach my sons and daughters to become true Muslims. Look at what we are teaching them about family values, respect, love, etc….. does not matter how much I explain my worries and the reasons? He does not want to understand because that means change especially for him, which he does not want to do as he is then admitting that he was wrong!
    So what do I do? How do I change this situation and bring about the true potential of my children without being disrespectful to my husband and his way of life. As I cannot raise my children to become this!
    How do I change this situation to a win, win… so that the healing can start, the resentment and bitterness can fade.
    How do I rise my children so that they do not resent me for staying in this marriage, or become disrespectful or agree with their father and his decisions [I.e how we have lived our lives and how his family have lived their lives]. He has created the difference between us and when the children question him… somehow I am always to blame! [Children do not see, hear, feel or understand the importance you place on others do they? I must be telling them!]
    Our grace our blessing and our building blocks to heaven are our wonderful amazing 5 sons and 2 daughters! Which at the rate we are going at we are destroying?
    Please advice me on what I should be doing? Many many thanks.

    • Assalamu alaikum sister Ameena,

      It is heartbreaking to read your side of the story. You should see a counselor/local Imam with him & if he doesn’t agree, as usually they don’t, discuss these problems with a counselor/Imam alone.
      Your main concern should your childrens’ emotional health, because both you & your husband seem to have sacrificed a lot, you for your family & he for his parents’ family.
      May Allah Ta’ala give you strength & more patience to deal with this, aameen.
      Do not forget to do istikhara whenever you have to decide.

  12. Don’t you think it’s hypocritical for someone who abandoned her two children and her husband to marry her husband’s best friend to be talking on marriage and family issues?

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