EVERY married couple wants to be the cute old couple one sees occasionally, where they are still very much in love and enjoying each other’s company. Getting into a lifelong commitment means that you agree to live with this person, with all their strengths and flaws, and they agree to live with yours. So some days are all smiles and sunshine, and other days… not so much.
So here are a few tips to help reduce those days when you’re wondering what you got yourself into!
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Of course this had to be the first tip. The term “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” is entirely accurate because men and women’s thinking are poles apart. So even if you wish your spouse can read your mind, they really have no idea which direction it’s going in!
Tell each other what you’re thinking, what you love and what bothers you, where you’re going and who you’ll be with, and all the little details of your day. It really is the little things that build or break a relationship. Give each other your full attention when having a conversation.
In the age of technology where gadgets are an extension of our limbs, it is much easier to be lost in front of a screen than it is to face someone. Partial attention – “I can hear you!” – shows lack of respect, and that is not something your spouse can tolerate for long.
2. Don’t ignore issues or arguments.
If something bothers you, LET THEM KNOW. Not voicing your complaint only builds frustration in you, until the point you blow up and your spouse has no idea why!
Don’t be afraid to argue either, because getting it out there clears the air. BUT try the 5-minute rule (or if you just can’t, the half-an-hour-rule maximum) where you forgive each and move on after 5 minutes.
Try to avoid letting things fester, as a small issue can be blown completely out of proportion.
With men’s and women’s thinking being as different as it is, it can get rather frustrating trying to communicate all your feelings and issues and coming up with no conclusion because the other person just doesn’t get it.
In cases like this, Du’a, more than anything else, is most effective. Allah knows how you feel and how you think, and He also knows how your spouse feels and thinks. Leave it up to Him, spill your heart out to Him, and let Him direct you’ll to what is best.
It can take a whole lot of pressure off you to know that you have handed off your problems to The One Who can actually solve them!
4. Don’t go to bed angry.
This can be easier said than done, especially if you’ve fought just before bedtime, but think about the Hadith (tradition): “When a man calls his wife to his bed and she does not come, if he spends the night angry with her, the angels curse her until morning.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
This applies to intimate relations between husband and wife, but after an argument that you have not made up from, the chances of a wife refusing her husband’s requests are high.
In addition to that, the many hours of the night are too long to remain angry with each other and have Shaytan rejoicing, and we do not know when death will approach us, so we hope it is not in that state! Kiss and make up as soon as possible and you will have a better night’s sleep!
That being said, you can’t force forgiveness, and getting over things quicker should (hopefully) come with time. So sometimes, sleeping on it is just what you need to realise how trivial the issue is and get over it.
5. Appreciate each other.
The husband and wife both have specific roles to play and share equal responsibilities, even though each person always thinks they do more. This thinking creeps in when spouses don’t appreciate each other. Even if women stay at home, that does not mean they do nothing all day, and just because the husband is off at work for a major part of the day that does not mean his burden is light.
The key to appreciation is first to pay attention: observe the clean house as you walk through the door; the groceries that he picked up on his way back home; a new dish that she tried, or your favourite one that she makes; how hard he works to support the family. The list is endless.
It is all the little things done every day to make life better that requires a smile and a ‘thank you’ to show appreciation.
6. Find their Love Language.
There are five love languages, and everyone generally has a type. Some keen observation should tell you which love language is yours and your spouses’: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time or Physical Touch – what ranks highest for each of you?
Once you figure it out, use their love language to get closer to your spouse.
The mistake a lot of people make is assuming if they like something, their partner will as well. But each person is different and needs to be appeased differently. Identifying their love language will gain you major bonus points!
7. Encourage each other in Deen (religion).
Not everyone has the same level of Eman(faith), but what makes couples stronger is growing together spiritually.
Don’t force things on your spouse, but encourage them. Waking them up for Tahajjud(night prayers) or Fajr(dawn prayers), reminding them to recite some Qur’an or Du’as(Supplication), control their tongue, and so much more are great ways for you to earn the same reward as them, and to help get both of you on the same page.
Have patience though, for change cannot be made overnight. Gentle reminders and lots of Du’a is the way to go! “May Allah have mercy on a man who gets up at night and prays, and he wakes up his wife, and if she refuses (to get up) he sprinkles water in her face. And may Allah have mercy on a woman who gets up at night and prays, and she wakes up her husband, and if he refuses (to get up) she sprinkles water in his face.” [Abu Dawood]
8. Eat together.
There is a lot of Barakah (blessings) in sharing a meal together, with good food and conversation. For some, this might come naturally. For others, it might take working their schedule to accommodate it.
People bond over food, so let these be the parts of your day that you spend together.
9. Try out each other’s interests.
It is not necessary that “opposites attract” or that you have to have the same interests to get along. Compatibility is at different levels, and our different interests and personalities is what keeps things interesting.
Be open to trying things your spouse loves – whether it’s food or sport or recreation. It will give you more insight into who they are and help you relate to them better.
If it’s a hit, it gives you something new to bond over. And even if you didn’t like it, you get points for at least trying!
10. Date night.
Life gets busy, the years go by, and you get so involved in your stuff that it’s hard to set time aside for just you two. Especially with kids in the picture, it can be hard to find time for yourself, let alone to go on a date!
But kids or no kids, a couple needs time by themselves to help strengthen their bond. You need to be away from regular life even if it’s just for a few hours a month to remind you of how amazing your spouse is, to reconnect, and to recharge.
The reason there is a honeymoon phase right after you get married is because everything is so new and you are both so in love. Sometimes a date is all you need to re-ignite that spark.
11. Go the extra mile.
A marriage is based on a foundation of love, so while you might hear the term “compromise” often, what really should be conveyed is “doing what you wouldn’t normally do, out of love for the other person.”
So whether it is cooking his favourite meal even if it’s time-consuming, or giving her the silence she needs to fall asleep, wearing the scent he likes, or dressing smart to please her; don’t underestimate the little things you do that might take you out of your comfort zone, but whose effort will be appreciated greatly.
12. Small touches make a big difference.
There can be periods of time where life tends to get so busy that a couple can’t put aside time for a date night or even a meal together. It is in these times, more than others, that simple touches make a difference.
A hug and a kiss before leaving for work, a hand on his shoulder in passing, and any small way to show that you care are so important to maintaining a connection.