Tools of the Trade
Every marriage requires spouses to follow certain rules in order to be successful. However, couples in a youthful marriage are even more in need of guidance and awareness of how to face their challenges.
Marriage is, in itself, a serious commitment and responsibility. Contrary to popular opinion, the older one is at the time of marriage, does not immediately mean that their relationship is more likely to be successful. However, it is also true that those who marry at a younger age will face more difficulty in maintaining their marriage. Thus, it is important for young Muslim husbands and wives to be aware from the outset of the practices that will result in a happy, meaningful marriage.
A willingness to be selfless, to compromise and to make sacrifices. In a society where “adolescent selfishness” is acceptable, Muslim youth are rarely able to recognize the necessity and benefits of making personal sacrifices to achieve a greater goal: a successful marriage. Unfortunately, most young men and women are more concerned about their own wishes than they are with working towards a mutually beneficial goal.
For example, a young woman may not want to give up her dream education or career. Upon marriage, however, it may be difficult to pursue that particular field immediately, which may cause a great deal of resentment – which in turn contributes to turmoil within the relationship.Similarly, many young men feel that they should have the best of both worlds: maintaining the same type of carefree lifestyle they had before marriage (e.g. spending hours playing video games with their friends), while experiencing the benefits of married life as well (having someone take care of the home, outlet for physical desires, etc.). Their refusal to recognize that “something’s gotta give” leads to a sense of frustration from their wives, who feel that they have given up a great deal but received nothing in return.
A journey of growth. As an individual, life is full of highs and lows, opportunities and obstacles. A single person is able to experience these events with very little interference or dependence on others to affect the way they learn from these incidents. However, as a married couple, there are two things to take away from life lessons: growth as a person and growth as a partner.
Those who marry young must recognize that both they and their spouse are at only one stage in their lives, and that they will be affected by the many changes that will occur later on. It is necessary to acknowledge both, one’s own immaturity, and that of the other individual.
There will be many occasions on which one or both partners will say or do things that are selfish, insensitive, or simply immature and irresponsible. When this happens, three more things are necessary: The guilty party needs to recognize that their behavior was immature or incorrect, and the other spouse needs to accept that errors of judgment and behavior will always take place, and that the only way to get past these errors is to take a lesson from the incident and practice active forgiveness.
Conflict resolution. Most young people today have not learnt the art of conflict resolution. Society is partly responsible for this, but parents also share in the blame for not teaching and demonstrating these skills to their growing children. When conflict arises, each spouse feels defensive and tries to deflect the blame, feeling that they are right and the other is wrong, and that the other person should make the first move to apologize.
In reality, marriages cannot and do not survive with this type of attitude. Parents and community leaders need to model to the youth that being wrong is a part of being human, and no one but Allah alone is always right!
Young men in particular must be taught how to accept blame and take responsibility for their actions, especially when they have been called to account for it. The idea that for a man to acknowledging his mistakes makes him “less manly” or tarnishes his “ honour” is wrong. In fact, the examples of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and the Sahabah show that the one who demonstrates humility and is quick to ask for forgiveness is in fact the individual with greater honour in the Sight of Allah.
Women also need to learn how to accept that they have made mistakes. Doing something wrong is not the end of the world and will not make you any less of a good wife. As well, admitting that you have made a mistake will not somehow give your husband more ‘power’ over you. Rather, it should help you learn how to improve yourself and your relationship with your husband, and to consider your role in issues that arise.
Furthermore, it is important not to allow a petty disagreement to turn into an overblown argument that’s unnecessarily being dragged on. While it is uncomfortable to admit that we may have had a part to play in the conflict, it is more beloved to Allah for us to swallow our pride and be the first person to bring an end to the problem.
Much of the advice provided is applicable to all marriages, but there should be extra emphasis on them when advising young Muslim men and women who either want to get married or have already gotten married. These marriage skills are imperative in order for spouses to focus on the bigger picture, the purpose of marriage, and overcome the many obstacles and challenges that they will face along the way.
Part 4 will answer the issues raised regarding youthful marriages and their implementation and success.
Umm Zainab Vanker and Umm Khadijah (AnonyMouse) are both products and veterans of youthful marriage; Umm Zainab got married at the age of 17, and her daughter followed suit! A combination of personal experience and observation of Muslim youth today encouraged them to take a critical look at the necessity and challenges of youthful marriages.