By Dunia Shuaib
And those who say, “Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” [25:74]
It's a minute before midnight. January 1st, 2016… The palpable feeling of excitement of a new beginning, a fresh start sets in. Some wait for that moment to erase the mistakes of the past, and start over. “This year will be different. It's going to be great! I feel it!” some say, as they think up resolutions. This lasts for a few days at best, before we begin to make excuses and say, “Insha'Allah next year, 2017.”
It happens to the best of us. Last night, my Facebook feed was covered in posts about change as my friends posted their new year's resolutions varying from some form of weight loss or health goals to increasing organizational skills to spiritual goals. And though these are all great personal and individual aspirations, I thought to myself, with the growing rate of divorce amongst Muslims, why not create relationship resolutions?
There is no need to wait until the ball drops in Times Square. Your new year begins when you decide to make change, be it January 1st or March 21st. So why not now? Today is a perfect time to sit down with your spouse and set some resolutions for revitalizing and improving your marriage (or any other familial, social or professional relationship). These may be the most important set of resolutions you can make this year.
We need to know that it's not going to be easy; like with everything else in life, if you want something great, you need to work for it. Remember that we are doing this for the sake of Allah and with the intention of gaining reward from Him . Insha'Allah we find the strength to overcome shaytan and our nafs, as shaytan is determined to ensure you don't fix your relationship with your spouse.
The Messenger of Allah said, “Verily, Iblees placed his throne over the water and then he sends out his troops. The nearest to him are the greatest at causing tribulations. One of them says: I have done this and this. Iblees says: You have done nothing. Another says: I did not leave this person until I caused discord between him and his wife. Iblees says: You have done well.” [Sahih Muslim, 2813]
That being said, I sat down and made my own set of seven resolutions that I would like to share with you in hopes that insha'Allah they may improve, and maybe even save, your marriage. No matter where you are in your marriage journey, whether you have a happy and healthy relationship or are experiencing some difficulty, these seven resolutions are for you.
1. Forgive and FORGET
Many studies have shown that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who do not. A very wise person once said, “A happy marriage is a union of two good forgivers.” The Messenger of Allah said:
“All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” [At-Tirmidhi]
We all make mistakes so, starting today, overcome shaytan's whispers and strive to forgive your spouse as soon as they apologize. There are so many verses in the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet which encourage us to forgive. Don't hold on to a grudge or bring up the past. Holding on to grudges harms your own health by acting as a chronic stressor. Just let go and forgive your spouse; do it for the sake of Allah .
Remember the man at the time of the Prophet who walked into the masjid for three days in a row and the Prophet said that he was from the people of paradise. Abdullah bin 'Amr wanted to know what quality this man possessed that made the Prophet say that about him, so he spent three nights with that man. He noticed that the man did not pray the optional night prayers during any of these nights, but if he woke up during the night, he would simply mention Allah. So before he left, he asked him what he did that was so special that the Prophet identified him as a man of Jannah. The man replied: “My deeds are nothing more than what you saw.” When Abdullah left, he called him back in and said: “My deeds are nothing more than what you saw, but the only thing I do is that I do not hold any grudge against any Muslim or envy anyone for what bounties Allah has granted them”; thereupon 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr said to him: “This difficult quality to obtain is what granted you this rank.” [Ahmed] So start forgiving, as this will lead to a happier self, a happier marriage and ultimately Jannah, insha'Allah!
2. Spend More QUALITY Time Together
Unfortunately, many couples find themselves spending very little time together. Date night, breakfast together, cuddling on the sofa… All things which might have been something you did years ago, have now seemingly disappeared. Instead, you now sit in separate rooms scrolling through your phones/tablets/computers. It is time to turn off your gadgets (including the TV), and just sit, talk, and listen. Remember the key is to give your spouse your undivided attention. Whenever the Prophet spoke to someone or when someone spoke to him, he would turn his body and his face towards them, and give them his undivided attention. He would often touch them and repeat what the person said, so that they knew that he was actively listening.
Invest, invest, invest! Research shows that in most happy and long-lasting marriages, couples spend at least 5 hours per week of quality time together. No matter how tired you are at the end of the day or on theweekend, remember to nurture your marriage by making time for each other. Even the Prophet , with his busy schedule, made time every day to spend with each of his wives. Spend some time together every day. It can be doing something simple like going for a walk together, having a cup of coffee or tea together, going out on a formal date, or it can even just be a commitment to sit together on the couch and talk to each other without your devices for 15 minutes.
Whatever you do, make time for your marriage. Pick a day each week to do something out of the house, just the two of you. Make it a priority and don't cancel that date. And if something comes up, take a moment to reschedule it. If you had an important meeting at work, you would do whatever it takes to move things around your calendar to ensure that you can make it. Make time for your spouse and, ultimately, make time for your marriage. The more time you invest in your marriage, the more it will grow and flourish.
3. Say “I love you” EVERY DAY
Many times it is easy to assume that our spouse knows we love them. But there are so many different ways to say and show that you love them. This year, don't let a day go by without saying it. Resolve to say, “I love you” in a special way every day. Before you leave to work, pair it with a kiss, send a text, leave a letter on your spouse's desk or in their purse. There are so many ways to express your love… get creative and use your imagination.
It was narrated from Anas ibn Malik:
A man was with the Prophet when another man passed by and he said: O Messenger of Allah, I love this man. The Prophet said to him: “Have you told him?” He said: “No.” The Prophet said: “Tell him.” So he caught up with the man and said: “I love you for the sake of Allah.” The man said: “May the one for Whose sake you love me also love you” [Sunan Abi Dawud, 5125]. In some reports of the hadeeth it says: “Tell him for it will strengthen the love between you” [Narrated by Ibn Abi'l-Dunya in al-Ikhwaan]. The Messenger of Allah said: “If one of you loves his brother for the sake of Allah, let him tell him, for it does good and makes the love last” [Al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1199]
4. Criticize LESS Compliment MORE
When it comes to criticism, most people dislike it immensely. No one wants to be criticized. Criticism can be hurtful when you spend a lot of time with someone. It becomes easy to overlook the things that are great about them and focus on bad habits. Unfortunately, that is when we start criticizing our partner and hurting them deeply. Instead of dwelling on your spouse's bad habits and attacking their character, focus on what they do right and remind yourself of the reasons you fell in love with them. Then remind him or her! Couples who have been together for a long time tend to forget to compliment one another. Be generous in giving compliments. It's amazing how a person will light up with kind words. Compliment your spouse on their looks, personality, and the things they do. When they do something right, let them know. That will bring out a genuine smile from your spouse. Try to reduce criticism and to compliment your spouse at least once a day.
5. Show/Communicate APPRECIATION
The Prophet said, “He has not thanked Allah who has not thanked people” [Sunan Abu Dawud, 4811]
It's natural to fall into habits in a marriage and forget to verbally express your appreciation to your spouse. We all tend to do this from time to time, especially when we get so busy and consumed by everything else going on around us. We start to just assume that our partner “should” take out the trash or “should” cook dinner, instead of remembering to appreciate the fact that they did. Using words of appreciation seems like such a simple thing to do, but it slips away in many marriages. Make a resolution together to appreciate the little things you do for one other. Do your best to show your appreciation for all the big and small things, and genuinely speak words of encouragement, thanks and love to your spouse.
There are many ways you can express your appreciation. Try a hand-written thank you note from time to time. Acknowledge them publicly. Give them a thank you hug. Make duaa for them. One of the most beautiful and simple duaa you can make for them is “JazakAllahu khairan.” The Messenger of Allah said, “He who is favored by another and says to his benefactor: 'Jazak-Allah khairan (may Allah reward you well)' indeed has done his utmost to thank him” [At-Tirmidhi].
Thank them with a gift and remember, it's not about the material value but, rather, it's about the thought that went into it. Abu Huraira reported:
The Prophet said, “Give each other gifts and you will love each other” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, 594]
This doesn't have to be something huge and extravagant. Small tokens of appreciation, like their favorite chocolate, a thank you card with a personal note, or even making them something, will have a huge impact. Tell them right away. Don't let a good deed go unnoticed. For the best effect, recognize them and thank them as soon as possible. If you wait too long, they may feel overlooked and unappreciated.
Be happy around them, as nothing shows appreciation like a genuine smile. Smiling is an impactful way to let your spouse know that you truly appreciate what they've done and that they've made your life better somehow. The Prophet said: “When you smile to your brother's face, it is charity” [At-Tirmidhi] SMILE! Research has shown that smiling, even when you don't particularly want to, will make you, and the person you smile at, happier.
6. Random Acts of KINDNESS
Aisha, the wife of Allah's Apostle , reported that Allah's Messenger said, “O Aisha, Allah is kind and He loves kindness in all matters” [Sahih Bukhari, 6528]
Happy and stable marriages have two key factors: couples treat each other with kindness and generosity, and they don't keep tabs on each other. Don't think of kindness as a trait you either have or you don't; think of it as a muscle. We all are born with the kindness muscle, and though some are naturally stronger than others, strength is built by frequently and consistently using it. Although it is hard to be kind during disagreements or stressful moments, that is when it is most important for the health of your relationship. Be generous with your kindness, your forgiveness, your love, your time, your hugs, your kisses and your words of appreciation and praise. Not only will your spouse love you more, but you will grow to love your spouse more.
I know our schedules are busy and it's challenging to change, but try to be mindful of things your partner generally does and do it instead. This can be really easy: take out the garbage, do an errand, help the children with their homework, or simply bring home a dessert next time you're at the supermarket.
The Messenger of Allah said, “Every act of kindness is sadaqa. Part of kindness is that you offer your brother a cheerful face and you pour some of your bucket into his water vessel” [Al-Albani].
“Whoever does you a favor, respond in kind and, if you cannot find the means of doing so, then keep praying for him until you think that you have responded in kind” [Abu Dawud].
7. Get Rid of Unrealistic EXPECTATIONS
So now you've made your resolutions and you're excited to start. But I'd like to remind you of an important point that'll save your good intentions from going to the Resolution Archives – keep it practical. Any expectation of your spouse turning into Mr. or Mrs. Perfect overnight is impossible! Make your spouse feel valued and important along the way. Discuss plans and strategies to implement the change you want to see in your marriage. Realize that, like with anything in life, you need consistent efforts over time to see any results; these aren't magical quick fix solutions! The good news is that insha'Allah the changes you do see eventually will be long-lasting and well worth the effort.
Allah's Messenger said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little” [Sahih Bukhari, 6464]
Time to GET STARTED… make the intention, start today and know that Allah will help you along the way, insha'Allah!
“…If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them…”
Ustadha Dunia Shuaib holds a Masters of Science degree in counseling. She also completed Suffa Islamic Seminary and is currently working towards a doctorate in Islamic Studies. Dunia is a marriage educator/coach, radio show host of Deen with Dunia, lecturer and author. She combines her knowledge of Islam and psychology to help Muslims who are striving to create and maintain a harmonious relationship between their deen and dunya. Learn more about her at http://bit.ly/1Kz1wUD and http://on.fb.me/1Kz1zQ6.