It was Friday April 15th, 2011 when Jama, my now husband, called me during my lunch break at work. The memory of that moment is still very vivid in my mind. It was a clear, sunny and beautiful spring day in Columbus Ohio. The backyard of the building I worked at was a lovely park with swings. I was all alone when he called and it seemed like he was in a rush but just called to tell me something important.
Two weeks prior to this day, Jama had met with my mother and two brothers. He asked them for permission to marry me. I remember hearing his exact words of asking and my jaw dropping like it was a surprise when it wasn’t even a surprise. My brothers and mother liked him and thought well of him. My older brother Dulane asked him to give the family time to think about it and learn more about him. Kinda like let’s check on your references.
So on this day Jama called me to tell me that my brother had called him and told him that “gabadha waa ku siinay.” Which literally translates to “we gave her to you.” I guess we both knew it was going to happen but there was something special about that moment. It was official. It was on the blessed day of Friday. I got off the swing and laid on the grass looking at a gorgeous blue sky as Jama made the simplest request of me. He said: “Please continue to be this happy.” It took me a few years of pondering on that request, what exactly does a husband want from his wife and what exactly did I want from my husband? What did we both want our marriage to do for us? I continued to lay on the grass in complete calmness, serenity and wondered what would life be like? I felt comfortable, this comfort was the reason I married my husband. Alhamdulilah, five years later, despite the challenges that come with every marriage, I still have this comfort.
Perhaps both my husband and I expected happily ever after; when the reality of marriage isn’t completely like this. Rather, there are stages and transitions we hardly speak about. There are definitely confusing days, unhappy days, angry days, joyful days, playful days and completely boring days. We were both in for interesting surprises that revealed our true selves to one another. The funniest one when I look back is how my husband expected me to always be in smiles and laughter, and while yes, this is me a lot of the times, it definitely isn’t me all the time. I laugh at the memory of my husband’s confused face dealing with a crying bride, I cried on our wedding night, I cried on our honeymoon and I cried for first 6 hours of our drive from Ohio to Minnesota when I left my mother’s home to our new home. I cried when I was sad, when I was confused, when I couldn’t express myself and when I was happy. My cousin told me shortly after my wedding that I was glowing with joy. I turned around and cried. What a hot mess!
I was compelled to share this because it really isn’t a unique experience of mine; rather, many friends I spoke with had the same emotional roller coasters. On the surface it seems like you are not happy, but the reality is that we all have different ways to adjust to a new marriage, to a move from what is familiar, and to being so seriously nostalgic to your life before marriage. For myself and for other friends I spoke with, it was confusing because the marriage was something we truly wanted; but the tears made no sense!
These are some of the most beautiful lessons I learned during the first five years of my marriage. I know the upcoming stages will be different, but I write this in hopes that it will serve me as a reminder as I continue to build the blocks of my marriage. Marriage isn’t always rosy, but strong foundations result in stronger marriages and this is something to be sincerely grateful for.
- Appreciate the Gift and Accept the Differences
I made a ton of dua to be happily married to a handsome fella of upright faith and great character. So when I got married to my husband, a dear friend said to me: “Kaltun your husband is an answered Dua and a gift from Allah.” When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gives us gifts they are completely suitable for us. So whenever I get stuck, whenever I get frustrated, I remind myself that Allah gave me my husband as a gift, I thank Him for the gift and ask Him to help me figure things out. When Allah gives us gifts, it is custom designed for us. It is meant to serve our unique selves, help us grow and teach us important life lessons that we personally need. I can’t thank Allah enough for giving me not what I want in my husband, but giving me what I need. And even though in the beginning of our marriage I focused so much on our differences and how it wasn’t what I was expecting, with time I realized how Allah hand-picked for me personality traits in my husband that complimented my personality traits. When I complained about how quiet he was, Allah taught me to pay much heed to his few words. When he said something, it was imprinted in my memory. And when he didn’t say something, I had to learn by observation and had to learn to be thoughtful. Things I definitely needed and still need to improve in. When I pondered over the specific challenges we had with one another, I realized that they were specifically designed for me and him to step out of our comfort zone and strive to reach a satisfactory solution. I wish I realized this from the beginning, I would have saved myself from unnecessary turmoil. But such are lessons in life, they are learned after making mistakes.
Getting to know our husbands is a process, learning to live together despite our differences is another process. Realizing that your expectations and imaginations of marriage is not what you will always get. And if we are fixated on the expectations and imaginations, we forget to appreciate the package we had been given.
- Find Yourself Wise Advice and Marital Guidance
Marriage is not an easy task. It requires a lot of work. Mental and emotional work that we didn’t get accustomed to if we lived our lives according to our own wants and desires. My mother was one person that has a tremendous positive impact on my marriage. My mother’s presence around me made me see my shortcomings, she advised me to do certain things that truly impact the love and connection between a husband and wife and if it wasn’t for the presence of this wiser woman in my life, perhaps I would have continued in my marriage without realizing them or realizing them later. One example is when one day my husband called me and asked if we can postpone our date night so he can go with his friends. I said ok, but as soon as I got off the phone I literally felt shaytan come and stand next to me and tell me a million reason why I wasn’t important to my husband because he canceled our date night. My mother came out of the room as I was getting emotional and upset and she asked where my husband was, when I told her he was hanging out with the boys, she responded by saying “Oh that’s good, he hasn’t gone to hang out with friends in two weeks.” The black cloud suddenly moved away. I realized that the past two weekends I went out to hang out and Jama stayed home with our son. How many times did I allow shaytan to infuse certain emotions in me that lacked rational thinking? It was as if my mother coached me that night, I started to think rationally about things ever since. And while I am not perfect, I have definitely gotten better.
We don’t always have wise people around us to coach us. Reading and being a continuous learner can do this for us as well. I was once reading a book titled the Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. The author shared an example of an interaction gone bad between a wife and a husband. I read it and thought nothing of it. That same day, I did exactly what the author was warning the reader from doing and of course, it resulted in a horrific interaction between my husband and I. Despite the pain of knowing I did wrong, I was so grateful that I had read that book as it did result in much improvements in my marriage.
- Have a Consistent Spiritual Connection with Allah
One day I called one of my dearest friends and mentor in life, Sister Shamsa. I was completely upset and frantic about something my husband did. I was so emotional and upset and her advice knocked me out of my emotions. Her reminder was for me to go back to Allah! While the memory of what was upsetting me is somewhat gone, the lesson of making my best relationship the one I have with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is truly unforgettable. Our dreams, happy marriages, successful children are all things only Allah can grant us. So how do we forget the rights of Allah when everything we are seeking are in His hands? With sins, blessings are held back. Because of sins, Allah can test you to take you back to Him. Yes, you can still be tested, what matters here is that the heart is first and foremost connected to Allah before the temporary gifts Allah has given us.
- Don’t Lose Yourself; Continue to Live Your Purpose
Another thing that happens to many new wives is being immersed in a new marital life and perhaps having children right away that we forget who we were before getting married. We forget our dreams and passions besides marriage and children and we disconnect from things that brought us fulfillment. This lack of fulfillment can continue to be there despite being in a happy marriage and having children you absolutely love. Taking time to do what brings us joy, happiness and fulfillment at a personal level is crucial to have a happy marriage. The goal should be how do we creatively find a way to get in touch with what brought us fulfillment and actively pursuing it without sacrificing the quality we want to give our marriages and children. I remember feeling quite cranky one day. I hadn’t done anything for myself in a long while. My husband asked me to just go out and sit at Barnes and Noble. I was so grateful for 2 hours of alone time doing something I always enjoyed doing. I came back refreshed and calm. The more I found time and did what made me happy, the happier I became in my marriage. I came home excited to tell my husband what I did, and how it went and what was exciting. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated and this was the happiness Mr. Jama was requesting it continue. Of course, I still have cranky and emotional days; but these are the days of our lives.