If there’s a content request that has surprised me the most these last few years, it’s that so many people ask me to share marriage advice and tips, especially for newlyweds/engaged couples, which always baffles me because I’ve been married for 4 and a half years, it feels like 2 years, we have no kids and are far from perfect. But, when I gave it some realistic thought, so many “hacks” and realities came to mind, so here are a few random things or tips that I’ve learnt so far, some from my own marriage and some from my peers’.
1.It actually is okay to go to bed angry sometimes.
Everyone will say that you shouldn’t when in fact, you’ll often find you’re more calm and rational after a night’s rest. Everyone is a nicer person once they’ve had a good night’s sleep. Heck, you may even laugh at yourself.
2.You do have to change, and that’s not a bad thing.
No, I don’t mean change your entire soul, core, belief system and principals. But marriage and romantic partnerships are not just there for love and companionship, but for personal growth. If your ways of thinking and living are not challenged, your marriage isn’t growing you. There’s also a whole entire person you’ve chosen to make your family and whose background and previous living-conditions you constantly have to consider. You don’t get to sign the papers, start a life and then keep living like a singleton or expect them to just be your way. It seems obvious, but when I hear some of the ways some people hurt their partner or won’t meet them halfway on the simplest, most logical thing, I can’t fathom it. When you sign up for marriage you sign up for self-growth, not someone who is just going to take all your BS no matter what you throw at him/her, without you trying to evolve. It’s awesome to have standards, but make sure when you’re making lists of what you want in a partner, make lists of the type of partner you should be too!
In my marriage we are constantly working on ourselves, praying together, meditating listening to self-improvement talks online and reading books. Constantly talking about checking and rechecking our moral compasses to be better, we talk very openly about our flaws because there’s power and bonding in that too. Self introspection can be ugly but really freeing and it’s the only way to start moving forward.
3.If you’re trying to lock down a man specifically to settle down and marry you, the harsh reality is this: if a man really wants you, nothing will keep him away, if he doesn’t want to be with you, nothing will make him stay. And if you do manage to change his mind and lock him down, what kind of life are you signing yourself up for if he didn’t really want to be there before? Do you want to be walking on eggshells forever and wondering if you’re worthy or doing all the work? I’m a firm believer that love should always be reciprocated and should not need convincing. It’s meant to make both parties happy.
4. Financial security does matter.
Love and fresh air doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t matter how in love you are or how great the sex is (yes, I went there), nothing is a bigger buzz kill to all that excitement than when you want to progress in areas of your life but can’t afford it. I’m not saying money is everything but it affects a lot of things, and it’s super important for you to be realistic about the sacrifices you’re willing to make. This happens so much in the muslim community and I really do have the utmost respect for people wanting to take that big step whether they’re privileged enough to receive help or not. However, I just want people, especially women, to know that you could be giving the best years of your life to be in a slow-progressing situation with another person, so be sure that it’s worth it.
5. On that note, love in your own lane.
There are always going to be couples with more than you. We are all always going to want nicer things. The great thing is though, you have your whole lives ahead of you and there’s plenty of time to achieve your dreams together! Managing your expectations and setting goals as a couple and checking in on their progress does wonders. Don’t ever compare any area of your relationship to anyone else’s – you never know what’s truly happening behind closed doors.
6. Romance has many faces.
It doesn’t always come in instagram format, or a hundred roses, and sometimes you actually have to ask for it, and that’s okay! We aren’t living in the movies, people! It’s also important to find the romance in the little things your partner does for you too, even if it’s just making you a cup of tea, and make them feel like a big deal when they do it!
7. Learn to communicate without blame and master the power of rephrasing.
No one wants to be blamed even when they are to be blamed. ESPECIALLY men. Rephrasing your words can make a massive difference. Instead of saying “this was ALL your fault”, try “next time, can we please rather try doing this differently”. Making someone the solution – not the problem – and sharing the responsibility by saying “we” can make a massive difference in cooling down a fast-heating disagreement. They’re also more likely to come forward out of their own and say “no, you know what? I am actually to blame”, because they’ll feel bad that you took things lightly. It’s just another form of picking your battles wisely.
As tough as it can be not to scream at the person, you are actually more likely to get the emotional release you truly need from that person this way.
Unless he cheats or does something majorly bad of course. Then by all means, go off, sis.
8. Learning one another’s love language changes everything.
Dr Gary Chapman wrote a book called the Five Love Languages. The languages are: words of affirmation, affection, quality time, gifts and acts of service. The overall concept is that each person in a relationship has one primary love language, ie: main way they want to be loved, and when you learn to “speak” your partner’s love language and they learn yours, and you love them that specific way, your relationship blossoms. There are tons of summaries of these available online so I won’t go into much more detail but this is something that does work with loving and being loved in return. If you keep showing the wrong love language to your partner you’ll both just end up frustrated, trust me. It’s actually not that much effort and it’s really worth it. @tailsofamermaid said something similar on Instagram recently that stuck with me: it was “water your partner’s flowers”. In other words, show interest and participation in the things that matter to them, even if it’s of no interest to you. I can vouch for that and how much more loving, happy and fulfilled you both become.
9.Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
You’ll go way over budget, convince yourself you want food you really don’t need, and possibly have a hangry argument about it too.
10.Don’t tell everyone your problems.
I’m not saying don’t have the odd on-the-surface vent, or that if you’re having a really big concern you shouldn’t seek advice from someone like a parent or experienced sibling, therapist or religious leader. I’m saying all the stuff in between, all your crappy fights, what goes on in the bedroom (or doesn’t). You know what happens? The people you told will throw that in your face at some point. Also, most likely when you told the person, you glorified your own side, left out all the horrible things you said to your partner, and only mentioned what they did to hurt you. Then when everything is better, everyone still thinks you’re married to a douche AND stupid for staying with him/her. I know some women friendship groups have a code where everyone is allowed to vent and promise not to judge their friend’s spouses, but the reality is, no one is going to stick to that. They will judge. They’re also going to go back home and tell their partners what yours did. Bottom line: random fights and dumb bickering is completely normal. When it’s not something super serious, repeated and toxic – protect and honour your partner at all costs.
11.Know that you marry each other’s entire family
For this reason, setting boundaries are incredibly important and healthy, but the reality is, some of your partner’s family responsibilities become yours too or if not, they will affect your life on some level. And this filters into your household in more ways than the physical family itself; their traditions may clash with yours. Their siblings and parents become yours. It’s important to make yourself comfortable and be a team player. While there will definitely be moments to put your foot down, keeping your partner away from his/her family is a toxic and selfish trait and will definitely cause resentment. Don’t be that person.
12.It’s one hell of an adjustment living together, so be kind to yourself and each other
Especially if you didn’t live on your own/together before, know that your WHOLE world changes. One minute you’re in your mom’s house, everything gets done for you, you can sleep in the middle of the bed and everything gets done a certain way. The next day, there’s a person in your bed with weird sleeping habits (Abdul-Malick is a sleep-talker, wild dreamer and occasional snorer), you have a household to run, you share responsibility with someone who may have different preferences and there are suddenly a bunch of bills that were never there before. Not to mention the fact that a lot of women in heterosexual marriages make the mistake of thinking they can eat the same way their husbands do and in the honeymoon phase too, then they are hard on themselves for gaining weight (I gained 5kgs and this has literally happened to all of my friends). Our biggest arguments in the beginning were based on cleaning duties. I’m not gross but I can be a little messy, while he lives for order, organisation and a Pinterest-clean home. As a result, for the sake of our marriage and less arguments, we get the domestic cleaner for a day more than we probably need to keep the peace and keep things extra clean and neat.
I don’t think a lot of people talk enough about the entire adjustment and how overwhelming it can be in the beginning. Malick and I both lived on our own before (but not together of course), and it was still a lot to take in. So again, be conscious of the fact that it’s a major growth phase you’re going through, and be kind to yourself and each other so you can still enjoy those special early days in between!
Based on my personal experience, my life only got better once Abdul-Malick and I got married. When you bear in mind that we both worked as cabin crew and saw and experienced the world when we were in our very early twenties, that’s a pretty bold statement to make. That experience also made us totally sure at age 24 that we were ready to settle down together because we felt like we had seen and done it all. We had seriously hard and challenging times while dating and in our marriage that I don’t even know if I’ll ever be comfortable speaking about, but we were always faithful, loving, and put in the work everyday, with the awareness of wanting to grow together and as individuals. I don’t know if we are the best example because we are so far from perfect, but we have the best memories together, a playful, fulfilling marriage always with Allah/God in our hearts. I mean it when I say it was the best decision we ever made!