Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From "I Love You" to "I Divorce You"?

An old post from a YMP Council Member Daniel... better late than never right? :)

Daniel and his wife Mariam are founding members of YMP. Last year they welcome their son, Isa.

Daniel is a photographer whose beautiful photos can be found at his website www.danielzain.com or his blog http://danielzainphotography.blogspot.com.


Alhamdulillah with the arrival of Isa into our lives, Mariam & I couldn't be more thankful to Allah (SWT) for the blessings he has given us.

An important step in the life of any adult Muslim is the day he/she gets married. Subhanallah I know some of you are already in the process of looking for a spouse, and some of you may already be a few steps closer to tying the know than I may be aware of ;)

As a wedding photographer, my job is to document that special moment when two people become husband & wife. Alas, in almost 4 years of doing this full time, several of my clients are no longer husband & wife. Several of my university friends have also gone down the road of divorce. Sometimes the reasons for divorce are complicated while some have parted ways over seemingly trivial issues. I've had the opportunity to speak to some of them during their trying moments & after their divorce. Could some of these divorces have been avoided if the couples had done something simple prior to getting married?

That simple thing is: Ask important questions before you get married!

Here are some questions I believe one should ask his/her potential spouse. If you are already seeing someone and intend to marry that person, then please do not waste the opportunity to ask. It goes without saying that proper Islamic etiquette should be observed when asking your potential spouse about the issues below.

The following are in no particular order of importance, they are just listed in the order as they pop into my mind while typing this. All the points listed here were among the causes of divorce for my clients & friends:

1. Living Arrangements
Be absolutely clear about where both of you will live once you are married. If its at one of the in-law’s, then discuss how long you'll stay there before you move to your own rented/purchased home. If your spouse is unhappy after a certain period of your living arrangements, do not treat this lightly. Make an effort to have a pleasing & peaceful home experience, especially if you will be living with parents & extended family.

2. Sex
Don't laugh. Sex & finances are among the main reasons for divorce (add Facebook in the list these days).

Brothers, please read up & learn about the right way to approach your wife. DO NOT rush her if she isn't ready to be intimate. A friend of mine took 9 months before she was ready to consummate the marriage. Alhamdulillah they now have 2 kids. Yes, that's an extreme example, but it happened. It could happen to you. Do not start pressuring her with fiqh, hadeeth & quran about the need to consummate the marriage as quickly as possible. It’s very likely she knows all those points already. The issue is a psychological & emotional one, not a lack of knowledge for the most part. Maybe a friend told her intercourse is very painful, maybe she doesn't feel confident about her body, and maybe she is just very shy. Be gentle, be romantic by going on short holidays together & just be patient. Oh yes, don't forget the dua's :)

Sisters, especially if you are the very shy type, start reading up about intimacy. Don't shy away from straightforward descriptions of body parts & functions. Get comfortable & confident with your body. I don't mean exercise like crazy to get a specific body type, but know that if the guy loves you & wants to marry you, he's fine with the way you look. Sex is something you should look forward to without fear. Please know that you are entitled to & have a right to get your share of pleasure.

If its confirmed that you are getting married, then ask your fiance/soon to be spouse if its okay with him if it takes a while for you to be comfortable to have sex. If he gets upset, that's a red flag there! A good brother would never get upset, but he'll assure you that he'll be gentle & won’t pressure you. After all, he wants the experience to be pleasurable for both of you & not just for him. If you are shy to ask, then get a trusted third party to ask. I'm not kidding.

3. Sex leads to.....Kids.
Ask each other how soon after marriage do you plan to have kids? Don't assume your spouse has the same ideals as you do. You may wish to wait at least 1 year, whereas he thinks a baby 9 months after the nikah is obligatory. 4 kids is your perfect number, yet she wants 10, or none at all!

What is each of your thoughts on adoption? What if one or both of you end up being impotent?

Do not wait till you're married to ask about children.

Pregnancy is a big deal for the lady. Some women are terrified of getting pregnant. Again, be patient and have her speak to other ladies who are pregnant/have kid to reassure her that she'll be fine. Oh wait, some men are even more terrified of having kids. Same process, get him to talk to fathers of his age.

4. Finances
Sisters, please inquire & know how much your potential spouse earns for a living. If his salary is lower than your expectations for your lifestyle, ask yourself if you are willing to compromise. If you are used to LV, Gucci & Coach bags yet he can only afford Vincci, will that be a source of frustration for you? If the answer is yes, find out what are his plans to increase his income. On the flipside, if you are not the shopping type of girl, and handbags, shoes etc mean little to you, please don't settle for too little. At the very least know your rights on what your husband needs to spend on you.

A girl I know is fine with her husband giving her only RM50 - RM150 a month for her toiletries, personal care & what not. She says she isn't materialistic, which Alhamdulillah is good, but the result is that her husband doesn't spend a ringgit more on her. No dinner dates, no short weekend holidays. Nada. He has become complacent and forgotten his duty to support her living since she does not work.

5. Work
Can I continue to work after we get married? Can I start working after we get married? Can I stop working? Can I switch to a lower paying job that I love? "I'll be posted in Timbuktu 3 months after our nikah, and oh yes, I'll be there for 2 years & you gotta move there with me, no ifs or buts okay."

Clarify all the above before you get married.

6. Food
You hate cooking yet the very day of your nikah your dear hubby asks you "What are you cooking for dinner sayang?". Big problem! Yes, believe or not, a couple got divorced because of this very issue.

Sister, especially if you work, ask him if he expects you to cook all the time. If he does, ask him if he can compromise. Brother, if you know she hates to cook, ask her if she's willing to learn at classes (which you pay for of course). She loves western food but you must have rice for every meal. Plus you hate pasta which she's obsessed with!!!

7. Housework
Picture this: A girl's hero is her dad who happens to help out a lot around the house. Daddy helps with the dishes & laundry. He doesn't complain. She then marries a brother who will have nothing to with housework. In fact, he considers it a girl’s job not befitting a man! Guess how happy the marriage is going to be? If only she had asked him if he's okay with helping out with the dishes after she cooked that wonderful dinner.

Brothers, please help out around the house. Rasulullah s.a.w did, hence no excuses.

I hope this has been beneficial for you. The points i raised are far from comprehensive, there are many other seemingly trivial reasons people get divorced over. For more detailed knowledge on living as husband & wife from the Quran & Sunnah, pelase refer to the excellent 'Like A Garment' series by Sh. Yasir Qadhi. If anyone managed to save the entire email series of Like A Garment, please share it. Sh. Zaid Shakir & Sh. Suhaib Webb also have excellent audio lectures on the subject. Also ask good teachers on the detailed roles & responsibilities in a marriage. My points are just real world examples from real cases of couples who had to let go of their marriage.

I feel we should have a sharing session where these issues are discussed. Brothers & sisters, we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario as well. Sometimes in the desire to get married, we only see & imagine the beautiful & sweet life ahead, and as a result we get thrown overboard when a storm comes.

May Allah (SWT) guide all of you who are seeking your life partner. May He also guide us who are already married to remain loving & faithful to each other. May He give us righteous children who will be His servants and help make the world around them a better place.


Daniel Zain Ibrahim


sayyidah nafisah said...

very helpful, and the font is suit me :)

Rizal said...

thanks so much Shazeea Banu and Daniel Zain for sharing... may Allah reward you better... lots of love from Aberdeen - sumi and chia....

Aidil said...

Salaam Dan and YMPians,

I've been married for 3 months now. How time flies...

If I may share and add, here's something that I feel has been working for us for the past months:
1. Living arrangements:
Me and my wife Lennie, we've been going back and forth our parents homes every other week. One it's because we've yet to have a home of our own. Two, both our parents are within the Klang Valley, and three I feel this gives us the ability to quickly get to know both families. It has been challenging, but I feel it's important to gradually let our families get used to having us living out of the nest.
So, in conclusion about this, take some time to get to know both families, and slowly but surely find a place of your own is what I think works best for us, and who knows might also work for you.

4. Finances
Having a joint account for joint expenses such as transportation as well as groceries is a good idea. Also have personal accounts for things such as personal expenses, personal savings and investments as well as personal fulfillment (e.g. get that dress you've always wanted) as well as personal education and charity.. Alhamdulillah, this has worked for us wonderfully as we can see clearly our finances.


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