When I first got married, I was just in love with the idea of love.
I thought it would be many things: lovely, romantic, fun, just downright enjoyable all the time. We were trained to think that things would be rainbows and butterflies… too much TV and Indian movies. But like the rest of the song goes.. it’s compromise that moves us along. The problem is, most people put marriage up on an extremely high pedestal, up there with Paradise and sorts. It’s not, Paradise is Paradise for a reason – there are no trials. Marriage is in this world so naturally it’s going to be full of trials, screw ups, full of times to repent, to get better, to get closer to Allah – that is why it is half our faith. Pre-marriage life was a cinch compared to the trials of marital life.
Looking back (going on our 8th year of marriage Alhumdulillah), I see that our marriage went through 3 distinct phases. 1) The Honeymoon Phase, 2) Conflict Phase, and 3) a slow Path to Tranquility. Amazingly, as I started studying the Quran more, I heard an amazing piece about “order” of words in the Quran, and all of a sudden the ayah that was so oft-used at marriage ceremonies started to make more sense about the 3 phases of my marriage.
Allah says in the Quran,
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا
وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you love and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. (Surah Ar-Rum: 21)
Nothing about the Quran is “random” so there had to be a reason that Allah put mawaddah-love before rahmah-mercy, and the fact that he put “tranquility” as the goal (the ل in لتسكنوا connotes that “sakeenah” or tranquility is the goal/objective).
Indeed, in my own marriage, I saw these three phases pan out exactly as mentioned in the ayah:
1) “Mawaddah” Love – Honeymoon Phase:
Immediately after marriage – I’m on cloud 9, it’s like a high. I love everything about being married, having a husband, a companion. We are perfect, life is perfect. In the beginning of marriage, love is the first emotion. It attracts you to the other person, and you are overcome by this feeling of love. In this phase, you’re absolutely in love with the idea of love. You so badly want to be married and happy that you overlook any flaws that your spouse could possibly have. I mean, you never had a spouse, so everything is new, amazing, real.
2) “Rahmah” Mercy -Conflict Phase:
A few months in – what ON EARTH is going on? From cloud 9 it plummets down to the depths of the earth. We are smacked back into the real world and we hit the ground running – work, school, finances, the responsibility of another person, clash of cultures, different points of views. This is the conflict phase.
Nobody said this was going to happen. Why do we fight all the time? Why does he hate everything I do? Why do I hate everything about him? Why is everything so wrong? No one said it was going to be like this. I hate everything, I just want to go home…
This was the first one to two years. Statistically, researchers say that the first 1-2 years of marriage are the most critical. It sets the foundation for the rest of your marriage. This is where that much needed mercy comes in. After the high of love dies down, reality strikes and we start seeing each other’s flaws. Mercy and patience is the only thing that helps you through this phase.
In phase 2, it starts falling apart. You notice their flaws, and the things you thought you could change are not changing. And they expect more from you than you ever expected to give. The small fights, then the big ones… and themarriage is so new, you still don’t even know how to fix things. You have to learn it all by yourselves.
Naturally, two people who have lived their entire lives independently, in their own ways, can’t just in one quick swoop be able to harmonize. It takes a lot of time, a lot of fail, trial and error, and a lot of tears. The reason it starts plummeting down is because you’re forcing harmony into two separate entities, and the pain of that harmonization is terrible. But without pain there is no gain.
3) “Sakeenah” A Path to Tranquility:
Alas, There IS light at the end of the tunnel. But it requires WORK. Slowly, you start picking up on the things that are important. Like, the things you won’t be able to change, the way things have to be done even if you don’t want to. He starts picking up on that too. You have to give time and LOTS LOTS LOTS of care to a marriage. It doesn’t just flow. It requires hard work.
Baby steps, we’re getting there. We come to accept that we are two different individuals with different lives, and we have to start figuring out a way to harmonize. We’ve climbed out of our deep caves, up onto the green grass, looking up at the skies… we know we never really can go back to cloud 9, but we aim for it. We stick around clouds 3 through 6, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. We’ve accepted this, because it is happiness, and we know that slowly, very slowly it is building up.
Alhumdulillah, now, almost 8 years in, I feel likeIS a lot of the things I thought it was going to be in the beginning. No, not all at once. It’s certainly not romantic 100% of the time, nor is it all fun and games. But it CAN be, at some moments. You can get back to cloud 9 at times, but you really have to work at it. It may not last more than 1 day, 1 hour, 1 minute, but the potential is there if you work it right.
The Prophet (S) said, “Marriage is half of your faith” and I never truly understood that until after I got married. Yes, it gives you experiences you’ve never had in the first part of your life – love of a spouse, protection, security, a BFF for life, eventually children, a family of your own. But I feel like it’s also called “half your faith” because it tests you in ways you’ve never been tested before: patience, anger, responsibility, knowing how to stay silent, not being selfish.
How amazing is Allah, that He knows so well the ins and outs of His creation. He knows that “love” is what starts it all, it’s what brings us together initially. He also knows that “love” can’t sustain a relationship alone, and so “mercy” is needed when the problems start occuring. But He reassures us and encourages us to seek the path of “tranquility” after realizing that a balance of these two is what makes things work.
May Allah bless all of our marriages, Ameen!
Safiya Ravat graduated with a degree in Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh and Usul al Fiqh) from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, as well as a Journalism degree from the University of Houston. She and her husband live in Dallas, TX where they are working under the Bayyinah Foundation. Full bio here. Follow them for more videos and posts on Facebook at Mahad and Safiya.