Adjusting to Marriage

Marriage requires many adjustments. Life becomes different in various ways for both the spouses. Daily rituals and habits have to change, and a whole array of new experiences await the couple. It is not always easy to deal with these changes. Human beings sometimes resist change. They are reluctant to relinquish what they are accustomed to, preferring to cling to what is known and familiar. There is a fear of change, of the emotional upheaval that change might entail. This is especially true when the change seems threatening, a potential danger to the sense of self. For a couple entering marriage, it is best to be prepared for many winds of change, even stormy ones. The idea that marriage will be smooth and be in accordance with the well laid out plan that had been envisioned for it is a false illusion. It can bring great grief if not set aside. Marriage will undoubtedly change life for us, in ways we may like and ways we may not like. To accept this fact helps alleviate much of the stress that may result from the necessary adjustment. Apart from the day to day changes that married life may bring, it is the change in attitude and thinking which is most important. Mental processes have to undergo a strong change in order to achieve harmony and happiness in marriage. The following are some changes in attitude which require an adjustment after marriage.

Restriction on individual freedom

A single person thinks only of the self, and many decisions are based on that. But marriage necessitates decisions based on two people, two different personalities each with his/her won likes and dislikes. This consideration, negotiation, and consequent adjustment does not come easily to most people. Ayatullah Haeri Shirazi, a scholar in Iran, likens it to driving a car. In a speech on marriage he gave the following example. If someone is alone on the road there is no need to be careful or considerate. There really isn’t anybody else who would be affected by how he drives. He may drive very slowly or speed up if he wishes. He may drive straight, in one lane, or change lanes and deviate and zig-zag. All this is true so long a she is by himself. The moment another driver enters the scene, however, he has to change immediately. Now there is someone else to consider. The actions of one driver will affect the other and both cannot drive in whatever way they wish. The presence of another human being whose life can be affected places certain restrictions and rules on one’s actions. Living with others in society demands that we restrict ourselves sometimes. We cannot follow our whims and desires as we are not living in isolation. Our actions have repercussions, the effect of which can have very great consequences. Hence the rules for life, as sent by God. Although not everyone may wish to follow them, they are necessary for harmony in society. This is especially true of the married couple. When alone, they could do as they wished. Late hours at work, going out with friends, etc. were all acceptable before marriage. After marriage, however, consideration is to be given to the effect of such activities on the other partner. Plans  have to be made together. Life is different for both of them, and the freedom they had before is not available now. This restriction on freedom is not to be viewed as a burden. Every good thing in life brings with it responsibilities and duties. As a human being transcends from one stage of life to another, many changes occur in his life. From childhood to youth, to marriage and then parenthood, the human being is in a constant state of development. Each stage has to be traversed for fulfillment and satisfaction. But advancement in stages also brings with it certain responsibilities. A parent is restricted by the arrival of a child in terms of demands on time etc,, but accepts it willingly, even with joy, for a child is a great blessing. In the same way, a spouse accepts the restrictions marriage might bring, because that too is a great blessing. As the holy Prophet (s) says: There is no establishment in Islam more beloved to Allah than that of marriage. Restrictions are thus part of the package, a small price to pay for marital happiness. This type of attitude will help greatly in reducing the resentment which restrictions may bring.

Making Joint decisions

Whereas before the partners were accustomed to decide things for themselves, albeit with help and guidance of parents sometimes, they will now have to get used to making joint decisions. Islam has put the man as head of the family, and ultimately all decisions are his responsibility. However it is important for family harmony to consult the wife, and discuss matters before important decisions are made. The husband is in charge of the family, but a domineering and strict enforcement of his rule will not make matters smooth for the family. The Holy Prophet (s) has said: The best of you is he who is the best to his family, and I am the best of you to my family. The wife should also understand that God has given the leadership of the family to the husband. To accept that and co-operate with him for the good of the family is a sign of a believing and virtuous wife. Being able to make decisions that are mutually agreeable is a skill that the couple will have to learn. Many people often have the mistaken assumption that their thinking is really quite correct, and the decision they wish to make is the only right one. To allow someone to have a say in their decision, even perhaps disallow them from doing what they want, requires a certain humility. That will have to be learnt in marriage. If the partners have mutual respect and love, and know that each wants what is best for the other, there are less chances of battle over important decisions. If the ability to make a joint decision is not learnt by the couple, the relationship may degenerate into a power struggle that will cripple the marriage. Discussing the matter calmly, and swallowing false notions of pride and independence will help the couple to make joint decisions without creating tension.

Ability to sacrifice

During childhood and youth, most boys and girls are given what they want by their parents. They are accustomed to thinking mostly of themselves and having most of their needs meet. Their personal happiness is of paramount concern to their families. Marriage often demands a sacrifice of one’s desires. Simple decisions such as timings for dinner, choices for holidays etc. can evoke very different responses from the partners. At times, differences of opinions and interests may mean that one spouse may have to give up what he/she likes for the sake of the other. This does not mean to say that one of the partners should always be a martyr to the other’s happiness. Sometimes however, it is not possible for two different personalities to see completely eye to eye on a matter, or to be able to make a decision that will be completely agreeable to both of them. In such cases, one of them will have to give in. It is best that the burden of sacrifice be not always laid on the shoulders of one of the partners. If the wife gives in sometimes, the husband should at other times. Both will have to understand that this type of sacrifice is necessary for living together. Many problems in marriage stem from the aversion of either partner to give in. Sometimes a person may view giving in as degrading submission, an affront to his or her sense of dignity. It is assumed that to sacrifice for the other partner means being a doormat, and these modern times make that unfashionable – perhaps even unacceptable. If such is the attitude of the partners, the marriage may be in for some rocky times. All marriages involve certain sacrifices, and the wise and strong individual accepts that as a necessary fact of life. When we sacrifice to make our marriage a happy one, we are really sacrificing for ourselves. The ultimate benefit will return to us, for a happy marriage will make us happier individuals. It does not mean that we are martyrs, or that we are suppressed. It just means that we are wise enough to discern the fact that giving in sometimes reaps great dividends, the fruits of which we shall enjoy ourselves. Every couple is different. The changes and necessary adjustments vary from one home to another. The best thing to keep in mind is to avoid resentment and opposition to change. A positive attitude will help greatly to accept these changes and could make these changes stepping stones to success and progress in life. The following points may be useful to keep in mind during the early stages of marriage.
  1. Communication is very important. Both sides should talk, and listen to the other. If adjustment is difficult, the other partner should be aware of it. Even if that may not magically solve things, it would at least foster a greater sense of understanding.
  2. Be broadminded in accepting each other’s faults and mistakes. Human beings are all created differently and it is wrong to judge and condemn others on the basis of one’s own opinions. Adjustment is easier if one is tolerant and accepting.
  3. Read books and articles on marriage, both religious and secular. This helps in discovering ways to help smooth the path of married life, and helps greatly in adjustment. Many good books have been written on the subject. It is worth investing time and money on some good books.
Adjustment requires that the spouses make a conscious decision to change. The power to change, to accept change graciously and without resentment, lies in their hands. They cannot change circumstances, but they can change their attitudes towards it. The following insightful article has been taken from the webpage:

Take Charge of Your Life!

We live in a society where many people refuse to accept total responsibility for their lives. They blame other people or circumstances outside their control for their current situation. They look outward for scapegoats and seldom look inward to find solutions within themselves. This passive, “victim” orientation is detrimental to success and happiness because it denies the tremendous power within each person to substantially direct his or her own destiny. So, if your business, your department, or your life is not going as you would like, do not point fingers. The problem is not your boss. It is not your coworkers. It is not your spouse or your mother or father. Simply look in the mirror and you will see the person responsible for getting you where you are today. After all, your present thinking and actions (or lack of actions) have created your present circumstances. If you continue to think and act in this manner, you will keep getting the same results. This is not to say you have control over every single event that comes into your life. You don’t. But you do choose your response to each event … although you may not think of your responses as “choices” because they are ingrained habits which have become automatic over time. For example, let’s say you’re cut off while driving on the highway. Many people would instantly scream, flash their lights, or react in some other negative fashion — whereas, they could simply choose to let it go and remain calm. Unfortunately, you may have been responding to events in your life based on such destructive habits without even realizing it. But, there is good news. Even if your past choices have been poor ones, you can still decide to change. The best way to bring about this change is through awareness — by recognizing your habits and becoming conscious of your fundamental beliefs. Your beliefs create your reality. When you make positive changes in your belief system, a corresponding positive change will take place in your level of achievement and level of fulfillment. Recognize that success is not something that randomly happens to you; it is not an accident. Rather, success springs from within you. It begins with the right attitude and is achieved through persistent action. Take command of your future by accepting responsibility. It’s a life-changing principle! In marriage being the right person is as important as finding the right person. Wilbert Gough Marriage should, I think, always be a little hard, and new and strange. It should be breaking your shell and going into another world, and a bigger one. Anne Morrow Lindbergh