Love and Marriage

Love is the most important ingredient of a happy marriage. Without it, life is dreary and marital duties a burdensome chore. It is the sunshine on a marriage. A gloomy day can make life’s little problems quite overwhelming, while sunshine helps cast off fears and infuses warmth and cheer into one’s spirit. Such is the effect of love. It brightens the thoughts and feelings of human beings, making all things bearable. When love is absent in a marriage, the partners can feel quite lonely. Things go on, for marriages are not broken due to lack of love. But there is no charm in the marriage, no motivation to make life happier for each other. Frustrating and unproductive, it becomes a joyless marriage. The partners go through daily life without the sweetness and intimacy that bring fulfillment in marriage. The purpose of being together is often lost, and a façade is put on to preserve the marriage. Many people endure this type of marriage without realizing that things could be changed. An effort to win the love of the partner, usually reciprocated, can do wonders to change the face of marriage. It is possible to work at and maintain emotional attachment between the partners. The joy and tenderness of such an attachment bring exhilaration to the daily life of the partners, and is a great achievement of marriage. It fulfills one of the philosophies of marriage as laid down by the Holy Qur’an. Marriage has not served its purpose if it does not bring peace of heart and mind to the partners.

The myth of Romantic Love

The emotion of love has to be constantly nurtured and nourished. It is a fallacy to believe that love before marriage is a pre-requisite for love after marriage. Falling in love may be viewed by some as a necessary requirement before getting married, but statistics tell a different story. About half of marriages that have taken place after falling in love, break up soon after. Love has to be created and nurtured, worked at and maintained. A lasting love, so vital in marriage, cannot be achieved easily. Scott Peck, M.D. says in his bestselling book The Road Less traveled:
The experience of falling in love is invariably temporary. No matter whom we fall in love with, we sooner or later fall out of love if the relationship continues long enough. This is not to say that we invariably cease loving the person with whom we fell in love. But it is to say that the feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes. The honeymoon always ends. The bloom of romance always fades. To serve as effectively as it does to trap us into marriage, the experience of falling in love probably must have as one of its characteristics the illusion that the experience will last forever. This illusion is fostered in our culture by the commonly held myth of romantic love, which has its origins in our favourite childhood fairy tales, wherein the prince and princess, once united, live happily forever after . . . the myth of romantic love is a dreadful lie. . . as a psychiatrist I weep in my heart almost daily for the ghastly confusion and suffering that this myth fosters. Millions of  people waste vast amounts of energy desperately and futily attempting to make the reality of their lives conform to the unreality of the myth. (pp. 84 – 85, 91 – 92 1978 Edition)
In fact he is not the only author to mention the illusion of romance. Hugh and Gayle Prather in their book A Book for Couples, say that after marriage couples will have to let go of the initial infatuation they may have had. That is not going to last. But because people believe it will, they are ready to move out of a relationship when it ends. Hence the endless divorces. They say:
Whatever you thought about your relationship while you were infatuated . . . you can now safely dismiss. Your relationship was never extraordinary, your partner was never above the crowd, and you have lost absolutely nothing in seeing this. Now you can get down to work, because what you truly want lies before you . . . so what does a couple do when the honeymoon is over and it is beginning to dawn on them that not only is their relationship not magical and wonderful, it has in fact not even begun to form? They should not be discouraged. Above all, they should not blame each other. And in most cases they should not rush out and try to start another relationship with someone who has what this person lacks. Instead they must begin a thorough housecleaning of their minds to free themselves of all they carry from the past. They want to work hard so that they can come together fresh, clean, open and willing to begin. (pp.20 -21, 1988 Edition)
Most people yearn for the love of a spouse. But they make the mistake of making that love conditional. Thus they believe it would be possible if the spouse was less critical, or more attractive, or more selfless. The truth of the matter is that love does not depend on these factors. We should not be fooled by packages. Love is born from living together and working together. It has to be worked upon by constantly thinking of the other partner and looking for ways to make them happy. Out of this companionship is born love, a love that is far more stronger and lasting than the romantic love harped upon in many societies.

Winning the Love of the Spouse

The desire to be loved is a strong part of every human being. The need for affection is natural, as natural as the need for food and sleep. This desire can be seen at its strongest in babies. Adults later learn how to hide their need, and sometimes reveal it in complicated ways. But the need never goes away. Islam recommends behavior that would win the love of others, even outside the home. Relationships become fulfilling when infused with the spirit of love. The following Ahadith of Imam Ali (a) show us how one can win the love of others:
  1. Cheerfulness is a cause of love.
  2. Humans are the slaves of those who do good to them.
  3. By doing good to others, a human being becomes the master of their hearts.
  4. A cheerful face is a gift without any expense.
  5. I am surprised at one who buys slaves with his wealth and frees them. Why does he not purchase free men with goodness and make them his slaves?
  6. That tree which is soft and tender, its branches are many.
  7. Gentleness brings affection and closeness.
The importance of love in marriage necessitates that spouses invest time and efforts to win the love of each other. The quickest way to receive love is to give love. Genuine gestures of love will beget love in return, leading to a more harmonious and fulfilling relationship between the two. Below are some of the ways to win and maintain love of the spouse:
  1. Be pleasant in character – gentleness and cheerfulness are vital components in the quest for love. This is especially true inside the house. Many people are very pleasant with outsiders but change color at home. The problems and frustrations of daily life affect their temperament at home, and they seem almost different people. Such people need to control their anger, and practice the same rules of cheerfulness and gentleness to win the love of their spouses. They should realize that venting of anger, and being constantly harsh and complaining, are great deterrents to the flourishing of love.
  2. Pay attention to your partner – The principal form that love takes is attention. When we love someone we pay attention to them, to their feelings, their opinions and their desires. We consider them as important and this is reflected in our dealings with them. Attention can take many forms. Listening to the spouse, fulfilling their needs and expectations, pleasing them, surprising them, helping them etc. are all different forms of attention which manifest love. The recipient of these attentions is bound to reciprocate the attention.
  3. Share interests and ideas – A husband and wife are a team working towards success in life. It is necessary that they share their interests with each other, do things together, or at least talk about things other than mundane household matters. Sometimes a couple may share a common interest and it becomes easier to do it together. However, even when interests differ, discussing it with the other partner fosters an increased respect and understanding of one another. The two can then become friends discussing what is important to them. Friendship is a necessary part of married life, and an important way in which friendship can blossom is the sharing and discussing of mutual or individual interests.
  4. Overlook and Forgive – To maintain harmony in marriage it is necessary that spouses do not capitulate on the mistakes of one another. To harp on things one does not like, especially when it is not too serious, is a great mistake. It is greatly harmful to a relationship to constantly criticize and nag, to point out mistakes and remind about them. This is the poison that wrecks marriages. A big heart can absorb many mistakes. The point of being together is not that everything should be perfect and smooth. Overlooking small things and not making certain issues very serious, are important factors in winning the love of the spouse.
Allah loves those who forgive others, who are willing to put aside small differences. A Hadith of Imam Ali (a) says: The best deeds of a great man are to forgive and forget. To forgive the partner for mistakes is really doing oneself a favor. Resentment and grudges are emotionally painful, and obscure the love one has for the spouse. To forgive means to strip a painful memory-the memory of the mistake of the spouse- of its negative charge. Once it is forgiven, it can be more easily forgotten. The issue can then be laid to rest, bringing peace and happiness to both the partners. All human beings need love in their lives. They need various forms of love; tender love, sympathetic love, passionate love, love that nurtures and helps them along. The love between a husband and wife includes compassion, friendship, desire, encouragement, and many other positive qualities. These qualities enhance the emotional well being of the spouses and make their lives happy and fulfilling. Three things create love; pleasant disposition, gentleness, and humility. Holy Prophet (s) To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides. David Viscott MD Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. Simone Signoret