In Marriage, Pick Your Battles

Fighting the Real Issues

Every relationship will have its share of disagreements, fights and arguments. It is very hard to feel love in times of conflict.

In my younger days, I used to like repeating the popular saying, “I am a lover, not a fighter.”

The saying implied to me that in order to have a successful marriage, you should love more and fight less. However, the reality is that you have to be able to love and to have healthy conflicts to have a strong relationship and a happy marriage.

Why Is Conflict Important?

Conflict is a part of life. It exists in most relationships and it is not necessarily bad. Whenever you put two unique individuals together, you are going to have two persons who don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Two individuals in a relationship can be productive, creating a deeper understanding of each other, closeness and respect; or they can be destructive, causing resentment, hostility and separation.

Pick Your Battles

Start with the right frame of mind. Approach conflict as two equals working together to solve a problem. Choosing your battles is very important. You have to learn when and where to fight and how to love your spouse so you can have a fulfilling marriage. So what is worth fighting for?

Fight technology: While technology has made it easier to communicate, it also causes conflict in marriage. Some studies indicate that couples who text a lot do not have happy marriages.

When you text, everything is up to interpretation: what you said and the way you meant it may not be received as intended. Have important conversations face to face and not with a screen.

Fight money issues: Money can be a deal-breaker in a marriage. The way a person handles money says a lot about them. If money is causing a rift in your marriage, have a weekly or monthly meeting in your home where you and your spouse can discuss finances.

Resolve all issues calmly. Don’t let money worsen your relationship or communication.

Fight dishonesty: Marriage counselor Dr Frank Gunzberg notes that lying is only one type of dishonesty in marriage.

In his paper, “Honesty in Marriage: How to Get Back to the Truth”, he says that in order to be totally honest with your spouse, don’t sidestep or distract them from an issue to avoid discussing it.

Don’t omit information they need to draw the correct conclusion or focus on an insignificant fact to avoid a truth you don’t want to admit.

Avoid answering in anger or giving them the silent treatment instead of an answer. These strategies are dishonest and harmful to your relationship even when you do it to avoid an argument or to protect your spouse’s feelings.

Fight divorce: While infidelity is to blame for many divorces, The UK-based Co-operative Legal Services says that it’s the cause of fewer divorces today. Modern couples commonly cite unreasonable behavior as the biggest reasonbehind divorces.

Fight unrealistic expectations: One of the great relationship destroyers is that of unrealistic expectations.

It is about expecting something out of the relationship that the other is ignorant of, unwilling or unable to provide. Love and forgive your spouse, communicate to understand, and change your perspective. Rather than give up on your expectations, keep them realistic.

To Love

Allah (SWT) says in the glorious Qur’an:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy.

Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. And of His signs are the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.” (Ar-Rum: 22)

Allah emphasizes in this verse the importance of love and mercy between spouses.

Although conflict is healthy at times, love needs to take precedence. We need to know when to draw the line and how to fight clean. Love and mercy should go hand in hand.

Love words: Love words are very important in a marriage and they need to be there all the time. A loving word goes a long way, instilling confidence and security in our spouse’s heart.

Prayer: Years ago, Imam Moutie Saban, a local Cape Town sheikh, said on Voice of the Cape radio station that one of the acts a couple should do together is prayer.

Prayer is paramount in every Muslim home and doing this together creates harmony and unity. He added that the best time for couples to discuss issues that trouble them is after they have prayed together.

In-laws: A big part of the equation of a happy marriage is the in-laws. For a healthy relationship with your in-laws, start with respect, honor, and trust and you will be on the right track.

Love yourself: E.E Cummings once said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” Love starts with you. Being kind to yourself allows you to be kind to those around you.

The real secret to a happy marriage is balance. You and your spouse need to be lovers and fighters. You just have to pick your fights and learn how to love.

First published: July 2014

About Fatima Bheekoo-Shah
Fatima Bheekoo-Shah is the author of "Saffron" (A collection of personal narratives by Muslim women), a freelance writer and book reviewer. She resides in Gauteng, South Africa. A book nerd and avid reader, Fatima is always looking for her next great read.