In part one I wrote about what a woman needs and the general thought in Muslim lands that a marriage does not need romance, but just a general understanding amongst Muslims that the man will provide a, b and c and the woman will provide x, y and z. They act within a framework of concern for the expansion of his bloodline or keeping ties or marriages based on backroom deals from brothers pawning off their daughters or something like that with no romantic notion at all.
It it totally a contract between two parties and if the business deal does not work out, then you terminate the contract ( i.e., divorce which will free up the brother to go and find another wife and could leave the sister to depression, a life full of misery because no one will want her, even her own family, of if we are in America maybe she will pursue a career as a “halal baby mamma” )
As one brother told me: “I just want a woman that can provide me with some children and food. I don’t need to talk to them” and I know of several brothers married to Moroccans who do not speak Arabic and the sisters do not speak English.
I know many disagree, but I feel that this is NOT a good way to look at marriage at all – at least not for one who grew up in the West with a different notion of marriage. Here in the West, we have a tradition of marriage where – ideally speaking – the spouse is supposed to be one’s best friend. That person that understands you. That person that understands that inside joke. That person that has your back when no one else does. That person that really loves you through thick and thin.
Let’s say that we have a man that understands the three things that a woman wants in a relationship and he is providing these things. How does the woman reciprocate? How does she know what he needs? Men have emotions too, and needs a woman that he can connect with on an intellectual level and appreciate what he is bringing to the table. On a certain level a man wants to know that all of his efforts to keep her happy are appreciated. She doesn’t necessarily have to explicitly tell him that, but she needs to show it to him.
When times get tough, she does not nag and complain about how “sorry” he is because she KNOWS that he is a good man that has provided in good times and that he cares about his family. Instead of endlessly cursing him and shouting at him, she comforts him and tries to be of assistance to him in every way instead of looking at these things as “beyond her job description”. A REAL man does not like a “fair weather wife”. A wife that is content when times are good and endlessly nags and complains when times are not so good.
There is a saying that “a man’s home is his castle”. The meaning of this is that a man wants his home to be a place of relaxation, comfort and refuge from the turmoil outside that he just came from. He wants to come home to laughing, a good meal, some romance and a good conversation. He doesn’t want a mindless drone in the home with no feedback on any interesting subject. (At least not to any man with an 8th grade education)
Just as he is willing to go out of his way for the woman, she should be willing to go out of her way for him. That can be a problem when you simply look at marriage as a carnal desire or necessary ritual in practicing your religion and to beget a few children or as a means to come to America or improving your financial condition. The marriage has to be a friendship. “You and me against the world!” That is the way we were raised to look at marriage and when we try to deny it and do something different, it does not work and the American-Muslim community is full of examples of this.
A friend of mine told me this story that illustrates my point:
A convert married to a woman from overseas came home from work one night (he worked late nights). His wife came out of the bedroom and said “Your cousin called and said that your mother died” and then she turned around and went back to sleep leaving him to cry on the couch. Anything beyond that was just beyond her “job description”. That was “his thing”.
In another incident – again a convert male married to a female from a Muslim country – his daughter from a previous marriage needed to stay with them, and his wife refused. She was under no obligation to take care of his previous daughter and felt like a fool caring for the daughter of another woman. Now, with all due respect, if that would have been me, and my daughter was in trouble and needed a place to stay and my wife caused a problem I would simply have turned to my wife and told her to go the F*** back to where she came from if she cannot accept my seed.
For us, this is a loveless sham. A man from overseas may see this as stupidity for even trying to go there in the first place with your wife who after all is a woman and what is a woman good for anyway…or at least that is how they think.
Understanding is very important and what sets a good man or woman apart. However, for women it can’t stop there.
I know that many women complain that the man is “shallow”, but the women who understand the following are successful: A romantic relationship consists of emotional and sexual desire for the other person. Too many women feel like they can let themselves “go” once they get married and that the man should just “provide” because he is the husband or because the emotional connection is made that there is no more need for a physical connection.
In the strictest and most literal since, this is true. However, PART of keeping an emotional connection with a man is by looking good. She should work out, eat healthy food and try to stay in shape. And the man should facilitate these things by encouraging her (as opposed to putting her down) AND try to look good himself.
I want to be clear that I am NOT talking about a man that would nag his wife about her weight every time she puts on a few pounds. I am speaking of the problem that I have heard brother complain about: their wives becoming “content” and letting themselves “go”. The woman no longer sees a need to keep herself looking good. This thought process comes when a woman has a ritualistic thinking of marriage
I feel that a good woman will have pride (the good kind) in herself and the way she looks and will not let herself “go” whether she is married or not. She will not let her feet get hard and crusty. Her hair will not be a mess. She will take care of her face and keep her hair done in a nice manner.
Romance is reciprocal and abstract. Understanding is abstract. This is why it is so hard to conceptualize in a marriage for so many people from Muslim countries. It is the missing element in convert marriages. (Immigrant marriages probably don’t need it because they don’t have this tradition)
So a marriage breaks down when you have each party demanding their ‘rights’. The man coming home jumping up and down screaming about his food and sex and the woman jumping up and down screaming that the rent is late or that she needs some new shoes. Because ‘understanding’ is not literally and explicitly defined and spelled out in the texts, the thought is that it is not needed. Therefore, you have men resorting to ‘marital rape’ and women demanding a man spend his last $75 on her new jilbab because it is their right. Neither party cares for the other beyond being a means to practicing the ritual.
Many men from Muslim lands look at ‘understanding’ and ‘romance’ as code words for ‘disobedience’. This is not the case. There can be love, romance and understanding in a marriage in our context and within Islam. We don’t have to have a marriage just like they have in Muslim lands…
Furthermore, and I will say this in closing but it needs to be said; a man must sexually please his wife and a woman must do the same. He should take his time and do everything right and she should reciprocate and change things up a little bit and have a few surprises for him once in a while. I have known brothers who married sisters from overseas who they told me had virtually no sexual-desire and who had no imagination when it came to sex. One sister wanted to divorce a brother because he liked to suck on her nipples and she thought that was a perversion. Now, if the brother cant even do that what can he do?
Sisters from overseas need to understand that this is not the middle-east where a brother can be wowed by the mere fact that he has a woman to have sex with. She needs to perform in bed, she needs to “put it on him” if she wants to keep the interest of the man and realize the sad fact that she is not the only game in town and brothers need to be thinking about this same issue.
I will not turn this into a piece about sex but obviously that is a big part of this equation and I have got countless emails from brothers and sisters, not to mention those I know, who tell me that they have no sexual compatibility in their marriages and that this issue is tearing the marriage apart and many of these are cross-cultural marriages. So, I ask, why don’t we talk about these things from the minbar or in classes?