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Communicating like Best Friends


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By Maulana Khalid Dhorat
What a WhatsApp conversation looks like after a few years into a typical marriage:
“Need bread.”
I mean, come on: “K”? Not even an “o” to make that miserable “k” look a little less miserable!! But the truth is the “K” response is still a whole lot better than a husband completely ignoring this daily drudgery request of bringing some item of necessity home.
What happens to married people’s manners, enthusiasm and most importantly good assumptions when talking to their spouses? Is it okay to talk this way because you’re just so used to someone? Why do we not talk this way to people we’ve been friends with for years? What makes a spouse less-deserving of respect, enthusiasm and affection when no one deserves it more than them (except our parents) for choosing to live every single day with us? 
Why do we not talk to our spouses like we talk to our best friends, even though they are much closer to us than anyone will ever be?
Happy Muslim couples talk like best friends, in good times and in conflict. In good times, they wait to tell each other about their day, they joke, laugh, share ideas, flirt, complement each other, respect their spouse’s right to hold different opinions and learn from each other’s opposing points of view. In fact, happy Muslim couples communicate just like how our noble Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam communicated with his wives.
Once, our mother Sayyidah Aisha Radiallahu Anha narrated that Allah’s Messenger Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam said to her: “I know when you are pleased with me or angry with me.” I said, “Whence do you know that?” 
He said, “When you are pleased with me, you say, ‘No, by the Lord of Muhammad,’ but when you are angry with me, then you say, ‘No, by the Lord of Abraham.’ ” Thereupon I said, “Yes (you are right), but by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger, I leave nothing but your name.” (Bukhari)
Couples that have learnt to communicate effectively do away with the majority of marital stress because they become so attuned to each other’s feelings. They can immediately sense the emotional state of their spouse through the slightest change in words or tone. And as our beloved mother, Sayyidah Aisha Radiallahhu ‘Anha put it so beautifully – even in anger. Happy, loving Muslim spouses never desert anything more than each other’s name when they try to communicate that they feel wronged or hurt. They never desert love and respect for each other in conflict: this, is the key to staying happy in your marriage.
Dr John Gottman, a world-renowned marriage researcher, has claimed that can determine whether or not a couple will eventually get divorced with 90 percent accuracy. A part of his analysis includes listening closely to their language. According to his research, here are the four most dangerous types of communication that destroys marriages:
1. Criticism
There is a huge difference between giving your spouse loving feedback and attacking their character.
When you criticize your spouse, you are identifying their faults to make them feel bad about themselves. Be careful not to harmfully judge your partner in ways that belittles them or makes them feel inferior to you. Rather, give them compliments and focus on their strengths. When you speak in terms of their weaknesses, frame them in a positive way. Talk about how their actions affect you, and give suggestions in humility and with love.
A bad communication example: "You are so lazy! You never pick up after yourself. Your mother didn’t teach you table manners."
A positive example: "I'm having a difficult time keeping up with all the chores, and I'm starting to get frustrated and overwhelmed. Do you mind taking over the dinner dishes? That would be really helpful to me."
2. Contempt
If you are name calling, insulting, mocking or ridiculing your spouse, you are verbally abusing them and showing contempt. Stop it now. It will get you nowhere. 
Being mean and rude to your spouse is disrespectful and extremely harmful. They don't deserve it, and neither do you. Even if you are "just joking", it is hostile humor and should be avoided at all costs. Always treat your spouse with respect. Find ways to uplift them. Be kind, tender, considerate, and loving.
A bad communication example: "You are so untidy that even a dog looks better than you. Pretend not to be my wife when we go out for shopping.”
A positive example: "I really love that red outfit that you haven’t worn in a long time. Can I get it ironed for you if it’s creased?”
3. Defensiveness
When there is a problem, do you constantly place the blame on your spouse? Are you always the victim? If you never take responsibility for your actions, and constantly make your spouse the "bad guy", you are destructively defensive.
Being always defensive, never even considering what your partner is saying or soul searching within yourself invalidates their feelings. It is one-sided, controlling and manipulative. If you are defensive, you are constantly looking for excuses, instead of admitting you are wrong. You do not want to grow in a relationship, but wants to have it your way all the time. 
Bad example: "It's not my fault that we missed the payment! You never take responsibility for anything or even remind me of anything. If you are a little more alert, we wouldn't have these types of problems."
Good example: "I'm so sorry that we missed the payment. It's my fault that it happened. Maybe we can work on delegating responsibilities better, so that we don't have this problem again."
4. Stonewalling
Saying nothing can be just as harmful as saying something. "Stonewalling" is when the listener completely shuts off from the conversation. They may ignore their spouse or even leave the room completely. They close off, tune out, act busy, and turn away.
When your spouse is upset, don't give them the silent treatment. It's another form of disrespect. Instead, listen carefully to them. Try to understand their concerns.
Ignoring the situation never helps solve a problem. Yes, to temporary avoid an issue until both are calm is OK.
In conclusion, no matter how angry and upset you may be, always communicate out of love. Have patience with each other and give each other space to grow within the relationship. Miscommunication robs a partner off his/her personality and this eventually leads to breakdown in marriage. May Allah Ta’ala grant happiness to all couples and give them the tools to navigate the wonderful ship called marriage.

Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)

Council of Muslim Theologians

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