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I Want Marriage, Not Responsibility!


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I Want Marriage, Not Responsibility!
By Umm Abdullah
I think it’s safe to say that most women want the benefits of being married. We want some of the same things – to be loved and taken care of and to have a companion. But how many of us put in the work to receive those benefits? And how many of us are thinking, “what work?”
Some women think that the benefits of being married should be automatic, either because the husband loves her or simply because that’s what a married woman is supposed to get. Maybe they think they are entitled to these benefits, whether or not they are doing anything to deserve them. There are also women who say they do their part so they should receive the same.
It sounds normal, but the problem comes when the wife’s efforts correlate to her level of pleasure. Meaning the happier the husband makes her, the more she will do for him and if he is not making her happy, he gets the same in return (unhappiness). This image of the husband feeling the wife’s displeasure excuses her of responsibility for her behaviour.
Before I got married, I was told “No man is worth your tears and the one who is, won’t make you cry.” This sounds nice and romantic but it is very unrealistic. This is to say that your husband would not do anything that would make you sad or upset. And what happens when he does make you cry? Does that mean he is no longer worthy of your love?
Narrated by Ibn Abbas Radhiyallahu Anhu that The Messenger Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam said, “I was shown the Hell-fire and the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful.” It was asked, “Do they disbelieve in Allah?” (or are they ungrateful to Allah?) He replied, “They are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favours and the good (charitable deeds) done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, ‘I have never received any good from you.” (Bukhari)
When I think about this hadith, I am speechless at the accuracy of it. And although you may think you don’t ever say this to your husband with your tongue, there are times when we say it with our actions.
You know that moment when your husband tells you he can’t come through on something he promised, something you were looking forward to, or when he hurts your feelings or makes you mad, and something switches inside of you. Something that makes you instantly stop caring about what makes him happy. Something that makes you storm out of the room or hang up the phone. That same thing that makes you say, “Hmph” and you no longer feel motivated to be nice to him. That’s the part that says, “I don’t need you. I’ll do it myself” or “Fine, you don’t want to help me, I won’t help you either.” Even worse, is when we act out by withholding our kindness to blatantly show our displeasure in an effort to get our husbands to “behave”.
This is when you have to remind yourself of a few things:
What is marriage about? Are you fulfilling the purpose? A couple is supposed to help each other get closer to Allah. What have you done to help your husband achieve this? Is marriage a one-way street? Are you in it just to have someone work to make you happy? Are you okay with pleasing your husband, as long as he is pleasing you? When you fell short and disappointed him, did you expect him to be patient with you or lash out with resentment and harsh words? If the answer is the former, then why do we think it’s ok for us to respond with the latter? If it’s hard for you to be good to him when you are hurt, then maybe you weren’t being good to him for the right reason in the first place. His rights are not dependent on your emotions.
There was a poster on the wall in my school classroom that read “When you point a finger at someone, there are three pointing back at you.” This means when you are pointing the finger of blame at your husband, claiming that he has fallen short, you need to take a look at yourself and analyse your own behaviour. Ask yourself, “Has he really done anything wrong? Has he not given me my rights or am I just unhappy about my wants not being met?” Sometimes you may find yourself thinking, “Why should I continue pleasing him if he isn’t pleasing me?”
The answer is because you are married. A wife may ask, “Why should I be fake? Why should I continue to be there for him after he’s hurt me?” The answer is, “That’s what marriage is…it’s called Loyalty”. And if you’re reading this and the first thing you say is, “But he’s not being loyal to me!” – You’re doing it again. You are ignoring your part of the deal.
Remember how, before you got married, you made a list of the characteristics or qualities of your future husband? You wanted him to be patient with you when you burned the food, supportive when you were tired and helpful when you needed it. Did you think about the qualities you would need to have?
I am not advising anyone to put up with a husband’s behaviour if it involves something haram or detrimental. What I am saying is that we need to realign our standards with Allah’s. We need to understand that we will not be questioned on the Day of Judgment about what our husband did. And when Allah tells us of our responsibilities, that is exactly what they are – responsibilities. Not negotiations or bargains.

Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)

Council of Muslim Theologians

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