Marriage. A beautiful union that brings two different people together, uniting in love and purpose.
Before getting married I had this preconceived idea about it. Not so much like the fairy tale type marriages that you see in films, but I would say I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult it actually can be at times. Add children to the mix and it is entire different ball game. Marriage is hard work. It is a continuous work in progress. It requires constant effort from both spouses. Sometimes sacrifices are made out of love and support, according to whatever the issue at hand is, and sometimes sacrifices are not always ones that make us scream with joy.
Before children there was quite a bit of free time. Along with impromptu and regular date nights & quality time both together and separately with friends. You both could focus on nurturing and building on that special bond between you. Going out of your way or going that extra mile even if it was something small, it would be a regular occurrence. I’m not saying that these things are impossible after having children of course, because it isn’t but a lot of things change once you both become responsible for the lives of little humans.
I have read a few blog posts and articles on married life after having children and a lot of them had the same narrative that tended to focus on the woman getting her ‘mojo’ back (assuming that it had been lost). The notion that woman should beautify herself for her husband daily, keeping on top of everything at home and making things as easy as possible for her husband who had just spent a number of hours working hard in his role to support the family. Whilst I can understand that that perspective, I found that articles/blog posts like this do one of a few things (or all of them combined). A) They put the burden of a successful marriage on the wife alone and make it sound (although perhaps unintentionally) that the success of a marriage or strong spousal relationship was based solely on the amount of time and effort she puts in to her appearance B) It gave the idea that because the husband worked outside of the home (and this is referring to sisters who are homemakers, as these posts often do) he somehow works that little bit extra harder than you do and so you should have no qualms (or more precisely complaining to the hubby about how tired you are after an extra long day raising his child/ren) with being able to stay on top of it all. Clean house, freshly prepared meals daily, making sure you are looking just as beautiful as you did on your wedding day etc C) Showed little to no regard of the real common issues that spouses may actually face that go beyond artificial beauty and daily applications of make up.
Sometimes the idea that if you do everything you are supposed to do as a wife and mother then suddenly the foundation of your marriage (you and your spouse) doesn’t need that extra bit of work after all. Whilst trying your best to be the best version of you in every aspect of your life is admirable and encouraged, we need to look beyond the lists of ‘being the perfect husband/wife’.
When you have children, you both have to adapt yourselves to a completely new way of living. You realise that all that time and effort you had been able to put into each other and your relationship has now become divided between not only each other but with your blessing/s given to you by Allaah. That coupled with sleepless nights and a now a seemingly unending list of things to do by the end of each day, you have complete and utter exhaustion. The usual advice you get about spending quality time with your spouse in the evening once the kids are asleep (only a few hours at a time) is at the back of your mind whilst you count down the hours until you can crawl into your bed and pray for an uninterrupted nights sleep. All to wake up and do it all over again.
The reality is that at times nurturing that bond and relationship with your spouse can be difficult because so many things seem to unintentionally and unknowingly take priority, and suddenly date nights can be postponed to the following week (or month), quality time turns into half-asleep nods of acknowledgement between you and at other times you have a extra fingers and toes squeezing in between you both in bed or pinching food of your plate after eating their own food (Why does our food always taste better to our children?).
I honestly believe that before anything, the advice to be given to couples should be about the bond and deep connection between spouses. This is the basis of all good things that come after it. You can dress yourself up to look amazing and your husband can get a hair cut every week, wear a new aftershave and look good for you too but if that deep connection is missing then what is the point? How can you build something solidly beautiful on an unsteady foundation. I remember a webinar by Megan Wyatt about reviving love between spouses and she mentioned how a lot spouses seem to think that the ‘honeymoon period’ disappears quite quickly but in reality that is not the case. The reason for this was simply lack of real deep communication. Not the quick exchanges whilst either one of you are rushing out the door but deep, meaningful conversation with eye contact. When was the last time you made the time to sit down with your spouse (this is for brothers too) and actually had a proper conversation with no gadgets, phones or disturbances (for some this may be just before going to bed as that is the only chance they get). Just love, deep connection, eye contact and real interest in each other? It is definitely something to think about. I found myself asking myself that question after the webinar too and I knew there was room for improvement, isn’t there always?
This is where our effort should be directed to first, I’m not saying do not beautify yourself or look nice for your husband at all (no refutations please lol) by all means make the effort, but try not to neglect the emotional intimacy. The foundation.