By Karim Serageldin - Original Posted on aboutislam.net
As-Salamu 'Alaikom. I am a 27-year-old woman who has recently been speaking to a man for marriage. We have known each other for a few years as my good friend married one of his friends a few years ago. However, we never really communicated until now.Around 6 months ago, we met again and kept up communication even though he went to work abroad. In that time, we got to know each other very well and started developing feelings for each other. We have spoken about marriage, our expectations of it and aspirations in life around marriage, family life and religion. He is a man of good character and has brought me closer to Islam. However, he is a few years younger than me and has yet to establish a career. His mother is worried that he is not ready to support a wife and family yet and should not settle down until he is ready to do so. Not to mention that I am not of the Arabic decent she would have preferred. I also think he will feel uncomfortable with a wife earning more than him.I have prayed istikharah on a number of occasions for guidance on this issue. So far I have had no definitive signs, and my feelings haven't changed. Are these obstacles, which have been put in the way of us, signs to not marry him? Should I wait for him to come back and have our families meet properly, and then should I wait for him to become financially stable even though I earn as well?
As-Salaam ’Alaikum sister,
It sounds you two are still unraveling the potential of being married and starting a life together. The main issues you pointed out are as follows:
Age difference, he is a few years younger than you
He is not established in career or earnings
Ethnicity and cultural differences
If you are married, you will be the main provider (for now)
Before addressing each point you have outlined, it is important to recognize an important matter. Yes, marriages should be made easy and often when we perceive obstacles we question if this marriage is right for us. Yet, sometimes Allah in His Wisdom puts obstacles before us as opportunities to better establish ourselves before moving forward.
Point 1: Age difference: This is completely a subjective preference. In your case, the age difference is not that large of a gap, hence it is unlikely to strongly impact the relationship dynamics. It comes down to each of you being okay with it. The Prophet, peace be upon him, and his first wife, Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) had a wide gap of the age difference and they are an excellent example for us.
Point 2: Your fiancé is younger so this does impact his level of career and finances. Conventionally speaking, a man should have the ability to protect and provide for his wife. A man should be mature in character and mind and be able to take care of a household. It sounds like your fiancé just needs to finish school and get a job. However, this again goes back to conventional understanding, what you two agree to is more important. If you two agree that you will be the sole provider for the first few years as he finishes school and finds works, then besides meeting conventions, there is nothing “Islamically” wrong with that decision. In the end, it is both of you who are in the marriage, both of you need to come to an agreement as to how each of your roles will take shape. Don’t assume he will feel inadequate after you two have discussed a plan.
Point 3: Ethnicity and cultural difference can be challenging. Marrying someone outside of your culture has pros and cons as does marrying someone within your culture. Ultimately, you two should do pre-marital counseling, conduct online personality assessments and really determine how similar your values, expectations, and needs are as people. The main reason our families want us to marry within the culture is that these values are already established and more likely to be shared. What is most important in a marriage to succeed is personality compatibility in regards to all the domains that are important in one’s life finances, religion, family commitment, how we deal with personal challenges and so on. I encourage you to invest more in pre-marital counseling resources to discover these dimensions more thoroughly.
In conclusion, take these “obstacles” as openings to advance each other’s chances of having a successful marriage. One of the things I see with couples on my couch is that they did not do the real work of ensuring the marriage will be successful by having pre-marital counseling and discovering deeper layers of themselves and the relationship.
One helpful resource to start with personality assessments is 16personalities.com