By Monique Hassan
Dear brother/sister. I have been married for a year now and I don’t feel the love for my wife. She does not have any physical relationship with me. It was an arranged marriage and I did not like this girl from the very beginning. I do not find her attractive. I am depressed because of this and have a constant regret in my life as to why I married her. I wanted to get married to a girl who is slim but she is little fat. I wanted a girl who has good features but her features are not so good. I do not feel any attraction towards her. I am just depressed and it is ruining both of our lives. I am a bit hesitant to tell this to my wife to break this bond as she loves me a lot, but I should also care about my happiness. I always pray to Allah to put love between us but my prayers are never answered. I feel very disappointed to live a fake life like this. Please help me decide or advice me what I can do in this state. May Allah help us.
RESPONSE by Karim Serageldin
As-Salamu ‘Alaikum brother,
All the praises be to Allah. Attraction is a very important factor to make a relationship successfull , but is not the only one. If you did not like her from the beginning, what made you feel you should marry her anyways? I would guess the answer is because of family pressure, which leads me to another question: do you think you can handle the family pressure in case of divorce?
I will first assume you prefer not to end your marriage and that you do not want to displease the families involved. However, you are right about thinking of your own happiness, otherwise you will never make her happy, and both of you will be living a miserable life together.
Even though divorce is allowed, and it is one of your options, it must be a last resort. Whether you like it or not, you are now married and the decision should not have been made if you were not in agreement to this marriage in the first place.
The physical attraction issue seems to be two sides. One is a weight issue, the other is a about her physical features. The weight issue can easily be solved with a life style change, diet and exercise. You can approach your wife and suggest exercising together, for example. Be aware of your tone and don’t be judgmental. Instead, use the exercise as a couple’s activity where you and she can actually have fun while getting in shape. Mentioning to her that you don’t feel attracted to her won’t help. Be kind and simply take this opportunity to spend quality time with her. A healthy life style will also contribute to your mood and behavior. If there are other aspects of her physical appearance that cannot be changed through exercise, then there is nothing that can be done.
Independent of her appearance, you should focus on her character, personality, skills or anything that makes her a good person and wife. You also have to remember that you are not perfect (none of us are), and there are probably things in you that she dislikes as well. Start to validate the portion of your marriage life that you actually enjoy and appreciate. Love does not need to be the same feeling or amount for each person in marriage at any given time. It can go up and down between two individuals that share some compatibility, enjoy each other’s company and have fun together and so on. Our religion made it very clear the importance of marriage and what a man should look for in a wife:
“Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husbands) absence what Allah would have them guard.” [Qur’an 4:34]
The Prophet (saw) also said: “The best property a man can have is a remembering tongue (about Allah), a grateful heart and a believing wife who helps him in his faith.” And again: “The world, the whole of it, is a commodity and the best of the commodities of the world is a virtuous wife.”
Indeed, beauty is important brother, but it does not last forever. If your wife is a good woman, religious and loves you, I believe you should give a chance to this relationship and try to build intimacy and bond with her. One year is not a long time for a couple to get to know each other deeply. Turn all your attention to the things that pleases you. Laugh with her, talk, share dreams and expectations. You might find a wonderful woman if you use more of your heart and not your eyes.
May Allah bless you and make your path easier.
Why are nearly 1/3 to 1/2 of Muslim marriages ending in divorce? I'm joined by Dr. Nafisa Sekandari, a clinical psychologist and the director and cofounder of Mental Health for Muslims (MH4M), a site aimed to educate and normalize therapy for the Muslim community. We first discuss how psychology and mental health is part of the Islamic tradition.
27:00 min- "Why Love is Not Enough." We reflect on important principles that all Muslims need to realize before and during marriage, such as self care, self awareness and healthy expectations. We talk about the differences between elder and younger generations and their views on what is important for relationships. What is the love delusion? Where do love narratives come from? The difference between chemistry and character and why it is not safe to marry "potential."
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As-Salaam Alaikum. I am a 34 years old Muslim woman who recently divorced. My friends have introduced me to a practicing Muslim guy. Since that moment, we really get along with each other. We have spoken about marriage and our expectations, and we both want similar things. After my very first meeting with him, I had a very strong feeling that this was the guy I was going to marry. I prayed istikharah and felt good. But then I felt the guy started drifting from me. Although I really liked him, I put my trust in Allah and prayed for Him to do what is best for me. He still kept contacting me regularly but was distant. I was really confused because anytime I prayed istikharah, I felt good about this engagement. After two and a half months, he finally told me what the problem was; he said he really liked me and really wanted to marry me, but because we had not had any physical contact (as we are both practicing Muslims), he was scared what if we got married and did not connect physically. He is praying istikharah as well, but this now has left me feeling really confused. Can you give me any help or guidance on this? Jazakallah.
RESPONSE by Karim Serageldin
As-Salamu ’Alaikum Sister,
I identify two major concerns in your question: 1) the istikhara 2) No physical contact with the man you might get married.
First of all, you must know that Istikhara is a du’aa’ in which a person prays to Allah to guide him to reach a right decision. The point of Istikhara is not to invoke miraculous signs or dreams about the correct choice to be made, but it is instead an official “letting go” of attachment to any particular result or choice in a matter. Often times, we pray Istikhara, but it is trite, insincere action because we have already decided what we want to do, even though Allah and His reasons may be indicating a different course of action.
Second, to make an Istikhara does not mean that a person abandons all other necessary inquiries. A person must carry out all efforts necessary to reach a correct decision, even after making Istikhara. If you only follow the Istikhara results and do not make other required efforts and investigations, your decision might be mistaken. With that said, the reason for your confusion is because you are focusing only on the results of Istikhara, and when you felt that he was distant (for an understandable reason), you started to doubt if you should marry him or not.
Use common sense, sister. Alhamdulillah, you got two positive answers from people you trust which is a great sign, and on top of that and equally important, you feel right about this brother. As you said, you both share expectations and have feelings for each other. Besides the answers from your prayers, you both seem to want the same thing, and I don’t see why you both aren’t taking the steps to get to know each other more and then take a decision.
Regarding his fear to marry you without any physical contact, the first step to connect physically is having connection emotionally. As I said, it is understandable that he is scared; getting married is a lifetime decision and requires many things to succeed, such as feelings, intimacy, comprehension, respect and so on.
I could not see your question if you both ever met in person. If not, it is not against Islam to do so. You should get to know each other more than 2 months before doing the Nikah. The main goal of the courting process is to see if there is compatibility and attraction and check the spiritual understanding. I would strongly recommend you get your families involved and create safe space for you both to meet.
We all know that the only relationship between family man and woman are allowed to have is marriage. If you are serious about taking this step, it is very important that you and he have more than the religious beliefs in common, which I believe you do, considering your good feelings about this bother. Make sure you are marrying him with more connection than his religion. Are you likely to sustain and succeed in a marriage where there is no compatibility beyond sharing a similar theology and ritual practices? We cannot live a true path of spirituality if our attempt to follow Islam lacks sincerity, wisdom, and deep reflection on our context and ourselves.
In conclusion, take your time to talk to him more, have few meetings with him in person in a safe space, get to know his family, and let him know yours. I strongly advise you to keep your du’aa’ and let God lead your decision. If everything seems easy in order for you and him to get married, it might be a strong sign that Allah is in agreement with this relationship. Remember that your Istikharah must be sincere, and it is not a superstition or a means to fortify what you already decided. Use your intellect and look for evidence that this brother is the right man for you, and advise him to do the same.
My last advice is to take some compatibility tests or even try pre-marital consulting if you feel that you need more certainty of your decision. It is very important to talk openly about expectations in the relationship. I don’t think you and him have to worry about physical contact after marriage now. If you have compatibility and chemistry to spend a life together, I am sure that the intimacy won’t be a problem.
After years of relationship work amongst Muslims, Karim has noticed certain myths regarding love and expectations before (and during) marriage that can be harmful and unrealistic. Karim provides reflections and advice on myths vs. reality regarding love, personality, family, timing and Islamic practice. Some of the constructs he addresses include:
"I want to fall in love"
"I need to get married to have sex"
"There is no one good out there"
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