Last month on The Muslim Vibe we asked you what the biggest obstacles to getting married in the Muslim community were. We had over 400 responses and below are the biggest five obstacles as voted by you.
Rather than doing this wide-ranging topic little justice by simply listing these obstacles; with the help of Abbas Merali we’ve tried to give a slightly different take on the issues and how these obstacles can be overcome. Abbas has worked extensively with singles and couples for over 5 years and has conducted workshops in the UK, USA, India and East-Africa. He is also the co-author of Selecting a Spouse: The Heavenly Path and Marriage to Parenthood: The Heavenly Path and will be blogging regularly on The Muslim Vibe on marriage-related topics in the very near future.
First and foremost it is interesting to note that each of the 5 biggest issues that you selected fall under our ‘values’; the aspects that govern our day-to-day lives, the aspects we dedicate time in our lives to; i.e. the ‘intrinsic’ stuff, the stuff that makes us ‘compatible’ or not. To understand this further I tend to use the phrase:
“Matching / Mapping of Values is where compatibility occurs; personality is where attraction occurs; when opposites attract we attract NOT at the values level but at the personality level
“Our values form the foundation of our marriage – our personalities form the building blocks – if the foundation has glass mixed with marble; you have no hope on building anything on top of it”
5. Religion/Sect (8%)
What is it about our faith / religion that may cause issues?
I have always been intrigued by the concept of religiosity and how one can measure religiosity when choosing a spouse.
I guess what we are trying to say is that there are parts of our faith that are deeply valuable to us; that if someone took it away from us or imposed it on us, we would be deeply conflicted inside of us and, therefore would not be able to live with ourselves. If we are not at peace with ourselves it is very difficult to be at peace with the other.
For example, if I as a person attached deep value to the veil and my hijab; got married to someone who realised they had a very different perception of the concept of Hijab which does not include the wearing of the veil and coerced me to remove my veil; how would that impact me as a person and my emotions etc if I was forced to let go something that was deeply important and valuable to me? Anger? Resentment? Conflicted? Depressed? How would it impact our relationship as a couple?
Another side to this coin is this:
How does the Story of Hur (as) and his interaction with Imam Husayn (as) relate to marriage?
Is it that he/she has a genuine love for my faith, he/she resonate with his/her faith, he/she knows what the right thing to do is, their heart is in the right place; but all that person needs is that spark; that inspiration; that ignition; that other half; that life partner that could inspire them towards God; towards moving from where they are stuck now to where they know in their hearts is the right place to be; and what will get them there is a companion and companionship to support them on this path.
Is it that sometimes, we are looking for the finished article?
Is it not that the act of falling in love is helping a rough diamond shine and in that process as they see themselves becoming refined, becoming better people, fulfilling their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses that they feel indebted to the other and feel a deep sense of love to the other – is this not what falling in love is all about? This to me is what marriage is about; two broken people coming together, to follow God’s calling and in that process help each other becoming better as people and working through past baggage that they have carried with them over the years.
Finally; and I think this may resonate with all the five obstacles mentioned in this poll and that is the root underlying obstacle of all the points raised could be:
- That we make the wrong decision of the person we will marry
- The reason we fear that we pick the wrong person is we are yet to discover who we are? What is it that we really value? And what really makes us tick (as opposed to what is supposed to make us tick)
- And if we have yet to discover ourselves, when you do get married you realize you have not married the wrong person, but you are the wrong person and that the real you is the person you discovered through the mirror of the person you married?
4. Education/Career (10%)
Education/Career is again something each of us value in varying degrees and therefore is only natural that forms a basis for making a decision when searching for your other half:
Could it be that the education and career is an obstacle because:
- One has used it as the only/primary basis for selecting compatibility in your spouse; especially since many may have chosen a career as a means to an end and not because that forms their life work and purpose and thus there is a lot more that defines us as people than just our careers / education
- There is an intrinsic fear that has one chosen the right career and how will they support the other if they are unsure about what career they have chosen?
- One person feels a sense of inferiority that the other has figured it all out because they love what they do; whilst the other feels like a square peg in a round hole and is in search for something that is more aligned to them.
Education / career could be an obstacle if one chooses to make it a primary/only value to base compatibility and places their self worth and identity on their career/education.
3. Money (14%)
There is no doubt that money forms a key element when selecting your other half and maybe deemed to be an obstacle for the following reasons:
- What family background does each one come from and how was money valued and perceived as one was growing up?
- Cost of the wedding and ceremonies and who has control of the wedding and ceremonies? Is it the couple or the parents?
- Life after marriage and cost of living post-marriage – is there a fear that they have picked a wrong career / unhappy in their career / want to change careers / and have a fear they will not be able to provide for their family; a fear that they will not be able to fulfil the responsibility
Key points to remember here is (and discussed below further):
- For someone who has grown up in a wealthy environment; how do they value money; have they been given an opportunity to develop their own personalities and become independent and value money responsibly or not? Or are they dependent on someone to ensure that their lifestyle is not compromised?
- What is the relationship dynamic like between parents and the prospective bride/groom; if parents still view the groom/bride as ‘children’ it is likely that they will have minimal say in the wedding ceremonies and the costs associated. However; if the dynamic is one where the bride/groom are deemed to be adults then cost of the ceremonies will be less of an issue as the bride and groom will have an equal say and be driving the wedding ceremonies and associated costs.
- All of us need support at some points in our lives; however; if the couple are on the same page and money is not the only value on which the relationship has been based on, this is likely to be less of an obstacle.
2. Parents/Family (16%)
Parents can be one of the biggest supporters but yet can equally be the biggest obstacle to marriage but this all depends NOT on the parents but yourselves:
- What is the relationship dynamic like between us as young adults and our parents?
- Are we still very much the child in the relationship (even in our mid 20’s) or are we the adult?
- Do we automatically slip into child mode behaviour with our parents and replicate our childhood behaviours?
- Are we allowing parents to take responsibility of our lives or have we begun to take ownership and responsibility of our own lives?
- Do we allow the support of our parents to become rescuing and invite ‘interference’ into our lives
- Are we still ‘obedient’ to our parents or are we able to have a respectful discussion with our parents and agree to disagree respectfully? Is having a difference of opinion with our parents disrespectful with our parents or is it how we have that difference of opinion that determines whether it is respectful or disrespectful?
If we choose to play the child in the relationship – then parents and family can be an obstacle to marriage and later on in marriage life
If we chose to play the adult in the relationship (and the onus is on us to transition to adults) then our parents become a very valuable support to us when getting married and later on in married life especially when we have our children.
1. Culture/Ethnicity (18%)
This is always an interesting point that constantly comes up; and I have always been intrigued to understand what people mean when they say that culture/ethnicity is a hindrance and an obstacle to marriage; especially since culture and ethnicity has a very rich/positive side to it and plays a beautiful part in our day to day interactions and how we live our lives.
I often term culture as the compass that guides us on the ‘HOW’ of our life, How to execute our day-to-day living.
So for example:
Our faith says to us: ‘Be good to our parents’
Our faith says to us: ‘Remember the tragedy of Imam Husayn’
Our culture will determine on HOW we be good to parents, our culture roots will determine HOW we commemorate the tragedy of Imam Husayn (as), and there is so much beauty in the diversity of the ‘HOW’.
So bearing above in mind, what and who is the obstacle to marriage when it comes to marriage?
- Who is hindering us from marrying people from other cultures? Is it our parents? In which case are we allowing ourselves to play the child mode in the relationship with our parents and not taking responsibilities for our life and decisions?
Or is it us ourselves? We, us, me, that is the hindrance from reaching out to another culture?
- Is it wrong to make our own culture/ethnicity the starting point when searching for our spouse? Is it not normal to be apprehensive of the unknown and be apprehensive to something different? Being apprehensive is not being racist! What is probably wrong is to make your own culture/ethnicity the ONLY platform when searching for your spouse.
- Is it really culture/ethnicity that is the obstacle to marriage? Or is it US? Our own FEARS and ANXIETIES of the unknown of change, of being challenged on what we thought was normal that is the obstacle? i.e. on how we worship, how we cook, how we commemorate, how we celebrate, how we serve, how, how, how that is the hindrance!
Cross Ethnicity / Cross Culture marriages do work, are very successful and we have many living examples amongst us; the hindrance is not the culture or the ethnicity it is us and how we manage the differences and whether we use the differences to enrich our lives or do we see it as a threat to our world view and existence.
The key to making cross culture marriages work is self awareness, ability to accept change gracefully and most of all patience and time to adapt to a different way.