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Kindness in Marriage and Divorce

November 17, 2011 by  


By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which God has placed much good. (Quran 4:19)

marriage1There is almost nothing more damaging to the human psyche than trying hard to please someone who is trying hard to tolerate you. Whether it’s a child-parent relationship or a wife-husband relationship, conditional love creates a type of emotional violence which involves spiritual enslavement of the weaker party. The essential cause is dehumanization of the Other; when one person doesn’t view the other person as fully human. In the classic set-up, the weaker party is striving to be what the other person needs him or her to be, while the stronger party judges whether the other is good enough to merit approval. There are countless personality and relationship disorders that get passed down in this way from generation to generation; it’s like farming pain.

While laying down the financial groundwork for a marriage is important, once this is behind us, it becomes important to explore the hopes and dreams of each party involved, as well as their past. If a new spouse shows no interest in looking at the other’s old school yearbooks or handwritten poetry from days gone by, how can a couple face the future as one? Each party will come to the table with their own set of baggage. Some of this baggage contains real treasures. If the couple cannot discuss the past and explore why the other feels and reacts as they do, how will they ever relate?

In both arranged marriages and love marriages, there often comes a time when one or both partners may come to dislike one another. It is probably impossible to truly get to know anyone on earth without disliking something about them. A friendship or marriage must be sustained on the good will and trust about the intentions of the other party. There may be psychological or neurological reasons for their behavior. But as long as one party is actively disliking the other, there is no way for them to connect on a level of mutual respect and understanding. It is tragic how many cases of personal insecurity could get in the way of truly appreciating another human being.

One man married a certain woman in order to please his mother. She gave him a son, whom he truly loved, but he did not love his wife – perhaps because she was not beautiful enough, or perhaps just because he had not chosen her himself. But he had agreed to the marriage! So he is walking around feeling sorry for himself because he has no feelings for this woman who gave him a son, even though she had never showed him any unpleasantness nor gave him any reason for complaint. Even if they had not ever exchanged any words of tenderness by this point, which must have been at least two years, that woman already proved her dedication to the marriage by willingly and voluntarily subjecting herself to physical pain in order to provide offspring to his family!

What could cause a man to willingly and voluntarily subject himself to physical pain for someone else? Only the most heart-felt, deepest emotion. Even if those emotions were not available at the time, she went through the motions. She made the sacrifice for him. Is that not enough for her husband to feel deep gratitude and friendship? How would he feel towards a man who took a bullet for him? Would he not feel obligated to love and protect him for life?

The ability to find beauty in someone else should not be a huge task. We could easily find something to love about a stranger. Perhaps the angle between her eyes and her nose is very interesting. Perhaps he has a cute way of mispronouncing words. One thing I have come to realize is that the attributes that other people find most frustrating or annoying about me are my best qualities. It is harmful to me to constantly be around people who devalue or demean what I have to offer the world.

A divorce is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness. (Quran 2:229)

A lot of psychological research is being done these days on the effect of personality disorders on the spouse. A person who truly cannot see any good in a spouse who has done him or her no wrong, who blames excessively, who doesn’t live in the present but lives somewhere else, probably has some kind of personality disorder. Trying to merge lives with someone who has only their own interest in mind is not only frustrating but can be debilitating, especially in old age.

If you don’t like your spouse, and you cannot address your own personal issues that keep you from being able to like someone who is trying hard to be your life partner, it may be most merciful to let them go so they can find someone else. You should never stay married to someone out of pity or a sense of unwanted obligation, because this deprives your spouse of their humanity.

It is easier for a woman to raise children alone than to raise children while buffering extreme emotional negativity in her home. That point being made, if you leave a woman with children, financial support must be provided. While the state mandated child support amount is a must, it is more merciful to calculate the actual costs associated with raising a child. If you cannot imagine paying your ex-wife a check each week for her efforts, it is truly in your best interest to find something about her to like.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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