Kindness in Marriage and Divorce

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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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Fulfilling Our Destiny is Like Surfing the Waves

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Every living thing has an ideal destiny, because God created us to grow, learn, enjoy life, and improve our intellect, so that we may understand Reality, just like He wants the flowers to bloom. God made every living being with a blueprint of its true nature within its DNA. Sometimes flowers wilt, sometimes people become depressed, but that is not their true nature. Some kind of deficit has occurred, like lack of rain prevents the flower from living up to its natural potential. Unlike flowers we have choices, and the moral responsibility for those choices. We also have human rights.

In Islam, a woman has the moral responsibility for the spiritual status of herself, and her children. On the Day of Judgment a man will however be asked about the level of his wife’s faith. A woman will not be held morally responsible to the same degree if her husband went astray. That is because man has a degree of power over his wife that she doesn’t have over him, by nature. A parent only has moral responsibility up to a point. When the child becomes of age, he is responsible for his own choices. Prophet Noah (as) had to go through the heartbreak of enduring a disobedient son and then, he had to live with the knowledge his son had drowned in the Flood. What a terrible burden! But Allah relieved him of that burden. 

He (God) said, “O Noah, in fact, he (your son) is not a part of your family. Indeed, he is (a man of) bad deeds. So do not ask Me something of which you have no knowledge. I exhort you not to be among the ignorant.” (Quran 11:46)

Allah said it is ignorance to love and consider as family a man of bad deeds. The most sacred bonds such as between a parent and a child can be destroyed by bad deeds. When we continue to pray for something in a relationship that is not possible, we are living in ignorance. Yet, at other times, when we should be doing something quite possible, but we did not make the effort, we are also living in ignorance. How do we know if a situation is salvageable? How do we know when to give up on a person or whether to try harder to reach them? As long as we are acting from ego, we will never know.

Even our Prophet (s), as an example for us, asked for protection against his own ego, even for the blink of an eye; although he is perfect and preserved from sin by God, he taught us to be careful of our own egos. Prophet David (as) used to follow his prayers with supplications begging forgiveness for the inadequacy of his previous prayers, in case there was any pride mixed in for having performed them.

Every struggle, whether a relationship problem, cancer, or a war, presents us with opportunities to learn and grow, and to purify our souls. There is a special dwelling place in Paradise for those who are able to praise God in every circumstance no matter what. We will always experience hardship and loss and fear. Our ego can get in the way and make us afraid to take risks or conversely, make us react emotionally and destructively. Real devils will interfere in our lives and zap our ability to understand what’s going on.

Everyone has something that they are destined to fulfill in this life. Sometimes we stop the process of our own growth and degrade ourselves; sometimes we allow someone else to degrade us – because we have been allowing our ego to cover up the Truth deep inside that God wants us to be happy and healthy. It’s a delicate balance we must maintain, and it has to move with every wave, like a surfer. But if we can maintain that balance within, we can then with a clear head make the best decision for what will help us blossom in our true lives.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) said the struggle will go on until the Day of Judgment, like the ocean waves. There will never be a time when we don’t have to face trouble and make decisions about how to deal with these challenges. Until we get our own egos under control, we will face the same trouble over and over and over, regardless of how many times we run away from our problems.

All human beings are in a state of total confusion until we accept Grace. Verily all men are in a state of loss! Except those who accept that sunshine and rain from the sky, and share this Truth with others. They are the ones who can bloom. They are the ones who have learned to collect Power from the universe, circulate it within, and emit Light. They are the glowing ones.

When you see someone who is glowing, you know they are not wasting their day nursing resentments, you know they are keeping their minds clear and clean. They probably have a regular spiritual practice, because glowing takes regular practice. It doesn’t just “happen” just like music doesn’t just “happen.” Unless a musician regularly exercises the tiny muscles in his fingers, he will not be able to play you a song, let alone put feeling into that song. We must constantly work on perfecting ourselves, but we will never be perfect. We can never give up trying to be the best we can be, because that is the whole point of our life’s journey.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

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Be Yourself

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

A friend is someone who gives you strength. A friend is someone who makes you feel better after you see them or talk to them. A friend is happy because you are happy and a friend is upset when you are upset. So why is it so hard to find a friend in this world? Why is it so hard to give and receive love?

I have been communicating with a large number of women who are in despair because they feel like they invested so much – or gave up so much – for their marriage relationship: dropped out of college, quit their job, had X amount of kids, cleaned the house, cooked the food, did the bookkeeping… You would think that the least her husband could do would be to love her back!!! Flow some love, man!

Why does the dream of love appear so unattainable, even though it is as vital to our survival as food? It seems like the harder we work to please someone, the more sacrifices we make for someone, the less they love us. We get stuck in this situation where we are trying to be with someone, while they are judging us about whether they think we are good enough to merit their affection. This type of unhealthy dynamic is not limited to marriage. It can happen at work, at school, and in our social lives.

Some people start to think that it’s not even worth trying to love anyone anymore because no one ever loves you back – even those who are way too young to give up hope. Many of us at the prime our lives waste our youth and middle age in despair. Reality check: Either try something new that you haven’t thought of before, or else just give up for now and be patient. Be yourself. “Let them come to you,” said a very wise Iranian woman on Facebook.

If someone stresses you out to the point where you are becoming overwhelmed, just stay away. If you can’t avoid them, try to dwell on other thoughts. Make them a small part of your life. You can’t let other people “get to you.” If someone is upsetting you to the point where you cannot eat or sleep or concentrate because you are so upset, this is a sign that this is not a healthy relationship.

The Prophet Mohammed (s) advised that we should go towards a situation that gives us inner peace, and stay away from a situation that creates huge fluctuations in mood. When we become emotionally attached to someone that repeatedly causes us to have great hopes, and then totally disappoints us, this is a huge emotional drain that will affect not only our mood, but our ability to provide for everyone who depends on us. If we are clinging to such a person, we will become completely debilitated and useless.

When we try our best to be what someone else needs, we become less of ourselves. Less of a person to love. Sometimes we even become resentful. Ultimately, we become less lovable. We are not being the best we can be for the sake of God.

You can only be truly loved if you are totally being yourself. You can never truly love someone else unless you look at the other person as a unique person within their own unique situation.

A lot of people have a list of criteria for their potential mate. But our neediness gets in the way of true love. This list of wants gets in the way of viewing the Other as a human being. Because guess what. There is no human being out there that was specifically created to fulfill your needs. Human beings are not commercial products or drugs you can buy in order to solve your problems. Every person has their own Path they need to walk. God gives us what we need. No single person or situation can ever do that for us.

Choosing a mate or friend is not the same as looking for an apartment. If you look at someone else as a means to need-fulfillment, they will feel exploited. Likewise, if someone came up to you and said, “This is what I need. This and this and this. Can you do it?” – you would hardly fall in love with them.

We have to be ourselves, and let other people be themselves, and observe. Does it make sense for us to spend more or less time together? Do we enhance each others’ strengths or exacerbate each others’ weaknesses?

We can never have a true friendship or find true love unless we go beyond the question of “Do you meet my needs?” On the other hand, if we are getting nothing out of a friendship or marriage other than anguish, it may be time to detach. It must be a matter of the balance of respect for each other. It takes two people making an effort to have a relationship.

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Parenting in America

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

There is a lot of uncertainty within the Muslim community about how to raise righteous children, given all the choices available within American society. How do we raise children who are honest, responsible, well mannered, never use bad language, are faithful friends, get good grades, and are not only polite but helpful with authority? Is it possible to raise children without any emotional problems and without any interest in drugs or alcohol or sex?

Sometimes immigrant parents try to be too strict, and then when that doesn’t work out, they simply give up and let their children be free like an adults. But did they even try to give clear guidance?

Children learn mostly through observation. The most important time to give a child a sense of moral responsibility is before the age of 5. After that, it’s all talk.

The “attachment parenting” philosophy of parenting gives babies their full Islamic rights. Two years or more of breastfeeding, and sleeping with the mother until weaning time. It is a huge personal sacrifice for the adults involved, but this will give children the foundation of confidence. No matter what else we did wrong, we can know that our children had plenty of skin contact with their mother at the most important time in their lives. They never have to doubt whether or not they are loved.

Skin contact with the mother at an early age will help prevent promiscuity in preteens and teens. I believe that most young (and older) people who irresponsibly search for a “friend” to give them comfort were denied a sense of comfort within their home life. If their parents’ love was conditional, they will search for unconditional love anywhere they hope they can find it. But if they don’t have a healthy example, they will likely never find true love.

Feelings do matter. If we cross the boundary of respect with our children (yelling at them), it is vital to always apologize and make friends again. It is emotional abuse to let children go to sleep feeling hurt and angry. Never expect them to just cheer up and accept abuse. Never call names.

Some children have strong fears of death due to emotional isolation and deep thinking. It is scary to imagine not existing anymore. Studying religion can just make them even more afraid of death and hell. Yet, it is so easy to help a child overcome this fear. If a child is having panic attacks, give him a hug!!! There is only one cure for fear. LOVE.

Truth matters. Never lie to your children. Don’t promise them things you don’t deliver, and that includes threats. Don’t make empty threats. When you promise something good, do it. If you cannot do it, apologize and explain. Be consistent. Don’t create surprises.

If we don’t give our children clear rules, it will be hard for them to take us seriously. We cannot leave our children alone to deal with this total emotional crisis of living in this world! If the child is seriously confused and then breaks the rule, he won’t understand the punishment. After that, we still have to protect the child in every way! We have to talk to our children about how to behave appropriately, and why.

If you want your children to be different from most children, never allow any TV station in your home. They will be exposed to TV programs at other people’s homes and this will help them keep in touch with what other people are thinking, but if they are not exposed to the continuous advertising and moral corruption of the TV at home, they will possess freedom of thought. They won’t have this need to be “sexy” or buy certain things, that young people usually learn they need to attain in order to be acceptable to society.

Above all, be home. Make huge personal sacrifices in order to be at home despite all odds. Being home makes a huge difference in children’s lives. If you are simply there, but teach them that you are not always available to serve them, they will have to learn how to cook and clean in reasonable amounts in order to help you get your work done. Any work they do adds to the strength of their family and home. This gives them a sense of accomplishment. The family must operate as a team effort!

This is so much more important than making huge demands on children that are often not moral or practical demands. Many parents waste huge amounts of money and energy forcing their children to learn how to ice skate (for example) instead of giving them the choice about whether or not they even want to ice skate.

Structured activities are not always necessary. Children really need time to do whatever they want to do. One must to steer them away from computer games and cartoons, of course; but once we deny them those options, they start being creative. They start making things with Lego’s or planting seeds in the garden or reading books. Sometimes they choose to do chores for small amounts of money.

Children suffer a lot when their parents are always driving them from this place to that place for all these structured activities. They need time to be left alone to do what they want in the home. Many children become exhausted from all these activities that are based on giving parents more free time without them.

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