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6 tips for family and friends for dealing with marital disputes in the non-Western world
by Abdul Malik Mujahid
Families are usually tightly knit in most non-Western countries. Yet, marital disputes do occur, and can become serious if family and close friends do not intervene. Parents, parents-in-laws and friends in particular, are in a good position to help couples.
Here are some tips of what they can do to help.
1. For parents and parents-in-law
a. Remember no one, including a spouse, can take your place in your children's life.
b. Especially if they live with you, give your child and their spouse time and space to develop a strong, loving marriage of mutual understanding and respect.
c. Never force your child to choose between you and their spouse. Be fair and recognize the right of you and your child-in-law to your child's time, money, etc.
d. Do not try to mould your children-in-law according to what you want. Just as you want them to respect you, you should also respect them.
e. In cases of arguments between the couple, instead of intervening right away, encourage them to work it out on their own.
f. Keep a polite and balanced relationship with your children and children-in-law. While you will always have a right over them as a parent, understand that once they marry, their spouse has a right over them too.
g. Give your children the freedom to socialize with their friends and don't expect them to always include you in every get-together they plan.
h. Avoid comparing your children-in-law to the children-in-law of your friends. Remember that every human has good and bad points. Look for the good in your children-in-law, instead of focusing on what they don't have in comparison to other people's children-in-law.
i. Gossiping and backbiting about your children-in-law is not only unIslamic. It will also create ill-feelings and hurt, which will affect not only your child's relationship with their spouse, but could lead to a bad relationship with you and your grandchildren (after all, you are speaking badly about one of their parents-do you expect them to be able to easily tolerate that?).
j. Never discuss personal details of your children's marriage with friends and relatives.
k. If your children and children-in-law live separately from you, regularly invite them to family gatherings, but try not to be offended if they cannot come. See if you can arrange another day the same week for them to visit.
l. Allow your child and child-in-law to raise their children in the way they see fit. For example, you can suggest a name for a baby, but don't expect them to definitely choose it. But if you have a concern about the way your grandchildren are being raised, be gentle and wise in your criticism.
m. If you live separate from your child and child-in-law, do not redecorate their home when you go for a visit. Let the furniture stay as it is.
n. Praise your children and children-in-law when you see something good, whether it's a great meal your daughter-in-law cooked, a nice gift your son-in-law brought back for you, or a new Surah your daughter-in-law taught your granddaughter.
o. Use your free time wisely by helping others in your family and neighborhood and staying active. This way, you will be helping others, and your busyness will help you keep your mind focused on useful work, instead of getting too involved in your children's lives in a way that becomes a source of conflict.
p. Do not interfere with your child's relationship with his or her in-laws.
q. If your child or child-in-law ignore your counsel on personal matters, do not take it personally or sulk. They will learn from their mistakes.
r. If you are financially dependent on your kids, work out a budget and keep the lines of communication clear. Make a will.
s. Be fair of your treatment of your children-in-law and your own children. In marital disputes, take the side of the person who is right, not the one who may be related to you by blood.
2. Mind your own business and don't carry tales
Avoid sticking your nose in your friend's business. Asking very personal questions is usually not done for any other purpose than to satisfy curiosity and later spread the information.
However, if you feel your friend has a serious problem in his/her marriage, then help them find a practical solution by sincerely showing your concern for them and trying to advise them accordingly.
3. Remember not to automatically take your friend's side
Listening to your friend talk about a marriage problem is important but remember that there are usually several sides to a story and you are getting only one of them when your friend is sharing their problem. Listen impartially and patiently, but don't pronounce any judgments on who is right or wrong you have heard the full story.
4. Emphasize the positive
Point out the positive qualities of your spouse, but don't get too specific. Whether it's the good job a husband does in supporting his family or the way a wife successfully raises a number of children. By helping your friend see the positive in their spouse, they can refocus on that instead of the negative feelings they are having.
5. Encourage your own spouse to help
Encourage your wife to speak to your friend's wife, or your husband to speak to your friend's husband in a wise, gentle manner about their problem. Listening to the advice of someone else who is married could help your friend and their spouse see there is a way out of their problems. This is advice coming from peers who are going through married life also and they can understand the difficulties and pressures that entails.
6. Make Dua (supplication) for them
Ask Allah to help the couple as you try to do what you can to help them. Remember, only He has control of results and only He has the power to make things happens. He is also the one Who puts love in people's hearts for each other.
------Some relevant resources:
Buy Gender Equity in Islam
Buy The Muslim Marriage Guide
DVD: The Ideal Muslim Husband
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