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6 tips for friends and family for dealing with marital disputes in the West
by Abdul Malik Mujahid
Family and friends can play an important but hidden role in helping married couples maintain a strong relationship. Parents, parents-in-laws and friends all can help a couple work through their disagreements and differences. They can also take certain preventative measures that can greatly reduce marital conflict (which can arise over minor issues as well).
Below are some tips of what you can do to help.
1. For parents and parents-in-law
The steps below are ways to avoid 95 percent (approximately) of the problems between you and your married children or children-in-law.
a. Remember no one (spouse, for instance) can take your place in your children's life
b. Allow your child and their spouse time and space to develop a strong, loving marriage.
c. Never issue an ultimatum of "us or them".
d. Chidren-in-law have their own personality and philosophy of life. Do not try to mould them according to your vision.
e. Stay clear of their quarrels. Encourage them to work it out among themselves.
f. Keep a cordial and polite relationship with your children and children-in-law.
g. Give them time to develop a mutual understanding and respect.
h. Remember that respect is earned not demanded. Keep this in mind when dealing with children and children-in-law.
i. Do not be expect to be invited to every party your children plan.
j. Do not compare your daughter-in-law and son-in-law to your friends' children-in-law.
k. Telling tales is unIslamic and to your kids about their spouses' detriment.
l. Encourage the young couple to socialize independently of your circle of friends.
l. Decline invitations to join family vacations unless it's a family reunion.
m. Do not discuss your children's marriage with friends and relatives.
n. Invite them to family gatherings but don't make an issue if they are previously engaged.
o. Make suggestions, but let them choose name for babies.
p. Do not rearrange furniture in the kitchen or elsewhere when visiting married children.
q. Pay compliments and be kind and gentle in your counsel.
r. Let them parent as they see fit. If you have serious concern, approach them tenderly without being critical.
s. Acquire interests of your own so you don't rely on your kids completely for social and emotional fulfillment.
t. Do not interfere with your child's relationship with his or her in-laws.
u. 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.
v. If you are financially dependent on your kids, work out a budget and keep the lines of communication clear. Make a will.
w. Stay out of your adult children's disputes if they have nothing to do with you.
x. Be fair of your treatment of your children-in-law.
2. For friends, listen impartially
What is friend who doesn't have an attentive ear? Many of us tend to share our marital problems with friends. If you are a friend, listen, but remember that you are only getting one side of the story, so listen impartially.
3. If there is a problem, consider referring the problem
If the dispute is of a serious nature(i.e. there is domestic violence-for this see tips at www.soundvision.com), encourage your friend to seek help with a trustworthy family member, Imam and women's shelter.
4. Emphasize the positive
If the dispute is not very serious, and is simply a list of minor complaints (i.e, she forgot to pay X bill, he forgot to take out the garbage), then listen, but remind your friend of their spouse's positive points. Don't be too generous in praise. Simply state the fact, so they can at least see the positive over the negative they are emphasizing at the moment.
5. Encourage family gatherings
While a husband will have his own friends and a wife her own, it's important for married couples to meet (within Islamic guidelines) as well. This forms a kind of social, informal "support group" so that when marital disputes do come up, there is an existing network available that can help or at least be an attentive ear. The added bonus of this arrangement is that when children of the couples meet, they will have company with other Muslim kids, who have the same or similar background of values.
6. Mind your own business and don't brag
This point can't be emphasized enough. Minding your own business means not asking details that are too personal about a married couple or about your friend's relationship with their spouse. One detail which you, as a friend, should avoid asking is how much money a spouse makes, for instance. Some people may take this information and use it to compare, and if their spouse or they make more money, they will brag and humiliate the friend and their spouse. This is wrong. It can lead to marital dissatisfaction at a material level and may create problems between a couple. No true friend would do this to another.
But a note of warning: minding your own business should not mean ignoring a serious problem. If your friend is being abused by her husband, for instance, minding your own business will most probably lead to continued abuse and possibly death in extreme circumstances. If the problem is serious, it is your duty to help your friend get assistance.
Muslim Social Services Page @ SoundVision
------Some relevant resources:
Buy Gender Equity in Islam
Buy The Muslim Marriage Guide
DVD: The Ideal Muslim Husband
SoundVision's Page on Domestic Violence
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