Many of us tend to live in idealism. As marriage partners, we think that a marriage should never be marred by unhappy moments. Marital tensions should never come our way. The husband should always remain the sweetest creature on earth and the wife should always remain thankful to the husband. These are expectations all of us espouse. But the stark truth is bitter and sourer. Husbands are not sweet all the time and wives are not thankful all the time: husbands are dictatorial and bitter and wives unthankful and quarrelsome most of the time. Clashes between the spouses become a routine. Wives at times are so helpless that the only reason for them to put up with their husbands is the children. Those who are not helpless and can become financially independent often take the ultimate step of seeking divorce. Ever than before, today the institution of marriage is on trial and people are questioning the utility of getting married in the first place. To them, it brings more misery, suffering and despair than one can imagine.
What then must be done!
The first step perhaps is to realize the fact that it is next to impossible that a marriage can be clash-free. Even spouses having the same interests and views cannot avoid quarrels and disputes. So first of all a strategy needs to be worked out that can resolve clashes every time they arise. It is the success or failure of this conflict-resolution strategythat can make a heaven or hell of marriage.
Here is a proposed strategy that can perhaps be considered as a starting point.
1. A husband should note down his own mistakes and shortcomings which he genuinely acknowledges as ones that may bother his wife. A wife in return should do the same.
2. A husband and wife should then note down each others’ mistakes and shortcomings not covered in the first list. This would constitute mistakes and shortcomings of one the other does not acknowledge as mistakes and shortcomings.
3. The lists should then be exchanged. Each of the two should now set about correcting the acknowledged mistakes and shortcomings. These mistakes will not go away overnight; however, the will to overcome them means that the job is half done. The next half is to hold oneself responsible each night before going to sleep for every outbreak of that mistake on that particular day and urging oneself to do better the next time.
4. In this regard, once the two know each others’ acknowledged mistakes and shortcomings one thing will happen or in fact should happen: each time there is an outbreak of some mistake, the one responsible for it should thoroughly apologize to the other and in fact ask him or her to give allowance and pray that this does not happen again; this will earn the one committing excess the sympathy of the other.
5. Once work is progressing steadily on this list, the other list should be taken up. Now this list would require some discussion between the two as it constitutes mistakes and shortcomings of a spouse which the other does not acknowledge. If the difference of opinion continues, it is best that both realize that they will keep discussing the differences at opportune moments and at the same time try to put up with one another’s shortcomings with patience and sympathy.
6. Besides the two lists just mentioned, a husband and wife should also make a third list: each should note down the qualities of the other. This list may also be exchanged. This will boost the confidence of both because of acknowledgment of the qualities of one another. One of the greatest reasons for clash and conflict is anger and frustration that may arise in one spouse for the other for various reasons. It is here that the utility of this third list lies. One’s first reaction to the emotions of anger arising within oneself should be to at once remember the qualities of one’s spouse and the benefits drawn from him or her.
These suggestions may help in improving marital ties and in understanding that the best way for peaceful co-existence and earning the respect of a marriage partner is to forgive and forget as far as possible. For this, we should remember that God graciously forgives us and we should in turn graciously forgive our offenders.
(Dr Shehzad Saleem)