Bismi Allah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem

THE FIVE STAGES OF NEWLYWEDS

Hast thou not seen, and learned by it,
How, when a lamp is freshly lit,
The flame burns feebly, and one puff
To put it out is quite enough?

But when the wick is well alight
And blazing broadly through the night,
To puff and puff will only go
To fan it into fiercer glow.

-Ibn Hazm, The Ring of the Dove

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Introduction:

Newlyweds should not act as if they’ve been married for years. They should think twice about what they say and how they act so as not to be misinterpreted. They should gradually ease into the relationship, making the compromises and changes in themselves necessary for a solid marriage. At first they need to show their most positive self. Gradually, they can reveal themselves more deeply to their spouse. It takes perseverance, but the rewards are substantial. Remember, marriage is half of the deen for a reason. It pushes you to change and grow into a fuller human being with stronger character. You gain the skills, characteristics, and wisdom to make you a more effective worshipper of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.

The following is a guide to the 5 stages that newlyweds go through. By following it, it is hoped that, bi idhni Allah, the couple will help each other to build a solid foundation for their marriage. If successful, they can, in sha Allah, easily resist any assault from the accursed shaytan who seeks to divide husband and wife.

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Stage One – Attraction:

You’re attracted to the piety and character of your new spouse. You’ve gotten married for the sake of Allah and you are both looking forward to your collective journey in pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure. Now is the time to express your attraction for your spouse and get to know the best, most positive side of each other.

In this stage, you must put your best foot forward. The idea that marriage is a matter of, “This is how I am, take it or leave it!” is a mistake. Marriage is a very delicate balance of give and take and continual compromise. We have to be very careful in the way we express ourselves so as not to be misinterpreted by our spouse. In Stage One, we must portray our most positive side. Do not start dumping your problems on each other from the get go. The idea is to sustain the attraction in Stage One. Be very careful about what you say and what you do.

MEN: Be a good listener and ask questions to show your interest in your wife. Take the risk in doing special things that make her feel cherished. Women like it when men have the courage to do things that make her feel special. Sweep her off her feet and always show your most positive side.

WOMEN: Share yourself in a positive manner. Be receptive to your husband’s efforts to make you feel special. Show appreciation without reciprocation. Let him pursue you. If he does something special for you, all you need to do is let him know that you thoroughly enjoyed it. Don’t pursue him by returning the favor because that may kill his attraction. He wants to pursue *you*, so let him! You’re worth it!

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Stage Two – Uncertainty:

Almost all couples go through a period of feeling uncertain that their partner is right for them. In this stage, it is important to recognize this uncertainty as normal and not be swayed by it. Always remember that you prayed istikhaarah and put your trust in Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.

MEN: You might become somewhat distant or disconnected and feel less inclined to pursue your wife. Push yourself to continue to do little creative things for her to make her feel special. You need to repeatedly experience the idea that you have the ability to make her happy, bi idhni Allah. When you experience this, the doubts will disappear and, in sha Allah, you’ll be confident about the relationship.

WOMEN: You may start to worry about where the relationship is going, especially if you notice that your husband is starting to pull away. Don’t ask him questions about the relationship and don’t try to win him over by pursuing him. Resist the enormous urge to find out what has happened or to do something about it. Let him pull away like a rubber band. After some time he’ll come springing back to you. When he does, be receptive and welcoming. Meanwhile, fill your time with other things like memorizing Qur’an, listening to Islamic audios, going to halaqahs with friends, and so on.

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Stage Three – Negligence:

We start to feel more confident in the marriage and comfortable with our spouse. Naturally, this leads us to relax and we stop pushing ourselves to put our best foot forward. It becomes easy to take our spouse for granted and stop doing the little things that make him/her feel special. This is a huge mistake. This is the stage when those things that you did as newlyweds start to become “memories”. Instead, take the opportunity to make that “newlywed drive” into a habit that will last with you for the rest of your lives. This is the time to continue to do special, romantic things with each other.

MEN: You may think you’ve won her over and don’t need to pursue her anymore. This attitude causes the relationship to lose its momentum and causes the husband to lose his edge. He becomes that dull man that nobody wants to be with. He ceases to be the leader that pushes the relationship to new heights. Instead, he slacks off thereby opening up the relationship to shaytan’s attacks. You must keep pushing yourself to cherish your wife. This is the time to make this attitude a permanent habit. It will soon become as natural as riding a bike or driving a car. When that happens, shaytan will lose all hope, in sha Allah. One very important thing to do in this stage in particular is to *anticipate* your wife’s needs and offer to help without her asking. Take the romantic initiative and be a leader. In a word, be a MAN!

WOMEN: Do not assume your husband knows what you want. He simply doesn’t! Sad but true. Instead, practice *asking* for support if you’re not getting it. Be sure to ask in a friendly, non-demanding way without using negative feelings as a means of manipulation. A woman actually becomes more attractive to a man when he knows what she wants. When the wife tells her husband what she wants, he becomes confident that he can please her and is encouraged to act. This helps the husband to take the lead in the relationship and keep his edge against shaytan. Also, the wife must remember to never give more to the relationship than she’s getting [for explanation, see footnote]. If you’re not getting enough support, ask for it in a non-demanding way (ask for it like it’s simply a favor he can do for you if he chooses to). When you get what you want, then you can start giving back, but never give more than you’re getting (i.e., don’t give more than the bare minimum rights of the husband unless you’re getting more than the bare minimum rights of the wife). Failure to do this can lead to resentment, which will be devastating to the relationship in later years. And, as always, be very receptive, excited, and encouraging when your husband does something for you, even if it’s something he always does, like opening the car door or complimenting you. Focus on making this appreciative attitude into a habit. Thankfulness should become second nature to you.

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Stage Four – Intimacy:

Up until now, we’ve been focusing on putting our best foot forward and sharing our most positive self. We’ve been working on building up our patience and perseverance in the relationship. At this stage, we feel comfortable enough that we share ourselves with our partners in a deeper way. The opportunity arises to experience the best of our spouse and, at the same time, deal with imperfections. This is when real, solid love develops – when we can share our vulnerable side yet still receive loving support from our spouse. We can start to successfully deal with negative aspects our lives. The man goes into rubber band mode and the wife starts to rise and fall like a wave. Equipped with the skills developed in previous stages, you will be able to overcome the challenges in this stage, bi idhni Allah.

MEN: Your wife will rise and fall like a wave. This is natural. At times she may be very loving and happy – her wave is reaching its peak. Then her wave crashes and she’ll have very little to give. This is when your previous skills come in. You have to keep giving her your love without expecting immediate return – she has nothing to give so don’t expect her to react to your kindness the way she usually does. By continually sharing your love, this will help her wave to rise again. If she shares feelings of resentment or she feels overwhelmed, validate her feelings and let her vent. Be a good listener – hear her out and take the time to understand what she’s saying without offering solutions. If she feels insecure about the relationship and your love for her, give her the reassurance that she needs. Love her even if she’s not loving you back. If you can hug her while she’s blaming you for her misery, you’re on the right track. That’s what real love is all about. Be a man!

WOMEN: Your husband will start to pull away like a rubber band. This is natural. When he does this, do not chase after him or interrogate him – if you do, he’ll just want to get away even more. Give him his space and let him be alone for some time. He’ll come springing back to you on his own, just like a rubber band snaps back. When he does, be receptive and welcoming. Don’t give him a guilt trip over something that is really out of his hands.

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Stage Five – Perpetual Growth:

The bonds of marriage have a strong foundation and only grow stronger each day. Now is the time to raise walls on that solid foundation and build your fortress against the attacks of shaytan. The building and repairing of these walls will be your task for many years to come. Eventually, your walls will become so high and so strong that shaytan will give up all hope of dividing you from your spouse.

MEN: Learn to apologize. Your focus should be on correcting your behavior to be more considerate of your wife’s feelings and needs. When you make a mistake, it is imperative that you humble yourself and apologize to your wife. When apologizing, don’t give an excuse or explanation for your mistake. Just apologize for it. Then patiently listen to her response – it may be uncomfortable, but this is your chance to hear her feelings and gain insight as to what she regards as important. When she’s done, validate her feelings and respond with a negative description of your mistake like, “You’re right. It was really insensitive of me,” or, “Yeah, that was very inconsiderate of me,” or, “Yes. It was wrong of me to be so selfish/insensitive/over reactive/defensive/etc.” When she realizes that you understand the way she feels about your mistake, it makes it extremely easy for her to forgive you and let go of her resentment.

WOMEN: Learn to forgive. Your focus should be on correcting your attitude toward his behavior. When he apologizes, it is imperative that you be positive and receptive to his apology. This will make it easier for him to apologize in the future. When forgiving him, don’t just say, “I forgive you.” He might feel that you still hold some resentment in your heart. Say something substantial like, “That’s okay. I’m glad you understand how I feel.” You can even tack on a friendly suggestion of what you would have liked him to do. For example, let’s say he came home late from work without letting you know and you’ve been waiting all night to have dinner with him. When he apologizes, you can say, “It’s all right. Just give me a call when you have to stay at work late, okay?” He’ll think, “Wow, what a lady! I’ll be sure to call her next time this happens!” Through forgiveness, you’ve turned a failure into a victory!

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Final Advice:

Take it slow and ease into the relationship. Don’t try to zip through all 5 stages or skip a stage. Each stage is a vital part of building the foundation. If you skip a step, the foundation will be incomplete and the marriage could collapse. Take it slow and easy. And have fun along the way! Use this as a framework for the first year of the marriage. Also, keep in mind that there are other nuances about marriage that are not discussed in this article. Seeking knowledge is a never-ending process!

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Recap:

Stage One – Attraction: Share your most positive side. Men need to pursue the woman with small, loving gestures. Women need to respond to his gestures in a positive, receptive way, but not return the favor. Believe me, your simple excitement is more than enough repayment for him.

Stage Two – Uncertainty: Don’t be swayed by feelings of uncertainty. It’s normal. Men need to continue the pursuit. Women need to continue to respond positively to his pursuit. If the man distances himself, she has to resist the urge to try to win him over or interrogate him. She should fill her time with other things until they both feel confident that they can make each other happy.

Stage Three – Negligence: You’re confident in your love for your spouse. You assume the marriage is set and start to take your spouse for granted. Avoid this pitfall! This is when you must make your newfound skills a permanent part of your character. Men must make the tendency to do nice, romantic things for the wife into a habit and take the initiative in offering help without being asked. Women must make their appreciative, positive responses into second nature. Learn to ask for things that you want from your husband but aren’t getting. Ask for it like it’s a favor he can do if he chooses to (i.e. he’s free to say “no”).

Stage Four – Intimacy: Now is the time to share your vulnerabilities with each other. Men will start to pull away like rubber bands. Women must be patient and give the husband his space and time alone without questioning him. Women will start to rise and crash like waves. Men must give loving support to the wife when her wave has crashed without expecting love in return. He must be a good listener and be understanding and patient. This stage is where real solid love develops.

Stage Five – Perpetual Growth: The foundation has been laid, now build the walls. Men need to learn to apologize and correct themselves so that they are more considerate human beings. Women need to learn to forgive in a positive, welcoming way and become more benevolent human beings.

[This article is based on the work of Dr. John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus]

Footnote:

In explaining ahadeeth regarding the great rights of the husband upon the wife, Shaykh al-Jibali writes, “The above hadiths refer to a man who fulfills all of his responsibilities as husband and family-head. He constantly offers to his wife and children guidance, protection, support, nurturing, and so on. Neglecting any of that would proportionally reduce his rights upon his wife.” [Muhammad al-Jibali, The Fragile Vessels, p. 65, emphasis mine]

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