Category Archives: Relationship

To My Wife of 16 Years, Here’s the Secret I Wish I Knew Before Our Divorce

Marriage is not just about finding the right partner and your wedding day. It is about keeping a marriage going Every. Single. Day. Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something is to learn from those who have not done it so well. This article may be targeting husbands, but wives have a lot to learn from it too. Enjoy.


1. NEVER stop courting.

Never stop dating. NEVER EVER take that woman for granted. When you asked her to marry you, you promised to be that man that would OWN HER HEART and to fiercely protect it. This is the most important and sacred treasure you will ever be entrusted with. SHE CHOSE YOU. Never forget that, and NEVER GET LAZY in your love.

2. PROTECT YOUR OWN HEART.

Just as you committed to being the protector of her heart, you must guard your own with the same vigilance. Love yourself fully, love the world openly, but there is a special place in your heart where no one must enter except for your wife. Keep that space always ready to receive her and invite her in, and refuse to let anyone or anything else enter there.

3. FALL IN LOVE OVER and OVER and OVER again.

You will constantly change. You’re not the same people you were when you got married, and in five years you will not be the same person you are today. A change will come, and in that, you have to re-choose each other every day. SHE DOESN’T HAVE TO STAY WITH YOU, and if you don’t take care of her heart, she may give that heart to someone else. Always fight to win her love just as you did when you were courting her.

4. ALWAYS SEE THE BEST in her.

Focus only on what you love. What you focus on will expand. If you focus on what bugs you, all you will see is reasons to be bugged. If you focus on what you love, you can’t help but be consumed by love. Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love.

5. IT’S NOT YOUR JOB TO CHANGE OR FIX HER…

Your job is to love her as she is no expectation of her ever-changing. And if she changes, love what she becomes, whether it’s what you wanted or not.

6. TAKE FULL ACCOUNTABILITY for your own emotions.

It’s not your wife’s job to make you happy, and she CAN’T make you sad. You are responsible for finding your own happiness, and through that, your joy will spill over into your relationship and your love.

7. NEVER BLAME.

Never blame your wife. If you get frustrated or angry, it is only because it is triggering something inside of YOU. When you feel those feelings take time to get present and to look within and understand what it is inside of YOU that is asking to be healed. You were attracted to this woman because she was the person best suited to trigger all of your childhood wounds in the most painful way so that you could heal them…when you heal yourself, you will no longer be triggered by her, and you will wonder why you ever were.

8. Allow your woman to JUST BE.

When she’s sad or upset, it’s not your job to fix it, it’s your job to HOLD HER and let her know it’s OK. Let her know that you hear her, and that she’s important and that you are that pillar on which she can always lean. The feminine spirit is about change and emotion and like a storm her emotions will roll in and out, and as you remain strong and unjudging she will trust you and open her soul to you….DON’T RUN-AWAY WHEN SHE’S UPSET. Stand present and strong and let her know you aren’t going anywhere. Listen to what she is really saying behind the words and emotion.

9. BE SILLY…

Don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Laugh. And make her laugh. Laughter makes everything else easier.

10. FILL HER SOUL EVERYDAY…

Learn her love languages and the specific ways that she feels important and validated and CHERISHED. Ask her to create a list of 10 THINGS that make her feel loved and memorize those things and make it a priority every day to make her feel loved.

11. BE PRESENT.

Give her not only your time but your focus, your attention, and your soul. Do whatever it takes to clear your head so that when you are with her you are full WITH HER. Treat her as you would your most valuable client. She is.

12. BE WILLING TO TAKE HER SEXUALLY

Carry her away in the power of your masculine presence, to consume her and devour her with your strength, and to penetrate her to the deepest levels of her soul. Let her melt into her feminine softness as she knows she can trust you fully.

13. DON’T BE AN IDIOT…

And don’t be afraid of being one either. You will make mistakes and so will she. Try not to make too big of mistakes, and learn from the ones you do make. You’re not supposed to be perfect, just try to not be too stupid.

14. GIVE HER SPACE…

The woman is so good at giving and giving, and sometimes she will need to be reminded to take time to nurture herself. Sometimes she will need to fly from your branches to go and find what feeds her soul, and if you give her that space she will come back with new songs to sing…(OK, getting a little too poetic here, but you get the point. Tell her to take time for herself, ESPECIALLY after you have kids. She needs that space to renew and get re-centered.)

15. BE VULNERABLE…

You don’t have to have it all together. Be willing to share your fear and feelings, and quick to acknowledge your mistakes.

16. BE FULLY TRANSPARENT.

If you want to have trust you must be willing to share EVERYTHING….Especially those things you don’t want to share. It takes courage to fully love, and part of that courage is allowing her to love your darkness as well as your light. DROP THE MASK….If you feel like you need to wear a mask around her and show up perfect all the time, you will never experience the full dimension of what love can be.

17. NEVER STOP GROWING TOGETHER…

The stagnant pond breeds malaria, the flowing stream is always fresh and cool. Atrophy is the natural process when you stop working a muscle, just as it is for a relationship that isn’t focused on growing. Find common goals, dreams, and visions to work towards.

18. DON’T WORRY ABOUT MONEY.

Money is a game, find ways to work together as a team to win it. It never helps when teammates fight. Figure out ways to leverage both person strength to win.

19. FORGIVE IMMEDIATELY

And focus on the future rather than carrying weight from the past. Don’t let your history hold you hostage. Holding onto past mistakes that either you or she makes is a heavy anchor to your marriage and will hold you back. Forgiveness is freedom. Cut the anchor loose and always choose love.

20. ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE.

In the end, this is the only advice you need. If this is the guiding principle through which all your choices are governed, there is nothing that will threaten the happiness of your marriage. Love will always endure.

In the end, MARRIAGE isn’t about Happily ever after. It’s about work. And a commitment to grow together and a willingness to continually invest in creating something that can endure eternity. Through that work, the happiness will come.

These are lessons I learned the hard way. These are lessons I learned too late.

But these are lessons I am learning and committed to carrying forward. Truth is, I LOVED being married, and in time, I will get married again, and when I do, I will build it with a foundation that will endure any storm and any amount of time.

MEN—THIS IS YOUR CHARGE: Commit to being an EPIC LOVER. There is no greater challenge and no greater prize. Your woman deserves that from you.

Be the type of husband your wife can’t help but brag about.

Article Source: Faithit

Can We Talk About the Obsession with Marriage and Judging of Single People?

Can We Talk About the Obsession with Marriage and Judging of Single People?

At Matchbox we spend the vast majority of our time speaking to Muslim singles. Everything from Architects to taxi drivers to Aerospace Engineers to Scholars to Chefs – we have the pleasure of getting to know the amazing single individuals that make up the global Muslim community. Lets be clear – they are not waiting around to start their life after marriage. Though they contact us because they want to get married, for the most part, it is not because marriage is the goal, but because they are incredible people who live fulfilled lives, and marriage to the right person will enhance that life. Despite this, men and women alike are often subjected to the ‘when will you get married?’ and ‘Aren’t you married yet??’ conversations/stigmas/pitying looks. We couldn’t agree more with Soraya (writing for Mvslim.com) that this really has to stop. It hurts individuals, hurts us as a community and can hurt marriages too as people get married for the sake of getting married!

The number of unmarried Muslim women aged 27+ is fast growing and it is about time that we, as an ummah, start to give these women the recognition, support and respect they deserve instead of just derision, judgement and pity.

Times are not what they used to be. We live in a world where we are surrounded by choice: what to eat, what to wear, who to associate with and who not to. It’s only natural then that, with so much on offer, the marriage process has become trickier than it was 20 years ago, and now needs serious re-evaluation. We are still urging women to find a spouse and settle down using the old-fashioned mindset then criticise them when they do not get anywhere , calling them “picky” or “past it”.

How do I know this? It wasn’t so long since I was that woman: 30+, single, going on endless first dates, trying to find that ultimate connection that would mean I had finally found the elusive One. And it’s not like I “left it too late” as many women are told. I had been looking since I was in my 20s but faced rejection after rejection for the most ridiculous of reasons.

Like so many of our sisters I went on endless first dates, disappointed each time I met the guy only to find that the “spark” wasn’t there. Or other times, I was delighted to find the spark only to be told he didn’t want to pursue it further. And sometimes I’d find that connection only to have the guy just disappear without a trace, knowing most likely that he’d found someone better. Probably younger too.

Like so many of our sisters, I’d lie awake at night, stomach churning, wondering what I was doing wrong, questioning myself as a woman, finding dissatisfaction in my looks and other such perceived superficial flaws. I’d project into the future, seeing myself as a single “older woman” and desperately trying to make the lifestyle changes in my head just in case it happened. The other option was to “settle” which was too frightening to contemplate. I wondered whether I would ever find the one for me or whether the chance had indeed passed me by and I hadn’t noticed. I avoided anything to do with weddings be it weddings shows, Bollywood songs about weddings and often just weddings themselves!

I could never understand why others could do it so easily. I remember the gut wrenching feeling every time I received a wedding invitation from someone younger than me. I imagined them making wedding plans, surrounded by loving, crooning female relatives then later on after marriage travelling the world and making a flock of babies while I was still dragging myself out on those first dates trying to turn a coffee at Starbucks into something meaningful and full of potential.

But sadly this is not the end of the pain for our single sisters. Oh no, we then have to face your criticism and judgment. The way you ignore us when marriage proposals come up, favouring the younger girls in your circle instead. The way you look at us with a mixture of pity and scorn for being where we are and not yet married, as if it is some kind of exclusive club and we are still merely children for not yet being a part of it.

And let’s not forget the hierarchy of martyrdom! Yes single sisters reading this you know what I mean. When I used to speak to my married friends about the trials and tribulations of my life I’d be met with, “wait until you are married then you will know what stress is!”. As if being married takes you to the next level of the martyrdom game and gives you extra points. (Incidentally, now I am married I get the “wait until you have kids” trump card , but I am saving that rant for another post!).

But the assumption is that your life is somehow way easier because you have no husband or kids. Oh and you also have all the time in the world to do things at the drop of a hat for people and attend all of their social events because, as a single woman, you can’t possibly be doing anything else with all that luxurious free time you have right?

You may be thinking, well what about the guys over 30? Aren’t they going through the same thing? The answer is of course they too suffer from rejection and anxiety because they too want to settle. But the difference is they have much more choice than the sisters.

A guy aged 35 with a great job, a car and a place of his own is at the top of the bachelor pile and will often overlook you for a younger sister if that is what he wants. A woman aged 35 with a great job, a car and a place of her own unfortunately does not share the same prestige. She is treated with suspicion and ridicule and God forbid she should be looking anywhere other than her age group or older!

Most of our lives we were told to stay away from boys and were led to view them as something taboo and wrong. Then all of a sudden we were told to go out there and meet someone just like that. It’s like sending us up Mount Everest in flip flops!

The problem is we have never been equipped with the tools to make those decisions. In western culture, girls have boyfriends from a very young age and quickly learn the rules of love, often supported and guided by the parents. Our sisters instead are raised to succeed in education and employment, which is great, but we were never raised learning how to choose a spouse other than looking at a bunch of useless biodata facts, making a decision based on his height, age, education and income and hoping that the one coffee we have with him after work one day will seal the deal.

But because these are the only things we have ever been told to go by, we cling to them, never daring to widen our options for fear that we are deserting all that we know to be correct in the art of choosing a spouse.

We are so preoccupied with getting married now that we fail to remember that we are choosing a man who will journey with us into old age one day and hence we make decisions based on our current needs and lifestyles.

So why am I sharing all this with you today? Because I want us to recognise the pain and trials that our single sisters over a certain age have to endure and to show a little empathy and understanding towards their situation. Most of these women are dying to find that one guy who will be their companion, their best friend and their soulmate and your criticism of them will only destroy their self-esteem further.

It’s like telling a sick person to just “get better already” or telling a poor person to merely “get more money”. Next time you meet a sister who has been single a long time, ask her how she is feeling not whether she has met anyone yet, empathise with her pain even if you do not understand it and treat her like the smart, valued, worthy member of society.

Article Source : mvslim.com 

10 Big, Divorce-Proofing Talks To Have Before Getting Married

10 Big, Divorce-Proofing Talks To Have Before Getting Married

The questions we ask potential partners are crucial in making sure that we’re getting married to the right person, for the right reasons. Money, faith, kids, family and deal breakers are some of the crucial ones. For those of you looking to get married, this article from Brittany Wong, writing for the Huffington Post is not a bad place to start exploring the questions you want to get answers to.

Lesbian gay couple hugging and showing love when looking each other

It may not be the sexiest way to spend a Saturday night, but discussing big-ticket relationship issues like family planningmoney and monogamy could be the best way for couples to stave off a future split.

In fact, the ability to broach big, difficult conversations early on is one of the most important qualities in a new relationship, said Alicia HClark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.,

“You can’t know how you work through disagreements until you have them,” she told HuffPost. “Disagreeing, arguing and fighting about these things will reveal what’s really important to you both. And knowing how your partner will handle conflict is almost just as important.”

What thorny conversations are crucial? Below, marriage therapists and psychologistsshare their top 10 picks.

The talk about what you want to change about each other. (Be honest, you know you want to.)

“A lot of partners enter marriage with a secret hope that something will change about their partner: He’ll spend less time with his friends when we’re building a family, she’ll spend less money shopping when we’re in this together, I’ll get him to cut back on his drinking. Holding on to these silent hopes can be very destructive to the long-term health and happiness of your marriage. Disclosing them before marriage can actually foster the change you want in a more effective way.”― Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men 

The money talk.

“You need to have a long, potentially difficult discussion about money. Go over a few things: Will one or both of you work? What will your general approach to money management be? Will you save every penny, adopt a spend-it-while-we-have-it attitude or have a more middling approach? Many people operate with a ‘we’ll figure it out together as we go’ approach and while that may work if the couple has similar thoughts on finances, if they don’t, it can lead to a relationship war. One party may feel like like their style is forever being cramped, while the other may feel that their partner is leading the family towards financial ruin.” ― Laurel Steinberg, a New York-based relationship therapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University

The sex talk.

“If you suspect your partner’s need for sexual intimacy doesn’t match yours, don’t overlook it. You might want to believe it’s an insignificant issue or once you get married it will work itself out, but sex should be easiest in the first couple years of any relationship. If you’re unsure of your sexual compatibility now, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have problems in the bedroom later on when kids and life enter the picture. Sex is the one thing that cannot be outsourced in marriage. Problem with division of labor? Hire out for help. Different needs for social relationships? One partner joins a club and the other stays home. Sexual frustration is unique because it can only be solved within the marriage. Resentment grows and the higher libido partner will eventually feel betrayed by their partner’s lack of interest. The end result? Festering resentment and, often, the belief that infidelity is justified.” ― Caroline Madden, a marriage and family therapist in Burbank, California

The personal space talk.

“Discuss your need for time alone, or apart from one another. People often overlook this topic initially but after the intense bonding of the early stages, one or both of them may want a bit of time to themselves, or time apart as they go out with friends. If this isn’t discussed beforehand, one partner may feel ditched or jealous, or one of them could begin to feel suffocated and start building resentments. A conversation early on about the normal desire to have some time alone could help distinguish individual needs for solitude from rejection, and allow partners to ask for alone time when they need it and enjoy the time they spend together even more.” ― Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California

The talk about kids. 

“It’s so important for a couple to have a straightforward, candid conversation, not only about whether they in fact want to have children, but their beliefs and values about navigating the parenting journey. Do either or both have rigid ideas about waiting to start the process or plunging right in? Do either have strong beliefs about infertility treatments or adoption, should there be difficulty conceiving? Has there been a discussion about religious beliefs and expectations about the religious upbringing of the child? Go over it all.” ― Linda Lipshutz, a psychotherapist in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 

The talk about how you’ll raise those kids.

“I see couples’ getting into power struggles a lot about raising kids ‘their way’ because they believe it’s the ‘right way’ with complete disregard for their partner’s preference and perspective. Having parents on the same team (knowing that it often takes work to get there) is imperative to the mental health and well being of children. Ask: Do you share the same core values? Do you agree on what qualities and behaviors from your own families you want to borrow and which you don’t?” ― Megan Fleming, a New York City-based psychologist and sex therapist 

The monogamy talk.

“Most couples do want a monogamous marriage; however, monogamy can mean different things to different people, and without an honest conversation it is easy to imagine that your fiancé shares your views. Dig deeper, though: Are you comfortable with your soon-to-be spouse grabbing dinner with an ex who is in town on business?  Are you comfortable with private or public friendships with an ex on social media?  What about colleagues of the opposite sex?  Will you be comfortable if you both have work that involves travel with attractive colleagues?  And how might you want to navigate such situations if they arise? What if one of you develops a crush? It can be helpful to explore hypothetical challenges to monogamy through honest conversations before marriage.” ― Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center

The talk about family traditions and rituals.

“Rituals are not only traditions around major holidays, but how you spend your weekends or how you should (or shouldn’t) eat together during dinnertime: Have you always sat at the table as a family or is it fine to eat separately or in front of the TV? By having these discussions before they happen, you can also stand as a united front if you get any push back from your parents about changes to family traditions. Having these discussions can help you recognize your similarities, make room for your differences and create your own culture as a married couple.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois

The talk about how you’ll handle future problems.

“You both need to know that your partner will do whatever is necessary to deal with future obstacles in the relationship, be it physical, emotional, mental or financial. For instance, if your partner gets depression or develops an anxiety disorder, many spouses would choose to not have it treated, or to ignore it or to mask it with medications or alcohol. Each person needs to know that the other will work to clear any obstacles that come along to the best of their ability. If the marriage falters, will you go to counseling with me and stick with it to work it out? We all need to know that our partner is action-oriented as opposed to being a person who sweeps things under the rug or just says, ‘This is me, deal with it.’” ― Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas

The “what’s your ideal marriage?” talk.

“Every premarital couple needs to clearly outline their expectations for themselves, their partner and the marriage they desire early on in the relationship and continue that conversation well into the marriage. Resentment creeps into relationships when you feel you are owed something, have been treated unfairly and is a mixture of disappointment, anger and fear. To that end, be vigilant: Set the bar high for your marriage and for yourself and stay in constant conversation about how you are staying the course. ― Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah

Article Source : huffingtonpost.com.au

Smart women finding it tough on the dating scene may need to raise their game

Smart women finding it tough on the dating scene may need to raise their game

Smart women can’t find men to impregnate them, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Geneva has been told.

Professor Marcia Inhorn​, a researcher from Yale, said female graduates were freezing their eggs due to a “dearth of educated men to marry”, and that this “man deficit” was worse in countries where more women attended university.

These days I’m more concerned about avoiding pregnancy than freezing my eggs. I can, however, relate to the difficulties faced by smart women in the dating scene.

Anecdotal evidence suggests men often “date down”, choosing partners less intelligent than themselves. Bright, accomplished women often complain that men are “intimidated” by them, and that they need to play down their accomplishments to get a date.

And, a couple of years ago, researchers confirmed this. While men claimed to be attracted to very smart women, in actuality they shied away from those who seemed more intelligent than them.

No wonder we have a generation of women freezing their eggs.

Except this unwillingness of men to date smart women really tells only half the story. There’s another issue, which no one seems to talk about, and that is the single-minded insistence on the part of smart women to marry smart men.

We take it for granted that the female graduates can’t find equally educated men. But why do they need to?

Smart women finding it tough on the dating scene may need to raise their game
When it comes to heterosexual dating, smart women could take a leaf out of our male counterparts’ books, writes Kerri Sackville. Photo: Branislava Zivic/Stocksy

 

Why can’t a woman be with a man less educated or intelligent than herself?

This, to me, is the key issue, and one I had not questioned until recently. It has always been a given: I want a man who is at least as intelligent as me. But why is this so important? And why is it usually true for women, but not for men?

Kerri Sackville. Photo: Nic Walker
Kerri Sackville. Photo: Nic Walker

We women are forging ahead, changing the paradigms in every area of life. We are in universities, in management, in politics, in boardrooms. We juggle motherhood with careers, buy our own properties, manage our own finances.

But in hetero relationships, we are still largely bound by traditions. We women still mainly seek men older than ourselvestaller than ourselvesbroader than ourselves. We prefer men who are equally or more successful than us, and who earn at least as much money as we do. And we seek men who are as smart, or smarter, than we are.

But why?

Back in 2011, a hedge funder was asked why he dated less intelligent women. His response:

“Dating a less successful woman isn’t about wanting women to be dumb. It’s about wanting someone who prioritises their life in a way that’s compatible with how you prioritise yours. I love my job, but I work all the f—ing time. If I date an equally driven woman, we’re both working 18 hours days, when do we even have time to see each other?”

It makes sense, but I’d never considered it. I’ve been involved with men taller than me, shorter than me, older and younger, but every single one has been extremely intelligent. I assumed that I “needed” to be with a very smart man. I want to be challenged in a relationship on an intellectual level.

But highly intelligent men can make for very difficult partners. They can be narcissistic, obsessive, rigid and demanding. They may have little time and energy for family and relationships. If you’re looking for a supportive and nurturing partner, a highly intelligent, successful man may not be the go.

As the hedge funder observed:

“Every alpha woman I know wants to be with a man who is as successful as her or more so. And co-ordinating that stuff is almost impossible. Why don’t they just date some beta male who works in a bookstore and will make dinner for them every night? Doesn’t every successful person – man or woman – see how that’s easier?”

Of course, it’s easier, but we don’t do it. And why not? Well, it’s a legacy of the traditional paradigm of man as provider/protector of the family. We think we’ve escaped from it, but we aren’t quite there.

We fight the idea of man as head of the household, insisting on shared parenting and shared housework and equal rights, but we can’t let that last vestige go. We want a man who is stronger than us intellectually. We want a partner with a superior mind.

We need to challenge that. I need to challenge that. I need to let go of the idea of a smarter partner, and seek someone who has the qualities that make for a good relationship. Emotional intelligence. Generosity. Sense of humour. A desire to rub my feet.

And perhaps the egg-freezing graduates can do the same. A degree isn’t going to get up with the baby at night, and compassion isn’t linked to education.

If we learn to be our own heads of family, then perhaps we might be more open to love.

Article Source : smh.com.au 

WHEN YOU THINK YOUR LOVE STORY IS BORING

WHEN YOU THINK YOUR LOVE STORY IS BORING

All too often the love that singles look for is one from the movies – the almost unsustainable, too good to be true, on the edge, can’t get enough but can’t handle any more kind of love. But it is stories like those written by Lisa Jo that are the real love stories. The ones that endure the tests of time, kids, sleepless nights, fights, vomit and countless other mundane every day, run of the mill tests. For the Matchbox team – These are our #RelationshipGoals for you (and if he wants to run through the airport for you at least once, we can live with that 😉

“My love life will never be satisfactory until someone runs through an airport to stop me from getting on a flight.” ~Teenager post of the week via the Huffington Post.

He drove us all home 18 hours over two days.

Three kids and hundreds of miles and potty breaks and princess pull-ups, the car covered in the markers I’d bought for window art. Turns out the soft beige ceiling of a mini van makes a perfect canvas. Rainbow swirls color the door panels and there are goldfish crackers crushed so deep into the seats that they will likely be there come next summer and this same road trip all the way to Northern Michigan and the lake that his family have been coming to for decades.

He’s never run through an airport for me.

Three times he’s held my hands, my shaking legs, my head, my heart as I’ve bared down and groaned a baby into being. He has run for ice chips and doctors and night shifts and laid himself low to help me hold on through the hard rock and roll and push and pull of labor and I’ve never drowned holding onto his hand.

There is a rumor, an urban myth, a fiction, a fantasy, a black and white screen cliché that love looks like the mad, romantic dash through airports for a last chance at a flailing kiss.

And then the credits roll.

And the lights come on.

And we must go back to our real lives where we forget that love really lives.

RelationshipGoals

I threw up so hard and fast and often one night in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania that I couldn’t stand come morning. He moved over and out and gave me the bed. He went out for crackers and soda and mind numbing games to keep the three kids occupied and away from mom.

I looked in the mirror and there was nothing romantic looking back at me, but around the wrinkles in my eyes, the parched, white cheeks, there was the deep romance of being loved beyond how I looked.

He’s never run through an airport for me.

He’s gone out for milk at 10pm, he’s held our children through bouts of stomach viruses and told me there is nothing about his kids that disgusts him. He’s carried us on his shoulders when we were too tired or too sad or too done to keep doing the every day ins and outs that make up a life.

He’s unloaded a hundred loads of laundry and put the dishes away.

He lays down his life and it looks like so many ordinary moments stitched together into the testimony of a good man who comes home to his family in the old minivan, the one with the broken air conditioning.

It undoes me every time to look around and find him there, having my back in the day to day and the late night into late night and then next year again.

He’s run a thousand times around the sun with me and we hold hands and touch feet at night between the covers even when we’re wretched and fighting we’re always fighting our way back to each other.

He’s never run through an airport for me.

He runs on snatched sleep and kids tucked into his shoulder on both sides of the bed.

He is patient and kind.

He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

And we come running to him. When the battered white minivan pulls into the driveway his children trip over themselves, their abandoned Crocs and the pool bag to be the first to open the door and spill out their day into the hands of the man who can catch them.

He’s never run through an airport for me.

This ordinary unremarkable love walks slowly every day alongside. One step, one day, one T-ball practice at a time.

One permission slip signed, one Lunchable, one school play, one art project, one Lego box, one more night time cup of water delivered at a time.

This ordinary love that wakes up with bad breath and crease marks on its cheeks and is the daily bread that sustains across time zones and countries and cultures and the exhaustion of trying to figure out how to be a parent and a grown up and somebody’s forever.

And this is a love life – to live life each small, sometimes unbearably tedious moment – together.

To trip over old jokes and misunderstandings. To catch our runaway tongues and tempers and gift them into the hands of the person who was gifted to us.

He lets me warm my ice cold feet between his legs and the covers at night.

He has never run through an airport for me.

This is love with the lights on and eyes wide open. This is the brave love, the scared love, the sacred boring, the holy ordinary over sinks of dirty dishes and that one cupboard in the kitchen with the broken hinge.

Article Source : lisajobaker.com

13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married

Here at Matchbox, we’re firm believers in asking the right questions. One of the first questions we ask our clients is ‘What do you bring to a marriage’, and at least once a week someone will respond with ‘I’ve never thought of that question’. Our dedicated Matchmakers also take a lot of time out to ask your prospective matches the awkward questions that you may not want to. Although a couple of the questions mentioned here by Eleanor Stanford, writing for the New York Times, may be more relevant for those dating, for the most part, this list of questions provides a good start to the ‘marriage conversation’.

When it comes to marriage, what you don’t know really can hurt you.

Whether because of shyness, lack of interest or a desire to preserve romantic mystery, many couples do not ask each other the difficult questions that can help build the foundation for a stable marriage, according to relationship experts.

In addition to wanting someone with whom they can raise children and build a secure life, those considering marriage now expect their spouses to be both best friend and confidant. These romantic-comedy expectations, in part thanks to Hollywood, can be difficult to live up to.

Sure, there are plenty of questions couples can ask of each other early in the relationship to help ensure a good fit, but let’s face it: most don’t.

“If you don’t deal with an issue before marriage, you deal with it while you’re married,” said Robert Scuka, the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. It can be hard to keep secrets decade after decade, and reticence before the wedding can lead to disappointments down the line.

The following questions, intimate and sometimes awkward, are designed to spark honest discussions and possibly give couples a chance to spill secrets before it’s too late.

 

1.Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose?

Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose

A relationship’s success is based on how differences are dealt with, said Peter Pearson, a founder of the Couples Institute. As we are all shaped by our family’s dynamic, he said, this question will give you insight into whether your partner will come to mimic the conflict resolution patterns of his or her parents or avoid them. 

 

2.Will we have children, and if we do, will you change diapers?

Will we have children, and if we do, will you change diapers

With the question of children, it is important to not just say what you think your partner wants to hear, according to Debbie Martinez, a divorce and relationship coach. Before marrying, couples should honestly discuss if they want children. How many do they want? At what point do they want to have them? And how do they imagine their roles as parents? Talking about birthcontrol methods before planning a pregnancy is also important, said Marty Klein, a sex and marriage therapist.

 

3.Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us?

Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us

Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, pointed to research his organization has sponsored that indicated that having had many serious relationships can pose a risk for divorce and lower marital quality. (This can be because of a person having more experience with serious breakups and potentially comparing a current partner unfavorably with past ones.) Raising these issues early on can help, Dr. Wilcox said. Dr. Klein said people are hesitant to explicitly talk about their past” and can feel retroactively jealous or judgmental. “The only real way to have those conversations in an intimate and productive way and loving way is to agree to accept that the other person had a life before the couple,” he said.

 

4.How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all?

How important is religion How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all

If two people come from different religious backgrounds, is each going to pursue his or her own religious affiliation? Dr. Scuka has worked with couples on encouraging honest discussion around this issue as the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. What is more, spouses are especially likely to experience conflict over religious traditions when children are added to the mix, according to Dr. Wilcox. If the couple decide to have children, they must ask how the children’s religious education will be handled. It is better to have a plan, he said.

 

5.Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out?

Is my debt your debt Would you be willing to bail me out

It’s important to know how your partner feels about financial self-sufficiency and whether he or she expects you to keep your resources separate, said Frederick Hertz, a divorce lawyer. Disclosing debts is very important. Equally, if there is a serious discrepancy between your income and your partner’s, Dr. Scuka recommended creating a basic budget according to proportional incomes. Many couples fail to discuss sharing finances, though it is crucial, he said.

 

6.What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?

What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes

Couples should make sure they are on the same page in terms of financial caution or recklessness. Buying a car is a great indicator, according to Mr. Hertz. Couples can also frame this question around what they spend reckless amounts of money on, he said.

 

7.Can you deal with my doing things without you?

Can you deal with my doing things without you

Going into marriage, many people hope to keep their autonomy in certain areas of their life at the same time they are building a partnership with their spouse, according to Seth Eisenberg, the president of Pairs (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). This means they may be unwilling to share hobbies or friends, and this can lead to tension and feelings of rejection if it isn’t discussed. Couples may also have different expectations as to what “privacy” means, added Dr. Klein, and that should be discussed, too. Dr. Wilcox suggested asking your partner when he or she most needs to be alone.

 

8.Do we like each other’s parents?

Do we like each other’s parents

As long as you and your partner present a united front, having a bad relationship with your in-laws can be manageable, Dr. Scuka said. But if a spouse is not willing to address the issue with his or her parents, it can bode very poorly for the long-term health of the relationship, he said. At the same time, Dr. Pearson said, considering the strengths and weaknesses of your parents can illuminate future patterns of attachment or distancing in your own relationship.

 

9.How important is sex to you?

 

How important is sex to you

Couples today expect to remain sexually excited by their spouse, an expectation that did not exist in the past, according to Mr. Eisenberg. A healthy relationship will include discussion of what partners enjoy about sex as well as how often they expect to have it, Dr. Klein said. If people are looking to experience different things through sex — pleasure versus feeling young, for example — some negotiation may be required to ensure both partners remain satisfied.

 

10.How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.?

How far should we take flirting with other people Is watching pornography O.K.

Dr. Klein said couples should discuss their attitudes about pornography,flirting and expectations for sexual exclusivity. A couple’s agreement on behavior in this area can, and most likely will, change down the line, he said, but it is good to set the tone early on so both partners are comfortable discussing it. Ideally, sexual exclusivity should be talked about in the same way as other daytoday concerns, so that problems can be dealt with before a partner becomes angry, he said. Dr. Pearson suggested asking your partner outright for his or her views on pornography. Couples are often too scared to ask about this early in the relationship, but he has frequently seen it become a point of tension down the line, he said.

 

11.Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”?

Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”

Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, “The 5 Love Languages,” introduced this means of categorizing expressions of love to strengthen a marriage. Ms. Martinez hands her premarriage clients a list of the five love languages: affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. She asks them to mark their primary and secondary languages and what they think is their partners, and discuss them. Mr. Eisenberg said that a couple needs to work out how to nurture the relationship, in a way specific to them.

 

12.What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves?

What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves

Can you imagine the challenges ever outweighing the admiration? If so, what would you do? Anne Klaeysen, a leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, said that couples rarely consider that second question. Ideally, marriage is a life commitment, she said, and it’s not enough to just “click together,” as many couples describe their relationship. A marriage must go deeper than that original “click.”

 

13.How do you see us 10 years from now?

How do you see us 10 years from now

Keeping the answer to this question in mind can help a couple deal with current conflict as they work toward their ultimate relationship goals, according to Mr. Eisenberg.

Dr. Wilcox said this discussion could also be an opportunity to raise the question of whether each partner will consider divorce if the relationship deteriorates, or whether they expect marriage to be for life, come what may.

Article Source : nytimes.com

Arranged Marriages, Toronto Style

Today’s Young (and not so young) Muslims are reclaiming the narrative and space of who, how and why to get married. In this article stemming from Nanjiani’s film The Big Sick, Siminpillai quotes Toronto’s Imam Yusuf Badat showing just some of the ways that this process is being reclaimed.

A local Imam says arranged marriages aren’t the archaic custom they once were, and they’re not the same as forced ones

From L to R: Shenaz Treasury as “Fatima,” Adeel Akhtar as “Naveed,” Anupam Kher as “Azmat” and Kumail Nanjiani as “Kumail” in THE BIG SICK. Photo by Nicole Rivelli. Image Source : nowtoronto.com

Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani spoke to me about his desire to rehabilitate Western perceptions around arranged marriages in his new semi-autobiographical film, The Big Sick.

While Nanjiani himself eluded arranged marriage, his rom-com depicts modern South Asians’ attitudes to the process, as a new generation reclaim it – minus some of its more archaic elements.

Imām Yūsuf Badāt from the Islamic Foundation of Toronto presides over approximately 80 marriages a year. He’s noticed changes when it comes to arranged marriages over the 20 years he has practised in the GTA.

“There used to be immense parental involvement in deciding who the partner could be,” says Badāt. “A lot of cultural practices were included in that process. Over time I’ve seen less control from the parents. Decisions are being made by the marrying couple, and younger individuals are more concerned with religion than culture.”

Badāt is careful to separate cultural and religious practices. He points out that it’s often culture that translates the purpose behind a dowry (in Islamic terms, it’s an agreed-upon gift from the husband to the wife) or restricts marrying outside of clan, tribe, language or race.

“From the religious perspective, it is absolutely fine to marry outside your culture. It’s not a problem. Younger individuals want to do what’s religiously accepted, not necessarily what’s culturally accepted.”

If arranged marriages carry a stigma, perhaps it’s because they’re often associated with forced marriages, a completely separate thing.

In 2013, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) published a three-year study that reported over 200 cases where women were forced into marriage in Ontario; many more probably go unreported.

It’s an urgent issue that affects communities as varied as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses. SALCO, which offers tool kits and legal services to victims, keeps the difference between arranged and forced marriage clear. The latter is an act of violence and a human rights violation.

“This is not allowed in the religion,” says Badāt. “It might be culturally acceptable, but it is absolutely wrong.”

The Imam has seen few instances over time but admits it still happens. Nine out of the 10 times it’s a girl who’s victimized. He recounts situations in which parents pressure a young woman to marry a man they’ve chosen, sometimes forcefully ripping her away from a relationship she’s already in. Families may disown a girl who rejects an arranged marriage.

He addresses these matters in sermons, particularly during wedding season, and intervenes when issues are brought to his attention. His organizations offer workshops to educate couples and their families, though the elder generation typically refuse such counsel for fear of airing their dirty laundry.

He reminds them that in the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad terminated a marriage forced upon a woman.

Article Source : nowtoronto.com

How can I make my marriage a means of drawing closer to Allah?

Marriage means different things for different people. A common question our clients ask us matchmakers is how do we make our marriage for God, but still enjoy it. This beautiful, and very short, comment by Shaykh Aslam is a great insight into doing just that. When your daily acts and reminders within your marriage are a means of becoming a better person and helping your partner become better – through love, mercy and concern; then you’re really completing half your deen.

This excerpt was originally extracted from a 2016 lecture by the lovely folk over at Sout Ilaahi.


Q: Shaykh, how do we make our marriage a means of having a relationship with Allah, meaning husband and wife and the intimacy with Allah (swt), can you give us the secrets?

A: (Shaykh Aslam) The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If the husband wakes up and then he wakes up his wife for the Morning Prayer, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, Allah have mercy upon that husband. And if the wife wakes up and she awakens the husband for the Morning Prayer, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, Allah have mercy upon that woman who wakes up her husband.”

So this relationship of marriage should also be companionship of treading the path to Allah (swt) by encouraging each other upon worship, reminding each other of Allah’s blessings and Allah’s favours, reminding each other of righteous and pious acts so that both stay strong in worship to Allah (swt).

This question was answered by Shaykh Mohammed Aslam at a public lecture in 2016.

Alhamdulillah, Shaykh Mohammed Aslam will be coming to Singapore from 11Aug – 12 Aug for a series of spiritually recharging, soul-awakening lectures and workshops.

Embrace the true reality of Divine Love, find inspiration and hope in the Everlasting Friendship with Allah and the Prophet ﷺ, and learn how to manifest both Divine Beauty and Majesty the way the Companions did.

Tickets selling fast! Details & registration link here.

For bank transfer, email us at enquiries@soutilaahi.com

Article Source: soutilaahi.com

Mastering Work-Life Balance

Matchbox works with professionals in every field imaginable, from doctors to aeronautical engineers to those working for the Canadian navy. We know all to well the struggle the Matchbox family have with ensuring a work-life balance; particularly when they are searching for a spouse. Some within our family are intending to make a conscious choice to work on this balance upon finding the right partner; others within our family feel this will naturally occur as they move from one phase to another. Whatever your approach, this article written by the good folk over at Productive Muslim  takes three lessons from the life of the Prophet ﷺ to help us approach work-life balance in a much healthier way.


To many people, work-life balance is at best a good idea, or at worst a terrible modern day joke that doesn’t make anyone laugh anymore.

In the words of Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams, who wrote in a March 2014 Harvard Business Review article: “Work/life” balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth, today’s senior executives will tell you.”

The underlying reason for this elusiveness is that we’re constantly connected and expected to be present both for “work” and “life” at all times: when we are at work, we’re expected to be reachable by family and friends, and when we are at home we are expected to be on call for work and clients.

Despite the efforts of many companies to implement work life balance practices for their employees, it is the individuals themselves who struggle most with juggling their roles in a meaningful and effective way.

As part of my work to develop faith-driven professional training for individuals and corporates, I looked into the life and sayings of Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم and tried to extract practical lessons that would be beneficial for the modern day professional. Before we delve into these insights, let us explore 5 reasons why work life balance is so hard to master.

Why is Work-Life balance so hard to achieve?

5 Challenges to Achieving Work Life Balance

Here are 5 of some of the challenges that fuel the work-life balance debate:

1. It’s subjective

Modern day work life balance is based primarily on expectations. For an executive who works 50–60 hours per week but makes it a point to be home for dinner at 6pm every evening; is he considered to have “mastered” work/life balance? Perhaps from the executive’s point of view he might be proud of himself for being home for dinner every night, but his spouse or children might not appreciate that work occupies 80% of his time.

Similarly, consider the case of a working mother, who’s torn between her career and her family. Who decides if she has achieved “work/life balance”?

2. It’s transient

Work Life balance is not fixed. It changes with seasons and with every stage of our lives. You may be able to achieve some form of work/life balance when you have one child, you’re a junior staff, and you don’t have as many responsibilities. However, trying to achieve work life balance with 3 kids, a demanding job, a mortgage to pay off, and being involved in so many other extra curricular activities really is a challenge.

3. It’s not measurable

How do we even begin measuring work life balance? Is there a metric or scoring system that tells us how well we’re doing on the work life balance continuum? Are the number of hours spent on family vs. work vs. personal activities sufficient to measure our work life balance effectiveness? What about the quality of those hours? These questions and more make work life balance debate even harder.

4. It emphasizes “work” as larger than life

The whole idea that there’s “work” and then there’s “life” is problematic at many levels. Firstly, it assumes that work is the center of our lives and everything else is peripheral and on the side. Secondly, it assumes that work can never be integrated with life and that there’s a Great Wall of China separating the two.

As Dr.Stewart Friedman argues in his book “Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life“, the idea that “work” competes with “life” ignores the more nuanced reality of our humanity, which is arguably the interaction of four domains: work, home, community, and the private self. The goal needs to be to create harmony among these four areas instead of thinking only in terms of trade-offs.

5. It’s hard to plan for

Let’s be honest: you can plan the most balanced lifestyle, giving due time to every role you have, but reality always wins. Whether it’s that last minute emergency meeting at 4pm that disturbs your dinner plans, or rushing to the hospital in the middle of a client meeting because your child had an injury at school. Life keeps throwing stuff at us that makes it impossible for us to manage and truly have a balanced lifestyle.

By now, you might be thinking that achieving work-life balance is totally unattainable! It’s the right time to consider how insights from our Prophet Muhammad’s صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم life and practices.

3 Key Lessons from Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم That Help Solve the Above Challenges

When one observes the daily routine of Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم, one cannot resist but notice how balanced & effective it was during his life. This is the man who, in just 23 years changed the face of humanity with his mission. Interestingly, we never hear complaints from his family or companions that “he was too busy” or “didn’t have enough time for us”.

Although one can argue that the Prophet did not have a 9–5 job, nor did he face half the challenges and distractions we’re facing in our modern day lives, however we can still extract key lessons from his life that are applicable for us today.

Image Source: productivemuslim.com

Lesson 1: Scrap Work-Life Balance and Focus on Total Life Balance

The Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم once heard that one of his companions was fasting everyday and spending all night in prayer. The Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم made a point to go visit him and advise him not to do this. Here’s what he told him: “…I have been told that you stand all night (in prayer) and fast all day.’ I said: ‘Yes (I do).’ He said: ‘Do not do that. Sleep and stand (in prayer); fast and break your fast.

For your eyes have a right over you, your body has a right over you, your body has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your friend has a right over you…” [Sunan an-Nasa’i 2391]

What fascinates me about this incident is how the Prophet made it a point to go and visit the man and advise him to stop. All of this despite the fact that the man was engaged in devotional acts of worship, which one would think the Prophet would be pleased about.

The key lesson for us here is that instead of thinking of work life balance in terms of what others expect from us, we should think of work life balance in terms of fulfilling rights: The rights of our body, the rights of our mind, the rights of our families, the rights of our friends, and of course, the rights of our workplaces.

Once we shift our thinking of work life balance from subjective/idealistic notions to rights of others (& ourselves) it becomes very clear and intuitive where to draw the line between the different parts of our lives and how to balance our lives given the circumstances. The elegance of this is that it takes away the guilt associated normally with work life balance. For example, if we know that we’ve fulfilled the rights of our workplace, then we shouldn’t feel guilty if we leave by 5pm just because everyone else expects us to stay longer.

To implement this lesson in practice, we need to firstly identify the different roles that we play in our lives and then understand what rights do each of these roles/entities have upon us. For example, as Muslims, one area we need to ‘shepherd our time’ for is in order to fulfil our responsibility of salah – this in itself is often a challenge, and many of us become chronically late for salah due to hectic days, commutes, meetings and lessons.

Lesson 2: Be a Shepherd in Every Role

The lesson about fulfilling rights above may seem to imply that as long as we fulfill the bare minimum rights to those around us then we’re considered to have succeeded in life.However, another cornerstone lesson that the Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم taught his followers is to look at our roles from the point of view of responsibility.

“He صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amir (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman is a shepherdess in charge of her husband’s house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man’s slave is a shepherd in charge of his master’s property and he is responsible for it. So each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]

If you think about a shepherd, his role is not just to do the bare minimum of keeping the flock alive. His role is to nurture and to grow his flock and make sure they thrive — and not just survive.

The following passage from my new book “The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity” explains this concept further: If you think about what a shepherd does, he doesn’t simply protect the flock, he nurtures and develops them. He searches for new pastures, tends to the sick, ensures that young ones are taken care of, etc. It’s not a passive responsibility but a very active role… Imagine a parent thinking they are fulfilling their responsibility of educating their children by simply taking them to school. Is this person fulfilling the role of [shepherd] of his children? To be a true [shepherd], a parent needs not only to be concerned with their children’s attendance, but also their growth and development as productive citizens. He/she needs to check what they were taught in school, how they are doing with their homework, the manners they are learning, etc. This is how we fulfil in part our trusteeship of our children.

With this concept in mind — the conversation regarding work life balances again shifts away from subjective, debatable allocations of time, but towards the quality of our time that we spend to nurture and develop those around us and those who have rights upon us.

Image Source: productivemuslim.com

Lesson 3: Be Present & Have Quality Time

There’s a long narration in the books of hadeeth (sayings of Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم) that I never understood until recently. It describes a long account that Ayisha رضي الله عنه is sharing with the Prophet about 11 women who tell each other about their husbands’ qualities. Ayisha رضي الله عنه goes through each of the 11 women and recounts in detail what each person said. The last story was about a woman called Um Zar who described her husband in positive terms and had no complaints about him.

The Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم said: “I am to you as Abu Zar was to his wife Um Zar” [Sahih Bukhari]

I used to scratch my head and try to understand the point of this narration. It made no sense to me until recently. There are various lessons to learn here, but a scholar explained that the main point of this story is to showcase how attentive, present, and a good listener the Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم was to his family. Something as small as just taking time to listen to your spouse can have a massive impact on nurturing and restoring balance to your relationship. When it comes to achieving a total life balance, a lot of the time, the small things are the big things.

Sometimes when we talk about work life balance we tend to think of how much time we’re spending at home, at work, or with our friends. But if we are 50% at home (mentally) when we are at work, and 50% at work (mentally) when we are at home, then it is no wonder we constantly feel stressed and not able to keep up.

The ability to be focused and 100% engaged in everything we do is a key characteristic of successful leaders who showcase how important the people around them. When such leaders do get busy, the people around them know it is an exception, not a rule, and are understanding and compassionate towards them.

Work life balance may seem elusive to many people, yet if we apply the key lessons above, like shifting the narrative around work-life balance to instead a fulfilling of rights and responsibilities, and being present with those around us, we’ll make huge strides in achieving a holistic, whole life balance.

 

Imgae Source: productivemuslim.com

Bonus Webinar Recording: “Work Life Balance from a Prophetic Perspective”
Click on the image above for a recording of a webinar I held recently for Muslim Professionals on this topic. It contains more practical tips on the notes made above that help modern professionals tackle work-life balance from a Prophetic perspective:
If you resonated with this article, please share with your friends and leave me your thoughts/feedback. Thank you for reading! 

Article Source: productivemuslim.com

A Reflection on Divine Love – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Although it is true that at Matchbox we are concerned with finding you your earthly love, we understand that you are already loved. In this article, originally posted in the Sandala website, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf reflects on what it means to truly love and to truly be Loved.


Many Muslims believe that the idea, “God loves everyone,” is simply wrong and incongruous with Islamic teachings. Verses abound in the Qur’an decrying those God does not love: liars, hypocrites, oppressors, the arrogant, boastful braggarts, and those who love praise for that which they have not done, among others. Reading these verses, it is easy to begin to resent such people and to believe that God does not love everyone. However, if we look closely at these people, we see elements of ourselves in them.

What is true of any man is true of all men; the only difference is in the degree to which it is true. Prophets and sanctified saints are the only exceptions to this universal truth. Jesus, peace be upon him, states, as recorded in al-Muwatta’ of Imam Malik (d. 179/795):

Do not, like lords, look upon the faults of others. Rather, like servants, look after your own faults. In truth, humanity is comprised of only two types of people: the afflicted and the sound. So show mercy to the afflicted, and praise God for well-being.

It is never the sinner that one should hate, but only the sin; for the essence of all humanity is a soul created in submission to its Creator. Whether that soul acknowledges this on a conscious level or not is a matter of grace, and this understanding enables us to look at others with compassion. All people, everywhere and throughout time, suffer great tribulation at various points in their lives. At this very moment, hearts are breaking and lives are being shattered, women abused, children violated, and people dying while their loved ones are crying. Also at this very moment, other hearts are rejoicing, babies are being born, mothers are nurturing, smiles are given freely, charity is being distributed, and lovers are uniting. The airport is one of the great metaphors of our time: sad, happy, and indifferent faces are all to be seen there, as people part with loved ones, greet their beloveds, or simply wait to pick up or let off people they barely know. Sad, happy, and indifferent are the states that sum up our collective body of souls. In the next life, however, there is only bliss or wretchedness, joy or sorrow—no indifference.

According to a beautiful hadith, the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, said that on the Last Day, when the last two souls are brought forth before God, they are both condemned to hell. As the angels escort them to their final fiery abode, one of them wistfully looks back. Thereupon, God commands the angels to bring him back and asks the man why he turned back. The man replies, “I was expecting something else from you.” God responds, commanding the angels, “Take him to My Garden.”

It is our expectation of God that determines where we are. This points up the need for thinking well not only of God but also of God’s creation, despite the fact that we are all messy, imperfect works in progress, struggling along in this journey.

We either surrender to God or to the substitutes for God, which are invariably hollow. But true love, which is the love of God, is the single most powerful force in the world. It is a love that “alters not when it alteration finds.” It grows and never diminishes. If someone claims to have lost it, it can only be said that such a person did not have it to begin with. “It is the star to every wandering bark.” And in loving God, one must paradoxically love all of God’s creation, merely for the incontrovertible fact that everything is God’s creation. God does love everything in that He brought everything into existence from an act of divine love, and those who love God purely, and with the penetrating inner eye of reality, can only be a mercy while in the world. This does not mean that we love the evil that emanates from moral agents. In fact, it is an act of faith to loathe what is loathsome to God. So when God says He does not love oppressors, it is their oppression that we must loath. In denying the humanity that is inherent in the oppressor, we miss the point and disallow the possibility that the door of God’s mercy and love is open to everyone. If we truly believe that we love for everyone what we love for ourselves, then we should want everyone, no matter their state of being or their station in life, to enter that door of God’s mercy and love, through repentance and contrition. Allowing for this possibility enables us to be a mercy, as the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, was.

What follows is a profound explication of this truth by emir ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri (d. 1300/1883), perhaps the last exemplar of Islam on all the levels of prophetic character—as a teacher, warrior, statesman, father, and fully awakened master of the path of the prophets:

“They love God, and God loves them” (Qur’an, 5:54). You should know that the love the real has for creation is of various kinds. One type is the divine love for them before they came into existence; and another is the divine love after they were created. These two types are further categorized into two other types: one is the divine love of the elect, and the other is the divine love of the elite of the elect. As for the first [the divine love before creation], it permeates all of existence, despite the varieties of types, kinds, and characters. It is understood in the famous dictum known well to the folk of spirit,1 “I was a hidden treasure who loved to be known, so I created this creation to introduce Myself, and through it, they came to know Me.” This love is the love that brought the world into existence: “I created humankind and sprites only to adore Me” (51:56). In other words, “to know Me.” This is the very love we have mentioned; it is God’s inclination to manifest His divine names and attributes, and this is an inclination of the essential divine nature, which is not colored with a name or an attribute, because the names do not manifest at this level of consideration.2 Then, this inclination of divine love for self- expression extended itself through all of the divine names and sought to manifest through the epiphanies of the divine traces as they had been previously hidden in the divine essence, consumed in the divine unity. But once God created them, they knew God as God desired to be known, given that the divine will is unassailable. Every type of creature knew God based upon the level of understanding and preparedness that God had bestowed upon it. As for the angels, each one is a type unto itself, and each has a station and rank, just as all the rest of creation has types and ranks. None can either relinquish or surpass its rank, and their acceptance is predicated upon the degree of knowledge of God that they have. For without a doubt, they increased in their knowledge when Adam, peace be upon him, taught them the names, as the Exalted has taught us in the Qur’an. As for inanimate objects, beasts, and animals other than humans, they have a natural disposition that entails a divine knowledge that neither increases nor decreases. Each of them also has a station, and it cannot exceed its boundaries of knowledge. As for the human being, he or she has a primordial knowledge that [although lost upon entering the world] can undergo a renovatio.3 Its renovation is based upon the condition of his or her outward state; I mean by this the state of the soul and intellect.4 For in reality, all of knowledge is concentrated in the individual’s reality; it simply manifests from one time to another, based upon the divine will, because the human reality is contained in each person. And each human being, in that he or she is a human being, is open to the possibility of the rank of “perfected human.” However, they will vary in the way their human perfection manifests itself in them.

As for the first type of divine love, which is that of the elect, this is reserved for only certain ones among God’s servants. Examples of this are found in the Qur’an: “Surely God loves those who repent” (2:222). Also included among those God loves are those who purify themselves, the patient, the grateful, those who place their trust in God, those “who fight in ranks for the sake of God” (61:4), not to mention all the other beloveds God mentions in the Qur’an who have embodied certain qualities and characteristics that necessitate this special love from the Real, Exalted God. Nonetheless, it is a type of love that veils and [yet] allows for a transcendent understanding of God. Moreover, it is a love that is unobtainable for certain types of people, as mentioned in the verses, “God loves not oppressors,” (3:57), and “God loves not those who cover truth with lies” (3:32). Despite that, they are still enveloped in the first type of divine love [that is, divine love before they came into existence].

As for the second type of special divine love, it is for the elect of the elite; it is indicated in the sacred hadith,5 “My servant continues to draw near unto Me through voluntary acts of devotion until I love him. And when I love him, I become the hearing with which he hears, the sight with which he sees, the hand with which he strikes, and the foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would assuredly grant it; were he to seek refuge in Me, I would grant it.”6 In other words, the identity of the Real is revealed to him as the secret of his own outward and inward faculties. This type of divine love occurs with an epiphany upon the beloved, the fruit of which
is manifest in this world due to the divine witnessing and vision that occurs in the imaginal7 realm; or it occurs with other things also, as an effusion of experiential knowledge through myriad gifts. As for the previous special type of love, it is still a veiled love, given that its possessor is still trapped in the illusion of otherness and duality. Hence, its fruits only manifest in the next world. For this reason, ‘Ata’ Allah (d.709/1309) says in his Aphorisms (al-Hikam), “The devoted servants and detached ones leave this world while their hearts are still filled with otherness.”8

This last love is attained only by those who possess the direct knowledge of God described in the sacred hadith above. Furthermore, it is only attained by one who has in his or her heart that universal love for all of creation that is understood in the verse, “My Mercy encompasses all things” (7:156). It is the mercy that the Messenger of God, God bless and grant him peace, spoke of when he said, “you will not truly believe until you show mercy to one another.”

To this, a companion responded, “But Messenger of God, all of us show mercy to others.”

The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, explained, “I am not speaking of the mercy one of you shows to his friend but of universal mercy—mercy to all of humanity.”

Regarding the famous hadith, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,” Imam al-Nawawi (d. 676/1277) states in his commentary that this love includes all of humanity. He further elucidates that it is a love that goes against our very nature; it is angelic in nature, and it is only obtained by negating the ego.

This struggle with the ego—with our own vengeful soul—is one of the most difficult challenges we face. But in succeeding in this struggle, we are not only able to forgive: we are also able to strike, when the only appropriate response is a strike—but with the hand of God, not with the hand of our own ego because it is an undeniable reality of the world that miscreants exist, that there are human demons whose evil must be thwarted. This is the essence of jihad: to take up the sword in order to remove the sword from the hands of those who wish to do evil in the world. However, the mujahid must be purified from his own ego so he can act as an agent of the divine in the world. This was the reality of the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, on the battlefield, about whom God said, “And when you threw, you did not throw, but rather God threw” (8:17). It is only such people who are worthy of being the caliphs of God upon the earth. They are the ones God will empower to rule. And for those who do not possess these qualities but still have the love of God, God’s greatest gift is to leave them powerless. God’s privation is itself a gift, for He withholds not from want but from wisdom.
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1 The word used in Arabic is qawm, which literally means “folk.” However, in the technical vocabulary of tasawwuf (Sufism), it refers to the Sufis themselves. This is based upon the famous hadith in which the angels tell God of a group of people remembering Him, and they mention one who was not a participant but was only sitting in their company. To this God replies, “hum al-qawm la yashqa bihim jalisuhum,” meaning, “they are a folk (qawm) who even the one sitting with them is saved,” simply due to his being in their company. While the word “folk” is now considered archaic, it is still in use, and given that it means both “men” and “people” and originally meant “an army,” it seems most appropriate given that qawm in classical Arabic refers specifically to men-folk.

2 In classical Muslim theology an attribute (sifah) or a substantive name of God is neither the essence of God nor other than the essence. This means that any attribute or name cannot contain a summation of God that only God’s essence contains.

3 Renovatio is a Latin theological term that seems to convey perfectly the Arabic tajaddad, “renewal”. In classical Christian theology, the corrupted imago dei is restored to its original integrity. This conveys well the meaning intended here, and God knows best.

4 “Intellect” here refers to the medieval understanding of intellect, which differed from reason. Intellect was the function of one’s intelligence that distinguished between the real and the apparent—hence the Latin, inte lectus, to distinguish between or to judge between [the real and the false].

5 A sacred hadith (hadith qudsi) neither holds the rank of a hadith, which is a statement from the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, nor of the Qur’an. It holds a third rank, which is a divine statement; i.e., it is considered revelation, but unlike the Qur’an, it is uttered in the words of the Prophet Muhammad, God bless and grant him peace; we could say it is the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, paraphrasing his Lord.

6 This hadith is recorded by Imam al-Bukhari and is considered absolutely true.

7 The emir uses the expression ‘ala takhyil, which is related to imagination but is not to be confused with the modern usage of this word; hence, imaginal.

8 Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri, al-Mawaqif, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2004), 196-197, mawqif #105.

Article Source: sandala

5 changes that can improve your marriage

5 Changes That Can Improve Your Marriage

It’s true that with time, every relationship comes to a point where things become more of a habit and the spark begins to die down. However, here is the silver lining. Not everything that’s lost is lost forever. Reigniting the initial spark in your marriage is not unachievable. With little hard work and a walk down a few extra miles, you can bring the charm back into your marital relationship and coax the spark back into a burning flame.

It does not require a gigantic intervention to bring the colors back into your marital life. All it takes is a shift in your daily routine and habits and watch your marriage come back to life. Following are the few little changes that can make a big impact on your marriage.

1. Redecorate Your Room and Turn it Into a Romantic Retreat

With kids in the house and a huge pile of household chores waiting to be done, your bedroom gets the least of your attention. Your bedroom is the only place where you and your spouse can retreat after a long tiring day. If you’ve got a child sleeping between you, sheets that haven’t been washed or changed for the longest time, or a pile of unfolded clothes laying around the bed, chances are that whatever little spark that you could have felt by the end of the day would go flying off the window with the first look on the huge mess lying in front of you.

Put some efforts into redecorating your room a little and cleaning up the everyday mess to avoid putting out any flicker of passion between you two. Paint your walls into a color that energizes and invokes cheerful vibes in you. Rearrange the furniture to bring about a pleasant change in your room. With a little tweak here and there, there is a great chance that the next time you enter your room with your spouse, the changed outlook of your room will instantly put the mood back into the bedroom.

2. Pay Close Attention to What You’re Giving, Not What You’re Getting

It’s understandable that when years have passed on a marriage, the focus shifts from what you’re giving to your partner to what you’re getting in return. Bring back the focus on what you’re contributing to the relationship and watch sparks fly right back into your marital life. Readjusting your focus on making life easier for your partner will avert your eyes from what’s making life more difficult, and your marriage will ultimately grow stronger and healthier.

3. Words of Encouragement and Endearment Cost Nothing At All

There is nothing more powerful than the words of endearment and pure encouragement. Sometimes your spouse does things that invoke critical comments out of you and you find it hard to suppress your disapproval for their actions. However, words of genuine praise and encouragement play a better role at brining improvement in your spouse’s life than criticism and disapproval.

4. Set a Daily Goal for Your Marriage

Setting a goal for your life is already very important. Imagine the amount of improvement you can bring in your marriage when you set a goal for your marriage. When you set small goals to improve your marital relationship and make a conscious decision every day to achieve them, the very gesture will send out a positive message towards your spouse, reflecting how invested you are in fostering your relationship with your spouse.

5. Pay More Attention than is Necessary

One of the things that can instantly put out a flame of passion before it even sparks up is lack of attention. If your partner’s voice is blending into the background and you appear tuned out, chances are that your spouse would sense your lack of interest and drift away from you. Lack of interest can give birth to communication gap and can ultimately become one of the reasons of your relationship’s demise. The next time you’re sitting with your spouse, put own your phone, set your laptop aside, shut the TV off, and stop what you are doing to pay attention to what they are saying.

How To Have A Successful Relationship

Relationships don’t foster themselves on their own. They don’t also happen by accident. It takes two to lay the groundwork and then establish the fortress of trust, commitment, and loyalty. Like everything else in life, the path to a successful and healthy relationship isn’t free of obstacles and hurdles. However, the key to learning how to have a successful relationship does not lie in finding the perfect partner for you and expecting a perfect relation with them; it’s rather a summation of different elements that make a relationship work and last forever.

Countless movies have been made, books have been written, and courses have been offered to show and teach people how to make their relationship a living success. And yet, people are faced with problems and complexities in fostering their relationships and the difficulties ultimately drive them away from each other. Apart from love, trust, and sincerity, here are a few tips to have a successful relationship with the person you love.

1. Be in a relationship when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely

One of the most important keys to a successful and long lasting relationship is to get into a relationship for the right reasons. Don’t ever be with someone because you’re pressured to do it. Get into a commitment when you know you are ready. Be with someone when you love being around them.

2. Communicate often

Success relationships are often established on the foundation of openness and communication. It’s easier to communicate things in good times. But things start to heat up, and the tension builds up, that’s when communication comes to the rescue. Instead of letting thing grow into an intense of storm of repressed feelings and unsaid words, communicate about the problems you’re facing with each other the sooner they come up. Don’t wait until the negativity rise up to spill all over your relationship. Nip the problem in the bud as soon the conflict manifests itself.

3. Disagreements are healthy

It’s normal in two people living together and spending considerable amount of time in each other’s company to find uncommon grounds relating to ordinary matter of life. No matter how big the disagreement is, don’t let it define your relationship on one hand, and don’t also give it the power to undermine the strength of your commitment with the other person.

A relationship advisor and therapist Kurt Smith shared her views on the matter by saying,

If partners don’t disagree now and then they’re either not being honest or aren’t human. Disagreeing isn’t a marriage problem ― it’s normal. It’s how couples work through their disagreements (or rather don’t) that can become bad for their marriage. Disagreements are opportunities to practice conflict resolution and build communication skills. Take a look at your disagreements and see what bad habits each partner has when you disagree. Do you talk over each other? Get angry? Yell? Swear? Name call? Disengage? Each partner should make a list of their bad tendencies and use future disagreements to practice responding differently and building better communication skills.

– Kurt Smith

4. Pay attention to good details

There’s nothing else that increases the warmth in a relationship and strengthens your partners believe in you than the undivided attention you pay to everything they do or say. Love and affection without attention is useless. It’s what you remember about your partner’s likes and dislikes, wants and needs, preferences and disapproval’s that together lay the ground for the love and affection to grow into a strong, fulling nurtured tree of love and belonging.

5. Be okay with the uncommon interests

Often the most successful relationships are those that involve two completely opposite people fusing the stark dissimilarities between them into a highly functioning and workable companionship. But it doesn’t mean that one should go out and look for someone that’s opposite to them in every way. It only signifies that sharing common interests is a like a cherry at the top. Having uncommon interests should not come between the happiness of the couple. It’s okay if your partner loves something that you have no likeness for. The success of a relationship does not hinge upon the similarities between two people; it instead is determined at the amount of efforts being put into working out the common interests.

6. Ignore the wrong thing they do, and pay attention to the right things

While it’s true that it’s difficult to look past the wrongs that your partner does to you, but positive reinforcements is as important in a relationship, as it is in the other matters of life. Try not to look for the things they do wrong. Think of all the right things they do to help you overlook the problems and the wrongs in the relationship.