Kids are draining and if we don’t handle the situation the right way the first thing to suffer will be the intimacy in your marriage.
By Maulana Nabi Raza Abidi
After children, I see many couples drifting apart where distance, coldness and lack of intimacy becomes a normal part of life. In our community, the husband will work much of the time and the wife will spend her free time taking care of needy and demanding children, often in addition to her own job. The process, especially after a few years (yes, it takes time for kids to grow up!) ends up draining both. By spending less quality alone time with each other (watching TV together is not quality time!) they eventually drift apart into their own bubbles thereby killing any inclination towards intimacy.
Sometimes one of the spouses will try to remedy the problem through complaining. Although the concerns are legitimate and couples should know their marital responsibilities in Islam, this type of approach can sometimes be counter-productive as it may come across as nagging/complaining thereby widening the relationship gap, or making any forced closeness or fulfillment of duties bitter and chore-like.
Relationships and intimacy grow through one key ingredient: spending quality time together. Quality time means communicating with each other and not silently looking at the screen. It means sharing your thoughts, emotions, interests, advice and trying to enjoy each other’s company.
The challenge of the modern times is that our main competitor when it comes to getting our spouse’s attention is the screen (smartphone, tablet, TV, laptop etc.). If you fight and try to take your spouse away from the screen you will only bring about resentment. You need to be tactical and smart. Find what your spouse finds interesting and use that as a means to spending time with him/her. Let the spark start and your spouse is likely to want more. Once you begin having regular and meaningful hangouts with your spouse, the stress of life will become less and your bond will slowly but most likely begin to rekindle again thereby reestablishing intimacy once more.
As I said in my previous article, we all need to be patient. We are not dealing with machines but with complex emotional human beings that are full of contradictions. One day things will go well, other days things will go bad no matter what you do. The key here is patience and persistence and eventually your spouse will begin to come around more regularly. What will happen is that you will get more good days and less bad days but that doesn’t mean the bad days will go away, that’s the reality of human beings. Just like you are not always in a good mood, you can’t always expect your spouse to be the same. Part of the package of heaven is having to deal with living in a broken world for a few years and that broken world doesn’t always make us happy.
So learn to spend quality time with each other. At the beginning it may not be an hour, it may be 30 minutes or 15 minutes, but those minutes will make a difference if pursued consistently. Learn what your spouse likes, learn his or her dreams and try to fulfill them, but it doesn’t need to be complicated like that. You can simply pick your spouse’s favorite restaurant and have someone take care of your kids for you for 2 hours. You don’t need to do this every week, you can do this once a month and even that once a month will have a significant impact on the quality of your relationship and may encourage both you to hang out more often. What this will do is put points into your relationship’s positive emotional bank account. The more points this bank account has, the more often you will find intimacy in your relationship and the less intense your fights will become.
Now if you feel guilty that your abandoning your kids you are wrong. Who do you benefits the most from a healthy marriage? You guess it, your children. Your children benefit more from attention paid between husband and wife than parent and child because there is nothing like a strong healthy marriage to ground kids in the world and give them the self-esteem, love and sense of security they need.
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California