Those who are involved in family counseling, or facing family problems themselves, will notice some recurrent complaints: “She doesn’t like to…”,“He doesn’t spend enough time in…” and so forth.
While often these problems are real, sometimes these complaints can be translated as: “She’s not like sister X”, “He doesn’t treat me the way brother Y treats his wife”, “She doesn’t look like sister Z…”.
One thing is certain: comparisons are the biggest killers of happiness. One sure way to destroy your happiness is by comparing with others who seem to have more. Allah says:
“And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them.” (Qur’an, 20:131)
What others have always seems more appealing. While what we have may be satisfactory, once we start comparing, we will always find someone who has it “better.” Then what we have is not even acceptable anymore – it becomes bad, even terrible, in comparison. We may even stop seeing the good things we have over other people, focusing on the “better” THEY have and failing to see the “better” that WE have.
We always compare because we’re always looking for the ideal in everything; in this case, the ideal spouse, the Soul-Super-Mate (SSM). And this attitude is strengthened by overexposure to so many ideal love stories and cute romantic comedies in books and movies. They show us that everyone, after some adventures, ends up finding their SSM and living happily ever after. Thus, we reach a point where we think these ideals are indeed the norm, and anything short of that is not acceptable. We think the one for me is somewhere out there, waiting; they actually exist and are easy to find. Nothing less will be acceptable.
What happens then is every time we meet a potential for marriage, we hope they are the One. We project all of our dreams and emotional baggage on the poor person. We expect them to be that which they are not. Then we get married and discover the true person. We divorce. Then we repeat the same cycle, living miserably ever after.
While some people do actually find their SSM, most people don’t (including the actors in those movies). Despite this, some people still live happily! Omar (ra) said, “Love is not the only component for building successful families.” Happiness can still be achieved with someone short of the ideal spouse. The key is to accept what one has. A beautiful Arabic proverb says: “Contentment is a treasure that never perishes.” If a person is content with a difficult situation, he will be happy; if he is discontent with a good situation, he will never be happy.
Here are a few things that could help:
- Stop watching those romantic comedies. Most of those stories are more ‘fiction’ than Avatar.
- Remember, you’re not perfect yourself, even if your mother thinks you are.
- Get to know your spouse as they are, not as you wish for them to be. Each person has their own individuality, and if you accept them as they are, you may find someone very beautiful. Put an effort into discovering your other half, without any prior judgment. But essential for that is…
- … not to criticize them and to make them feel uncomfortable. When people feel they’re constantly monitored and evaluated, they act very sloppy and awkward and could never blossom, showing their true beauty.
- Do not define them by their shortcomings. In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah in Sahih Muslim, our Prophet ﷺ said: “A believing man would never feel repulsed by his believing wife; if finds something about her that he dislikes, he will always find something else about her that satisfies him.”
- Keep in mind that Mr. or Mrs. Super-Perfect DOES NOT exist. What about Khadija (R), you ask? She was perfect and real, wasn’t she? Yes, she was real, for someone like the Prophet ﷺ. It would not be fair to hold that perfect woman as the minimum acceptable standard; that unless my wife is like her, she won’t be good enough. Khadijah was indeed the maximum - the best a woman can be. The Prophet ﷺ said four women attained perfection. Only Khadijah amongst them was married to a prophet. In a hadith narrated in the Musnad, the Prophet ﷺ said Allah sent 124,000 prophets, yet only one of the perfect women was married to a prophet. So 123,999 prophets had less-than-perfect wives. Some, like the great Prophets Nuh and Lut (`alayhi assalam) even had bad wives. Something to think about.
- Have taqwa (God-consciousness) of Allah in whatever you do and keep in mind His reward. Omar (ra) said, “We found the joy of our lives in patience (sabr).”
- To make it easier on others, if you are blessed with a great spouse, then praise be to Allah. Just don’t make it difficult on the others, by continuously telling them how perfect your spouse is.
- Finally, if you still feel a compulsion to compare with others, then you should compare with those that have less. The Prophet ﷺ recommended for this, as “it makes it easier for you to appreciate the blessings of your Lord.”
I ask Allah to give us the clarity and strength to accept all that He decrees, and to place our happiness in it. Ameen.