The whole time I was a single mother the only thing I looked forward to was getting married again, it was my one consuming thought; oh yes I had become wonderfully independent and could now juggle kids, cleaning, cooking, money, bills, basic DIY and de-fragmenting my laptop alone. I could even tell you all about storage heaters including the history behind them and also which was the best internet/phone/TV package combo; I was therefore, ready to re-marry. I put so much effort into it that it kind of became an occupation in it’s own right “so what is it that you actually do Ms Akhtar?” “Me? Oh I look for husbands. I search for them far and wide, I don’t discriminate over petty things like height and weight and looks; as long as he is male with a decent salary and a UK resident he is a contender!”
Sadly for me, the whole process had stopped being an adventure with suitor number 15 and was now a drawn out struggle instead. My hopes were dashed of ever meeting the right guy – ‘the one’, I felt crestfallen over my impending fate as single mum working 4 jobs just to make ends meet, living in a 1 bed flat (it was 2 when I was still on housing) with the three of us. My children would have by then turned in to teenage ‘yobbos’ who in turn amounted to nothing and thought it OK to stay at home playing X-box all day. The truth of the matter was; who wanted a twice divorced, single mother of 2 who was too opinionated, too loud and too pessimistic?
Like the adage says: you find love when you stop looking for it, I did indeed. I was approached on Facebook by a brother looking for a second wife for his friend. I always swore I would never consider marrying anyone off Facebook; Yahoo Chat however, where I met and married my second husband was fine. I had never really much been a fan of polygamy but recently I had felt something pushing me towards that, I felt like Allah swt wanted me to go down that route to get closer to Him. It was a dua I had been making for a long time now; to find a way to get closer to Allah swt and I felt this was the answer. I was warned against it by my family but I thought they were just being typical Pakis and was undeterred. My mum, bless her was in particular worried “you can’t trust anyone nowadays, he could be a pedophile, he won’t treat you right and you’ll be the wife getting the shove if he has to pick one” I tried to dismiss her claims in a jokey way “it’s OK mum, I’m already used to my own family not treating me right. Besides, he’s a practising brother with a beard mum and everyone knows that they’re the cream of the crop!” (This in itself is a joke, because although there are many a lovely brother who are practising Islam to the best of their ability, there are also many who say they are practising and have beards but whose manners and mentality are wholly un-Islamic. You cant judge by appearances alone you have to look into the man too and not just the beard).
I was married shortly after and I thought my dreams had finally come true; all would now be well and forever could now begin. The only problem (well actually there were many, but I don’t want to put you off marriage) being that I had forgotten about one small detail: my insecurities. My expectations too, were governed by my last marriage both the positives and negatives. I had spent so long perfecting my exterior and my life superficially that I had forgotten my interior and my fears and concerns. I had limited them to common sense things like the children and money but not regarding matters of the heart. It was simple, I was an old romantic who believed she would never stop loving her oppressive ex and would pine for him quietly for the rest of her days; I would cry silently and with grace like they did in mum’s old black and white Bollywood films and I would reluctantly marry again – my heart always belonging to my ex. Truth be told, that’s the main reason why I had no objection to polygamy: I didn’t see myself loving anyone else but him to care how many wives my husband had as long as he was kind and of course, paid the bills. So imagine my shock and horror when I realised 3 days into marriage that I had fallen in love with my husband?!
Allah swt is the changer of hearts and He Almighty can do whatever He wants as nothing is impossible for Him. I never thought it would happen to me again but it did and now I was faced with a new dilemma: female hormones. Now I wanted to be the center of my husband’s attention, now I remembered that oh yes, I always did have a slightly jealous and controlling disposition with my ex that to be honest I never thought would resurface here because I never expected to fall in love. Now I remembered I had expectations of how a husband should treat his wife if he is in love with her (as my husband professed; no poetic declarations of love here – just an exaggerated if not slightly patronizing and dare I say frustrated (?) “you don’t know how much I love you!”). In fact, I incredulously realised, my whole game plan for a perfect life revolved around a simple concept: I would never fall in love with my husband and therefore never care about much of what he did. I wouldn’t care if he was home late because that just meant more time for me to watch Dexter on the telly; I wouldn’t care if he had to work weekends as I usually spent it frantically running from madrassah to Tesco and cleaning the house or seeing a friend, I wouldn’t care if he came home and went straight to bed as that meant I didn’t have to engage in gooey lovey dovey talk and most of all, I wouldn’t care if he loved his first wife more because I had none of those feelings for him. In hindsight as I’m sure you will all agree, it was a pretty stupid plan.
So now I was suffering from raging jealousy and paranoia that every time my husband came home late from work it was because he had taken a third wife. I wanted it to be me he loved the most, I wasn’t sure if this was even allowed or not but it became a dua that I made daily. Now that I had cared I also paid more attention to how my husband did things too because I now took an interest in him (OK I know it was only 3 days in to the marriage and so I couldn’t really have never noticed how he did things). I found his approach to some things frustrating and I guess if I’m honest, I had kind of expected to pick up the pieces where I left off in my previous marriage, here. The same approach to bills and general DIY should apply in this marriage – I should be able to solely leave this to my husband without chasing him up and nagging him because I didn’t have to previously. However this was not the case, and frequently and before I could stop it I would utter: “but this isn’t how my ex did it!” I could leave him to get on with things safe in the knowledge that matters would be dealt with, but with my current husband if I didn’t keep prodding him then nothing got done.
All of these things combined caused havoc in my marriage and they were obstacles that I really should have, but did not foresee. Due to his first wife and the problems they were having because of him marrying me and his guilt at hurting her I felt he overcompensated her. Suddenly he had to spend more time at ‘family meetings’ which, when I pointed out I was family too so I should be able to go – he just told me to have sabr. He was constantly trying to reassure her and this made my jealousy even worse because I felt like he didn’t reassure me and that I should simply “have sabr”. The jealousy led way to insecurity until I no longer believed he loved me but that he pitied me and was in some way using me. His loyalties were brought into question and it wasn’t until months later that I realised that this was residues of emotions left over from my previous marriage where my husband had been unfaithful. I was constantly vying for his attention like a spoiled brat at times (and to think my therapist said I never take responsibility for my actions pffft!) and constantly demanding he prove his love to me. Poor old sod never really stood a chance. Eventually I had to analyze my feelings and ponder over whether they were logical or just the ravings of stressed out, slightly crazy mother of two.
Another thing that certainly did not help was comparing my husband to my ex when we got into arguments, “Oh you men are all alike – you’re just like my ex – he made me feel worthless too and that I was simply there to serve him!” The aforementioned named person, well not ‘named’ person because ‘husband’ is not a name is it? The aforementioned titled person (my husband, not my ex) had brought on this ‘typical-of-any-woman’ outburst by making me feel so unbearably unloved. He did this by cruelly ignoring my text messages and then storming out later after a fight (where I the perpetrator, had been screaming bloody murder), which I guess actually is typical of most men not just my ex… nay typical of most people including me not just my ex… woops…! This is a common case of attributing labels from the past to people of the present (I wonder if I could coin that term?) which us ex-single mums do commonly, sad as it is; women eh?! The reason we do this is primordially fear; when we see a trace of something that reminds us of the past our fear kicks in and we think it’s history repeating itself; this could be kicked off by anything from a fight over who gets to watch what on the telly, to who ate the last Jammie Dodger and then put the empty packet back into the biscuit tin. Brothers, if we hadn’t been so hurt in the first place we wouldn’t behave so erratically, it’s not to be condoned of course but just a little insight in to a woman’s psyche.
The wisdom I now depart upon you has taken me many pain-staking months to collect. No-one really talks about the jump from single-hood into ‘married-hood’, we should really do mental health checks to make sure the mums are well enough and sane enough to marry first before we expose brothers to these raging hormonal ‘independent won’t stand for no s***’ mums. Maybe a little chat before hand with a previously divorced, now married sister or a – I don’t know – therapist(?!) might do the trick about what to expect from yourself after marriage. I’m sure there are many sisters who don’t feel they need ‘the chat’ and that they are blissfully happy and independent and secure already and so therefore would bring that blissful happiness into any marriage (insert laugh here from other ex-divorcees who were also stupid enough to think the same thing before they got married), but I’m equally sure that there are other Misbahs out there (I pay you homage because the world does not yet know your true value and what they now call the ramblings of a weirdo they will call the brilliance of a mature woman) prone to making stupid foolish decisions based on what they deemed to be fact because it was when they were feeling overly optimistic (post- period) that could benefit from it.
Marriage is not easy, its something you have to work at continuously and therefore you may as well go in top of your game and that means knowing yourself: both the good and ugly side. Only when you know your flaws can you work on them and only when you know the workings of your mind can you explain it to your husband. Us women always complain that our husband’s don’t ‘understand’ us, (mine must be laughing now at how true this is all is whilst crying simultaneously that he had to be the poor guinea pig that went through hell and back for what we shall now refer to as “research purposes” (just to make him feel valued 😉 ! )) but how can they if we don’t bloody explain how we are feeling?!! We expect men to second guess us but have you ever actually tried doing that?? Try second guessing your mum if you have the courage to and see how far you get before the rolling pin comes your way – it’s hard. We also need to be effective communicators when speaking to our husbands and we should not be afraid to speak our mind albeit in a respectful way and talk about what hurts us and what we want from marriage too. Half of all marriages break down, if not more, because of a lack of communication. Remember that.
I thank you all, for taking the time to read this, please make dua for me and the Ummah and I apologize if my wacky humor offended anyone, it was not meant to but was meant to lighten the read (well there’s always one that moans isn’t there?!!). If you liked what you read then please pass it on for someone else to enjoy too.
Asalaamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu.