Somaliland:Re-evaluating our Marriage to Re-invent our Nation
By Bazi Bussuri Sheikh
Majority of the Somalis argue that our current problem is lack of effective leaders in the country. Leaders and followers as children are nurtured at home and it is one of the most important institutions that determines the quality of a nation and then comes schools and Masaajid. If our quest and yearning is for effective leaders, we need to re-evaluate these three institutions. The aim of this piece is re-examine our conducts at home and encourage a constructive debate on how we can make our homes a fertile ground for a generation of good leaders and citizens.
One of the major problems we are facing today is the high illiteracy rate in marital relationship. Many marriages die prematurely or fall short of reaching its full potentials, because the couples never learn what marriage is all about. The understanding that we have is either very shallow, or shaped by the philosophy of the world and tradition rather than by the principles of the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad SCW. Most of our marriages are vacant, or empty of tranquillity (Mawadah) that was guaranteed by Allah in the Quran (وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ مَوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَ).
This is also having detrimental effect on our children’s emotional well beings as they have been consumed by the cycle of the negativity at home. There is a saying “Inside every child is an emotional tank waiting to be filled with love”. When a child really feels loved, he/she will develop normally, but when the love tank is empty, the child will misbehave. Much of the misbehaviour of children is motivated by the craving of an empty “Love tank”. The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother as this will have more long lasting effect then buying the latest gadgets. Vice Versa for the mother too.
The emotional need for love does not end at childhood. It follows us into adulthood and into marriage. Marital experts argue running your marriage on an empty “Love and Respect tank” may cost you even more than trying to drive your car without oil. They also state that conflict between couples rotate around two questions i.e. “How much do you love me” and “Who is in Charge”. Many of the Somali brothers complain about the consistent nagging (Calaacal) of their wives and some of the Somali sisters are indirectly saying “Give me assurance that you love me”. Similarly many Somali sisters complain about how their husbands are withdrawn from the relationship and some of the brothers are expressing “Give me a respect that enables me to express my love to you”.
The below poem of Abwaan Xalwo Bulxan Cali summarises the problems Somali women have with some of the Somali men. This poem was in response or counter claim to previous poems created Abwaan Aw-Yuusuf Barre and Cabdulqaadir Xirsi Yam Yam (Alle ha u naxriistee) named “Guur aan ka La’aado”. This is an indicative that majority of our houses are run on an empty “Love and Respect tank” and this is emotionally taxing, it drains you within and messes up your life (Ijiid aan ku jiidee waa gacmo daalis).
Expressing your love for your wife is seen by many Somalis as a sign of weakness and some even advice you not to do so. Their main argument is that she will see you as weak and becomes dominant over you (Waa kugu kor Soconee ama Buur ay isa saaree). Expressing your love for your partner in words, giving gifts, helping one another, quality time and physical touch is a Sunnah of our Prophet SCW. There are many Ahaadeeth supporting this vital act that leads the marriage to tranquillity. The problem is that when we starve our women by not assuring them the love we have for them, they retaliate harder. If a wife feels loved, she will stand by you as we say “Rag naagaa is dhaafshay”.
Love and Respect are vital for both partners like oxygen to a suffocating person. But women give more value to love while a man’s deepest soul is to be respected. Research carried out has shown many men state “I would rather live with a wife who respected but did not love me than live with a wife who loved me but did not respect me”. In most cases, when a husband is shown unconditional respect, they feel motivated to show his wife the kind of unconditional love she desires. Disrespect provokes a man so quickly, even something as simple as rolling your eyes in response to your spouse’s comment makes his love tank empty as Somalis say “Rag ciil cadaab ka dooray”.
However the most important thing is to knowing how to resolve a conflict and restore strained broken relationship constructively. Marriage itself is the best institution to learn how to resolve conflict as Gandhi said “I first learned the concepts of non- violence in my marriage”. As Somalis, this is our main weakness as we give up too early and that is why we are paying heavy price in the political conflict. The problem is that many of us are not good at reconciliation and probably nobody taught us how to do it. We never had a class at school on how to resolve conflict. Our schooling system was based on Industrialisation and the skills we gain from school are mostly how to accomplish and acquire, but not how to be.
Below is the summary of six steps you need to take to deal with a marital conflict in a more positive and constructive way.
Step 1 “Make the first move and ask Allah to give you Tawfiiq”
Taking the first initiative is the most important point of resolving the conflict and it pleases Allah. Be a peace maker and not a peace keeper and do not wait for the other person. Reconciliation takes priority, do it at once, no matter whether you are the offender or the offended.
Step 2 “Feel with your Partner”
When you feel with someone, you empathize with the person and that leads to an action to resolve the conflict. Effective listening is the best tool to demonstrate empathy towards your partner. This means paying close attention and focusing on the feelings, not the facts. When listening well you convey the message that you care. Your listening act says “I Value your opinion, I Care about our relationship and you matter to me.
Step 3 “Acknowledge your part of the Conflict”
“We easily see what is done to us before we see what we are doing to our partner”
Admitting your own mistakes is the best way to begin in resolving the conflict and this demonstrates that you are serious about restoring the relationship. This is a huge emotional healing, gives the relationship a fresh start and it demonstrates humbleness/humility. When you start off acknowledging your part of the conflict, your partner will pay more attention to your words, and this will prevent him/her from causing you harm or loss
Step 4 “Focus on the problem, not the Person”
This involves being hard on the problem and soft on the person. Failing to do that leads you to become hostage to your emotions.The danger with un-constructive finger pointing is that it changes the issue into an escalating need to be right. Both spouses fall into a trap that being right is more important than the relationship. It is vital to avoid using the toxic word like “You always” or “You never”. The goal is to come to a mutually satisfactory solution/agreement, not on being right.
Step 5 “Cooperate as much as possible”
This means working for a common purpose and this is vital to maintain an extraordinary relationship through the challenges of everyday life. Many of us think we are good at cooperation, but the reality might be we are terrible at it. Cooperation requires practice, even between a husband and wife. Thankfully, it’s a skill that can be learned. To practice cooperation, married couples are encouraged to engage in “couple projects.” This might include making a meal together, painting a room, planting a garden, or assembling furniture together.
Step 6 “Emphasise Reconciliation not Resolution
Reconciliation focuses on the relationship, while resolution focuses on the problem. When focusing on reconciliation, the problem loses significance and often becomes irrelevant. We often have legitimate, honest disagreements and differing opinions, but we can disagree without being disagreeable. Allah expects unity, not uniformity, and we can walk arm in arm without Seeing Eye to eye on every issue and the wisdom is learning how to achieve this. It’s always more rewarding to resolve a conflict than to dissolve a relationship.