Episode 16: Part 2 – How To Transform Your Marriage From “Meh” To “Wow”

Transcript

Welcome to the Best Versions Podcast, where I help you unlock your fullest potential to move from average to excellence in Worship, Energy, Love and Legacy.  

I’m your Host, Rushdhi Ismail. A computer engineer turned nutrition and life coach. I will use my experience of over 25 years in the personal and spiritual development field to provide you with practical tools to move from average to excellence, bi’idnillah!  

Alhamdulillah, another Friday and another opportunity to meet you through this podcast! 

Welcome back to part two of our episode, where we talk about how to transform your marriage from average to excellence, bi’idnillah

In our last episode, we talked about the first two tips to transform your marriage from mediocre to excellence. I sincerely hope you’ve taken some action. 

As I mentioned in that episode, the first two tips are like the foundation. If your foundation is solid, you’ll find it easier to implement the rest of the tips I discuss today.

The first tip I mentioned was about defining your purpose. I asked you to ask yourself why you want to transform the marriage in the first place, and I also requested you to write down your “why”.

The second tip was about utilising your best weapon, i.e. du’a. You’ll also intensify your du’a with more vigour if your why is strong.

When we need something desperately, we beseech Allah subuhanawuta’la intensely, right? So finding out your why will help you be more heartfelt in your du’as, insha Allah!

Okay, with that intro, let’s continue our chat with the third tip.

Tip #3: Nurture your intimacy 

Let me be quite explicit here. One of the biggest destroyers of marriage is the lack of intimacy between husband and wife. 

Yes, whether you are aware or not, lack of intimacy is one of the leading causes of marriages falling apart.

When couples don’t have a fulfilling intimacy, that’s when most problems start to simmer in their marriage. 

I had the fortune to mediate between some couples who were going through some difficulties in their marriage. Whenever I mediated, I noticed that the couples mostly started mentioning problems on the surface level. Sometimes, it was like “my wife doesn’t cook on time” or “my husband ignores me“—really petty things.  

However, when I started to dig deeper, I understood that mostly the problem was related to their sex life. The husband’s need wasn’t met in the bedroom, or the wife never gets the pleasure she needs. 

They never talked about their needs frankly, and their dissatisfaction with their intimacy led to many problems in different areas of their life. 

So the truth is, without a fulfilling intimacy in your life, your marriage is at a great threat. That’s because intimacy is the glue that holds your relationships together. If the glue is strong, the relationship is also strong.

That’s why the Quran and Sunnah talk explicitly about the importance of intimacy between a husband and wife. Yet, this subject is rarely discussed in Islamic circles. 

So, for this reason, I’ve decided to devote an entire episode to this subject. Insha Allah, in our next episode, we’ll dive deeper into the world of intimacy and see what Quran and Sunnah say about it and how a fulfilling intimacy can enhance your marriage and improve the quality of your life. 

I sincerely hope that this will greatly benefit you, insha Allah. So, don’t forget to check the next episode released next Friday, insha Allah.

Tip #4: Outcompete in love

Let’s now focus on the fourth tip to transform your marriage from average to excellence. Fourth tip deals with outcompeting in love. 

What does it mean to outcompete in love? 

Well, outcompeting in love means outpouring your love to your spouse. Regardless of how much your spouse loves you, you try to love your spouse more than they love you.

And more importantly, you love them unconditionally. That means you don’t put any conditions to love them. You love them for who they are, not for what they do.

Yes, you love them because they are your spouse. Instead of focusing on the negative of your spouse, try catching the positive of your spouse. That will help you to increase your love towards them.

Initially, outcompeting in love may sound daunting, particularly if your spouse isn’t someone who really expresses love towards you. However, when you take the first step and start outpouring your love, you’ll see the change in their attitude in a few weeks, bi’idnillah! 

I’m very confident that it works because I’ve solid evidence from the Quran.

In Surah Fussilat, verse number 34, Allah subuhanawuta’la says, “Good and evil cannot be equal. Respond ˹to evil˺ with what is best, then the one you are in a feud with will be like a close friend.

In this verse, Allah subuhanawuta’la talks about the enemy becoming your friend once you proactively reach them with goodness. 

Now, imagine how the impact would be if it were towards your spouse? If your intention is pure and you take the first step, Allah will indeed make your affairs easy. 

Likewise, science also confirms that love is contagious. So, just like laughing is contagious, love is contagious too; love begets love. 

So, when you begin to outpour your love towards your spouse, you’ll end up receiving love too.

That’s because there is also another thing that is at play here. 

Have you heard of the rule of reciprocity?

Reciprocity means when you give something to others, others will usually give you back something to benefit you.  

The rule of reciprocity is a social norm where you feel obligated to return the favour if someone does something for you.

So in your case, when you outpour love consistently, your spouse will not only return with love, but more often, you’ll receive more love than you give. 

And that will transform your relationship and increase the peace at home. 

So if you want to save your marriage, outcompete in love and love your spouse unconditionally. 

Here are a few ways how you can excel in showing your love in words, emotions and actions:

Say I love you frequently. Learn to say “I love you” as often as you can. Use any opportunity to say “I love you”. 

And especially, force yourself to say “I love you” when you feel the least, such as after an argument, “Hey honey, regardless of what happened before, I love you. I love you. That’s because my love for you is unconditional.”

This alone will reduce the intensity of your spouse’s irritation, insha Allah

Give a lot of compliments. Say things like, “Wow, you look great in this dress” or “Masha Allah, you’ve cooked an excellent dinner”

Kiss your spouse often. Find and create opportunities to kiss. 

Entered the house? Or leaving the house? Found your spouse in the kitchen or the living room? Execute kissing!

It’s a beautiful sunnah of our Prophet. A’isha radiyallahu anha said: “The Messenger of Allah would kiss me before leaving for prayers, and he would not perform an ablution.” (Sunan al-Darqutni, 1/49 and others)

By the way, in episode 03, I talked about the power of physical touch and kiss in a relationship. If you haven’t listened to it, make sure to check it later, insha Allah!

Tip #5: Increase your act of service 

This tip is indirectly connected to tip four because part of outcompeting in love is to assist our spouses in getting the chores at home or errands outside the home. 

Instead of expecting your partner to get certain things done, lend a hand whenever you can. In fact, providing such acts of service will indeed strengthen your romance. 

In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman says it beautifully:

 “…romance is strengthened in the supermarket aisle when your partner asks, ‘Are we out of butter?’ and you answer, ‘I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,’ instead of shrugging apathetically.”

Being the breadwinners of the family, most men believe that they don’t need to help their wives since their responsibility is to earn money. They believe their wife should take care of everything else at home. 

Let me be very blunt here. That kind of thinking is totally against the Sunnah.

When Aisha was asked what the Prophet ﷺ used to do in his house, she said, “He used to keep himself busy serving his family, and when it was the time for prayer, he would go for it” (Al-Bukhari).

If the Prophet of Allah, the best human being on earth, does chores at home, what about you and me? 

Okay, let’s move on to tip six.

Tip #6: Showing Gratitude 

The man I mentioned before, John Gottman, is a psychologist, scientist, and a world expert in marital relations. 

In the book I mentioned earlier, he says a 5:1 ratio of positive events to negative events help you thrive in your relationship. 

In other words, a relationship can thrive as long as you have enough good times to offset the bad. Compensate for every negative event with five or more positive events on that day. 

Research shows that focusing on increasing the positives is often more important than reducing the negatives. 

That’s why John Gottmann gives us a simple way to increase this positivity ratio in his book. He says the best way to boost your positivity ratio is to practise gratitude in your marriage.

Now, what does it practically mean?  

Well, practically, it means to thank your spouse for every little help and favour they do. That’s it.

Just like finding opportunities to kiss, learn to find opportunities to thank. 

When your spouse helped you complete an errand, don’t forget to thank them. After eating a meal, say “thank you”. Or, after being intimate with them, say “thank you”. 

Don’t take anything for granted. The husband’s daily struggle to go out and earn halal money should be thanked in the same way as the wife’s daily struggle to maintain the household. 

Hence, there are millions of opportunities to thank your spouse in a day. The more you use these opportunities to thank them, the stronger your relationship will become. 

Showing gratitude is also a sign that you don’t take things for granted in your life. You are grateful for the services your spouse does, and you don’t arrogantly claim that you deserve whatever the spouse does to you. 

Unfortunately, many men have this feeling that they deserve the service from their spouse, and anything short of it is not acceptable for them. Such an attitude isn’t very healthy for an ideal marriage. 

Instead, when you start to thank your spouse more and more, you’ll also experience that the service you receive will increase too. 

Why? Because Allah subuhanawuta’la promises in the Quran: If you are grateful, I will certainly give you more. 

You may say, “Rushdhi, wait a minute, Allah is talking about being grateful to Him in these verses“. 

That’s true, but what did our most beloved Prophet Muhammed ﷺ say regarding thanking people? “He who does not thank people does not thank Allah” (Ahmad)

So start practising thanking your family, first and foremost. 

If you want to know how practising gratitude can make you spiritually and mentally a better person, then check episode nine. I’ve talked about it in great detail. 

Tip #7: Increase your quality time

John Gottman, the renowned psychologist, further elaborates in his book on how spending time with your spouse will both save your marriage and health:

“I often think that if fitness buffs spent just 10 per cent of their weekly workout time—say, twenty minutes a day—working on their marriage instead of their bodies, they would get three times the health benefits they derive from an exercise class or the treadmill.”

How true are these words!  

So make sure you spend some quality time with your spouse daily. If you can reserve a fixed time for 15-20 minutes daily for this purpose, that would be even better. 

Even just sitting with your spouse with a cup of coffee or tea and chatting about what went on that day would do the job for the most part. 

However, make sure that you are fully present during that connection time. Sometimes we communicate with our spouses while our mind is totally in a different place. 

Be fully present while you are connected. The greatest present you can give to your spouse is your own mindful presence. Yes, let me repeat that. The greatest present, i.e. gift you can give to your spouse, is your own mindful presence.

What do I mean by mindful presence? 

It’s about giving your full attention without any distractions. Practically it means you put away your smartphone and engage with your spouse both with your body and mind. 

So, what do you do in your quality time if you have nothing to say or do? 

Just hold your spouse’s hands. According to the latest research from John Gottmann’s lab, “long-lasting gentle touch decreases stress hormones and decelerates heartbeat frequency. It also activates brain areas commonly linked to reward“.

I mean, who doesn’t want that, right? 

And talking about increasing your quality time, plan a couple of romance weekends with your partner. Do some fun things together. 

We know from the authentic narrations that the Prophet ﷺ would race with his wife or watch Abyssinians playing and dancing. 

Those were some fun things the Prophet ﷺ could do in that era. 

Now to you, what fun things can you do together with your spouse? 

Get a piece of paper and start brainstorming a few ideas. And see how you can implement them in your next getaway with your honey! 

You see, taking some time out from your regular life and spending exclusive time with each other will strengthen your relationship. 

Just make sure your smartphone is left at home! 

Great, let’s continue with tip #8. 

Tip #8: Be the first to say “sorry.”

Happy marriages aren’t devoid of problems or arguments, but what makes these marriages different from the rest is that couples in these marriages don’t linger on the arguments or problems.

So, whenever you argue with your spouse, regardless of who initiated the argument, be the first to say sorry.

Hey honey, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” 

The simple sorry will diffuse the tension and help you garner the respect of your spouse, insha Allah.

Be always the better of two. If you genuinely love your spouse, you’ll also forgive quickly. 

And forgiving your spouse is a means for you to receive forgiveness from Allah subuhanawuta’la

Allah says “. . . and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Al-Quran, 24:22)

So rush towards forgiveness and know that it’s a means for you to get forgiven from Allah subuhanawuta’la.

Tip #9: Save your best treatment for your spouse

The Prophet ﷺ said,

“The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character. And the best of you are those who are best to their women.” (At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani)

In another authentic hadith, also reported in At-Tirmidhi, the Prophet ﷺ said, 

“The best of you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best of you to my family.” (At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani)

I’m sure you have heard these narrations many times in your life. But have you ever spent some time thinking about the wisdom behind these narrations? 

You see, it’s comparatively easier to be the best to everyone outside your home because they are oblivious to most of your weaknesses and flaws. All they see is the well-dressed and well-mannered person in front of them.

However, at home, the story is different. Your family knows you inside out. They know your beautiful side as well as your ugly side. They know your best qualities as well your worst qualities. 

So, despite your imperfections, to be recognised as the best by your own family members is indeed one of the greatest achievements.

Hence, trying to claim the title “the best to your family” is truly an uphill battle. You seriously need to work on many fronts to achieve that state. But it’s a struggle that’s really worth trying. Not only will it grant you joy, happiness and contentment in this world, but it will also be most beneficial for you on the Day of Judgement.

There are many things you could do to treat your spouse well, but here are three important ones for you to consider: 

#1: Treat your spouse as if you would treat a noble guest at home. Just as you wouldn’t shout at your noble guest and would always present your best side, treat your spouse likewise.

#2. Dress up beautifully for your spouse. No one deserves to admire your beauty more than your spouse. Try to impress your spouse not only through your character but also through your appearance. 

It has been narrated that Ibn Abbas (RA) used to beautify himself every time before entering his house. To those who laughed at him, he replied: “I like to embellish myself for my wife, just as I like her to beautify for me”.

That’s fair enough, right? 

#3. Choose compliments over criticism. Whenever you find positive behaviours of your spouse, compliment them. Compliments help you improve your relationship, while criticism destroys the relationship. 

Okay, let’s now move on to tip #10.  

Tip #10: Treat your in-laws as your family

Whether you believe it or not, abuse or disrespect towards in-laws is one of the biggest reasons for a broken marriage. 

I’ve come across many great couples who ended up breaking their marriage because their relationship with their in-laws sucked.  

The mother-in-law doesn’t like the daughter-in-law, or the daughter-in-law doesn’t show respect and love towards her mother-in-law. Or the son-in-law doesn’t take care or give respect to his parents-in-law. The complexity and the combination of these problems are way too many to mention, even in a podcast. 

What puzzles me is this: How can you truly love your spouse if you don’t even love and respect the people who gave birth to your spouse? 

If your love towards your spouse is genuine, it should be shown in the way you treat your parents-in-law. 

Strictly speaking, from an Islamic perspective, you don’t have any obligation to treat your parents-in-law financially or physically. However, it’s part of human dignity to show them your utmost kindness. 

When you do it out of kindness, you’ll not only be immensely rewarded for your generosity, but you’ll also notice that your spouse’s love for you strengthens automatically. 

Think about it for a moment. 

Your parents and your siblings are one of the most beloved people on earth. What will happen when your spouse has hatred towards them? Would that increase or decrease your love for your spouse? 

Unfortunately, most people don’t realise this simple logic. 

So if you truly want to transform your marriage, fix your relationship with your parents-in-law. You’ll most probably improve your relationship with your spouse as well. That’s what I call killing two birds with one stone!

Okay, that was the tenth tip to transform your marriage from average to excellence, bi’idnillah! I sincerely hope that you find all these ten tips to be beneficial. 

Now, here is the fact. No podcast, book or therapist can solve all your marital problems instantly. 

However, if you are truly committed and ready to put in the work, these tips will be exceptionally helpful towards a blissful marriage, insha Allah! 

Having said that, I’m also fully aware that you cannot put all these tips into practice at once. 

That’s why I suggest that you take a step-by-step approach. 

First, choose the two easiest tips for you and try to implement them in your life for the next two weeks. 

While implementing, try to be as consistent as possible with these two tips. 

That will inevitably lead to tiny improvements in your relationship. And those tiny improvements can bring massive benefits over time. 

Once you feel you are doing an okay job of executing these two tips, then choose another tip among these ten tips and start practising it for another 2-3 weeks. 

This step-by-step approach will be more beneficial and sustainable in achieving what you want than just trying to implement everything at once without a strategy. 

I pray that Allah subuhanawuta’la helps you and me achieve a wonderful, meaningful and peaceful marriage that becomes a catapult for all our success in this world and in the Aakhira! Ameen! 

Last but not least, you’ll find some beneficial resources to optimise your marriage on the bestversions.me site. Head over to bestversions.me/podcasts/16.

That’s all from me for today. 

Thanks so very much for listening to my podcast. I sincerely pray that this episode helps you go from average to excellence in love. 

Please subscribe to my podcast, and share the podcast with your family and friends. I’m convinced you can make a difference in others’ lives by sharing this information with them.

Until we meet in the next episode insha Allah next Friday, I pray that Allah subuhanawuta’la showers his choicest blessings on you and your family. 

Asssalamu Alaikum Warahmathullahi Wabarakathuhu. 

Resources

I hope the following resources will be of great benefit to you.