54. Dr. Azab and Marriage

Posted on December 11th, 2013

Wise Wives was lucky to bring back Dr. Marwa Azab (B.A Psychology ~ MA Psychology ~ Ph.D Neuroscience) on Tuesday December 10, 2013. She covered many intriguing topics about marriage and I'd like to highlight four of them here.

Mother-infant relationships...
Dr. Azab began by explaining that the relationship we and our spouse had with our mothers has an immense effect on how our marriage are today.  The period between birth and one year (the years beyond this are important as well but get less important with age) is when a person builds trust with the world. It is crucial in a human's development and depending on the attachment style of the parents, "this will manifest in marriage" later on in the infant's life.  It will affect the person's quality and duration of marriage.

There are 3 types of parenting, or attachment, styles that she explored:

1) Secure: Which is considered "successful parenting" is one that builds trust in the infant. This is a trusting, persistent, predictable parent who is consistent in their behavior.
--This will result in a person/spouse who is secure in their marriage and has lovable qualities.

2. Anxious/ambivalent: This is a parent that is unpredictable - for example, this parent will reward a child for picking something up off the ground but will not make a big deal when they get a good grade.
--This will result in a person/spouse who is moody and mostly unhappy. They can also be jealous and possessive and will want reciprocation right away. Overall this will result in an unsatisfying marriage.

3. Avoidance: This is a parent that does not even give eye contact to her child.
--This will result in a person/spouse that is very difficult to be in a relationship with. They typically dislike others and their guard is always up. They do not get social support and have no deep relationships.

Azab says that with parenting, consistency is the key! "It is better for a parent to be consistently avoidant than it is to be up and down." A child needs to have a predictable parent in order to build trust in the world.

But as adults, why learn this in the first place? "You need to gain access to the problem," she says. And recognize which category you fit into in order to fix an aspect of your marriage that could be suffering. This should be a tool for you if you are having any troubles. You should not just accept them, give up and walk away from your marriage.

Three stages of marriage...
We then went on to discuss the theory of whether "birds of the same feather flock together," or do opposites attract? She says that it depends on what stage your marriage is in. In other words, it depends on if you are at the beginning of your marriage, the middle, or the end.

1. At the beginning of your marriage, you want to match in education/class/religion/values. If you match in these and other aspects then this is a predictor of a successful marriage. If you are different in these things, studies actually show that this will be a predictor of divorce.  "In the beginning you want a sense of 'we'ness,' she says. It's usually those aspects that bring you together in the first place.

2. In the middle of your marriage, the opposite is true! When you have been married for 10-15 years the above does not work anymore. In a sense, you need to be opposites, to "wear different hats." This is because this is the time when you are dealing with raising children. You have an increase in responsibilities and the last thing you want to do is be redundant or similar to your spouse.

3. At the end of your marriage, you want to go back to being similar. This is usually when the couple has retired and start to spend more time together alone once again.

While discussing the topic of "we'ness" she told us to think about how we refer to our husband whether in public, in private, in front of your kids, when you are proud of him, when you are mad at him, etc.  The more "we" words you use the more successful your marriage is. Using words like "us," "our," "we," indicate that you have a healthy marriage and a healthy level of interdependence. "You need interdependence," she emphasized. "No research that I know shows that being completely independent is successful."

She says that when in conflict with your husband put an effort to use these "we" words instead of "you," words which comes naturally to us because we want to disengage ourselves from him. In fact, in a Hadith, it is reported that the wife of the Prophet (pbuh) Aisha used to call the Prophet "Prophet of Allah" when she was mad at him instead of using his name!

Are you your parents?...
A third thing we discussed was looking into your parent's marriage to see how it emulates , or not, into your own marriage.  In this case there are three different categories you can fall into:

1. Accept and Continue: This is when you use your parents marriage as a template, you do whatever you have been tutored in doing. This happens when you liked their marriage and want to copy it because you saw that it was successful and satisfying.

2. Process and Struggle: This is when you see that there are aspects in their marriage that you do not want to copy because you realized that it was unsatisfying for them. If this is the case you should pick a mate that will work on this with you, she says.

3. Disengage and Repudiate: This is when you do not want their marriage at all! You do not have an example to follow and so you do not know what you want or what type of mate you want.

Using this information, she suggested that we go home and as an exercise talk to our husbands about this and see where each one falls into. And depending on what you determine you can discuss what you would like to emulate, what expectations can be causing problems, etc.

8 characteristics of a satisfying marriage...
1. Ability to change and tolerate change - This does not mean you are changing the essence of yourself or your spouse, this is about discovering hidden areas of yourself that are unexpressed.

2. Ability to live with the unchangeable - You have to realize that you cannot tailor a spouse. Sometimes the best way is to "work around a problem" instead of trying to change it.

3. Assumption of performance - This is realizing that you need to continuously work on your marriage, You need to commit on working on it instead of jumping to divorce with every problem.

4. Trust - This can be confused with love. Love can go up and down. But trust should not! You need to be able to be "emotionally naked" with your spouse. This, she says, also leads to a better intimate life.

5. Balance of dependance - You need him and he needs you. Relaying on each other is important. There should be no "power struggle" and you should not be fighting for sameness.

6. Enjoy each other - This means you enjoy their company, but not necessarily their interests. You can sit side by side in comfortable silence. "You do not need to over communicate," she says. You should have sexual pleasure with each other too. Also if you can use humor in your conflicts, this is a really good sign of a healthy marriage she says.

7. Shared history - This is when you develop history and memories together.

8. "Luck" - You need a little bit of luck to get through anything. (This is according to the study). However we determined as an audience that this can be replaced with "Rizq-" everything good comes from Allah.


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1 Comments

Zamzam Afandi - June 29th, 2015 at 8:25 PM
the very impressive aertcle and showing true Islamic values amidts secular society, moreover after being legalised mixed spause in the US.

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