Divorce is a life-altering decision, regardless of how long you were married or how many children you have. Not only will your physical circumstances change, but your psychological well-being takes a hit as well; it is an extremely vulnerable time. J. Samia Mair opens up and shares her thoughts following her divorce and turns to the words of Allah for comfort.
Keeping It Together When a Marriage Falls Apart
J. Samia Mair
Everything was upside down. Unlike my colleagues who counted the days to the weekend, I looked forward to Mondays when I was going back to work. And I dreaded Fridays, knowing that the weekend was coming. I remember telling my ex-husband that home should be a place of refuge from the world, not a place of turmoil. It should be a place where spouses support, encourage, and love each other, not a place of belittlement, tyranny and fear. When your worst enemy is your spouse, there can be very little peace at home.
But I did have Mondays and four more additional days of work during which my life was “normal”. It wasn’t that I had an exceptional place of employment. I liked my job and got along with my co-workers and superiors, but work is work. It was very demanding at times and there are always office politics to maneuver. But it was an escape from my marriage and it was an aspect of my life that was under control and heading in a good direction.
My social relationships were also in order. I had friends and family members to lean on for support and ask advice. I knew that I was not alone in the terrible situation that had become my marriage. And I had no children, which usually makes divorce tremendously more difficult and complicated.
I also exercised regularly. Running has always been therapeutic for me, not just in a physical sense. I could run for miles and forget that I was running—no thoughts, no worries, just immersed in the immediate experience. I cherished those moments that I could just relax and temporarily forget about my marital troubles.
And I always had an intellectual outlet that I was pursuing. Whether studying comparative religions—I was not a Muslim at the time—or trying to learn a new language, or getting certified in some field, I tend to feel much better when I feel that I am improving.
Experience has taught me that the key to keeping it together when your marriage is falling apart is to compartmentalize—in other words, to separate the distinct parts of your life, so when one of them is presenting exceptional difficulties, the others (or most of the others) are going fairly well. Thus, when my marriage was in a horrible state, my career, my social relationships, my physical health and my intellectual growth were okay.
Of course, this is easier said than done. It takes a concerted effort to keep other aspects of your life in order when your marriage is falling apart. You are sad and emotionally exhausted. The death of a marriage is devastating, even if you are thrilled to get out of it. New challenges and responsibilities present themselves, which can be daunting. But it is crucial not to let other aspects of your life get absorbed in the pain of your divorce; you want to avoid the domino effect. Having stability elsewhere will ease your transition into your new life and give you the ability and I dare say, sanity, to heal and move on.
It is completely reasonable to be thinking at this point that I had it easy to the extent I had a job, no children and in an environment where divorce was perfectly acceptable. And that is all true. But I didn’t have Islam at the time.
Our deen is full of guidance on what to do during difficulties. For example, Allah, subhana wa ta’ala, tells us in the Qur’an as interpreted,
Allah does not charge a soul with more than what it can bear. (2:286)
If you are going through a disastrous marriage know that you can get through it and that the pain will eventually subside.
Surely every hardship is followed by ease. (94:5 & 6)
Also remember that Allah, subhana wa ta’ala, loves the sabireen, those who are steadfast in difficult times, (see 3:146) and that He, subhana wa ta’ala, is with them.
O Believers, seek help in steadfastness and in the Prayer. Allah is with those who are steadfast. (2:155)
Comfort is also found in the fact that there are many blessings in tribulations. Sins are erased; you become closer to Allah, subhana wa ta’ala; you receive blessings for being steadfast; you can become more compassionate towards others; you realise that things could be worse, as well as many other benefits.
Indeed, even the smallest tribulations have blessings in them. According to our beloved Prophet, sallallahu Aaayhi wa salaam,
No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn. (Bukhari)
Numerous places in the Qur’an, Allah, subhana wa ta’ala, tells us to put our trust in Him. We must accept the tribulations placed in our path and recognise that there is ultimate good in them, even if we cannot see it.
Additionally, we must know the fiqh of divorce and act accordingly, because while divorce is allowed in Islam, it is not to be taken lightly.
Of all the lawful acts the most detestable to Allah is divorce. (Abu Dawud)
Understanding the fiqh of divorce should also help you deal with cultural attitudes towards divorce that have nothing to do with Islam. You may not change other people’s beliefs and they may not support you, but the knowledge that you are acting in accordance with the deen should give you more confidence in your decision. Indeed, in Islam we are not supposed act unless we know the rules that pertain to what we are undertaking, whether it be marriage, divorce, establishing a business, etc.
Knowing and acting upon your deen and keeping the other areas of your life in order, to the extent you can, will lessen the trauma of divorce. Undoubtedly, divorce is much harder for someone who cannot easily support herself or has young children to care for. But divorce is never easy. It is painful and it often takes a long time to heal and to get your new life in order.
But you will move on.
You can be happy again.
J. Samia Mair is the author of five children’s books, the most recent Zak and His Good Intentions (2014) and The Great Race to Sycamore Street (2013), and currently working on sequels to both. She is a Staff Writer for SISTERS Magazine and Discover, The magazine for curious Muslim kids and has published in magazines, books, anthologies, scientific journals and elsewhere.
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