Quell Insecurity, Give Space
“You just spent the last half an hour on the phone! What were you discussing that made you laugh so hard? I’ve been waiting for your conversations to end, just to have a scrap of your attention.”
Have you ever known someone who is inherently insecure?
Being in a close relationship with such a person can be rather stifling. This is because insecurity gives birth to character and personality traits that make a person demand from others more than they can give. E.g. those who are insecure suffer from low self-esteem, frequently copy those around them, cling to the loved ones, dislike being alone, and want to feel needed by their loved ones all the time.
They often complain of being ignored or undermined, wallow in self-pity, and regularly guilt-trip their dear ones for supposedly neglecting their rights or being harsh.
Actually, they suffer from fears based on a sense of inherent worthlessness, which makes them consistently undermine and ignore their own positive qualities and strengths. They link their sense of self-worth to others’ need of them, which means that the minute their family or friends get busy in doing something that does not involve them, they feel “ignored” or devalued.
Consequently, they thrive on ensuring that people keep “in need of them” all the time, in some way or the other.
Now imagine being married to an insecure person. Whether it is the husband or the wife who is insecure, the result is usually disastrous, as it affects the couple’s marriage detrimentally. The more self-confident partner starts to feel tied down and manipulated. He or she ends up feeling guilty even for enjoying “normal” life activities, because their spouse makes them feel bad for giving any attention or time elsewhere.
An insecure spouse becomes controlling and interfering, clinging to their partner and often making them feel suffocated and trapped.
Insecure spouses refuse to give their spouse a healthy personal ‘space’ that the latter needs to thrive and grow as an individual.
What is ‘space’?
Any adult needs ‘space’ to succeed; to enable Allah let them grow and morph into what they are destined to be. This space comprises of their personal independence and freedom of choice within the broad boundaries of all actions and endeavors that are permissible in Islam.
Whether it is their time, profession, choices in clothing, lifestyle, or ways of making and spending money, as long as their choices do not result in the disobedience of Allah, they are supposed to be free to do as they please – as responsible, sensible and mature adults.
A healthy marriage allows – rather, facilitates – the growth and personal success of both spouses. The result of a happy marriage shows on both of them in the form of good health, self-confidence, increased productivity and a more ‘buoyant’ disposition and demeanor.
The more caring, respectful and trusting each spouse is of the other; the more the latter grows, thrives and matures because of the union.
The Insecure Spouse
Newlywed husbands and wives should remember that, in the early years of marriage, being clingy, possessive, interfering, and jealous and controlling, can cause damage to their mutual love. It is common, though, for one spouse to be more insecure, and hence more controlling of the other.
Small things, such as how much time a spouse is giving to someone else on the phone, chatting and emailing, be they a family member, friend, or colleague; all this might lead to an insecure and clingy spouse the wrong way.
Their job or profession; how many social outings they attend without their partner – can begin to rub an insecure and clingy spouse the wrong way.
This is especially true for the bored wife who has little to do to fill up her spare time; who constantly ‘waits for her husband to get home’ in order to occupy herself instead of doing something worthwhile to pass her time. Such a wife dislikes being left alone by her husband at social gatherings, even if he is giving time to a relative he meets only once in many years.
As for the insecure husband, he gets jealous even if his wife steps outside the home without him, or talks to someone else, on the phone or online, in his presence. He uses the authority that Islam has afforded him, to promptly place restrictions on his wife as soon as they get married, primarily by stopping her from going out without him, or from meeting her family on a reasonable basis, or even pursuing permissible hobbies, education, or work that does not violate any laws or commandments of Allah.
Insecure wives and husbands thus ‘keep an eye’ on their spouse all the time. They check the latter’s email inboxes and mobile phones to survey their text messages and emails, ensuring that there are none from the opposite gender. They hang around when their spouse talks on the phone, fearful that something ‘secret’ might be discussed behind their back. When their spouse is out elsewhere, especially if they are enjoying themselves with others, they keep calling to ask them when they will return home.
If not checked, in the first year of marriage these minor self-esteem issues can blow up quickly, escalating into bigger relationship problems.
There are ways of giving each other space, in order to retain their individual identity whilst still maintaining and enjoying a close emotional bond in the marriage.
The First Few Years – Make or Break
The first 2 or 3 years of marriage are different from the succeeding ones, in that, most spouses desire exclusive time with each other.
These years are usually slow, with a lot of spare time sans the distraction and diversion of babies. Sometimes, wives find themselves getting bored, and if their husbands do not take them out, or are busy in work, they can get very frustrated, clingy and homesick (wanting to go to their parents’ home).
When together, the couple should try to enjoy diverse activities e.g. they can take road trips, go on quiet nature walks, visit museums or libraries, or undertake inexpensive domestic travel in their spare time, such as holidays, to keep themselves occupied.
When one spouse is busy, or needs to give his or her time elsewhere e.g. to study for an important exam, or attend a conference in another city, the left-behind, idle partner should be careful that they do not start moping around and complaining of boredom.
Rather, they should take this “free” time as an opportunity to do something that they are otherwise unable to do when their spouse is around. These things could be like catching up with family and friends, reading a book, attending an online webinar or short course, sleeping in, writing a journal entry/blog post, pursuing a hobby (e.g. gardening), working on a project or deadline, spring cleaning their room, or even cooking or baking.
Maintaining the Balance
It is very important to be able to differentiate between a spouse’s genuine complains and nagging stemming from insecurity. Time apart should be restricted only to necessities, especially in the first few, formative years of marriage. Socializing without one’s spouse should be a once-in-a-while occurrence, not a regular feature or daily habit. For spouses who are insecure by nature, it is imperative that they realize that their inherent insecurity will cause problems for their own selves.
They should not just curb any negative thoughts, doubts and fears about their husband or wife that come into their heads, but should also find productive pastimes to fill up their spare time, when their spouse is occupied elsewhere.
As they say, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. And Muslim marriages are prime targets of the Shaitan.
As far as personal space goes, the more of it one gives to their life partner, the more love, care and respect they get in return.