Guarding Our Relationship with the 'Self'
If we were to create an overall composite profile of couples
who seek marital counseling, it would look like this:
- One or both spouses is resistant to learning new
things, closed to new experiences, and static rather than
dynamic in their daily manner of living.
- One or both is in denial about their issues, blaming
others for their difficulties, and not very open to receiving
feedback about their shortcomings; not completely honest
with themselves about their issues or shortcomings.
- One or both have impulse control issues, compulsions, or addictions.
- One or both is disorganized with regard to time management, finances, household, etc.
- One or both have issues of anxiety, anger, or depression.
- One or both lack confidence or assertiveness in the
relationship and resign themselves to an unfulfilled marriage and/or fife, or resort to passive-aggressive behavior.
- One or both is lazy, lacking motivation or inspiration,
feeling like a victim of external circumstances, failing to
make the marital relationship a priority.
- One or both are unhappy or even miserable with
their marriage and their life in general.
We can avoid much of the above-described misery by
working on ourselves and taking an inventory of self to see
how we are doing with regard to each of the aspects listed
below. A married couple can learn new skills such as
empathic listening or conflict resolution. However, the two
spouses each bring to the relationship their own personal
strengths and weaknesses. If both are committed to self-transformation, working on their own issues, the
relationship can strengthen and deepen each and every day. Each
aspect of self listed below refers to the corresponding
description above. In addition to each spouse's personal
happiness and the success of the marital relationship, it is so
important to work on the self because we are the primary
models for our children of health or unhealthy relationship
with regard to self.
Each of the traits listed below
is part of the human potential to
attain to an integrated state of
being whole and complete.
Every individual has the challenge of harmonizing the various
parts of his personhood-his
thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, values, motives, and behaviors-into an uncompromised, congruent whole. We
can look at the personhood as a system whose various parts
are combined and organized, an arrangement of personality
and character aspects and attributes that form a complex
yet unitary whole. Each aspect listed below is an essential
provision on the journey of self-transformation, the striving
for excellence (ihsan) that Islam teaches us. Those who are
interested in further in-depth discussion about each of the
following aspects, can find a full article on each aspect at www.salaamhearts.com
1. Openness to new experience and change
This indicates a person's desire and willingness to seek out
new ideas, activities, and/or people. These individuals feel
comfortable with change and do not adhere strictly to
familiar routines and experiences unless these facilitate
their health, happiness, and success. There are always new
opportunities for change, whether in our external world of
experience or in our internal world of thoughts, feelings,
actions, and habits.
Those who are comfortable with change have an open mindedness and inclination
to personal growth and
and discovery. Those who
are open to new experiences tend to be curious
and creative-minded, and
to enjoy variety. They understand that Islam is a self-tranformational religion and way of life.
Integrity is essential to spiritual excellence. It is also at the
core of a truly happy and fulfilling life. Cultivating integrity
and honesty involves a gradual dropping away of all pre-
tense and manipulation in one's interactions with others.
Integrity as a manner of living that adheres to moral and
ethical principles, results in a process of healing all that is
fragmented, broken, or wounded within the soul.This
manner of living also incorporates a dedication to facing
one's shortcomings and honestly seeing the reality of one's
everyday life and relationships.
To drop our egoistic pretenses and practice living each
moment centered in, and coming from, the heart, is a life-long journey that promises the greatest happiness and fulfillment. It is the path we can take to reclaim our Jitrah, the
primal, pristine human nature we were born with.
3. Self-discipline / Self-governance
Self-discipline is a capacity to behave in a way that serves our intentions and goals. It is necessary to cultivate self-discipline in order to achieve optimal health, happiness, and
success. Lacking self-control leads to indulgence in impulsive or habitual behaviors and attitudes that disregard the
principle of cause and effect. Realizing that an action has
consequences and that we can make a choice at each and
every moment of our daily lives, is the first step toward the
desire to strive for self-governance. Self-governance, or the
lack thereof, affects every aspect of our lives, including
physical and mental health, relationships, particularly marriage and parent/child relationships, career, practice of
Islam, school, and so on. Controlling impulses and whims
is a profound ability that can be learned at any age, and can
be strengthened anytime one makes an intention to further
develop this capacity. Sabr (patience and perseverance) is at the
core of self-discipline and self-governance.
4. Orderliness and Organization
Being orderly and organized with one's belongings, priorities, and habits of living is essential to feeling peaceful in
daily life. Oftentimes, disorderliness is a reflection of a disorganized thinking style. It's been said that "Organized
minds make successful people. "The truth is that feeling
relaxed and comfortable, as well as accomplishing one's
goals, is much more possible when one's interior (mind)
.and exterior (environment) are neat and tidy. When your
home, closets, office, or desk, for example, are messy and
cluttered, it is very difficult to get things done in an efficient way. And enjoying the process is next to impossible.
Being orderly and organized comes naturally to some people, but it is a skill that can be learned and the benefits are
enormous, positively affecting every aspect of one's life.