A Successful Marriage: The Missing Link

“And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; verily, in that are signs for people who reflect.” (Qur’an, 30:21)

We’ve all read this verse on countless marriage announcements. But how many have actualized it? How many of our marriages really embody that love and mercy described by Allah? What is going wrong when so many of our marriages are ending in divorce?

According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs, the answer is simple. In his book, Eggerichs explains that extensive research has found that a man’s primary need is for respect, while a woman’s primary need is for love. He describes what he calls the “crazy cycle”—the pattern of argumentation that results when the wife does not show respect and the husband does not show love. He explains how the two reinforce and cause one another.  In other words, when a wife feels that her husband is acting unloving, she often reacts with disrespect, which in turn makes the husband act even more unloving.

Eggerichs argues that the solution to the “crazy cycle” is for the wife to show unconditional respect to her husband and for the husband to show unconditional love to his wife.  This means that a wife should not say that first her husband must be loving before she will show him respect.  By doing so, she will only bring about more unloving behavior.  And a husband should not say that first his wife must be respectful before he will show her love.  By doing so, he will only bring about more disrespectful behavior. The two must be unconditional.

When I reflected on this concept, I realized that looking at the Qur’an and prophetic wisdom, there are no two concepts more stressed with regards to the marital relationship.

To men, the Prophet ﷺ said,

“Take good care of women, for they were created from a bent rib, and the most curved part of it is its top; if you try to straighten it, you will break it, and if you leave it, it will remain arched, so take good care of women.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

He has further stressed: “The most perfect believer in the matter of faith is one who has excellent behavior; and the best among you are those who behave best towards their wives.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet ﷺ has also said, “A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” (Muslim)

Allah says:

“…Live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” (Qur’an, 4:19)

In these jewels of wisdom, men are urged to be kind and loving towards their wives. Moreover, they are urged to overlook their wife’s faults when showing that kindness and love.

On the other hand, when addressing the wife, the focus is different.  Why are women not told again and again to be kind and loving towards their husbands? Perhaps it is because unconditional love already comes naturally to women. Few men complain that their wives do not love them. But many complain that their wives do not respect them. And it is this sentiment which is most stressed in the Qur’an and sunnah, with regards to wives.

Respect can be manifest in a number of ways. One of the most important ways to show respect is the respect of one’s wishes. When someone says, “I respect your advice,” they mean “I will follow your advice.” Respecting a leader, means doing what they say. Respecting our parents means not going against their wishes. And respecting one’s husband means respecting his wishes. The Prophet ﷺ has said: “When any woman prays her five, fasts her month, guards her body and obeys her husband, it is said to her: ‘Enter paradise from whichever of its doors you wish.'” [At-Tirmidhi]

Why are we as women told to respect and follow the wishes of our husbands? It is because men are given an extra degree of responsibility. Allah says: “Men are the protectors and maintainers [qawwamun] of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means . . .” (Qur’an, 4:34)

But won’t this unconditional respect towards one’s husband put us, as women, in a weak, submissive position? Won’t we set ourselves up to be taken advantage of and abused? Quite the contrary. The Quran, the prophetic example, and even contemporary research have proven the exact opposite. The more respect a woman shows her husband, the more love and kindness he will show her. And in fact, the more disrespect she shows, the more harsh and unloving he becomes.

Similarly, a man may question why he should show kindness and love towards even a disrespectful wife. To answer this question, one only needs to look at the example of Omar Ibn ul-Khattab. When a man came to Omar (who was Khalifah at the time) to complain of his wife, he heard Omar’s own wife yelling at him. While the man turned to leave, Omar called him back. The man told Omar that he had come to complain of the same problem that Omar himself had. To this Omar replied that his wife tolerated him, washed his clothes, cleaned his home, made him comfortable, and took care of his children. If she did all of this for him, how could he not tolerate her when she raised her voice?

This story provides a beautiful example for all of us—not only for the men. This story is a priceless illustration of tolerance and patience, which is essential for any successful marriage. Moreover, consider the reward in the hereafter for those who show patience: Allah says, “Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full without reckoning (or measure).” (Qur’an, 39:10)

Also published by InFocus.

About the author

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed received her B.S. Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic Studies and served as the Sisters’ Youth Director for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. She also worked as a writing instructor for Cardinal Stritch University, and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an independent media consultant and a writer for the Huffington Post, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Her written works, including a book chapter on the portrayal of Islam post-911, have appeared in print and online publications worldwide.


  • As salamu alaykum,

    Thank you very much for your article, you mention the right words to accomplish a lifetime project.

    You have touched the essence of a relationship between man and woman, UNCONDITIONAL Love and Respect. And if you alloud me, that is the essence of all communication between all human beings,…we can change the world to their best taking into account Unconditional Love and Respect for the others, since we are conceived to beyond death.


  • Jazakallah khair for this reminder. My husband is such a loving man but I think I do not give him enough respect. Now will try my best to change!

  • JazakAllah khair for posting such an important message.I just wants to make one point,from what I have seen and experienced that when women is not heard,she raises her voice.And this is all she could do.Now according to many advices and islam she could sit down and speak/resolve a matter,but what happens in reality in many houses is that husband just wants to do what he wants to do and doesn’t listens to wife about her opinion.She shouts,screams and then goes to bed,next day is another one……
    I am sure many readers will relate to what I am saying here,but I pray that Allah makes us all follow islam PROPERLY.If we do follow islam properly,the way it is described in this article about this matter or various other articles we read,or in our beloved book Quran,we wouldn’t see such rising problems.
    JZK again for this amazing article.

    • as men who are respected by our wife we have more strength, and our chances of providing more for our family
      is increased, we need not worry about our homes,we have been blessed with very compitant women,we protect and provide, we are assurred peace of mind to focus.
      we see around us the exact opposite, the horrific insecurity of men who have these fragile families that are continually under assault, and result in family turmoil do not have this.

    • yes the same thing here, i can relate. Its like what we feel or think, our oppinions are not relevant and silly.When sometime can actually save them from making a bigger mistake.I am not asking him to follow what i say but at least listen me out.

  • “The more respect a woman shows her husband, the more love and kindness he will show her. And in fact, the more disrespect she shows, the more harsh and unloving he becomes.”

    SubhanaAllah Such a simple doctrine can easily be implementated in almost all relationships (ie child-parent). I greatly appreciate the reminder and beautiful examples from the Quran & Sunnah.

    May Allah sbt grant us the humility and strength to accept our mistakes and correct them. Ameen

    BarakhaAllah Feekhi 🙂


  • Lovely article, jazaki Allahu khair. As I read it, I wondered if there are cultural and personality factors at play in terms of defining what respect means to each particular husband.

    For example, some men are very independent and consider it disrespectful for their wives to offer them help; while other men feel respected by a wife who does even the most minor tasks for them in the home.

    Some men fully delegate and are very contented with wives who run the home while they relax, other men have more of a hands-on, involved managerial style and they want to run the home, and other men have some other styles. These are deep-rooted ideas and feelings about what it is to be a man.

    At the same time, women grow up with certain types of males in their families, and learn what it is to respect a man. If these concepts clash with her husband’s concept of respect, it would seem to follow that there would be problems — not due to a lack of respect per se, but inability to deliver respect in the form in which that would be perceived as respect.

    Is it advised to talk about respect and what it means before marriage? What are some effective ways a woman can find out what respect really means to a suitor (the walk and not the talk), and whether she is capable of respecting him in the ways he wants, (without losing out on who she is and what she wants out of marriage)?

    Around this issue — What do you think are healthy guidelines in terms of adjustment / flexibility / growth versus seeing red flags?

    Jazakum Allahu khairan

    • “Is it advised to talk about respect and what it means before marriage? What are some effective ways a woman can find out what respect really means to a suitor (the walk and not the talk), and whether she is capable of respecting him in the ways he wants, (without losing out on who she is and what she wants out of marriage)?

      Around this issue — What do you think are healthy guidelines in terms of adjustment / flexibility / growth versus seeing red flags?”

      I’d request for the columnist to please respond to the sister’s above-mentioned comments for the benefit of all.

      I also believe (as other commentators do) that a woman’s views should be respected, just as her husband expects respect for his views; an open-hearted discussion of each parties’ understanding of what “respect” constitutes would thus be critical to pre-marital/marital counseling.

    • I like your critical thinking Anon.
      But Im of the opinion that respect proceeds love. We women also desperately need respect. At times you see relationships whereby a man loves his wife with full craze yet has no respect for her. His love becomes so possessive that it becomes abusive. Respect is most important. Respect means allowing you your dignity, and freedom of personality and identity. That’s respect it doesn’t mean bowing down to his or her wishes. Its about blending in differences and concealing minor flaws by emphasizing the good attributes of each other. In all arenas of life respect at work creates a comforting aura of peace to deal with different situations, you don’t haveto love your coworker but you can live with them as long as there is respect.

  • Masya’allah..how i love this dien..
    No words to say, how this dien takes care for woman so much.
    This article is really true..

  • mashAllah! this sister is so on point. her speeches and writings are extremely beneficial. May Allah (swt) reward her for her amazing work.

  • Wonderful article. It is good to be reminded that the husbands react in an un acceptable way for a small thing, that they do so, not because they want to but thats what they are and that how their mind works. When we understand this, instead of getting more upset with your husbands you might even feel sorry for them.
    thank you for the reminder.

    As a reply to the coments of Anon, you are right about the cultural and environmental impact on the issue. But everybody learn and change and adopt through out our lives. We have to evolve with the time and marrige as well. Before getting married we can only see a very very small part of reality. Lots of things happen after. So the key is to have the trust in each other to make it work. And insha allah by getting our selves aware of the reasons for problem and tackling it accordingly might help us sucseed. insha allah

  • Masha’Allah I wish I had read through these articles time ago, but things happen for a reason. Currently I am in a situation where my Husband feels I have disrespected him,

    what anon wrote “At the same time, women grow up with certain types of males in their families, and learn what it is to respect a man. If these concepts clash with her husband’s concept of respect, it would seem to follow that there would be problems — not due to a lack of respect per se, but inability to deliver respect in the form in which that would be perceived as respect” really resonated with me, because i would never intentionally disrespect him however he feels my actions show that I have.

    I don’t know how to get things back on track, I’m praying a lot May Allah (SWT) guide me, I feel like I’m always getting it wrong.

    This website really is helping me cope.

    • I also am in the same situation, what I have said to others many times when I feel I am not being listened to, I said to my husband. He has not spoken to me for almost 3 weeks now after cursing me. Now I feel as if another wrong doesnt make a right, and he is more wrong than me. In order for me to show respect, his behavior has to be respectful as well. He can go to casinos and if I say a word, I am in the wrong. He doesnt want to be reminded of his mistakes. But for me, he will play this out until I end up yelling at him. I don’t know what to do anymore, so this website helps me cope somewhat. And the funny part, he still doesnt know what day I bought the plane tickets for because he didn’t listen to me, he rented a car for the wrong day. I wish he would listen to me like he listens to his male friends, with all ears.

    • i so agree with anon, i am in a similar situation where, i wouldnt even realize that an action i did offended my husband, because i had no intentions to, and he wouldnt even communicate that, so i can be careful next time, while his anger piles up and his love for me negates, i just sit there wondering what i did wrong, at last when he tells me what was wrong, i feel like i havent even known in a life time that that could offend coz i havent seen my father be offended by such and such, so adopting from both sides is important and most of all teh communication without insult…..may Allah help us all…ameen

  • Doesn’t respect have to be earned though? If a husband continually does things that diminish the respect his wife has for him, this is a problem.

  • Very true. This article made me realize the need for a wife to always respect her husband. I think besides respecting his wishes, her respect for him should also be apparent in the tone of her voice when she talks to him when she is angry. Raising her voice will almost always backfire and decrease his love for her.
    Allah knows best.
    Jazakillahu khair for such a lovely, well-written, and well-researched reminder, Yasmin. Barak Allahu feeki.

  • Great article mashallah. I have a question regarding the reference to Omar ibn al khattab reference. I read elsewhere that he said in addition to his wife doing all those chores, it was done even though it was not her responsibility. If this key point is omitted, it would appear that all these chores are mandatory for her to do, when if the husband can afford so, he can outsource it.

  • I agree that a wife should respect her husband, but this article fails to discuss the respect a wife deserves also, thereby implying that a husband’s respect for his wife is not important in the marriage. Isn’t a marriage one about discussion and compromise rather than just “respecting his wishes”? What if a wife disagrees with the husband on a certain point? The wife should be able to trust that her views will be heard and after discussion as a couple, they should reach a conclusion together.

  • Salam Alaykum,

    I just read your article. I know you mean well and mean to give good advice, but when I read this article..I just see it as a rehash of essenialist views of gender. I know most of you well probably disagree, but it unhelpful to assign concepts of “love” and “respect” to a respective gender. Both men and woman want to be respected and loved. There is either or in this situation. What constitutes expressions of “respect” and “love” vary according to the culture and the individual. Couldn’t a husband “respecting” his wife’s advice and wishes (life Muhammad PBUH did with his wife Umm Salaama?), couldn’t a wife’s respect for her husband entail knowing what emotional boundaries not to cross? Each couple is different, each couple has different needs. Any respect/love dynamic depends on life style in addition to personal preferace. Why should a wife have to “respect” hubby’s wishes if she if they are both working professionals and have equal education? Or even as a homemaker, provides indispensable services for the home? Isn’t the greatest sing of love a husband can show his wife is listening to her thoughts and creating a home environment where she feels respected?

    The Qur’an says a married couple are garments for each other. Garments and people come in different shapes and sizes.

    I’m sorry if I misunderstood your post, but to me, it sounds like you calling on wives to obey and husbands to act in a paternalistic fashion. If that is your point, I must very respectfully disagree.

    • what is wrong with husbands behaving as leaders – full leaders – and wives obeying? and yes, what if that *is* essentialist? but what if that is how our Creator made us, and what if that actually *feels* right, when we do it, and brings a huge amount of satisfaction, marital bliss, and greater intimacy, and greater peace? honestly, i’ve tried it and it has brought us incredible joy. i would encourage wives to not dismiss the role of obedience and submission to their husbands simply becuase modern society adn other muslim women view it as weaker, lesser, or a dissappointment. you are not here to please others. find what works for you, and if being the submitting partner who adores the leadership of her man works for you, then embrace it and keep it something private between you and him – no one else needs to know or judge you.

      • also i dont see how education has anythign to do with respect another person’s wishes or being or commands. even at work, you may do indispensible services for your boss, and you may be equally or even more educated as your boss, but your boss is still your boss, and you behave in a way that shows respect for his/her position and rank over you. is that abusive, oppressive, unfair or unacceptable? as far as i know, that is how things are in every country, every single day, in every work place. and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. it makes it possible for the team to function adn work to get done.

  • Wa 3alaykom asalaam (constructive criticism bellow iA)

    I completely agree with you that it is “unhelpful to assign concepts of ‘love’ and ‘respect’ to a respective gender.”:) These are human needs. Some individuals require one more than the other, but such is on an individual and not gender basis. I will actually take your statement just a tad bit farther and state that I believe it is very dangerous for this Ummah to assign primary needs in a marriage based on gender. Yes, Allah made both genders different, but they are also both human. Believe it or not, there are quite a few men that seek love more than respect and quite a few women that wish for respect more than love. Indeed, with love comes respect because love helps one forgive. Respect does not. Every human being should be respected as God’s creation, but when it comes to something as intimate and important for this life and the next as marriage, respect is something that must be earned by both parties.

    You also bring up a critical point that marriage is “about discussion and compromise.” While Yasmin mentions that in a healthy marriage, “the more respect a woman shows her husband, the more love and kindness he will show her. And in fact, the more disrespect she shows, the more harsh and unloving he becomes,” it is also imperative to realize that if she continuously shows him respect and he continuously reacts in a harsh and unloving manner every time, then she is not at fault and must realize that the relationship she is in may very well be neither just nor healthy for her in this life or the next. Allahu a3lam.

    A husband is not a platoon leader that should expect every order to be followed to the T and a wife is not a slave to their husband that follows orders blindly. “…[R]especting one’s husband means respecting his wishes,” not his commands. These are very different terms. A husband is not the Prophet (peace be upon him), however much he may attempt to emulate him. A husband’s order should not be followed blindly—he is not God—for the sake of showing him respect and maintaining the marriage. If it is to our understanding, no matter if we are a man or woman, that something is wrong and if we have the ability to make it right then it is our responsibility as a human being and Slave of Allah to stand up for what is most just; even if that means standing up against our husband or our wife or the president of a country for that matter. A husband and wife (or any human being for that matter) should never order the other to do something. They can only make a request and should do so in a way that is caring and loving no matter which reproductive organs Allah has blessed them with. Allah orders us to free people from bondage, not enslave them. If a woman or man shouts a command at their spouse, the other should not obey. If they do, they are silently telling the shouter that it is ok to shout at me. Allah’s creation deserves more respect than that. The shouter must recognize first that they were wrong and only then should the other even speculate about following through with what should have been a request. Once the shouter has recognized their error, the other can forgive and then respect them for taking a step back and realizing that they needed to make tawba.

    Forgiveness, love, respect, these are all wonderful characteristics that should be acted upon but to a point. Our religion is one of the middle path and moderation. We can forgive someone completely but choose to not respect them if they are continuously careless in their dealings with us despite our efforts.

    As Yasmin began, so shall I end. I agree with her. Allah puts it best:
    “And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; verily, in that are signs for people who reflect.” (Qur’an, 30:21)
    Kew Words: tranquility, love, mercy, between you.
    Love and mercy should be practiced by both husband and wife–equally. In due time, if one gives and receives love and mercy, respect begins to form and both will naturally experience a tranquil state iA ☺ It appears then, that the missing link is love for the sake of Allah SWT.

    I love this deen Alhamdulillah ☺ May Allah guide us to the path that is right iA and may the One forgive me for the errors in my writing and anything that may be incorrect. Thank you Yasmin, jazak Allah khair, for this article and your continuous efforts towards this Ummah. May Allah reward you as much as He is Great. And Allah knows best. Peace be upon the Prophet.

    • where did you come up with: respecting a husband is respecting his wishes not his commands?
      i think that is misleading. what exactly is wrong with respecting his commands?
      i don’t see an issue with that, and i’m a modern, strong career woman. however, i respect and strive to follow my husband’s orders and his wishes to a T.
      i love him as a platoon captain…i find it so admirable, attractive, and keeps things in a beautiful balance in our marriage.

  • I loved this article, I tried it out… I am still lost.. the very fact that respect varies from one man to the other depending on what is perceived as respect from one individual to the other. I used to talk, comment on something I did not like, for example something as simple as he being extremely late on picking me up for my Dr.s appointment… he comes in late and find me frowning, maybe I’ll say something like “thanks” in a suggestive manner, what my husband does is he explains why he was late but treats the whole situation like I do not have a right to get upset or mad, so my frown stays because he is acting indifferently, and he will just totally be indifferent to me for the next days to eternity! All our problems are like that; so what happens is after being totally ignored for a day or even a few days I get even more mad, so I talk, he is still indifferent, accusing me that if I hadn’t been upset we wouldn’t be in this situation.. I get madder… he is not listening…I end up shouting!! the result of that he is sleeping on the couch or anywhere else, also for the next days till eternity unless I come and apologize and makeup.

    I kept on making up for god knows how long until I cannot take it anymore. He says he never get’s mad at me about anything, I am the one always getting upset about something or the other… and I took that to heart for a while, accusing myself for being ungrateful for such a husband… but then I realized that my whole life is revolving around him, If I am going out, I put him into consideration before I even ask him, if I am doing something I involve him and consider whether he will accept it or not also even before asking him, even when I get dressed to go out I only wear what I know he will approve…. I should give my self credit that I do not give him a reason to get mad at me for anything!!
    My main problem I think, is if I get upset, sad, Mad about anything, my husband treats this with complete indifference if not by getting mad himself about me getting mad, he will never resolve a problem between us by making amends or making up with me… and that hurts more than I can tell…..
    For him, getting upset about something he did is considered disrespect, and for that I am deprived of love.

    Religiously, am I asking for too much?

    • what is wrong with your whole life revolving around him? marriage is supposed to be a woman’s path to her Rabb. please, just take this advice: don’t get so petulant and mad when he is late. drop it. if it clearly bothers him so much that you are looking down and reprimnading him in passive aggressive ways, then just let it go. many women have the exact same situation as you. why are you getting angry with your husband? you need to just stop that particular reaction. don’t get angry – that was the advice of Prophet Muhammad saws too.

  • dear Lost
    just focus on yourself. get rid of any expectations of others, and get rid of bitterness. bitterness will kill you. no man is worth that.
    let go and you will be free and you will be likable to boot!

  • while both men and women need both love and respect, which one is the fundamental need differs. it’s that which you need for your social identity, from your spouse and those around you, without which you feel most hurt. everyone will be hurt when not respected, but i would say that for a woman it doesn’t usually invalidate her conception of herself unless the disrespect is severe. but a slighter perception of not being respected is more felt by a man.

    please note that i am, among women, one who is strange in that the method of my thinking is usually considered “masculine” and as a result i am one easily in the possession of autonomy and authority – financially and at work – usually correlated with men. and so of all people i think i know quite a bit about this because despite all that, i know and have long contemplated the differences that mean that i am still, a woman. it is a very lonely and difficult type of person to be, being unable to really relate to women (because of lack of common interest and life focus) or men (because of the different mindset due to biology and different life roles). but that’s a different story.

    the thing is though, it isn’t solely respect from a spouse that is the issue. it is really the man’s own perception of respect. some men with a strong conception of his male integrity therefore are more resistant to the hurt from his wife’s disrespect. yet others, who house their sense of respect in things like having a job and providing for his family, if his ability to do this is impaired and his personal sense is not strong, even with his wife’s full respect he will not be able to overcome his shame. hence why in downturns marriages are strained, not just the actual income loss but because many men struggle with the sense of failure and loss of respect. that’s also why it is a lot easier (not easy, easIER) for a woman to leave her work and follow a husband on an expat job, than for a man to leave his job and follow a wife on an expat job, if there is no suitable work for the husband at the new place. this is a quietly acknowledged issue in the MNC where i work, and among Caucasians as well. maybe in a wider scale it shouldn’t be an issue, but sometimes the woman is a much-needed doctor, or a specialist scientist of whom there are not many in the world and much-needed in the region, so the loss is actually not limited to the individual woman’s career.

    which is why husbands with self-respect grounded in more permanent and transferable things, are creative and positive about alternative things they can do instead wherever they are, or what family solutions to adopt wherever their wives need to go, are worth their weight in gold to us professional women who are in pioneering or essentially fardhu kifayah jobs. i know i must not envy, but i envy the friends i have who are so lucky.

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