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Marriage - Strength to Strength

Marriage - Strength to Strength

Issue 67 April 2010

35 years into their marriage, Sabiha and Saif discuss how a mutual respect and understanding for one another has taken their marriage from strength to strength.

Sabiha: Our mothers were family friends before we were married. After seeing me at a wedding, Saif’s mother approached mine and suggested setting us up. In the summer of that year, we were engaged! Nowadays, that thought shocks people; but back then, that was the way things were done.

The first time I ever saw Saif was on the day of our nikah. I remember being really scared; not so much by the prospect of marriage itself but more so with the realisation that I’d be leaving my family- of which I was the only daughter - to move to a foreign country where I knew absolutely no one. I knew this experience was going to bring a significant change in my life; but considering most things in life come with great uncertainty, I embraced my faith and embarked on this journey – knowing that whatever was to come would be for the best.

After our nikah, we did not live together as Saif returned to England for work whilst I stayed in Pakistan. We spoke on the phone often which helped dispel many of my fears associated with moving abroad. Those conversations were essential; they conveyed much of Saif’s character. I learnt that he was caring, kind-natured and most importantly, he had a good heart. Those conversations served as a reassurance; I knew that I wouldn’t be alone and that he was going to look after me.

A year later, on February 2nd, we had a small wedding reception which was to be my send off to my new life. Naturally, my memories of the day remain bittersweet. I was excited for this new chapter in my life but I distinctly remember this feeling of a reel playing out before my eyes. My 24 years of life up until that point flashed before me and I realised that the next time I crossed over the threshold of my family home, it would be as a married woman and not as the much loved, innocent only-daughter that I had been treated as before that. It was most definitely a strange feeling; I realised then that I was leaving one life behind to start a brand new one.

I remember being quite depressed for a few months after moving to Britain. It was a big transition; from a warm, sunny and scenic Pakistan to a cold, wet, and grey England! I missed my family terribly but settled into married life soon enough. I guess I always had an idea of what a wife’s ‘duties’ were but I remember being quite surprised by the fact that Saif was a proficient cook. He was always there to boost my confidence; he even taught me how to drive so that I’d feel more engaged and active in our new life here.

I’ve always appreciated Saif’s sense of humour and general light-heartedness. He can provide such great relief in the face of adversity with these qualities alone. He’s never really stuck to the traditional gender roles expected in Asian families, either. He’s always ensured that our relationship be that of equals; in relation to helping around the house, fi nancial independence and encouraging and building my confi dence whenever it was necessary. He’s always been a great support to me and continues to be to this day.

Saif:  My mother saw Sabiha at a family friend’s wedding in 1974 and decided she was the girl for me! I was looking to get married at the time but I worked in England and I knew I’d have to return. Regardless of that, my mother knew that Sabiha belonged to a great family and didn’t want to pass up the opportunity.

I knew, however, that the move would be difficult for Sabiha. I was nervous about how she’d feel being so far away from her family and moving half way across the world and integrating into a different culture. Despite that, I hoped I’d be able to look after her and that my companionship would be sufficient enough not to make her feel alone. I myself was excited to start a new chapter in my life and left ready to embrace the responsibility of having to look after and protect Sabiha.

I think the dynamic of our relationship is best described as ‘yin and yang’, though if you ask our children they would probably describe us as Laurel and Hardy! We contrast pretty well; Sabiha with her confident, sometimes fi ery temper is balanced by my placid and gentle nature.

Sabiha is more serious and reserved whilst I think I’ve always been rather chatty! As I say, we’re a healthy balance. Fundamentally, I think, we share the same core values. Of course, 35 years is quite some time! Both of us strongly believe that what makes our marriage work is having similar interests like gardening and reading but also pursuing our own, personal interests. It’s imperative to give each other space; we are, essentially, individuals. And it’s maintaining that individuality but finding common ground to function that makes a marriage work. 

I guess the fact that after our wedding we moved to England and had no family here meant that we only had each other to turn to; in the good times and the bad and that consequently brought us closer together. We’ve realised very quickly that one of the most important things in marriage, indeed in any relationship, is to communicate with your partner and to have patience, understanding and mutual respect.

I’ve always admired Sabiha’s grace and beauty; a feeling which has only intensifi ed over the years. I’m grateful for how she’s raised and nurtured our three beautiful children and I value the partnership she has provided me with over the last 35 years. I only hope and pray that we get to enjoy another 35 years.

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29 Mar 10, 19:32

and what are western ideals exactly??

in the asian communities, theyre more aconcerned that the prospective daughter in law is fair skinned and under 20 more than anything

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25 Mar 10, 12:39

That was a lovely read! Many of us have moved away from understanding the essence of marriage and seek partners based on western ideals!

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