Islamic marriage advice and family advice

How to decide if its time to divorce?

law fiqh marriage divorce

Dear Brother/Sister,

I hope the message reaches you and that you can provide some help for me in what has been a really tough time.

I am currently married with 2 children and my wife is pregnant with a 3rd.

We have been married for 7 years now but there have been problems from day one: mainly petty arguments and shouting (mainly my wife). My wife has often been verbally abusive and shouted badly at my parents once.

Things got serious 2 years ago when my father died: my wife had promised me before we got married that we would live with my mum when my dad died (it was a major thing for me to get clear at the time of marriage). We moved in to my mums house two years ago when my dad died and then the rows really began. About 6 months after my dads death my wife moved out with my children after a seemingly small argument about her parents who live in another city. I managed to persuade her to come back but she did the same thing a year later after a tiny argument over a toy that her dad had given us for our kids.

She left in a rage with the children and we have basically been seperated now for about seven months. I tried moving back in a few months ago with my wife but over another small thing she escalated the row to such a depth that she called the police on me even though I had at no point been verbally or physically abusive. I therefore left and moved in with my mum.

The situation is very difficult because my wife is depressed and on treatment but I can't live with her mood swings anymore. In addition she hasn't spoken to my mum for about 3 months despite living around the corner and has said that even though my mum is on her own with no one to look after her she will never live with her. May I point out that other than some silly mother-in-law comments and digs, my mum never treated my wife badly and has gone out of her way to always help her with looking after our kids in the past and cooked pratically every day for my wife and me when we lived with her.

I currently therefore feel like giving up with the marriage. We are going for relationship counselling but I am not really sure that will help. I pray to Allah every day and in every namaaz (prayer) to give me clarity. On the one hand, I want to make sure my kids are looked after and supported and even though my wife's behaviour has been bad, I want to make sure she is OK.

On the other hand, I can't get over the fact that she will not live with my mum and is not talking to her and also her abusive behaviour towards me and the bad manner that she has dealt with family issues. Her mum has a mental health problem and her dad has supported her through thick and thin (despite her own mum behaving badly towards her dad in public by the way she speaks to him) and I think my wife expects the same.

Please advise on how I can sort out this difficult situation and move towards a conclusion? I want a peaceful life and I am only in my mid thirties and wonder whether it's time to move on and just focus on my children while accepting that the marriage is finished.


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7 Responses »

  1. That's where you loose phase marriage is not something u give up on u make it work I say sorry u open up say I'm hurting u don't look for the bad in ur spouse but for the good u make dua u don't judge .... How do u knw for sure ur mom wasn't bad to her? R u the 24/7 ? no.... All moms will deny being the bad one only a wise will admit the truth ....and that Is rare .... someone don't treat smbidy bad just like that ... There must be a reason .... Even my sister inlaw acts all sweet but when she's alone wit me she treats me like a dog till today my husband has no clue and won't believe me she so jeAlouse of me it eats her up...

  2. I mean u say sorry... U open up

  3. Salaams,

    I could be wrong, but it sounds to me like your wife committed to living with your parents when you first married on good faith. I'm sure no one anticipated the loss of your father, and it seems to me that once that occured two things happened: 1. Your mother became more needy, whether emotionally or practically or both; and 2. your wife became the one everyone expected to take up that slack. I think it might have seemed like a little too much for her at the time, perhaps a little more than she was capable (being clinically depressed) of giving, and so that's when the problems with her in earnest. I think while she may have had good intentions when she promised you she would do this, getting into the reality of the situation proved to be too much for her and she realized she could not fulfill that promise.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying she went about things the right way or always treated people as she should've. I don't excuse anyone for verbally mistreating anyone, regardless of the circumstances. She should be accountable for her behavior, to the extent she is in control of it (and this is something that can be tricky to determine when mental illness is involved).

    There's one thing I want to say, however. When your wife married, she married you. She didn't marry your mother, although she is now part of your family and adab would dictate that she treat your mother with some respect. That being said, she is not obligated to look after your mother's needs whatever they are. It was indeed kind of your mother to help your wife out with things around the house, and of course most women would try to reciprocate on some level. You mentioned that she has not spoken to your mother in 3 months, but I'm not clear why it's required that she does?

    One thing you have to accept, brother, is that you didn't marry a "regular" girl. If you wanted a girl who returned all social graces and had acted stable, then you shouldn't have married someone who was struggling with a mental illness. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps neither one of you knew she had this problem when you married. Now that you know, you have to adjust your expectations to something more reasonable for her. You can't hold an unhealthy person to the same standard as a healthy person, but you can do some things to try to help that person become healthier. It's like this: if someone were extremely overweight, you wouldn't start them on the same exercise regimen as someone who was healthy and fit and had been active for years, would you? So with your wife, you can't keep comparing her to a woman who is more functional. Your wife is sick, and she is dysfunctional. However, even people with depression can learn to have healthier habits and relationships.

    I don't think enabling, like her father may have done, is the answer. I do think that you should at least start by taking all the expectations around your mother off your wife for a while. Make her only responsible for the things in her immediate control, which are being a good wife to you, a good mother to your children, and taking care of her health (mental and physical) as best she can. You can help her by changing your part in the patterns, because you can't have an argument with just one person. If you have been having chronic arguments, then I'm positive you have been playing your part. If an argument starts, tell her that you will not argue about it but you will be happy to calmly discuss solutions to whatever the problem is when she is able to. Anything else she says further to try to goad you into it, just ignore and keep repeating the same thing, and after a couple times even tell her, "I am not saying any more about this and I will not respond to you in this state". If you can do this consistently and keep yourself under control, I guarantee it will force her to change her approach to you.

    Another thing you can do is hold her accountable to her own wellbeing. If she is taking medication for her depression, require her to take it consistently without skipping doses. If she is doing that and it doesn't seem to help, perhaps she needs to see her psychiatrist and have the meds re-evaluated to see if she's taking the best ones for her condition. She should also have a private counselor of her own that she sees regularly outside of your relationship therapy. Finally, if you think the relationship counselor you are seeing is not helping or being ineffective, find another one! You don't have to settle for a poorly skilled therapist.

    One final note, I am not sure why the issue of living with your mother is so important to you. You never really clarified that in this post, and I wonder if your wife truly understands why this is of value to you. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to re-assess that for yourself, just to make sure you aren't wanting that for the wrong reasons? There are many ways to support and respect your mother that don't require you to share a residence with her. If your expectation was, and still is, that you married someone to care for your mother in your dad's absence, then it may be that you are neglecting the value and rights your wife has of her own and she may very well be reacting to this. Your mother may truly need someone to take care of her now that she's alone, but there are many options to solve that dilemma that don't necessitate the person being your wife. It may be that the best solution is to hire a caretaker or companion for her, and let your wife handle the load she's already carrying her, which sounds like a load enough.

    I know I said a lot, but please take the time to consider all of this and any other advice you get. I can tell you that a marriage that only is afflicted with "arguments" is better off than a lot of other marriages. that's a very solveable problem, and there are options to help your wife's condition as well. I think your marriage might have a lot worth saving so try to work on these ways of doing so before resorting to thoughts of divorce.

    -Amy Editor

  4. Salam o alaikum,

    Read the Quran, it will guide you very clearly on what to do.

    1. Counseling is good - give it your best honest and optimistic shot. Also it gives you a good chance to observe your wife and determine how honest she is in her implications and how interested she is in working this out herself.
    2. Arbitrate (someone from her side and someone from your side)
    3. Agree terms and start over or part ways in the most peaceful manner. InshaAllah you both will find good futures and your kids will understand in time inshaAllah. You both make a pact to leave your issues at the door when it comes to the kid's benefit.

    There is a huge amount of speculation about what Islam says about divorce. Most people do not really know how much Quran mentions this issue however what everyone knows is a hadith from Abudawud on Divorce being the most hated of all allowed acts (which till date has not be authenticated as Sahih).

    There is a reason why the Quran details divorce and its stipulations, so people in your situation can take guidance from it.

    Also do not forget that you are the leader of your family - you have rights and accountabilities both. Make sure whatever decision you make, you will be held accountable in front of Allah swt for the power vested in you by sharia.

    Therefore only you can answer the question if its time and/or reason to divorce after making sure you have carried out all efforts to reconcile in line with the Quranic teaching.

    May Allah swt give us all guidance and patience.

  5. Thank you both (Amy and Saqib)
    Your comments are very detailed and constructive and have left me with a lot to think about
    I guess when your wife is no longer talking to your mother and you are from a close knit family
    it has the effect of socially isolating you from your own support network.
    I thought that a wife should do every thing to be 'obedient' to the wishes of her husband
    on the other hand may be Allah SWT has placed a great deal of good in this aspect of my wife that I can not see.


    • Asalaam alaikum,

      You wife should have her medications rechecked and perhaps either have the dosage changed, try different drugs or seek new types of medical care, if her condition does not improve. Her mood swings could be happening because she isn't taking them as Sister Amy suggested, but it is also likely that if she has been on them for a period of time, she is building a resistance to them. It's also important to remember that meds are not a cure and the underlying problems must be dealt with in order for her to live a peaceful and stable life with you.

      Also, I know that most people would not see it this way, but it is possible that your wife felt that she lost some control as a wife and mother, when her mother-in-law prepared all the meals. She may have seen it as an intrusion on her wants and needs in providing for her family. If your wife took pride in her cooking and this aspect of your marriage, then she would be naturally hurt by this. If she felt this way, then on a subconscious level, she would have felt a rift between you and she because of this.

      Another point to mention is that by living apart and not having or observing conjugal rights, you are both living in sin at this time. So you can no longer delay the process to reconciliation, as it is of paramount value and must be addressed. You therefore must talk to your wife and see if this marriage can be saved and reach some kind of compromise quickly to reconnect your emotional and marriage bonds.

      However, there is great solace to be found here in your statement:

      I currently therefore feel like giving up with the marriage. We are going for relationship counselling but I am not really sure that will help. I pray to Allah every day and in every namaaz (prayer) to give me clarity. On the one hand, I want to make sure my kids are looked after and supported and even though my wife's behaviour has been bad, I want to make sure she is OK.

      Give the counseling time to work and make compromises when necessary, but do not allow these compromises to diminish your respective Islamic roles as husband and wife. Since your mother is very close, I think that for now, things can return to normal by giving up on the idea that you must all live together. Solidify your marriage, visit your mother often, but do not insist that your wife always accompany you to do this and start bonding with your wife again. The last part is so important.

      It is evident that despite what you may think, your words show that DO want to save this marriage. You just need to strike the right balance. I encourage you to do this as quickly as possible.

  6. Don't leave your wife....keep her seperately from your mum and be kind to her and give her some time and you take care of your mum and dont expect her to look after ur mum or to be with her under one roof....generaly if 2 women live together there will be sooo much of problems.while ..further it is natural any mother would never like their son to be closer to their wives than them and vise versa

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