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When Love Isn't Enough – What I Do To Stay Motivated In My Marriage

Written by: Naielah Ackbarali, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Naielah Ackbarali

Everyone has their theories about what makes a marriage successful. 


A romantic couple sitting on the bed while reading a book

Many people swear by Dr Gary Chapman's 5 love languages. Others applaud the work of Dr John Gottman's Four Horsemen. Some mention Dr Michele Weiner-Davis's sex-starved marriage advice. A few even take it way back to Dr John Gray's gender difference theories


I think each expert is credible and provides a good amount of evidence to back up their claims. I have tried a mixture of their tips in my marriage, in addition to encouraging my clients to do the same. 


But what I have found is that there is a deeper issue at stake that many relationship experts just don't address, and that is: Why should you do this stuff anyway?


Your spouse can get on your nerves. They can make you angry. They can hurt your feelings. They can disappoint you. 


Why should you sacrifice your time, your energy, and your effort for their sake? 


It is a question that I get all the time. It usually comes right after I suggest possible solutions for how to fix a marriage problem. 


Whether it is advising spouses to spend more quality time together, to practice good communication with each other, to respect boundaries, or to fulfill neglected needs, the next question that inevitably pops up is:


Why should I be the one to do that?


This comes as no surprise to me anymore. From my personal and professional experience, what I have discovered is that love for your partner isn't enough of a reason to keep the momentum going in a long-term relationship. 


Feelings vs. Facts


There are moments when I don't feel like doing things for my spouse too.


It could be because I was hoping that my husband would do something for me, but he didn't get around to it and that put a damper on my mood. 


However, if I only allowed my emotions to dictate what moves I make in my marriage, I probably wouldn't be happily married. 


For example, when I feel upset at my husband, my emotions can influence me to feel like he doesn’t care about me. Yet, when I calm down and think about the situation, I realize that it was just my perception in the heat of the moment.


The thoughts going through my head weren't always 100% accurate. In fact, many times they were one-sided. What I thought was the problem when I was feeling angry may not be the real issue in the grand scheme of things.


Surprisingly, I am not alone. In my marriage coaching sessions, I have found that when emotions run high, most people also struggle to see the full picture. This negatively influences their ability to be fair in their assessment of their situation.


Feelings quickly become facts and facts are distorted through negative emotions. All of which impact our personal motivation to want to give back in our relationship. 


Sometimes I ask my clients who are demotivated if they love their spouse. Nine times out of ten a person will say, "I do love them but…"


That 'but' is what I am talking about. Our feelings around a given issue can overpower the unconditional love that we are supposed to have for our spouse, which affects our ability to stay motivated. 


That's why I tap into three sources of motivation whenever my emotions push me to stop giving back in my marriage.

Motivation Source 1: God's love


We have been bombarded with messages from society that love is all you need to make a relationship work. But in all honesty, being selfless only goes so far. Most people become deflated whenever their spouse fails to meet their expectations. 


In the Qur'an (the Muslim holy scripture), God commands humankind to act with excellence and then says that He loves the doers of good. (Qur'an, 2:195) 


A doer of good (muhsin) is someone who goes above and beyond. They excel in their actions and dedicate themselves to striving for perfection for God's sake. 


Their main motive is not to gain the temporary benefits of this worldly life, but it is to gain the love and eternal pleasure of God. 


When God loves a good doer, He blesses their life in immeasurable ways. He protects them, guides them, takes care of them, and fulfills their needs. He inspires them with peace, contentment, and happiness. 


Doing good deeds for God's sake is the ultimate reason why I give back in my marriage. When I think of the spiritual return for my contributions, I am empowered to act and react in ways that I never imagined.


Humans are fallible, including our spouses. They will always disappoint us at one stage or another, but God never ceases to be there for us. He continues to rain down His blessings in our lives, even through difficulty and affliction. 


My faith is what fuels me to dedicate myself to my marriage, especially during my lowest moments. It is love for God and His love for me that inspires my soul. 


God says, "Is the reward for goodness anything but goodness?" (Qur'an, 55:60)


When a believer does good in this life, God promises to do even better. The ultimate gift is that He will recompense the person's actions with everlasting Paradise.


With this goal in mind, I never lose when I give to my spouse. I am always a winner because I know that God will give me back so much more. 


Motivation Source 2: My personal values


Our personal values are internal beliefs that guide our everyday decisions. 


For example, a person who values honesty will avoid lying and cheating. A person who values loyalty will show up for others during hard times. A person who values justice will defend the truth no matter the circumstance.


Our values define who we are, what we stand for, and where we head in life. They shape our character and define our integrity.


In Islam, Muslims are taught to live according to a value system that is based upon revelation from God. Islamic values include truthfulness, compassion, humility, altruism, gratitude, and generosity. 


Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) served as the greatest and best example of how to demonstrate these principles. Muslims are in awe of his example and seek to emulate his noble way in every shape and form possible.


When I am conflicted about how to be in my marriage, I think about what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would encourage me to do. 


I reflect on his marriage stories and try to extract lessons from them. I read his sayings and appreciate the wisdom of his words. 


One of my favorite narrations is that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said the best people from his community are those who are the best to their spouses. (Tirmidhi, 3895) 


I want to be one of those people. Consequently, I am morally driven to succeed in my marriage.


Thus, when I show my husband respect, it is because I believe it is the right thing to do. 


When I show my husband love, it is because I am convinced it is the correct course of action. 


When I show my husband mercy, it is because I feel compelled to pardon and overlook. 


No one can convince me to be a devout spouse. I must first be the one who wholeheartedly affirms that it is one of my highest priorities.


I actively decided to get married; so it only makes sense that part of my job thereafter is to do whatever is in my capacity to stay happily married.


Motivation Source 3: The need for companionship


God says that He created everything in pairs. (Qur’an, 78:8)


The truth is that we are not meant to be alone. Humans are social creatures and we need regular company to feel emotionally satisfied and fulfilled. 


Our spouse should be our greatest companion and our best friend. Friends take care of each other and look out for each other's best interests. 


Friends show up through thick and thin. Their goal is to do what it takes to preserve and protect your companionship.


A common phenomenon that I have seen is when people are unhappy with their relationship, they start keeping score.


The problem is that they tend to only keep track of all the good things that they are doing while overlooking their spouse’s contributions. Unfortunately, this creates tunnel vision and exacerbates problems.


If we want to be a good friend, we need to also be on the lookout for any good that our spouse is doing, even if it is not exactly what we want. What matters is that both people are trying their best to honor the marital bond in the capacity that they can.


If we are married to someone who is a good person, we shouldn’t fear that our spouse will take advantage of our generosity. Quite the contrary, the nature of a healthy companionship is that when one person contributes, the other person feels compelled to give back too.


So, when we act with love, we will receive love. 


When we consider our spouse's needs, we will inspire our spouse to think about our needs.


When we give from our hearts, we will teach our spouses to reciprocate with a similar tenderness.


Kindness is catching. Thus, our aim must be to form habits that perpetuate a cycle of continued excellence in our marriages. Only then can we claim to be true friends.


Do you want to strengthen your friendship with your spouse? Unsure of where to start? I can help you. 


Check out the Muslim marriage coaching options on my website. We offer couples coaching and premarital coaching.


For more Muslim marriage advice, grab a copy of my book “Secrets of Successful Muslim Couples: Marriage Tips for a Lifetime.”


Those seeking to marry can read my book co-authored by my husband Anas Sillwood “Choosing Your Other Half: Marriage Tips for Muslim Singles.” All my Islamic marriage books can be found on Amazon.

You can follow me on my social media for updates and free marriage tips on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and visit my website for more info!

Naielah Ackbarali Brainz Magazine

Naielah Ackbarali, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Naielah Ackbarali is the founder and CEO of Muslima Coaching. She is passionate about teaching people how to create meaningful relationships. Naielah is a faith-based marriage coach and life coach. She learned from renowned relationship experts and completed training in the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy. Combined with her professional training, coaching experience of over ten years, and personal marriage of 16 years, she offers marriage coaching to Muslim couples, wives, and husbands. She also offers premarital counseling for Muslim singles. She is an author of several marriage books and has been featured on popular Muslim television shows and podcasts.



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