Just like any other teenager, I also wanted to marry a tall, dark and handsome young man. But as my late grandmother predicted: “I was a dark complexioned girl, so I found a fair skinned groom, so will you one day.” And, I did, indeed. I ended up marrying a short, fair and cute bloke. But that wasn’t the end of my fairytale; rather, it was the beginning.

I learnt an important lesson that marriage is not just about finding a good-looking mate. It is not about treating our husband as a genie found in a bottle who’s meant to please us by granting our every wish (justified or unjustified).

Marriage is much deeper and far more meaningful – a relationship between two individuals. It is a partnership, which entails dispensing each other’s rights. It is a companionship meant for sharing each other’s sorrows and comforting one another through hardship.

It also means to celebrate each other’s victories. It is always about putting our partner’s needs and desires before our own. It means to find our own happiness in his/her smiles and love our beloved with the warmth we had never felt for anyone before.

After twelve years of marriage, this is some of the wisdom that I can share. But it wasn’t so in the early years of matrimony.

The first few years were more about taming our egos and wild desires to criticize and constantly complain about the smallest things. When we were blessed with our first child, we set realistic expectations as parents and stopped demanding the impossible from one another. After the second child came into the picture, it was about extending our roles further as mom and dad. Now, it was fine for dad to change diapers and for mom to get the broken car fixed.

With the third child, we learnt that multi-tasking and strict budgeting was the only way to get ahead smoothly. This meant simple clothes for ourselves, if we were to have a decent wardrobe for our three little angels. This is just one of the many sacrifices that we have made together with a smile and have grown up to become mature and responsible parents. If someone would have asked us to make the same sacrifice in the very first year of our marriage, we would probably have killed him/her. But as I said, we lived the good times and the bad times together. When we look back, it gives us a sense of pride to have lived through it all as a couple.

Many people have helped me along my journey and taught me to change the way I used to think. May Allah (swt) bless them for this. They truly enabled me to discover a new perspective of marriage and love my husband – the only true hero in my life.

This doesn’t mean that my husband has suddenly become a perfect mortal, and I have awakened to this reality. It rather means that I have come to love him the way he is with all his flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses, as he has come to accept me with mine. He can still get on my nerves with his forgotten promises, missed appointments, over-commitments to others and last minute havoc-stricken actions. But now, instead of being angry or upset for days, I either mutter under my breath, ignore him or when I can’t bite my tongue, I scold him and eventually go back to loving him the way he is.

I have to remind myself constantly of the great many things he has done for me, without me even having to ask him. One such thing includes working day and night tirelessly to provide for the family’s comfort and well-being. I have a choice to stay at home, while he has to get up every morning and head for the real world. When the family goes for shopping, he is the last one to buy anything for himself and even then, only when I insist. In spite of hating household chores, he helps me with almost everything on Sundays. He tries to be the best father and husband.

Here, I would like to confess that I used to gossip about his late arrivals from office and the mess he leaves behind when leaving for work in frenzy, or giving too much attention to his own brothers and sisters. Not anymore. Now, I have vowed not to backbite, but instead to highlight the very best qualities in him.

I am grateful to my dear sister who very wisely pointed out to me: “Our husbands are fulfilling their duties as the Ameers (leaders) of the family. When Allah (swt) will question them, Insha’Allah, they will fare better than us, as compared to our roles as wives and mothers, because of our constant thankless attitude towards their contributions. Ingratitude and gossip is a major cause for many wives to break their marriages and eventually their peaceful homes.”

I also owe a big thanks to a sister in Islam. I was completely swept away by the way Na’ima B. Robert dedicated her book “From my sisters’ lips” to her better half. She wrote: “For my husband, the wind beneath my wings.” How freely she expressed her love, gratitude, trust and affection!

That’s another problem with us. As a cultural taboo, many of us are either embarrassed or self-conscious of expressing our true inner feelings as the Eastern brides or wives towards our spouses. But believe me – saying such romantic lines as ‘I love you’ every now and then can enliven our relationship.

And if we happen to be extremely uneasy or shy expressing our love candidly, we should at least try using such words as ‘sorry’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ more often.

So here we are! The next time any of us is tempted to compare her husband to any other man (be it her father, a celebrity or a complete stranger), she should remember all that he has done and goes on doing for her and her family, that too without having to ask him!