Brother Saleh had been successfully abstinent from watching pornography for two weeks straight.
Saleh said, “I’ve been able to go to sleep early, at the same time as my wife 50% of the time these past two weeks. I feel more refreshed, I’m able to work out more, I recently started training with a personal trainer, I train five days a week. He’s got me on a very tough program, and I like it. My wife is encouraging me, but it’s very tough. I’m enjoying it.”
I said to him, “You don’t sound happier!”
I was hearing a very disengaged voice coming from Br. Saleh in our coaching call as he was sharing these wins. He was struggling to celebrate the progress he had made.
After a pause, Br. Saleh mentioned feeling stuck:
Saleh said, “Although alhamdullilah I haven’t been doing anything online (pornography), but at work, in the gym, I still find it a little difficult to guard my gaze. Alhamdullilah, I was able to complete these two weeks, but I don’t feel like I’m in a healthy state – I feel like I may slip any moment (back to watching pornography). I still feel like I cannot lower my gaze. That’s why I don’t want to cheer right now. My willpower has been drained, and I am not sure how much longer I can keep on track.”
Deep down, he was not happy, and he knew that he only had so much willpower remaining to keep up this new lifestyle.
I mentioned to Br. Saleh that we need two things in life to feel successful and happy: achievement and fulfillment.
Br. Saleh was focused so much on the “doing” or achieving side of things that he forgot to find joy and fulfillment in his life.
I probed around to assess the level of fulfillment in Br. Saleh’s life currently by asking him a question, “What do you generally feel really good about in your life right now? What can you smile about in your life right now?”
As Br. Saleh responded, what was obvious to me was that Br. Saleh did not mention his relationship with his wife – it was not making him smile.
I said, “Did you intentionally leave this out? Or did your wife come in your mind right away?”
Br. Saleh replied, “No, we smile. Alhamdullilah we have a very good relationship, we’re very nice to each other. I don’t know if we’re very joyful when we’re in each other’s presence.”
I shared with Br. Saleh,“You don’t stay married to a ‘nice’ person. When someone’s just ‘nice’, you’re either heading towards an affair or a divorce.”
I continued, “Right now, every time you see a different woman, who dresses a certain way, you’ve trained your mind to be excited, to want to look, and notice her. And so your energy is going in that direction outside of your marriage.”
Recreating that specialness
From our previous conversations, Br. Saleh and I had talked about how for a number of years, he went to bed a couple of hours later than his wife, and she would go to sleep with their son.
I said, “…She’s empty emotionally from your love. We’ve talked about that a lot of times; that’s a choice on her side because she’s receiving her love from her son, rather than from her husband. You have achieved success in your self-care, but for your marriage, you need to be in proximity of each other. You’ve got to spice things up rather than being boring. Keep going to bed at the same time – that will set you up for success in your marriage.”
I shared with Br. Saleh, that in any committed relationship, we can play at three different levels with our spouse:
Level 1: At this level, we are just in it for our self alone. We are always ‘taking’ in a relationship We’re like the leech in the relationship. We take, but we’re not giving back in return.
Level 2: This is where we are horse-trading in a relationship, where we will only give if the other person gives. For example, “I’ll take care of the dishes if you’ll take care of putting our son to sleep.”
Level 3: We unconditionally give, regardless of whether the person gives back or not. We bring the joy, the love, the spice, the spark, and the excitement into the relationship. Whatever we want in the relationship, we bring it.
It is very easy to slip into level 1 or 2 where we are taking the other person for granted. We all make the mistake of doing that with the people in our life, as well as bringing other negative aspects of our life into our relationships.
This is a very restricted, constricted way of living. But at level 3, we’re free. We’re free to give, and we see abundance around us.
We don’t live in a scarcity mindset. We can then create that energy of “specialness” that was there at the beginning of a marriage, intentionally and continuously.
I challenged Br. Saleh to revive and recreate that level of specialness towards his wife that he felt when he saw her for the first time, to play at level 3 in his relationship, and be unconditionally giving:
I said to him, “What would happen if every time you syouryou wife, you conditioned yourself that you would smile in a way that would cause her to melt?… I want you notice how she receives it. Does it cause her to soften up, maybe smile bashfully back at you, thinking, ‘Whoa! Where did that come from? You don’t smile like that for any other woman, that smile is for me.’ ? Or perhaps she would think, ‘I feel really special.”
Br. Saleh, responded, “Well, it is also possible that the wife does not reciprocate in terms of excitement.”
At the end of the day, Br. Saleh could not control his wife; he could only control himself and what he could bring into the relationship. He had to bring his best into the marriage and his life, and play full out.
There are always going to be demands in our life. But for things that are special and important, , we’ve got to make the time for them. Think about salah – we pray five times a day – we manage to find the time and make the effort.
Br. Saleh needed to bring his best into the marriage, showing up 100% of the time, not just 50%.
I concluded, “If you just show up 50% of the time, you only get 50% back… But you as a leader, you as the shepherd of your family, must bring the people up to where you want them to be. That’s your purpose. As John F Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Don’t ask what your wife is going to do for you, or what my boss, or my job is going to do for me, but rather, what will I bring? What is the value that I will bring? What is the energy that I will bring?”
It was going to be very hard for Br. Saleh to stay focused and motivated to continue lowering his gaze and be abstinent from pornography if his relationship with his wife was not the source of his fulfillment.
Reigniting that spark and finding deep fulfillment in his marriage through the act of unconditional love and giving was going to be a key factor in Br. Saleh feeling happier over time.
On top of this, there would be the additional benefit of finding it easier to lower his gaze.