By Umm Khalid
I used to play tennis in high school on the girls’ tennis team. I always preferred playing singles to playing doubles.
Playing singles means you are playing by yourself with no one else on your team. You face off against another individual opponent. I found playing singles easier because it was simple: I knew that every ball that comes over the net was my responsibility. No one else was there to share the responsibility with. Playing a singles game is straightforward. One on one.
But it *is* exhausting. Every ball is *your* responsibility. There’s no one to help you, no partner to get the balls you can’t reach, no one to back you up. You have to run back and forth to cover the length and width of your side of the court by yourself.
Playing doubles tennis, on the other hand, means you have a partner and the two of you are a team facing off against another team of two. You and your teammate work together to hit the ball back over the net, so each of you has fewer balls to hit, less court space to cover.
But I hated it because it’s very easy to lose when you play doubles. Very often, the ball comes sailing right between the two of you as both of you look, startled, at one another and neither person hits the ball.
The first person assumed that the second was going to get it, and the second person assumed that the first person was going to get it. Neither gets it, and the ball bounces off the court and you lose the point.
Continue playing like this, and you lose the game, the set, and the match. You walk off the court, defeated and disappointed.
Marriage is a little like playing doubles tennis. The only way to win is to have well-defined tasks *and* to communicate CLEARLY with your partner. The two of you must coordinate so that nothing falls through the cracks. Each person knows exactly what he or she is going to cover. You know you’re on the same team and that you’ve got each other’s back–but you still need to talk about who’s going to do what and what your expectations are and ask for help when you need it.
To have a good marriage, the husband and wife need to work together like a well-oiled machine.
It is, of course, challenging to work so closely with another person, to coordinate tasks, to divide labor evenly based on each person’s strengths.
This is why many modern women prefer to just play singles games, living the single life without the hassle of being on a team or dealing with another person.
But living that single life is exhausting and lonely. Sure, you don’t have to work things out with anyone else and can do things all by yourself…but… you are all by yourself.
Marriage is a joint effort for the sake of Allah, a combined struggle of both the husband and the wife to build and maintain a strong Muslim family. The husband and the wife are a team: they each have clearly-defined assigned roles, but they also don’t hesitate to lovingly step in to help one another if it’s needed.
If you play it right, you can reap all the benefits of playing doubles tennis without the drawbacks.
Make sure that you:
1. Have a clear division of labor, so each person knows which side of the tennis court they’re responsible for. In marriage, we call this gender roles.
2. Communicate clearly, so no points are lost due to each person expecting the other to hit the ball. In marriage, the husband and wife have to communicate effectively with each other to decide which non-obvious tasks fall under whose domain so that all tasks are covered.
3. Ask for help if you need it, so that unlike in a singles game, your doubles partner can bail you out or back you up if you try to hit your ball but miss. In marriage, each spouse has a well-defined role, but one of the beauties of marriage is the ability to ask your spouse for help if you need help. Marriage is a soft, loving relationship between a man and a woman who have love and mercy for one another. You have someone who will willingly step in to carry your load on the days you find it to be too heavy, until you get back on your feet.
4. Be a team player, not selfish, self-centered, or negligent of your role. In our modern age, hyper-individualism has made many people selfish and narcissistic, putting themselves and their own individual whims above the needs of the group or their role in the collective. When you play selfish, whether in tennis or in marriage, you lose.
May Allah bless our marriages, our homes, and our families, ameen.