Set Standards Or Unconditional Love?

I have a female patient (Mrs. A)  who was diagnosed of major depressive disorder after her military officer husband was caught cheating on her with another woman. And the husband has even transgressed into zina.

She is depressed and she still doesn’t know what to do. On the one hand, her husband still provides for her financially (in the army, nafkah for the wife is assured through monthly salary deduction), but on the other, she just could not forget what has happened.

And this was already the second time Mrs A’s husband has committed zina. In Islam (and in other Abrahamic religions such Judaism and Christianity), this is a major sin.

So, I asked the obvious question to Mrs A. “Can you accept what he has done?” As a woman and as a Muslim, I wanted to add, but I refrained myself.

***

I have another female patient (Mrs. B) whose husband has no major moral issues. Not a drug addict, not a womanizer, not a wife-beater. He is not exactly a religious saint, either…. but overall, he is not a bad person in the moral sense.

But he is jobless, for years and years. Mrs. B has been the sole breadwinner for their big family. Her husband does help around the house, occasionally. But he doesn’t do it in a way that a housewife would. The wife still does the major share of the household chores despite being the sole breadwinner.

So I asked the obvious question to Mrs. B “How do you feel about your husband being jobless?”

***

I have a female patient (Mrs C) whose depression is resistant to treatment because the perpetuating factor of her depression is her useless drug-addict husband with whom she is in constant contact everyday. He sells things in the house to finance his heroine habit. He smokes the stuff in their bathroom, not caring what his small, impressionable kids think of him. He only works on and off as a security guard but my patient has not benefitted from his salary at all. Mrs C  works as a tailor tirelessly for the sake of the family without any help from the husband.

So, I asked the obvious question to Mrs C. “Why do you stay?”

***

In the case of Mrs.  A: the husband is morally corrupted, but financially providing.

In the case of Mrs. B: the husband is morally fine (not great, mind you! Just normal standard behaviour, only), but financially useless.

In the case of Mrs. C: the husband is morally corrupted AND financially useless.

I ask you now, dear reader, in which case would you be able to respect yourself if you choose to  stay with your husband? In which case would your kids be able to look at you as a great, smart, principled woman if you choose to stay? In which case would you be able to look at your husband, actually respect him and trust his decision in anything?

In which case, dear readers, can you say, I deserve such a husband? Or such a husband deserve me?

Because I personally, could NOT accept any of them! None of them will ever induce me to stay! I cannot accept any of it! Because I have set certain standards of how decent human being should behave and none of these husbands meet the basic criteria. I repeat, BASIC criteria (with the emphasis of the word BASIC. Bukannya aku suruh set standard kena beriman macam Saidina Abu Bakar, dan kaya raya macam Sultan Brunei dan kena handsome macam Nabi Yusuf ka… I mean, really! Most men cannot meet even basic standard!)

***

In the case of Mrs. A:

If Mrs A chooses to stay, maybe Mrs. A is the sort of person who does not feel strongly about zina. Otherwise the decision to leave would be very easy to make, I think.

“Tapi saya sayang kat dia. Dia memang ada perempuan lain. Tapi dia dah janji tak nak buat lagi. Yang lain-lain, dia bertanggungjawab.”

Okey, dah kau cakap macam tu. Apa aku boleh buat lagi?

In the case of Mrs A, the guy meets materialistic standard but does  not meet the moral standard. Mrs. A is like Asiyah (Firaun’s wife). Firaun is the worst human being on earth, but his wife still ends up in heaven. At least in this dunia, you get the comfort material that your husband can provide even though your husband is a bad person. You, yourself can still make it to heaven if you maintain your iman and good deeds. Let your husband do whatever he likes in this dunia. Tak payah nak sakit-sakit hati, since kau memang nak stay dengan dia dan tak nak tinggalkan dia. Kan??

If you can make yourself think like that, maybe you will be less depressed. It’s your choice! Just tell yourself, “Selagi dia bagi aku duit, aku stay ja dengan dia. Ada juga benefit aku dapat. Dia nak berdosa, suka hati dia. Yang penting, aku jaga amal ibadat aku sendiri.”

But heck, Mrs. A doesn’t think like that. (Kan senang kalau dia boleh fikir macam tu?) She is a bleeding heart romantic! So she wants her husband to love her and be loyal to her. But she couldn’t get those sentiments from her husband! So she will continue being depressed.

And I continue to increase the dosage of her anti-depressant in despair! And I continue to tell her to  do a check up for HIV/Hepatitis B/ Hepatitis C. You never know what kind of terrible disease your husband might infect you with.

***

In the case of Mrs B:

If Mrs. B chooses to stay, maybe Mrs. B does not really mind that the husband does not meet the basic criteria of being the provider.

“At least, dia tak pukul saya, bukan tahi dadah, bukan kaki perempuan. Tak palah, saya redha. Lagipun kita kahwin ni nak susah senang bersama. Kalau dia dah tak kerja, takkan saya nak tinggal dia.

Okey…if that is the standard you want for yourself and you are happy with it, there is nothing else I can say. At least, he meets the moral criteria. So you get your akhirat basic standard even though you don’t get the materialistic dunia standard. (even though to be really strict, being a responsible provider is also an akhirat KPI as a man, kan?)

For the record, I am not asking you to abandon your spouse when the going gets tough. I am a witness to how a woman’s loyalty to her husband is the greatest thing that can ever happen to a man. I was 12 years old when the economic downturns of 1997/1998 hit the country. My father (and most businessmen at that time, I suppose) had lost a lot of money. We had to sell the cars, we moved into a smaller house. Me and my sisters only got one new school uniform that year. It was unprecedented and acutely felt by all of us. We only got one baju raya that year. We all had to adapt. My mother was the main breadwinner while waiting for my father to establish a new business platform. We lived entirely on my mother’s salary as a staff nurse supplemented by her income from her inheritance (bendang rents). Alhamdulillah, we never had to go hungry during those years. But yes, we had to adapt a lot! I did not dare to ask my parents for things unless they were absolutely necessary. I could see the worries in my mother’s face and the devastation in my father’s face. But whatever difficulties we had, no one who looked at us then would ever know. My mom is a reliable, loyal woman in any adversities. Our lives went on as usual because she was a strong capable woman who can be depended on to hold the reins. 

But my mother’s loyalty was for a deserving man. My father was not complacent being in the house not doing anything. My mother told us that my father had trouble sleeping, anxious about the state of the family economy. He constantly sought new opportunities for business even if he had to do a lot of travelling back and forth. He was not a man who lied down on the couch, feeling comfortable letting his wife be the main provider. He still took a lot of interest in our education and would try to get whatever we need for studying. My sister received an offer to MRSM Taiping during the economic recession and there were plenty of money needed for her expenses to get into MRSM. But there was never any question that she was going there no matter what. My parents provided the money for it because it was for her education. We let go the maid, and I and my younger sisters helped with the housechores. Oh, how much we adapted until my father finally established his current business.  (Alhamdulillah, after a few years, things got better financially. My father returned to being the main breadwinner in the family. We no longer felt anxious about needing to ask for money from our parents. But I guess, it’s become a habit for us that we only spend on whatever is necessary. By the time I went to Australia, I never asked my parents to supplement my scholarship. I lived entirely on whatever MARA gave me. I have learned not to be extravagant in my spending habit. Those years of financial constraints taught us a lot of lessons.)

So, how stupid is it to be loyal to a man who doesn’t care that you as the woman has to shoulder the bulk of the financial responsibility? At least, your man should show that he is worried. At least, your man should find some odd jobs occasionally to help you. At least, you should be able to see some effort from your husband that he WANTS to be the main breadwinner even though at the moment, he couldn’t. That he has the wish and the desire to be the provider! That not being able to do it tears him apart! 

At least!!

That is my understanding of a man who deserves your “susah senang bersama!”With that sort of man, I wouldn’t be ‘berkira’.

Is that too high a standard? I don’t think so!

But if having that complacent, laid-back, lazy-arse kind of husband is what you are content for yourself, if that is enough of a standard for you, well, to each her own! 

Now, let me increase the dose of your anti-depressant.

***

Mrs. C’s case is the worst of all!

Not only does her husband does not meet the materialistic dunia criteria, he doesn’t even meet the criteria that would make for a good akhirat! Not a provider, and also a morally corrupted person.

Yet Mrs. C has been staying with him for decades.

In my mind, I went “Dahlah material comfort pun kau tak dapat, standard perangai elok untuk akhirat pun tak dak. Ke kau ni memang tak ada standard? Orang boleh buat apa saja kat kau, and you won’t care?”

I felt distressed on her behalf!

Maybe you do deserve to be depressed. If you are not willing to fight for yourself, you deserve your depression. (I know I am not nice for saying this, right? But what else am I supposed to feel? I am so frustrated that something so simple can be dragged for years and years and never settled! Maybe I am hard-hearted and cold-blooded. But this hard-hearted and cold-blooded person go back home thinking about how you cried your heart out in her clinic and felt helpless to help you because you refuse to help yourself!)

***

Dr. T and I love discussing women issues after seeing patients.

This is a fact that MOST weak women always get stranded with useless men. Again, maybe they actually deserve one another. They have similar traits;  weakness and uselessness are more or less the same thing, isn’t it? They are different sides of the same coin. If you are weak, how useful can you be? And if you are useless, it must be because you are inherently weak. So maybe weak women do deserve useless men. They fit each other perfectly and I should stop feeling sorry for them.

Until you change yourself and be strong enough to get rid of your biawak hidup, then maybe you deserve your biawak hidup!

Dr. T told me (lebih kurang macam ni), “God has promised that good men are for good women and good women are for good men. Sebenarnya kadang-kadang bila kita check balik, wife dia dulu pun mungkin macam tu juga. Sama-sama commit zina, and morally corrupted. Otherwise, how did they even meet and know each other in the first place (well, unless it was an arranged marriage where you didn’t investigate your prospective spouse properly) Cuma bila dah kahwin, wife dah nak berubah. Lelaki tu masih perangai sama macam dulu. Tapi Allah dah janji yang perempuan yang baik untuk lelaki yang baik. So kalau lepas kahwin wife dah berubah, mungkin dia tak tahan dan dia akan minta cerai and then dia akan dapat lelaki lain pula yang lebih baik. So you have to constantly berubah lah…then kau sendiri akan take actions untuk get rid of lelaki yang tak sama baik dengan kau walaupun in the beginning, perangai korang lebih kurang ja.”

That does make sense.

Because I believe, a good, religious God-fearing woman cannot bear being with someone so totally her opposite in moral and faith. Muslim women, if they really internalize the teachings of the religion, would not be able to respect this sort of husband and would take definitive actions to throw him out of her life. Muslims are proactive people! Not weak, passive people!

But let’t not forget that the divorce process is a whole new headache in itself. Most women are stuck! Stuck, trapped, stranded! Because a useless husband who depends on HER money would never voluntarily divorce her. That is the problem!!

Another friend of mine said, “Yes, memang women get stuck. Tapi mungkin salah perempuan tu juga! Cuba kalau perempuan tu perangai macam hang, Afiza? Aku tak rasa dia akan stuck lama sampai bertahun-tahun. Hang mesti akan ajar lelaki tu habis-habisan. Hang akan cari lawyer, hang akan balik to your own family, hang takkannya nak pasrah berserah kemudian nak buat drama martyrdom budget kesian maruah suami sampai tak mau cerita kat family hang. In fact, you will ask your family to help you get rid of this guy for you. Your father will threaten him and help you finance your legal fees.  Your whole family will descend down on that poor guy like a gathering clouds of storm. Because your whole family is like you, your husband will have to face several lions all at once. Last sekali lelaki tu yang lari daripada hangpa semua. Hahhaha.”

I laughed out loud. True, that!

My elder sister said, “Hang jangan risaulah, kak ngah. Ada ke lelaki berani nak pow duit hang macam kes-kes yang hang tengok tu? Come on! Aku rasa bila hang kahwin, lelaki tu yang kena beware dengan hang. Hahaha”

The problem is most women are not like me. Women like me will never get married before being 100% sure. So women like me make sure from the very beginning that we will never be in that kind of situation, in the first place.

The problem is most women are not like me! They are not equipped with the kind of willpower and strength to beat the crap out of a useless husband and they are the ones who got themselves stuck in the situation! Not women like me! Even if women like me ever get stuck, women like me also can get unstuck easily…so you won’t see women like me in a mood disorder clinic (accept for anger management clinic, maybe. Hahha) with continuous perpetuating factor that hasn’t settled for five bloody years!

The problem with these women is their attitude!! Their passivity!

I don’t ask you to be a woman-warrior or a shrewish virago or a she-man like me! In everyday situation, when you are surrounded by good people, go ahead and be your angelic perempuan-melayu-terakhir self! (In fact, I should be learning from you how to do that! I told you that I am learning to be nice and making it my personal jihad, kan? Hahah. God help me, because I am failing at it, already.)

But when you are in a conflict situation where you are the victim, you have to learn to be like me! Really! Stop being the victim, crying non-stop while waiting for people to save you. Take action!

Adjust yourself according to situations and contexts! Why is something so simple seems so hard for my patients to understand? Be gentle to nice people, but be a lion to morally corrupted and useless people of your life. It’s so simple, isn’t it? Such a simple thing…tapi aku dah tengok kau bertahun-tahun, kau punya masalah tak settle-settle lagi! 

***

Women are easily fooled by romantic words of a man. Most drug addicts are very manipulative and ‘pandai mengayat’.

My fellow MOs used to say, “Dengar depa cakap, perempuan pun boleh cair.”

I scrunched up my nose. Really???

I am not easily impressed by words. I read a lot! Whatever words you say, can never beat the words of many brilliant authors I have read. You can’t possibly beat Shakespeare or Kahlil Gibran, or Khaled Hosseini, or Bronte or Austen. For every heart-wrenching love poems you can compose, I could compose even better prose to rival yours. So, I am just not impressed.

In fact when I am given too much of flowery words that do not make logical sense to me, they would have the opposite effect than the one the person had intended. I would be instantly suspicious. I would find that as a weakness in you that I have no patience to entertain. Either you are too easily overcome by feelings until it moves you to say such a nonsensical craps (which is a weakness, in my opinion), or you are trying to manipulate me with your dishonesty (which would make me instantly avoid you like the plague).

Words are cheap. If all women read a lot, they would not so easily fall victim to the cheapness of such men.

Among the best thing you could ever inculcate into your daughters (and sons, too), is the habit of reading! Make them smart!

Please enjoy these words by Ibn Taimiyyah. Don’t be enslaved.

***

Before I pen off, I have something to say about the concept of ‘unconditional love’. I am going to sound overly simplistic and heartless, but God, I swear, this is the truth as I see it!

There is no such a thing as unconditional love! I repeat, unconditional love does NOT exist. Please, use your brain!

Just like I don’t expect people to love me unconditionally, people should not expect unconditional love from me. I am not your mother! Even a mother’s love can be exhausted by bad behaviour. Some mothers are more content to leave their troublesome son in the psychiatric ward after the son had repeatedly thrash the house due to his post-ictal psychosis or due to his schizophrenic symptoms.

See? Even a mother’s love is not always unconditional.

Imagine the most loving, the kindest, the most self-sacrificing human being on earth! Imagine him in your mind. Now compare this imaginary person to our Lord, Allah. Allah is even more loving than anyone you can ever imagine in this world. But even Allah’s mercy and love is conditioned upon you being a good servant to him. That’s why hell and heaven exist.

Are you still going to argue with me that love should be unconditional? Think logically! 

Get the romantic crap of “unconditional love” out of your mind because it doesn’t exist! That’s just bullshit that film producers use to sell their movies. To tell people that “you should love me no matter how bad I am because I am your husband/wife/children,” just doesn’t make any logical sense to me. In fact the person who says that is manipulating you with emotional BS, and if you fall for it, it speaks volume of your poor intellect.

We should at least meet the basic criteria of human decency. Once those are met, then people will love us with relative unconditionality  (as oppose to ‘absolute unconditionality’ which does NOT exist) depending on how your personality complements or clashes with theirs. 

As simple as that.

And you have no rights to expect anything more!

p35151

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