There are many reasons a woman decides to get married. Most major religions see marriage as the basis of the social system. In Islam, the relationship of husband and wife is considered one of the most sacred of bonds. Cultural and social reasons are a close second – a daughter’s marriage is a matter of dignity for parents in some societies, especially Pakistani society. A woman with a husband and children is highly appreciated and exemplified in front of young girls. And, of course, personal factors play a major role too. Marriage is the penultimate way of showing exclusive commitment. Having a husband and children provides pleasure and joy, through a much-needed companionship. Marriage is, without a doubt, a beautiful example of partnership.
Maybe she’s not into marriage because she saw it not work out between her parents, or is a child of divorce. Perhaps, she feels nobody she has met has been a good match for her. A more common reason these days – maybe she wants to focus on pursuing her career for a few years. She might see a value in waiting until she has seen and lived more, and knows herself better, is more comfortable in her skin. This might even help her choose a better partner.
Or, it could just be that she prefers the lifestyle of a single individual.
We might be going through the process of listing out some reasons but, society at large, seems blind to understanding a woman’s reasons behind not getting married or delaying it, instead taking every chance to judge her for such a decision. A girl who has crossed the so-called “appropriate” age without getting married is constantly reminded of the biological clock that seemingly dictates that a woman is most fit for reproduction and delivery in her twenties. Pakistani relatives don’t hesitate in adding fuel to the fire by suggesting proposals left, right and center. It seems marriage itself is more important than who you marry.
Parents face a different set of pressures Mothers and fathers think they’ve failed as parents if their daughters do not get married early. Once a girl crosses 30 years of age, most men are cautious of marrying her, assuming something must be un-marry-able about her. In fact, even more likely is that his parents oppose it. Parents are constantly being asked about the ticking-off of this next milestone of parental responsibilities. These days, some parents personally prefer that their daughters choose their own life partners, but societal pressure pushes them in other directions.
We spoke to some women from different walks of life about “marital status”.
A 27-year-old who is unmarried:
“To me it (marriage) is just another aspect of life and I don’t really tend to focus on it much; I tend to focus on other aspects of my life. I just don’t think of it (being single) as something negative. I am happy, I am confident and I am satisfied with myself. What only bothers me is how worried my parents are. I always pray for the best.”
Another ‘Miss’ shares her views:
“Being single has become very difficult in society nowadays. But it is the same society that makes it difficult for a girl to get married. Marriage is the right of every girl, and every girl desires it, but there are reasons like beauty, status, caste, that are big hurdles set up by our own society. Beauty has become the primary criterion for the acceptance of a girl in marriage, most rejections take place on these grounds. Being repeatedly rejected until chosen by an appropriate suitor is a painful experience, and shatters the personality and confidence of a girl. Society makes marriage out to be the sole purpose of a girl’s life – to get married and bear children. Those who find appropriate matches are considered blessed, while those who do not are considered liabilities, no matter how independent or talented. Many unmarried girls experience self-pity, depression and anxiety as they cross the age of 30 due to family pressure and social expectations. Every girl should enjoy her life, whether married or unmarried.”
A young woman engaged-to-be-married:
A recently married woman gives us a glimpse into the pressure:
A Missus tells us how things changed:
“People are treating me respectably after my marriage; their behavior was different and opposite before my marriage.”
These voices are not alien to us. We hear these voices all around us – a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a colleague, a neighbor, that woman we pass in the street. They speak to us, calling out to us, parents, relatives, friends and society at large, to stop trying to force marriage onto them. To identify the basis of their circumstances, their decisions; and try to understand them. Involve them in the decision of what is best for their lives, and encourage and support them.
The mental trauma of the judgement that women suffer at the hands of society over their marital status goes a long way more than can be imagined. Women should be empowered to become the best versions of themselves – married or single.