For some reason, many communities have this ridiculous notion that a woman’s life both begins and ends with marriage. My own community – that of South African Muslims – is particularly guilty of this and it has resulted in vibrant young women making hasty matches because what if nothing better comes along? Do you really want to be alone all your life?
Yes. Yes, I would rather be ‘alone’ than live with a man who I know I’m not going to be truly happy with, on the off chance that I don’t get something better. I’m not a freaking food product with a sell by date.
For some reason, there’s this misconception that to be validated, a woman needs to have hunted down a man who deems her worthy of spending their life with. If she can’t – or chooses not to – accomplish this feat, there must be something wrong with her.
Is it that no one would have her? Does she have some unappealing character trait? Is she immodest? Worst of all, is she picky?
There are few things worse than a picky girl. As a self-confessed one, I know that quite well. The girl is seen as arrogant or uncompromising. On the flipside, a guy with a laundry list of requirements for his future wife is seen as discerning.
To be honest, marriage as an institution is something that I’ve begun to consider as belonging to other people. The deeper I dig and the more I witness, the more convinced I am that it’s just not for me. I’m perfectly content as I am, and if I get lonely – well, there’s this gorgeous, fluffy roommate I’ve been dreaming about my entire life. And the cat won’t expect me to do his laundry.
It makes me a little sad that I can’t seem to dredge up much enthusiasm about marriage as a whole until I begin to romanticize it and, to me, that’s the reason I see so many unhappily married people who stay with their spouses out of fear of judgement. Society has created unrealistic expectations for both men and women.
It’s not just the media. It’s parents and elders who wax poetic about their darling baby needs to be looking for in a spouse without recognizing that their list of expectations and demands may be entirely divorced from what the potential bride or groom is actually looking for.
Another aspect of this whole circus is the – often exaggerated for comedy purposes – doom and gloom attitude about what a marriage means for goals and dreams. Heard of the ol’ ball and chain? What about kiss your free time goodbye and the very often used Oh, I’d never have time for that now, wish I’d appreciated the single life more.
With marriage both being rammed down our throats and portrayed in such a negative light, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that young adults are no longer prioritizing it the way they would have not ten years ago.
No one wants to give up their freedom and young people pay attention more closely than most realize to what is – and isn’t – said about the relationships in their homes, neighbourhoods, and communities.
If you ask me, several things need to change.
First – recognize that marriage is a milestone, not the milestone. There are other things to think about and aspire towards. Stop teaching little girls that their happily ever after begins when they get hitched and start teaching them that a spouse is like a best friend – there to support and experience a journey alongside you. They’re not the destination to be aiming towards.
Next – get rid of that deadline. As Muslims, we believe that Allah guides our every move. Why is that somehow forgotten when it comes to the all-important partnership? What is meant will arrive, no matter how hard you resist or strain in the other direction so instead of obsessing and running to matchmaking services, run to a musallah and make a sincere dua. This serves the dual benefit or actually having some impact and also not driving the poor, harassed single person to distraction.
Also – stop scaring people already! I find it more than a little ridiculous that the moment a young individual expresses any interest in finding themselves a life partner, they’re met with warnings and prophecies of future misery. Surely, you must realize that if something is portrayed as horrible and painful to someone, they’re going to want to stay far away!
And lastly, not just for the young people but for the sake of any and every person who is currently trapped in a marriage that does not bring them joy and happiness, or at least contentment, stop with this nonsense of making divorce haram. Divorce is a decision not to be taken lightly, we all understand that. It’s serious and has an impact on your life. BUT, it is not haram. Allah, in His infinite wisdom did not make divorce haram, so who are you to decide that you can?
I’ve personally heard of young women who live with abuse and terror simply because they have nowhere else to go. Their families will not accept them back, for the perceived shame of having a ‘fallen’ daughter. I have never heard something so outlandish in my entire life.
Stop forcing people to stay where they’re miserable and do not abandon your young people as soon as their nikaah contract is signed. This is one of the biggest reasons people shy away from marriage – because it’s seen as set in stone. What happens if you make a mistake? Well, just live with it because it’s too shameful to not.
And then you get generations of misery and conflict – and children born into homes which are, at most, civil. Marriage should be a joining of two souls to accompany and support one another through life but it’s being ruined.
It’s being ruined and there’s so much we could do about it if we just stopped letting toxic culture dictate our actions.