The Pressure to Marry

CASE STUDY
The Pressure to Marry 

By Awais Aftab 

Q. Your parents have been trying to get you engaged and married for quite some time now.

Yes, you cannot imagine the immense pressure I am under. In my family, it is unusual for a girl studying in college to remain unmarried by the time she graduates, let alone stay unengaged. I have graduated and I am still single, while all the cousins of my age group have been married off. My relatives are always telling my parents that if they wait too long, meri umar nikal jaye gee, and I won’t get any good rishtas. Some relatives are even so audacious as to ask if there is something wrong with me. So, understandably, my parents are quite panicky and are desperately trying to get me engaged to secure my future.

Q. How does it make you feel?

Infuriating, of course! Whether I stay single or not, it is none of their business. Why are they so interested in my marriage? And it makes me depressed. It is exhausting to take in all the rubbish people throw at you. I don’t know how long I can keep up.

Q. What is your age?

23!

Q. That isn’t so much. I know of girls much older who are still single and focused on careers.

Such examples are rare and uncommon. Generally, it’s not an acceptable option for girls of most families in Pakistan.

Q. Why don’t you want to get married for now?

I don’t want to marry some guy. I want to marry someone of my own choice, someone with whom I am mentally and emotionally compatible. Furthermore, I want to marry on my own terms. I want to be an independent working woman. I am not someone with an ‘expiry date’ that I have to rush into marriage with the first rishta available. I know that there are girls who are very comfortable with this whole arrangement of marriage, and they themselves want to get married early. Well, good for them, but I am not comfortable with this arrangement, so why should I be pressurised into this?

Q. Are you in a relationship with someone?

Not presently, but I was. It didn't work out. It lasted two to three years. We discovered that we had too many differences, so we both decided to end it. This is also something my parents are really concerned about. They had never approved of the relationship, and even now they feel that it has soiled my reputation so much that I might not get a good rishta any more.

Q. What is your biggest fear at the moment?

I am afraid that my parents will soon lose their patience. Someday I’ll just be informed that my rishta has been finalised with so and so, and I wouldn't really be able to do anything about it. That really scares me and is a source of great anxiety.

Q. Why do you think your parents insist so much that you get married?

They mean well for me in their hearts. They believe that there is only one particular lifestyle that can ensure happiness for a girl, and that is to get married at the right age to a financially settled boy from an honourable and well-off family. With all the rishta competition and the gossips, my parents feel that they have to ensure my future, and that by delaying my marriage, they are risking the happiness of my whole remaining life. Plus, in our society parents have this notion that it is their responsibility to get the children married in the proper way, and they are trying to fulfil that responsibility. Unfortunately, this is not what would bring me any happiness.

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Please send your feedback to us.mag@thenews.com.pk. You can contact the author directly at awaisaftab@gmail.com.

Published in Us Magazine 23 September 2011.

Comments

Maryam A. said…
Its just depressing to see what our society has turned into. Big dirty tongues and nothing else. Uhh.
Forbidden Fruit said…
The forcing part is just wrong. If parents really wish for their daughters to get married and settle down with a good guy, they should talk to her about it, explain it to her and let her choose.
As for the other end of the spectrum where women get married at 35, they have a whole different set of issues to deal with.
Sarah F said…
@forbidden fruit- there are always issues in any given situation. I think whats important is that women be given the right to make thier own decisions regarding this very personal matter, without external pressure. Even if you're not forcibly married off, society constantly burdens you with its expectations and tries to project a sense of inadequacy- not everyone is able to fight against that.
Awais Aftab said…
@Forbidden Fruit

There may be some problems for late marriages, though none is as significant or serious so as to invalidate an individual's right to marry late if he/she so desires/chooses.
Alec Lindsay said…
Do you want to be married? Why would you want that? Would it be for the sake of being married? Or to please your family? I find it difficult to understand the obsession your culture has with the institution of marriage. I understand the historical reasons for the importance of marriage reaching this point, but not why its importance persists. Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily criticising it, but baffled.
madcowdisease said…
Marriages....marriages and more marriages is what Pakistani society is all about. From families to TV serials thats what its all about.....as if you dont get married esp if you are a female it would cause an imbalance in the universe or dusrupt cosmology or cause something life threatening. To choose a person to live with, make kids (or not) or to be with a like minded person should be solely the choice of any person. We are obsessed with the idea of marriage as if it is something that needs to be done and that needs to be perfect from sex to kids, from mutual happiness to keeping susraal happy and what not. A humble request to all the parents and "society people ".....please LIVE AND LET LIVE. Let your child pursue his or her dreams and let them decide if they are able to enter into a wedlock or not....stop idealizing marriage....there are plenty of things to worry about like existence of Pakistan and to keep ourselves safe from Taluban and Dengue fever.
Forbidden Fruit said…
@Awais Aftab: Definitely! But like I said, it's hard to establish an ideal. That's the way life is.
Nouman said…
I think it has a lot to do with the independence of women in our society. They are totally dependent on Pakistani Men. As we all know that Family system is very strong in this part of the world which is usually run by the Men and the system despite of having its advantages kills the independence of the individuals. Men decide everything even the lives of their children. Women are usually married off in their early twenties and some even in their teen age before they get a chance to get proper education or job(lets not forget about the unemployment issue in our country). The perception of the society about the older unmarried single woman is that there must be something WRONG with the woman. Dating isn't the Option for the Muslims. Love marriages are not even an option for few uneducated groups in our country which usually end up with two dead bodies. But sometimes, I feel that we are luckier than our parents. I think we need to educate our people. Awareness!!
Anonymous said…
Pakistan is such a barbaric society when it comes to issues like that of marriage, love and sexuality (and others too). There is so little individual freedom. In such matters, it might actually do well for the country to take lessons from tribes that have lived peacefully and sexually free where women get to decide who they will live with. For example, the Todas of Nilgiris in India and also other tribes of Nepal. Peace and freedom in this country is in such a pathetic state that even certain tribes can be their gurus in such matters. Civilization is always a far-off dream for barbarian societies anyway.

As for marriage, whether late or early, whether pressurized or free to choose, it is a kind of a bondage. Even if one chooses one's companion, marriage still amounts to something like a Concordian fallacy in majority of the cases. One falls in love and is emotionally trapped to marry. One marries and then is emotionally trapped to keep the relationship working for the rest of the life. For such a fallacy not to occur in any bond, one must first begin with a study of oneself. If I know myself well, I will know to want well. If I want well, I will choose well. If I choose well, I will act well. If I act well, I will minimize errors and maximize peace. This applies in all spheres. When one has a knowledge of one's nature and one's personality and one's aspirations/priorities, one is ready for making big decisions - like seeking companionship, for example. Being endowed with an animal capability to choose a girl or guy or having time and age in the form of youth on one's side is hardly a license for one to seek companionship. It still amounts to being a part of cattle shepherded by Nature. If one has clear answers for the question 'Why must I bind myself to someone?' and sees as an answer a reasonable personal, psychological growth (and perhaps spiritual, if one is lucky), one might think of taking a risk of being in a bond for a lifetime. Bonds can be so crippling, if gotten into recklessly, pressure or no pressure, society or no society.
Anonymous said…
I am currently undertaking a study for my doctoral in clinical psychology on the very issue of feeling a pressure to marry and the experiecen of the indivudual who remains single.

If you would like to participate or hear more please contact me on pressure2marry@hotmail.com or facebook page pressure 2 marry

It is a UK based study and involves an interview lasting approx. 1 hour!

Would love to hear you views and experiences, please get in touch!