One thing that time on this earth took from me was the unnecessary “Awww” moments. I have become resistant to the sappy and the mushy. I’ve become used to the happy and the gushy. There was a time when I told people how my husband made me a better person. Then I realized that marriage actually changed me. And it changed my husband. Kids didn’t change me. Pregnancies and miscarriages did. Motherhood is my own brand of successes and failures and might have or have not changed me. Similarly, marriage is my own standard of happy or sad and isn’t necessarily either of them.
I’m not a cynic. Actually, far from it. I’m an optimistic person with a penchant for realism. I like unicorns because they came from horses. Fantasy with some reality is something I like because it keeps me from going insane on my own hamster wheel of “what could” and “would it”.
But this world has moved to a version of relationships that I never had the opportunity to enjoy in real life. And I’m sure pretty few people had that opportunity. Most of us have lived imperfect relationships.
Now people tell me that I’m not expected to yell at my kids. I’m expected to be happy with a face mask in the name of self care. I’m to contend myself with a great vacation by a narcissistic partner because “he still cares deep down”. I call bull shit on all of it.
When I read marriage advice it’s usually an unassuming woman who has just started living with a man. She assumes the best intentions from him. There is such a quick exchange of love and sex in Pakistani marriages that readiness is a concept that’s largely frowned upon. A society that cautions its girls to not speak with strangers sends them actually to strangers so they can consummate marriages.
With time this whole facade becomes real life. Our walls are plastered with cake smashes and exotic vacations. Our wardrobes fill with outfits that we will wear to that party that one of our friends will throw when they get the pool fitted. We ourselves become a mere caricature of manufactured happiness and success.
Take it from someone who has been married for more than a minute! Marriages are less about the honeymoon, the trips and the sex. They’re less about the kids we had and the friends we made. It’s very little about the parties we threw and the gifts we received. Actually none of this is the raw reality of marriage.
Marriages are more about many firsts. They’re about being first-time parents, first-time homeowners, first time employees, first-time bosses, first time immigrants.￼
They’re more about the tears that no one heard, the silence that was deafening, the partner who never came through, the bed that was never warm, the soul that remained bereft.
The partnership comes from the secret language of love, the forbidden fruit of lust and the shared passion for a hobby. It’s about the quiet rejoicing over a job promotion, the wails after lost babies that the couple will never see.
South Asian women are very quick to bestow their love on men who win them in the Rishta process. Then they’re very quick to bestow this happy non-wisdom on others that this patriarchal system has brought to them. Then they spend a few years in a cage and realize that they can’t recognize their own face in the mirror. Their husband’s face remains as alien as ever.
Women have to stop looking for a best friend in their husbands. They have to hold their husbands to a higher standard. Their husbands just can’t be providers who are their bed partners also. Husbands don’t have to be best friends. Sure if they do that for you then great! But they have actually signed up for a much bigger job than being a listening ear, a shoulder that’s there, or a hand that holds. They signed up to bleed when we do. Unfortunately not many marriages can lay claim to that.
Husbands can’t just buy expensive vacations and have a woman’s love. They also can’t not meet the bare minimum and remain significant others. That’s not what a marriage is.
In a patriarchal society, any man who wants to be an ally has to be a bigger feminist than the woman he champions.
In a patriarchal society, every feministic man has to live in constant self-doubt and fear of becoming a patriarch. Only then your marriage would be something I’d emulate.
So this is why these pretty pictures tell me nothing of the marriage you have made. The authenticity of a marriage is in its ugliness. Its happiness is in its occasional sadness.
When women praise their partners they forget how easily they have raised their partners to a standard that looks like a pedestal of sorts. These demigods of our feminine existence, who feed on our flesh and take their fill from our souls, have no such enthralling accounts of what we do for them. Sure some of you who are still struggling with being less patriarchal than before will hold your tongue but I know some of you, the consummate man apologist, are going to say,
“Men don’t do Instagram posts”.
Yeah! That’s a problem.
When men don’t count the sweat and the blood and the tears that go into the marriage that their wife creates offline and online, they basically just don’t care. When they fear words like “whipped”, “subdued”, “enslaved”, they further strengthen the system that they created for submission of women.
So this is why these happy accounts of marriage by girls with stars in their eyes, who are daily experiencing orgasms that leave them breathless, and have a Tiffany box on their table that their husband expects them to discover so he can spend a day at the golf course, are uninspiring.
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