On a women’s only forum I was again reminded of how many women see marriage as the destination that it proves to be so rarely for most of us. Each time I’m lulled into a false sense of progression for women, I’m jolted back into reality by women themselves. Marriage is a dream for many of us. For some it’s a means to something more. For some it is where they’ve been promised that all the action will happen.
So it’s no surprise that a Pakistani woman’s biggest sorrow becomes her marriage when it doesn’t work out. It defines her to a large extent from adolescence so it’s natural that its success or failure seem to define many of us also.
The happily married women in our society think that they’ve cracked the code to happiness in a marital relationship. Can I say your happiness is just as much chance in an arranged marriage system as someone else’s divorce? We are all one step away from the natural selection that Charles Darwin warned us of.
The narrative around marriage and coverture is old and largely scripture-based. This leads to a few hiccups along the road to getting married, staying married and dying married. When you have an institution of marriage based on strict cultural and religious views, individual cases are also seen through the lens of culture and religion, therefore marital trajectories that don’t fit the popular narrative aren’t considered possible.
When I got married I thought I was ready. This was a union I had waited for. In a Pakistani Muslim society really this was my ticket as a cisgender, heterosexual female to a man’s company and sexual dalliance. This was the benevolently granted right to me that ensured I didn’t end up alone. In my marriage, like many of you, I have had moments of loneliness. They’re not a reflection on my relationship. Just that my marriage can’t answer all my questions and can’t be a solution to all my problems.
Along the years I have really started crediting my marriage for what it is. I don’t put fancy bows or flamboyant feathers on it. I don’t hold it as something that helped me be all of who I am today. My husband and I have contributed to each other’s personal growth but not like many would like to believe. We have had individual journeys also scattered throughout our union and I wish more people wanted to know about them.
My marriage has never been my salvation except when I’ve had a lewd stare on a train. Or a catcall. Or a mildly teasing comment. When people saw I was accompanied by a man they backed off. Guess that’s what most marriages are good for anyway so I’m not complaining. Mine has actually proven to be better than a lot of examples around me. I’ve had companionship through it and love, both that I’m very grateful for. Eventually, that’s all I ever wanted from mine even though really, that’s the bare minimum. Guess patriarchy did a number on me too! I think marriage is an occurrence too good to have happened to me, a mere woman. Like most women, I’ve also idolized the idea of marriage more than marriages themselves.
Along the years, we have even created a family together. That’s another journey that we have both taken individually and jointly. More about that another time!
But my marriage didn’t end patriarchy’s hold on me. As a Muslim woman I have come from patriarchy and wedded into patriarchy. Like it or not, most women are married to patriarchs. It’s just different shades of misogyny that these patriarchs come in. My father and husband love their women but on any given day, they enjoy a social status that’s better than mine. My marriage couldn’t elevate my status. I am who I am today largely because of my own tenacity, perseverance and consistency. My somewhat-emancipation is my own work.
So for all the women who seek some kind of destiny in marriage, here’s a tip! To all of you who think marriage and motherhood is your calling, here’s an advice, take it or leave it!
Let your marriage be a pit stop on your journey of life. If it’s a good one you might feel inclined to stay there forever. But if it’s a pit stop where you share your space with a misogynistic patriarch then move on. After all, it’s only a pit stop. It’s no one’s destination.