I’m No Longer Married to the Idea of Marriage



I always wanted to get married. I know, it’s such a cliché for girls to say that. Didn’t we all imagine a fairytale-like wedding with the dream partner, and act out said weddings on the playground, and just fawn over how life would be so much better when we’re all grown and married? Well, yes. Most of us at least. However, my idealistic and somewhat obsessive desire for marriage has arguably gone on for a lot longer than most.

I have the media to thank for my expectations of marriage (thank you basically every rom-com ever made...) and I have the added bonus of thanking my family, culture, and religion. As I have been raised Muslim, marriage is taught as the end goal for women. I mean, it might not be as do-or-die as it used to be, but it is still what is heavily ingrained in us since we are able to walk and talk. Marriage is seen as something integral that opens up a lot of doors for Muslim women. 

"If I misbehaved, one thing I always remember cropping up is: "if you don’t behave well, then what man will want to marry you?" This simply reinforced the message that marriage is what I should be aspiring to and working towards - especially when you see and hear how unmarried women are viewed in our culture."


Traditionally, Muslim women do not leave their parental home until they get married. We don’t have boyfriends that we move in with and we don’t tend to have children outside of marriage. Therefore, for a Muslim woman who wants to live with her partner or have children, marriage is the key to unlocking those new parts of her life. And my mother definitely made sure we knew that.

The idea of marriage is also used to control our behaviour. From a very young age, if I misbehaved, one thing I always remember cropping up is: "if you don’t behave well, then what man will want to marry you?" This simply reinforced the message that marriage is what I should be aspiring to and working towards - especially when you see and hear how unmarried women are viewed in our culture.

Typically, they are pitied and seen as unlucky or unfortunate or worse still, to have some sort of defect. These women could be at the very top of their careers, but traditional Muslim culture would still view them as lacking or incomplete in some way. Interestingly, I have found it is more the women who reinforce these views around marriage, rather than the men. I’ve heard so much about marriage from my mum and women family members, but I don’t think I’ve ever even heard the word marriage come from my dad.

"It wasn’t even about the actual person, as when I imagined my future married life, that person always seemed to be faceless ... In hindsight, I can see that it wasn’t particularly a strong desire for marriage per se, but a strong desire for freedom."


So, when my friends at school had moved on from dreaming about marriage to dreaming about boys, I became even more engrossed and obsessed with my desire for marriage. I planned out my wedding meticulously and thought about pretty much every detail of married life.

In some ways, it wasn’t even about the actual person, as when I imagined my future married life, that person always seemed to be faceless. It was the idea of being settled and having my own home, my own money, and my own life. In hindsight, I can see that it wasn’t particularly a strong desire for marriage per se, but a strong desire for freedom. I thought of marriage as freedom. 

And I still do, to some extent. The deeply rooted nature of it cannot be easily undone. However, this year has been the first time I have felt that desire for marriage begin to fade. It is not completely gone, but I find myself thinking about it less and less, and the times it does cross my mind, it is does not elicit the same kind of emotional response that it used to.

"The idea of needing a man to 'save' me, or that once I'm married that’s when my life actually begins, is not something I can get on board with anymore. I don’t want to be the kind of person who believes in and fights for gender equality, but then is also waiting on a man to come along and save her."


I have been thinking about this fade in desire and what could have triggered it to slump down my list of life priorities. And I think what it’s come down to is that I now see freedom as separate to marriage. I moved back home and it’s unlikely I will move out again until I get married. The same goes for moving in with a boyfriend or having children. But, I see now that’s not necessarily freedom.

I still have my own life, my own job, and my own money. I still make my own decisions. The idea of needing a man to 'save' me, or that once I'm married that’s when my life actually begins, is not something I can get on board with anymore. I don’t want to be the kind of person who believes in and fights for gender equality, but then is also waiting on a man to come along and save her?! No. I no longer want to live my life with this ‘waiting period’ kind of attitude.

The difficult part now is telling my mother of this fading desire in marriage. This year, I have had countless requests from her to join specific dating sites, or let a family member set me up with someone, or "hey, this family has requested they meet you!" So, even though it’s becoming less of a priority for me, it is only just being ramped up to the next level for her. I will probably have to field these kind of questions and comments for the next few years, but I’m hoping she, and I, will both recognise and fully accept that as much as I would like to get married one day, it is not the be all and end all of a woman’s life.

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