Remember that time I went on a psychotic rant about having value as a human despite not being a married woman? (If not – read it here… it’s a wild ride…)
I really really really didn’t want to get married. I was so jaded by the horrible relationships that I had seen between Muslim couples where both kinda resented each other and were miserable.
I was sick of the cultural belief that a woman was her husband’s property and that he was allowed to control her and her life – that he was allowed to hit her if she deserved it and she was supposed to tolerate any mistreatment for the sake of her family because it was ‘normal’.
I was constantly being told that if I got married I’d have to stop working and be more feminine and domesticated. I’d have to be less funny and less intimidating to ensure that my husband’s masculinity wasn’t threatened. I’d have to strip down my own identity for the sake of a man’s fragile ego.
My attitude against marriage created a huge amount of pressure from my family and the community as soon as I turned 20. People liked to constantly remind me that despite my achievements, I was a failure and how I was well and truly past my used by date. The aunties in the family would interrogate my parents for letting me ‘live so loosely.’ They shoved their grooms in my face and I grew more and more and more resentful, feeding off their bullshit to fuel my anger. I refused to listen to their reasoning because it was rubbish. I started to fight back – quite rudely.
I mean, why the hell would I want to get married? I was far more interested in my career and basic human freedoms and felt that getting married would basically compromise these things for no valid reason. I felt like as an individual I was better off. I enjoyed my own company and the freedom I had to do whatever I wanted to without the intrusion of anyone else. Everyone trying to marry me off thought I was a massive bitch (and a “man” because I had a strong personality) who couldn’t get married. I had absolutely no interest in getting married. At all.
And then I met my husband. I didn’t mean to, but it happened.
He grew up in a similar family with migrant parents living in their own universe. It made it so easy to relate to each other and our weird nuances. He had similar life goals and most importantly, the same witty – almost sadistic – sense of humour that kept me cackling. He had a calmness and patience that I lacked and he seemed to bring me back down to earth when I got anxious. He was impressed by the things that I did and would come to my lectures to hear me talk about important issues. I was happier being around him than when I wasn’t. It didn’t take long before we were married (y’know, via ‘Muslim dating‘) – much to eeeeeeeeeeveryone’s surprise.
Since we were both older it was easier to have conversations at length about what we were expecting of a life together. We found the places that we agreed on and figured out where we could compromise. We discussed important things about how we intended to lead our lives, what we’d do with money, whether we wanted children and when, how we expected to be treated and what we expected of each other.
Although our parents were the ones who controlled most of our wedding day (don’t even get me started…); our marriage and plans for the future were done completely on our own terms – and I think that’s a really important part of starting things out – you’re basically negotiating the terms of the contract that you’ll use to start the life you’ll live; so they need to be terms you’ll thrive in, terms that will make you a happier person.
Now we share this life together that I could have never imagined was possible. Sometimes I watch him while he’s sitting there and reading and I can’t believe he’s real. The younger girls in my family comment on how they’ve never seen a couple like us before because he’s so supportive and encouraging and affectionate. The married mums in our community now share their sad stories and how they wish they had chosen better and not just fallen into the conservative thought process of marrying the one people think they should.
Although we didn’t start out the way those around us did and despite it taking a concerted effort, it was worth it. We didn’t have to become the bullshit couples around us, nor did we have to fall into the cultural mine-fields that would make us unhappy.
I still work. I still blog. I still see my friends. I still make jokes. I still have strong opinions and he supports me all the way – the same way I support him.
I guess what I’m saying is you never know what’s going to happen – but don’t fear the prospect of opening yourself up to the right person because we don’t have to be those miserable couples. Don’t listen to the nonsense that the Muslim community tells you about the type of man you should be with – especially when it sounds like a living nightmare.
You can choose your own happiness.
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