Why marriage is not for everyone

Published: February 15, 2017

We are conditioned to be afraid of ‘dying alone’ – an obvious hyperbole, as marriage is never the sum total of one’s social universe. PHOTO: FILE.

There are more routes to happiness than those identified by the social majority. It is time we acknowledge that not all of these routes transit through the terminal of marriage.

Any discussion on whether a certain custom is right for you, must begin with an honest recognition of your primary goal. The goal is your happiness and prosperity, and nothing that any parent, uncle, aunty, friend has to say about it has any agency over your own awareness of what brings you contentment. Their counsel may be wise and worthy, but they have the disadvantage of not knowing you the way you might know yourself.

Kneeling at the dual-altars of culture and tradition is not our primary goal. The sociocultural norms regarding relationships were created to serve you and to optimise your chances of finding joy in life. You were not created to serve the cultural order.

Consider an elderly couple who, either by choice or biological circumstance, doesn’t have children. We’re conditioned to believe that the path to a happy life is singular, and distinctly laid out through trial-and-error over hundreds of years. This path invariably involves a house booming with the sweet noises of children – undoubtedly a potent source of joy for many. Society flashes a sympathetic half-smile at a childless couple every day, and implies that it has fewer reasons to laugh than the rest of us. What is happiness without children?

Yet, that childless couple discovers a mutant strain of happiness that flies in the face of society’s expectation of what “life” is supposed to look like.

Why decline marriage?

To begin with, the institution of marriage is outright inconducive to the welfare of sexual minorities. Medical science has recognised a series of parallel states of human sexuality that are beyond our ability to change. And unlike infertility, these states are not regarded in the concerned scientific manual – the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – as ‘pathological’.

Most controversial of such conditions is homosexuality. But we are also recognising states like ‘asexuality’, in which a person simply harbours no interest in a romantic relationship. An emotional and sexual bond is imperative to a healthy spousal relationship. A marriage where such bonding is not possible, either terminates in a painful divorce, or chugs on lovelessly as a stone-faced relationship of practical convenience.

For a long time, prominent feminists have been voicing their concerns about marriage as an inherently patriarchal institution. This subject merits a longer discussion than what can be summed up in a paragraph or two. It is hardly surprising though, that marriages are commonly associated with sexist customs like dowry trading, and other traditions that objectify the bride as a passive entity being claimed by the groom.

The aforementioned political reasons and unchangeable states make no comment on a vast field of idiosyncrasies. Each one of us has a unique set of needs and aspirations, based on our varying circumstances. An explanation or apology is not owed for matters strictly concerning oneself.

If not marriage, what then?

We are conditioned to be afraid of ‘dying alone’ – an obvious hyperbole, as marriage is never the sum total of one’s social universe. We are besieged by fears about how our personal decisions may affect the feelings of our parents, or our family’s social standing. Why do you tell your parents?

We retreat to the basics. What is the primary objective? If that goal is to shoe-horn you into a ready-made social structure that exists for its own sake, then marriage is clearly the answer. But if the main goal is your happiness and prosperity, then that is a different matter altogether.

What happens if we don’t marry? We dare to be happy in our own way, in the face of society’s ignorant disbelief. We sing, read and write, focus on our careers, hang out with friends, try out new restaurants, and travel the world. We carve out an alternative ‘normal’ for ourselves.

There is no deadline for finding love, and no need to force oneself into a relationship because “it’s time”. Let yourself be the one to decide when “it’s time”. Pay no heed to ageist scaremongering, because older people are not incapable of love and bonding.

Congratulate friends and siblings who choose to marry without a social gun to their heads, and dance spiritedly at their weddings. But refuse to let them repay us with their pity.

Refuse to let them take false pride in having discovered some greater meaning in life, which we have failed to experience.

Our lives are not your lives, and that’s okay.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Keyboard Soldier

    For gay folks in the western world, the choice is adoption.

    For gay people in the Islamic, or other religiosity-prone countries, there are two choices:

    1. Be rich, and stay single. No body questions the wealthy.
    2. If not rich, then marry, and live an alternative life – this is the case with most of the homosexuals living in the religious countries.

    The road to science-backed rationalization of human sexuality is still under construction – unfortunately.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Difficult subject .Recommend

  • Amrita Yasin

    Before you start rooting for alternative fulfilling lifestyles make sure you are ready for the alternative problems of depression and loneliness etcRecommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Yup, you have a very fair point here.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Faraz! Hope you read my comment.
    I was browsing through youtube listening to the Indian national anthem sung by various Indian singers and I stumbled upon a video of you singing the Indian national anthem. Bravo! Lots of respect to you for coming up with these ingenious ways to quell mutual suspicion.
    You’ve got a good voice and sang the anthem quite well. Respect !Recommend

  • Zahida Rehman Jatt

    Excellent write-up Faraz . I couldn’t agree more . Its such a pleasure to hear sane voice after all the cliches and platitudes about people who dont marry . Well done .Recommend

  • Ahmar

    No. Why do you think it is a joke?Recommend

  • Agha

    Pakistan is not religious enough, farhan. Please move to Saudi.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    Marriage is between a man and a woman. Its satanic devil worshiping people like Katy Perry and their songs like I kissed a girl that are influencing young people to be on the wrong path.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    wait, how can u demonize the whole society just because it says somewhere in old book covered in dust that gays should be criminalized. Pakistanis are loving and accepting people. How hypocritical of you that u r demonizing people just because they dont approve of one act. Did it occur to you that these people might have a billion others good qualities that u probably that u dont? Like any traditional mom in Pakistan. Full of love and kindness, yes so oblivious to the whole gay agenda of the West. Are u going to call these mothers who lost their kids in APS , terrorists because West has influenced your mind to do so? shame on u.

    Youre so sad like this is the only issue u can focus on.

    Liberals like u just seem to hate everything about this country from core of your hearts. Western influence too much?

    Please leave the country and become a refugee sweeping floor in a gay bar in some some red neck state of USA then wait to get killed in a random hate crime because West is just so progressive and world peace is just around the country for them, unlike Pakistan, where evil cruel moms kills their sons if they come out as gay. OMG so oppressed, so oppressed. Lets send these poor oppressed suffocating souls to US and also make Pakistan look like a backward intolerant country. Why do u people have to drag the country and the society into this? Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    and FYI, gay/homosexuality is a WHITE concept. This means, an idea or belief introduced by WHITE people, western society, NOTHING to do with genes or genetics. Look it up.

    Secondly, why are we discussing such useless topics now? I mean why r we giving them so much importance? Why weren’t these issues present in 1940s lets say. Oh thats right, our ancestors were busy trying to fight for a separate country for their next generations. Why is it that all rulers in our history have been dominantly straight? Why is homosexuality and transgender a trend now? Its all western propaganda pushed by sexualisation of society and pop culture to destroy family structures. I firmly believe people think they have the straight or gay disease because of hyper sexualization of society.Recommend