Why should a marriage rest on solely the bride’s shoulders?

Published: March 2, 2013
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I believe fairness is a way to achieve what a healthy marriage is intends to; the merging of two lives, not the figurative demise of one life to appease another. PHOTO: FILE

Recently, I came across a blog post on The Express Tribune which left me appalled. In this post the author gave some advice to a new bride.

Let me clarify beforehand, I’m no expert in the marriage department, nor am I naive nor presumptuous enough to think I’ve got it all figured out. However, the advice that I wish to pen is of equality – fairness, plain and simple.

You wouldn’t maintain a friendship if it were one-sided, would you? You wouldn’t make a deal or sign a contract in which you were being dealt a resolutely unfair hand, would you?

So why would a person be so willing to enter into what’s arguably one of the most important ‘contracts’ in a person’s life, knowing and accepting that he or she will be at a distinct disadvantage?

I can’t help but be incensed when I read the advice given to young brides or brides-to-be in our culture. It screams only one thing to me; you are not to have your own identity.

You are either a wife or a mother. Period. You are not a woman. Your individuality is lost after marriage. And if the marriage fails, it’s your fault.

In light of what I read in the blog mentioned above, I decided to compile a list of my own, a list that I believe is a way to achieve what a healthy marriage is intended to; the merging of two lives, not the figurative demise of one life to appease another.

1. Try not to be too quick to judge your new family

Why not tell the new family not to be too quick to judge the newcomer and instead, embrace her? Make her feel welcome and go the extra mile to make her comfortable since she is the one leaving her life behind.

From a personal perspective, I’m completely against the notion that a woman should leave her life behind and live in someone else’s parents’ home. Simple logic tells me, if I have to leave my home, he is adult enough to leave his. However, I understand this is a deep-seated tradition among most Pakistanis and who am I to come along and order a change?

I simply think the situation can be handled with at least a bit more fairness.

2. Remember that you have married a human being who is as much of a mature individual as you are

Most guys (and their families) need to realise that the girl coming into their home is not someone who ought to be expected to mend her ways simply to suit their wishes. Both sides need to make an effort to understand each other, give each other some personal space and respect their differences. Presuming the new groom really is a mature individual, he should have no trouble taking time to understand his new wife and accepting her.

3. The girls in our society do not marry a man, they marry a clan

To be quite frank, this needs to change altogether. This notion that a girl marries an entire family is old school and simply doesn’t fit from a practical standpoint anymore. Both need to learn to respect one another’s families. That doesn’t mean you’ll love everyone, or even like everyone, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to lay yourself down to please them. Marriage is between a man and a woman.

Two people. Period.

Third party interference will never make it go smoothly, whether with good intentions or not. This doesn’t mean you should forget your own families; always keep the element of respect and care when dealing with your partner’s family, but the crucial decisions, like how many babies, when to have babies, what to spend money on, where to live, what to buy, to move, not to move, etcetera should ideally be made by the husband and wife.

4. It might seem like the only thing to do at times but try not to tell on your in-laws to your husband

I agree. There is rarely ever a situation where I think ‘tattling’ is acceptable behaviour for an adult. It simply adds drama and makes a mess of things. Instead of going to someone else, approach the person or persons directly. Unless it’s an extreme situation entirely out of your control and third party assistance becomes necessary (for example, your in-laws are disrespectful or abusive in some way).

5. You will gain more respect over time by allowing time to take its course while dealing with a lot of issues

Forgive me, but being the passive ‘good girl’ approach has in no way helped Pakistani women to date, and I don’t see it helping in the future. Keeping the element of respect, make yourself heard. If it was a mutual decision between parents and son for the son to remain in his parents’ house after marriage, then it’s presumable they also knew that someday, there would be a new addition to the family in the form of a daughter-in-law. If they aren’t willing to make adjustments and/or changes, or at the very least, accept the new girl for what she is, then it seems the son needs to move out and live separately where he and his wife can make their own rules.

6. Yes, it is hard to not visit your parents frequently in the early days of the marriage but do try to keep your maika-visits limited at this time

Why?

Why should the girl, once again, be the one to make herself unhappy and go through a tough transition relatively alone?

This attitude is one of the many ingredients in the recipe for unhappiness. Marrying a girl does not make her yours to do with as you please, and expecting her to make a tough transition alone, without her parents is simply absurd. No one would appreciate someone meddling in their relationship with their own family. Why is it acceptable coming from your life partner? This system hasn’t proven to be successful in any way; where’s the logic in promoting it?

7. Try not to talk too much or too excessively

What? Why make yourself unheard? Encouraging silence or lack of proper communication does not make sense in any set-up, particularly not in one as important as a marriage. Two way communication is crucial. Walking on eggshells to avoid being irksome is not a solution.

8. Avoid getting too familiar too fast

It’s simply absurd to expect the girl to tiptoe around like a fearful mouse trying to be invisible and not step on any toes. I’m not suggesting barging in on anyone’s personal space, but do make an effort to get to know your in-laws and give them a chance to get to know you. Putting up walls is no way to develop a healthy relationship with anyone.

9. Don’t get into the competition mode with the female in laws at all

Yes, competition is never healthy with people you aren’t supposed to be in competition with and reeks of insecurity in certain situations. Don’t encroach on anyone’s territory, establish a bit of your own personal space.

10. Do not enter the marriage with divorce as an option on your mind

I wholeheartedly concur with this one. You wouldn’t take on a new adventure, begin a journey, or start a business with failure in mind. The same rule applies to marriage. Only in extreme situations should divorce ever be on the table.

Having said all that, with respect to the time the author took to write this out, frankly I just think this list reiterates all the things that are currently unfair to women about the set-up of marriage in Pakistan.

As far as it being the woman’s job to run things smoothly, pardon me but that’s not the case. Marriage is a two way street and its two people entering into it. It is equally the husband’s responsibility to see the differences in his wife and learn to adapt. If he doesn’t give his 50%, there’s no reason for the woman to be expected to give hers, as it simply won’t be enough.

Before the menfolk jump on me as I’ve neglected to mention them here, fret not. I’m not attacking the male population as a whole, nor am I pointing fingers at you alone. From what I know, marriage is no piece of cake for you guys either, and can often be equally difficult or overburdening. But if you’re looking to get married and want to make it work, remember your new bride had a life before you, and deserves to have one in marriage as well. She is an individual. Not just a wife or the mother of your babies. She’s a woman before all of that. Treat her as such.

Arub M

Arub M

A graduate student pursuing a business degree with a concentration in marketing. In her spare time, she loves to socialise, travel and read.

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