Busting the ‘late’ marriage myth: Why I didn’t marry early

Published: September 10, 2015

Many argue that the “right one” can come along at any age and it’s a waste of time to not “settle down” with them PHOTO: REUTERS

We are well into the 21st century, hurtling towards a new era of science and technology, but Indian women still face a basic struggle. As soon as they step into their mid-20s, Indian women have to deal with the pressure of getting married to a ‘suitable’ man. There are many things wrong with that thought.

First, it assumes that every woman is sexually interested in men. Second, it assumes that every woman wants to get married. The pressure on men to be ‘suitable’ is another story. Troubles for women don’t end with ‘choosing’ the right sexuality, or the conventional desire to get married and have children, like a good girl.

There is a small, hopefully growing, section of women in India who have it better than the others – the lucky few whose parents don’t bother them with such pressure. Even then, there are relatives and acquaintances who will persist with their inappropriately personal questions about your life. I didn’t face any pressure from my parents, but I did face intrusive questions from relatives and, sadly enough, from friends, people my own age, who I thought shared the same mind-set about marriage and the somewhat downgraded importance of it. Perhaps it was the clichéd ‘misery loves company’ syndrome, or maybe it was genuine concern, but the number of times I was told that I should get married in my early 20s was scary.

The friends (women and men) who did get married early didn’t present a shining example either. Responsibilities came earlier for them than the rest of us. Even if they didn’t have children in the first year of marriage, their lives were no longer their own. Sacrifices and compromises had become a part of their daily routines. Plans to meet generally involved them leaving much earlier than the rest of us, only because their spouses wanted them back home and they couldn’t refuse a whiny request like,

“But I’m not going anywhere because I want to spend time with you.”

In most of these marriages, individual social lives are separated by a very blurry line which fades with time. But that’s only what I’ve seen and it’s not to say that all early marriages are like that. I suppose they’re not.

Apart from these seemingly shallow but important scenarios, I had several more reasons to marry ‘late’.

I had time to build and enhance my career

Throughout my 20s, I was told repeatedly that priorities change with time. I thought I had it all figured out when I was 22 and the rebel in me wanted to disregard everyone who told me otherwise. But good sense prevailed soon enough, and I was so glad it did when it did. With a radical career change at the age of 22, I realised that life and the future can look completely different within a very short span of time. After two years of living life like a free bird, I came back home to live with my parents again.

Many doubted my decision, considering I had lived without any restrictions and much more money in a different country. Phoren (foreign) and all, you know. Instead of recognising it as the career shift and life makeover that it was, most of my friends presumed that I came back to get married. The question became so frequent, that the answer “not for a few years” was automated.

Friends, if I may call them that, also said that I may be getting too old to find a good man and will have to make a painful compromise eventually.

Why did I need a ‘good man’ again? No one answered that beyond implying that a ‘good man’ is a good retirement plan. A woman is still expected to give up her career or adjust her life to suit her husband. The pressure on a young woman is intense and she doesn’t have the professional arsenal at the age of 22-23 to fight that. But since I gave myself time till the late 20s to get married, I had a more stable career and an argument for everyone who expected me to give it up.

The longer I would have waited to get married, the stronger this argument would have become. Getting married when I did gave me enough years to focus solely on my career, without any added battles. It also gave me enough time to build a financial base of my own. I decide what to do with my money, which is unheard of among my friends who got married in their early 20s.

I had the time to take care of myself; No, it’s not selfish

I was a volatile early 20-something, like most early 20-somethings. Moods and choices were all over the place and life was travelling at breakneck speed in several directions. Stability didn’t seem important and it wasn’t. I spent more time on myself, growing into the person I wanted to be, rather than the person everyone else wanted me to be.

Looking back, I realise how important those years were, to clear the self-doubt and boost my self-esteem. I didn’t know it in my early 20s, but I know now that no one can make me doubt my self-worth. I’ve done plenty to substantiate that claim. To be in a truly happy relationship, you need to be two truly happy individuals first.

Many argue that the “right one” can come along at any age and it’s a waste of time to not “settle down” with them. Even if you’ve found them at 21, why be in a hurry to get married? Living together, though ideal, is still difficult in India. We wish that would change sooner rather than later, but dating your partner for a few years and getting to know them better isn’t such a bad option. If he’s the right one, don’t you think he’ll wait while both of you build your individual lives first and have done enough to want the permanence that comes with marriage?

I did more than most in their 20s and made an informed decision

I didn’t choose the man I married out of any compulsion. We chose each other and got married because we wanted to, not because we were told. I did a lot of crazy stuff while I was single; I still continue to do them. But when I wanted to do them alone, I did. Now that I want someone to share these experiences with me, I have him and don’t regret it, which I might have done if I had married him earlier.

I lived away from the country and travelled as much as I could. I met the people and saw the places I couldn’t have if I had gotten married in my early 20s. There were several sleepless nights, some spent partying and some working. I loved some, hated some, and will probably never do them again, but I’m so glad they happened.

I know my family as individuals now, rather than one unit

I also spent more time as an adult with my family. I spent more time with my father talking current affairs or family history rather than staring at the TV, which was routine during the awkward teen years, when it’s “uncool” to be seen around your parents.

I spent more time with my mother chatting about everything under the sun rather than discussing academic results. I spent more time being friends with my sister rather than the sworn enemies we were throughout childhood.

I had the time to make up my mind about kids

All through my 20s, I didn’t know whether I wanted kids of my own or not. After all the time I took to oscillate on the decision, I decided firmly that I want to have children. I thought long and hard, met children who were vile, to say the least, and waited to see if it would affect my decision. It didn’t. But instead of being a slave to biology, I will have them only when I want to. I may need to take more precautions with a pregnancy in my mid to late 30s, or I may adopt a child if I don’t want to, or can’t put my body through the process.

Marrying early may not have given me that choice. Marrying at a young age leaves a woman overwhelmed and overridden most of the times. A painful phrase heard too often is,

“She’s too young, what does she know?”

She’s old enough to be married, but not old enough to make a decision about her own body. Despite the logic laid bare, this is the reality in many Indian households even today. Although the families on either side are fairly liberal, I didn’t want to take the risk of ever being told that I’m “too young” to decide against having children.

I have friends who are in their 30s and not married yet. They don’t want it and probably never will. I don’t envy them, I don’t pity them. They don’t envy me, they don’t pity me. We coexist happily in a world moving towards tolerance. Or so we hope.

This post originally appeared here.

Sukhmani Waraich

Sukhmani Waraich

Sukhmani is a fauji kid who has dabbled in two careers before joining the media industry in India. She found her calling when she lost more than a few friendships to her grammar nerd ways. She's a vehement feminist, admires people who work out (can't imagine doing it herself), and has put her globetrotting on hold to earn a few bucks. She tweets as @s_waraich.

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

  • Queen

    It is all about finding the right life partner at the stage of your life when your are ready to spend your life with someone. For some people, that stage comes during 20s while for some it comes during 30s. The important part is to live life happily with that specific someone :)Recommend

  • Gulchand Mehta.

    The author made, what she felt, was the right decision for her. And she managed to
    overcome the hurdles and whispers. Her parents were understanding. However,
    well,..er,..hmmm,..see,..there is a ‘biological clock’ ticking too. Marrying later can
    also spell some issues. The later you marry the more chances are there for the
    children being autistic, slight retardation,or other genetic disorders. The percentage
    increases, with the mother’s age. God forbid it should happen to any parents. But
    the likelihood is there.
    For an average run of the mill Indian girl, circumstances are vastly different. There
    are cultural, caste, social and ‘other’ taboos, so sooner the better.Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    As you know, guys generally mature late and when I look back, I shudder to think how my life would have been if I had married earlier than 30. During most of my 20s, I could hardly take care of myself let alone a wife and/or a kid. On top of that, I would have faced enormous pressure from my parents and my sisters and in-laws not to mention the fact that I was hardly making money to make ends meet back then.

    Having said that, I hope my son marries early so that I can see my grandchildren before I pass away.Recommend

  • Asim

    No matter how happy you and ur wife are u have to face the music of compromises and restrictions.Recommend

  • Syed Abdul Samad

    Dear Aurthur, a glass half full or half empty, it’s all depends upon one’s view, try to make it simple…. don’t try to apply e=mc2 on every part of marriage, make your husband your best friend or make your best friend your husband, by this way you can get your space …. trust is the key, every thing come later …. and believe me when you have someone to support you, then rest of the world mean nothing as you two have created your own world, but few couple are not that lucking and thing to happen in this big world, but getting married in early 20’s is been a excellent journey for me (some times it’s get’s bumpy but as you say we have to make sacrifices.. and this case I preferred it should be me, as a husband it’s my duty to provide food, shelter and happy life for my family) and family planing also play’s a major role, and not all female’s are same, some want’s social life and some prefer just being a house wife, but again having a husband (a.k.a best friends) makes life a paradise.Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    My wife and I got married in our early 20’s and had children early as well. My wife took time off work to raise our children and went back to her career when they were capable of taking care of themselves.

    She’s now had several promotions in her career spanning 20 years. We are now independent of our children and take holidays whenever we want. They take their own holidays with friends and go wherever they want.

    At the same time the age gap between us and our children isn’t so great that we can’t enjoy a game of tennis, badminton or cricket with them. We have similar tastes in music and movies. We can discuss everything from politics, philosophy and religion to fashion, sex and relationships. One of my sons actually got me started doing weight training and he gives me tips on exercises and supplements. My wife is loves cooking and all our children have developed an interest in cooking and baking.

    Our eldest son is now himself looking to get married. We’ve been lucky enough to see him get his degree in engineering and establish his own career and hopefully will one day also see our grandchildren as well.

    I could go on and on about how enriched our lives are because we have been able to enjoy watching our children grow into adults. I’d like to think that we’ve enriched our children’s lives by allowing them to see us in the prime of our lives rather than decrepit senile old folk, tottering around in walking frames and lining up for hip replacement surgeries.

    Children can be so much more than just an infant to push around in a stroller and many of those who chose to put off starting a family will find this out when it’s way to late to do anything about it.

    Each to their own I suppose. In the UK nowadays you now often see
    columns in newspapers written by women who wished they hadn’t left
    raising a family as the last item on their ‘to-do’ lists.

    I suspect that in 20-25 years time we’ll be reading similar articles in the Tribune as well.Recommend

  • Sarah

    “Marrying later can
    also spell some issues. The later you marry the more chances are there for the
    children being autistic, slight retardation,or other genetic disorders”

    Please stop spreading false information, thank you.Recommend

  • coaxial1212

    “Guys generally mature late” and do you have any scientific proof for this????Recommend

  • coaxial1212

    Marrying early can also be very devastating. The ideal age to bear children according to research. Marrying early is more devastating.Recommend

  • Amit

    Beautiful article. Loved it!Recommend

  • Nomad1412
  • BP

    Before commenting, do some research. But that would be asking
    too much.Recommend

  • Farah Samuel

    Very well put. Quite an inspiration for the young pressurized girls whose only way out of their troubles is a “Marriage”; even though that leads to more troubles if they are not prepared to have it. Congratulations!Recommend