Why marriage is not for everyone

Published: February 15, 2017
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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

  • Faraz Talat

    The problem with path 2, however, is that these sexual minorities end up reinforcing the same heteronormative system that is responsible for their misery in the first place.

    I don’t mean to be paternalistic about this, but if enough non-straight people refused to marry, we’d be well on our path to ‘normalize’ the choice of staying single. Instead, when 80% of gay people end up marrying, it makes the other 20% appear even more outlandish and foolish.

    I understand refusing marriage is not easy, which is why I can’t just ‘tell’ gay people to stop marrying. It’s their decision, based on their individual circumstances. But they ought to consider the damage their decision to marry may cause to the movement for the rights of sexual minorities, and at least make a sincere attempt at taking a stand for their identity’s sake.
    Recommend

  • farhan

    Feminists should not get married..they rarely suceed..and men should not marry themRecommend

  • Vish

    Very well articulated. Applause!Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Here we go blaming patriarchy again. As things stand, the institution of marriage completely favors women, not men. Men are polygamous by nature with a tendency to spread their genes. Women by nature, need one strong man to help raise her offspring. Marriage binds one man to one woman. It goes against the very nature of men.

    I think there was a blog about this around here not too long ago?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

  • ab

    If not marriage, what then? how conveniently you said it all. it’s not a sexless less life. it’s not our lifestyle man. you forget to mention having partners and girl friends with roaming around the world , reading books trying different restaurants(with whom). that’t not our ideology . This is from the west. Our marriages will improve a great deal when we accept the fact that no one is perfect and the wife will accept imperfection in husband and the husband will accept imperfection in wife.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Yup, you have a very fair point here.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Because depression is non-existent among married people?Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Why should it matter to you, if any random citizen of a free country is in a pre-marital romantic relationship?

    He accepts your right to live by your own cultural-religious values, but his values are subject to your approval before he gets to live by them? That hardly seems fair.

    This is precisely where we question whether the cultural order is the goal in itself, or whether it’s simply a path leading to the goal – that is, your happiness.

    This is not a ‘Western’ thing. The West has a long history of harshly suppressing pre-marital relationships, and it still offers legal and financial incentives to married people. It’s simply that the system evolved to accommodate people with alternative values.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

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    We should accept gay people who want to marry opposite sex.

    Its not that big of a deal where your suppressed westernised mindset is seeing the poor gay Muslims as oppressed. They’re not. And no its an ” alternate ” life when you marry someone. It’s called responsibilities that you dont seem to want. What about gay white male Christians who CHOOSE to marry women? You dont feel sorry for them now do you?
    There was a TV show on it. Too bad in these modern times, Lucifer satanists couldn’t stand an alternative liberated POV and thus had to shut that show down.

    Haha Im laughing at your science logic as if people like you can only see the light and find purpose in their lives if “Science” magically presents something as fact. Well keep hoping because its not going to happen.
    That road will always be under construction because there is nothing to prove! It has nothing to do with science. You are living in your own world.

    It’s not as simple as being born straight and born gay. People are born psychos too but doesn’t mean you encourage them. Nobody’s born perfect.

    And just look at yourself, acting all peaceful progressive You’re favouring one community. Where’s the peace in that?Will never understand. On one hand you’re so concerned about gays who end up getting married but at the same time you are hating people who choose to do it on their own free will? People can do what ever they want.

    Unfortunately in these lost times, we’re now questioning things like gender, morals and and God all together. Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    Why should it matter to you if a gay man wants to get married to a woman because he has his own religious spiritual beliefs about it? Us human beings are funny creatures.

    Just now you were preaching world peace for gay rights but once you will find out a gay wants to marry a woman, you will start hating the gay community because they are making the woman’s life miserable? But what if that woman turns out to be a homophone? Are u then gonna shift your hate on that woman and start venting about gay rights again?
    What’s wrong with you? No body seems to be getting the logic of how things are supposed to be. We all are hiding hate behind these fake masks of equality and world peace. We all hate and we hate all. Peace is an illusion.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Hey Lubna, you are doing good!!.
    You forgot to mentioned the Hippocratic Oath that
    should confine a ‘pseudo doctor’ to treating the sick
    and injured. Instead of writing blogs. No social commentary needed, please
    Not forgetting the woman who died on a hospital floor
    in Lahore. For lack of medical attention. She was rejected
    by numerous ‘pseudo doctors’ and ended up dying
    on the floor of a hospital, which was full of doctors. She simply
    did not have enough money.
    So the good doctor should limit himself to discussing what ails
    his brethren, the Hippocratic Oath takers, in the Land of the Pure.Recommend

  • Saj

    There is no substitute for the support one receives from a good spouse, best friends and even siblings can pale in comparison. But if you’re stuck with a spouse that turns out to be more of a liability than a resource, than single all the way.Recommend

  • Agha

    “Its not that big of a deal where your suppressed westernised mindset is seeing the poor gay Muslims as oppressed.” You think gays in Muslims countries marry women of their own “choice”. What blindness you show to the suffering to gay people. You talk about ” suppressed westernised mindset” but are willfully ignorant of the suppression society places on gay people. You “want” the author to respect those gay people who marry against their own orientation. But the author never denigrates them. Its interesting that you want their “choice” to be respected but you are also one of the people who will NEVER accept or tolerate those gays who choose partners of their own gender. Your double standard and straight privilege is showing clearly and tells us you know absolutely nothing about the issue.Recommend

  • Agha

    “Why should it matter to you if a gay man wants to get married to a woman because he has his own religious spiritual beliefs about it? ” Interesting choice of words. No gay people (especially in muslim majority countries) do no “want” to marry women. They do so to conform to the disgusting societal pressure. And what strawman you have erected. No one talked about hating the gays who marry women. Author was actually sympathized with them that they have to make this “choice”. How ignorant can you be to the plight of gay community to suggest that they “want” to marry women. They conform pure and simple. Come out of your straight, religious bubble of privilege.Recommend

  • Agha

    And yes gay muslims ARE oppressed. How can you be blind to so obvious a fact is beyond me.Recommend

  • hameed

    You are joking, right?Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    im sorry, but what does your comment have anything to do with my rant?

    she must have gone to a government hospitalRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    Oh no the ” suffering ” of gay people that they have to marry a woman! How cruel and barbaric when there are far more worse things happening in life. Again your mind is screaming about non existent issues. Please tell me where you saw a gay Pakistani man forced to marry a girl that you are oh so aware of their “suffering”?

    It’s all by “choice” and if both parties are aware of it, then who are you to barge into their wedding ceremony and scream and shout that its wrong because the people involved are suffering? Mind your damn business.

    I cant believe you are calling it suffering. This directly points to the westernised mindset you have that if someone is even remotely deviant from the norm, surely he’s oppressed and uncle sam and big brother must immediately send a democracy plan to rescue the guy and get him asylum in the good old US, where hate crimes against LGBT community still happen to date, but whatever, he’s in the so called land of free so its all good.

    If you feel so oppressed my dear, then leave the country but dont bash the country simply because it has values and culture different than the ones you believe in.

    I know everything about this issue dear.

    There was a documentary on this “issue” as well. ” My husband’s not gay “. Gay white christian men who married women and had kids were openly declaring that they like men and there is no shame in that. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve had watching a documentary.

    And why is there so much hoopla over sexuality? Passion eventually dies out. Maybe if its something that was going to last till our last breath, then we can allow ourselves to marry who ever we want. But it doesn’t so we should adhere ourselves to rules described by God, if you are a believing Muslim of course.
    Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    you sound like youve dont extensive research on it when you clearly have not and words are just coming from your mind. Hate, poured in by west and pop culture that you have lost your way and are now calling upon death to a country because you “think” gays are oppressed in Pakistan simply because gays are glorified in the west.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    ” No gay people (especially in muslim majority countries) do no “want” to marry women.”
    How did u come this conclusion? there are just your own beliefs about Islam.

    ” disgusting societal pressure ” Are you kidding me?

    There are articles, blogs all over internet from gay Muslims who have confessed to their attraction for same gender but made the choice by THEMSELVES withOUT any pressure from the ” disgusting Islamic society ” as you have called it but because of their FAITH and RELIGIOUS believes, and their OWN spiritual beliefs and NOT because of the society or anything like that to MARRY a woman and they are HAPPY, I repeat HAPPY!

    I dont want to hear again that ” oooh gay muslims are oppressed and they are FORCED to make a choice of getting married”

    Again, they are not forced, they have their OWN religious beliefs about it and thats why they decide THEMSELVES to get married.

    Yeah sure there might be a few lost causes, confused souls who are too influenced by western media that they kinda feel oppressed y. They are obviously too depressed to function and west can keep them. Recommend

  • Ahmar

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

  • farhan

    wee done, keep standing upto these liberals..they should move to the westRecommend

  • Agha

    Lets marry you to a woman and see if you feel “suppressed” or think it is a small thing, shall we?Recommend

  • Agha

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

  • Agha

    ” I repeat HAPPY!” So? Whats your point. Some of them are happy. So we should discriminate against all others who want a relationship with men? They are suppressed, have you read the constitution. It CRIMINALIZES gay people. Societal impression of gay people is intolerant to the core. So don’t give that tripe about them being “happy” and “choosing” to marry a woman. Some do, NOT ALL. Recommend

  • Agha

    ” they have their OWN religious beliefs ” Of course those religious beliefs which essentially consider gay people filthy and tell them that if they have a consensual relationship with trust and loyalty to another man, they are going to suffer an eternity in hellfire.

    Same with the society which essentially degrades and demonizes them, so much so that if they were publicly open about their sexuality they would be treated like outcasts and their families would disown them and that HAS happened by the way and happens.

    OF COURSE they “choose” to marry women and are “happy”. Now I don’t doubt that some of these men may be finding happiness but your ignorance of how social and religious pressure works astounds me. I mean its not rocket science, you know. Its basically peer pressure magnified on societal level.

    And since you seem to be so much a fan of “choosing” let me ask you, are you ALSO in favor of those gay man who choose to have relationships with other gay men? Or does the “choice” only reigns supreme in your world if the choice made is “correct” one according your beliefs? Since you are so much a fan choice, would support an amendment into the constitution to decriminalize homosexuality?
    Recommend

  • Agha

    Don’t you worry, no one’s gonna marry you. You are safe.Recommend

  • Aish

    You said that “An emotional and sexual bond is imperative to a healthy spousal relationship”. Yet, in the same paragraph you acknowledge asexual people. If there is an asexual couple, they can have a perfectly “healthy spousal relationship” without sex. Asexual people are not aromantic, please be more careful in your research the next time you choose to use LGBTQ people in examples as they are already misrepresented.
    Otherwise you make a lot of great points! 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

  • farhan

    mind your own business. And dont get personel with me.. im not personallly attacking anyone..using shaming tactics elsewhereRecommend

  • farhan

    mind your own business!Recommend