The Pakistani male conundrum: If you date a girl, don’t marry her

Published: March 1, 2018

The girlfriend is suitable for dating and having fun, and the wife is what men move on to when they want to settle down and start a family.

“Yaar ab aisi larki se shaadi thori karsaktay hain!”

(One cannot possibly marry such a girl!)

“Yaar wo Sunni hai or mein Shia; meray ghar walay kabhi nahi manein gay.”

(She is a Sunni and I am a Shia; my family will never agree.)

“Aisi larkian toh sirf time pass hoti hain; shaadi thori kartay hain in say.”

(Such girls are there for fun, to pass the time only; you are not supposed to marry them.)

“Ammi abbu nahi manein gay. Wo hamari zaat ki nahi hai.”

(My mom and dad won’t agree. She doesn’t belong to our caste.)

These comments, unsurprisingly, came from some of my very close male friends and relatives, when I inquired about their plans to marry their girlfriends. After all, Pakistani men are notorious for their double standards in almost all aspects of life, and one such double standard reflects in their substantially different criteria when it comes to choosing a girlfriend and choosing a wife. Though the role of the wife is essentially an extension of the role of a girlfriend, and both these roles are traditionally meant to be played by females, however, in most cases two entirely different women are selected by our men.

Conventionally, the men of our society desire to have a gorgeous, witty, liberal, open-minded and independent woman as their girlfriend, with whom they can hang out freely and boast amongst their buddies of being the beau of such a “hot” girl. When it comes to choosing a girlfriend, caste, creed or religion of the girl does not matter, as long as she is attractive. Though they’ll claim to be tolerant and pretend that differences do not matter to them at all, they will also lead the girl on with promises and hopes of marriage so that she sticks around; even though they know that there is no such possibility of getting hitched.

On the contrary, when it comes to selecting their life partner, the same “liberal” men take a 180-degree turn and alter their selection criteria. They look for girls who are beautiful but also innocent, family-oriented, religious, and dependent – girls who can one day become the mother of their children. The same men who earlier remained unconcerned about the religion, class, caste or creed of their girlfriends, will all of a sudden feel that such factors are extremely significant and cannot be compromised upon when it comes to choosing a wife.

This ‘girlfriend versus wife’ criterion is considered normal in our society, with the sad reality being that we find advocates of this brutal system in our own families. Boys are not stopped from dating the girls they want, but are very openly advised and even threatened by their own mothers to not even think of marrying their girlfriends, especially if the girl belongs to another class, caste or sect. This is an actual dilemma in our society. Instead of stopping their sons from dating girls with whom there are no prospects for a future, mothers only try to ensure that their sons do not go to the extent of considering getting hitched to their temporary sweethearts. Mothers will constantly bring up the bahu (daughter-in-law) criteria of their family, and will talk about their armaan (hope) to bring in a bahu of their own choice; an emotional plea to which all the “mama’s boys” in Pakistan eventually relent to.

The direct consequence of this chauvinistic system is that the girls of our society are segregated into two segments – the ‘girlfriend’ material and the ‘shaadi’ material. The former is only suitable for dating and having fun, while the latter is what men move on to when they want to settle down and start a family.

Frustrated by the fact that they will one day have to marry a girl of their parent’s choice, one most likely to have been suggested by some rishta aunty or another, boys use their pre-marriage years to pass their time and have some fun with girls deemed the ‘girlfriend’ type. Perhaps the most dismal aspect of this scenario is that not only are these girlfriends unaware of the intentions of their partners, they are also not treated respectably, and are often cheated upon and dumped as soon as the guy is ready to settle down with his mother’s manpasand bahu (daughter-in-law of choice).

This is a shame for the elderly women in our families who, despite being women themselves, not only justify this system but also play a significant role in promoting it. This is why boys cheat and lie to their parents to date girls, and if somehow the parents come to know, they throw a tantrum without realising that their own upbringing is to blame for their children going behind their backs. This plague has inculcated hypocrisy and frustration in the youngsters of the current generation, and if left untreated, it will eventually pass on to the next generation as well.

It is my humble request to mothers to please develop in their sons the capacity to respect each and every woman, and not just distribute respect based on a discriminatory criterion. Boys should be taught to be loyal in their relationships, and should be given enough space to make the decision of selecting their life partner on their own. Mothers need to develop the tolerance to accept their son’s desired partner, even if she does not abide by the traditional norms of a bahu. I am certain that if mothers gather the courage to inculcate virtues of loyalty and respect for women as a whole, without any discrimination, in their sons, ultimately their daughters will be saved from falling prey to being classified as just the ‘girlfriend type by any hypocritical man.

Only if this sexist system is rectified and stereotypes are broken will our society get disinfected from the double standards that torment us and compel us to judge and classify women into types, where some women are meant for marriage and procreation, while others are just deemed good enough to pass the time with while a man waits for the one that is “marriage material”.

Afshan Zahra

Afshan Abbas

The author is a graduate from Bahria University Karachi. Writing is her favorite pastime and she writes whenever any topic touches the chords of her heart. She likes to raise her voice on issues related to social injustice, women rights and education. She tweets @AfshanZahra2014 (

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

  • Mazhar Ali

    Well Said. It’s a bitter truth, a hidden reality well exposed by the author.Recommend

  • Imran Amin

    True indeed. Agreed a 100%. it saddens me to see the current generation being consumed by such idiocy.Recommend

  • khizar

    Not true at all, as I married last month with my girlfriend after 17 years of dating and struggle.Recommend

  • Sheikh Abdulsamad

    Dear Writter,

    With all due respect i want you to realize not every boy and there mother are same, some girlfriends decides to leave and choose career over there boyfriends, no offence but girls are hypocritical in many cases as well .

    Article is a good read but you should have wrote about girls as well instead of making all the blame to men and their mothers .

    Thanks & Regards

  • Usman Ansari

    I agree that there’s a double standard…but no one is forcing girls/women to date these guys, right? What about personal responsibility?

    The blanket animosity against “mama’s boys” leads me to believe the author was recently burned by such a situation. Yes, guys should take responsibility, but so should the ladies.Recommend

  • Uzair Abbas

    I want to add that girls are similar cases to boys. Some girls just go on about having boyfriends they have no intention of marrying. Guys don’t come forward about it, just as male rape victims, because of “loog hasai gai” or the guy should’ve acted as a guy, but since he chose not to, he remains quiet about the ordeal.

    This is not to say what you are saying is false, but do put at least some blame on the girl who are just as bad as guys.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Do not change the subject, please. Stay on it. Don’t distract with innuendos.
    The article is about MEN…, girlfriends, wives etc. and future wife choices.
    Perhaps, with your vast experience, of dealing with social issues, double
    standards, social mores etc…..maybe you should write an article about girls
    and and their hypocrisies,…as you see it.
    Girls, their boyfriends and future husband choices, that is.Recommend

  • Haris Adam

    Well, this is a fact of our hypocrite society unfortunately. While the article never suggested this is factually correct for ALL men, I am sure no man can deny the level of truth it holds though.
    And truly said “Pakistani men are notorious for their double standards in almost all aspects of life”.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I thought you wrote that quite well having argued the girls case nicely and eloquently managed to heap a lot of baggage on the boy’s side. One point I thought you could have made was to ask the girl to differentiate between a ‘ girlfriend ‘ and ‘ a friend who is a girl ‘ and try not to confuse the two. Possibly that would make things a bit easier for both.
    …..and yes, hypocrisy, double standards, the patriarchal society that we are, all contribute towards this malaise.Recommend

  • haseeb

    Thanks for the sweeping insight based solely on your “some” of close male friends and relatives…Recommend

  • Rahul

    Pakistanis marry their cousins so she goes from sister to wife, it would be weird if they dated their sister.Recommend

  • Mugen shihai doragon-shin

    What about responsibility of the girls themselves ? If they are well aware of such situations why start such a “relationship” in the first place ?
    Sadly more often than not this type of relationship will have that kind of result.
    So its responsibility of the mothers to also teach their daughters about the rights and wrongs of life. It works both ways. :)Recommend

  • Mugen shihai doragon-shin

    Half truth to be precise.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    An article about what men think written by a “woman”. Should be very credible and non biasedRecommend

  • Bitter truth

    Well written my dear – many cannot / will not digest this bitter truth .Recommend

  • Kanwal Tariq

    Sadly, I too have been a victim of this more than once. Not only this, I have been told outright too, that I’m a kind of girl people just like to look good with and brag about, and if I want a guy to stick around or become the marriageable type, I need to go through some major personality changes and make myself more submissive and dependent.Recommend

  • Kanwal Tariq

    It’s the same case with both the genders. Girls do the same with guys; but they’re more prone to getting emotionally attached to their boyfriends as compared to guys with their girlfriends. The topic here is about men, and every word of it rings true. not only because I have been through it, but I see the same case in my brother and cousins.Recommend

  • Kanwal Tariq

    Not only that, this article rings true right down to its last word. I see the same case in my brother and cousins. My mother is also very much like the one described, but I should mention that boys are normally the sweethearts in the family, and parents invest on them because they need to spend their future with them and view them as a means to an end. In order to do that, they need to ensure that their sons stay happy taake bahu alag na karde. So some mothers eventually relent to a boy’s choice in the end.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    Those not committed must not enter a relationship. Being just a girlfriend or boyfriend is absolutely no commitment or binding. Parents must be on board from day one or the physical standing of the individuals in their family must enable the relationship reach its ultimate binding. What cannot be maintained must not be sustained. Many people from either sexes are players. Evaluate the personality and decision making capability, commit and get married. It is highly unlikely for a reasonable proposal to be turned down by the family of a girl. But some do happen. Lets live with the facts we cannot control or learn enough convincing power to bring lives together.Recommend

  • abidawaan

    it shows that women are the enemy of women. How ironic that old ladies allow their children to destroy the lives of young ladies of the age of their daughters.Recommend

  • gp65

    If these men are misleading the girls that marriage is on the cards, then the personal responsibility remains with the men. If the girls are provided wrong information and that too deliberately, you cannot blame them.Recommend

  • Minaa Abdul Mannan

    so u mean all girlfriend type girls from our society are naive, innocent and the “victim” in the given scenario?. Every woman has the fundamental right for the choice of a spouse/life partner.Recommend

  • Muzz

    As a boy (age shouldn’t matter!) I’ve seen such boys who do that; differentiate between girlfriend and shadi material. Personally I cannot make terms with such boys neither with their girlfriends. To me it was obvious that they’re only taking advantage of each other. At the end of the day, one of them feels dumped. Yes, boys are dumped too. In the meantime, I’ve seen boys and girls entering into a relationship and getting married also. Some couldn’t conclude as per their wishes despite efforts and had to part ways. So there are all sorts of stories.Recommend

  • Genie

    The tried and tested and acknowledged to be the best system is the prevalent system of parents conveyancing the marriage of their children as practised in this part of the world. Simply nothing is better than this as marriages conducted under such a system are always durable. In the west such a durable marriages draw envious feelings among those who do not have such a system.Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    This is not necessarily true. Some men do prefer confident outspoken girls – I would and I am certain many other men are like that too.Recommend

  • Aslam Dasti

    Not true at all Recommend

  • Christian

    I’ve read recently article on Marriage in Pakistan and they really behave so!Recommend

  • Asif Alam

    Partially agreed with the writer, even though not all cases are the same, in our society male & female are both hypocrite in their own radius. Article is overall very good and nice effort to initiate the issue.Recommend

  • cabalco

    We are a culturally bankrupt people, ever since we have started believing that Harry Potters tales are real and that we should base or civilization on it. With this level of thinking is it really a surpriseRecommend

  • Cyrus Khan

    Writer was right because,

    When a daughter/son get punishable for refusal for which they dont really wanted, does the same rules apply to parents who made them to do by forcing, for their ego and walking over their pride by using such catchphrases “tumharay bhalay k liye ho raha hai yeh sab” and “agr tumne yeh nahi kia to amma abba ki talaq hojaegi”. Same thing my sister posted a facebook status on that thing.Recommend

  • Cyrus Khan

    well said Imran because, girls were being considered as Cheque books as well as Boys were being considered as Bank account, or a Currency Note of high value. It’s not a bad thing if we as a lower class guy marry a high rich class woman, or 23 years old guy marries 26 years old girl. Main cause of these issues are TV Dramas, I’m not able to do any cross gender friendships(i mean get a girlfriend) due to this situation even in my University.Recommend

  • Cyrus Khan

    It’s silly because My elder brother cant marry my elder sister, You’re right. we also made a system that cousins can’t be brothers and sisters. I made my uncles(chotay chachu & chotay mamu & my elder khaalu) my ideal and my influences.Recommend

  • Adnan-ul-Haq

    I respect any unbiased opinion but the start of your article it self shows that this is a biased one. Your term of use “Pakistani men” it should be “some Pakistani men” or “Most Pakistani men”, but no, by the use of context its all Pakistani men according to you. Do not put everyone in the same category, regardless to what you have experienced in life. Not every man is the same, and it goes for women as well. There are so many things i am reading in this that are absolutely biased. I understand women have more issues, especially in our environment and culture , but you can’t blame all the men. There are good and bad people in all genders. “Boys should be taught to be loyal”, ok yes the brought up and environment need to teach them. But what about those who are loyal, and those women who simply use their loyalty and sincerity as long as they find convenient. Lead them on, keep them as a back up plan and date around with any guy they want. What about the Gold diggers?

    I respect and understand the facts you are trying to focus on and get the people to realize it. But doing so, you need to keep in mind and use your words in the manner that insures that there is a problem, but not all the men are responsible for it, just like not all women are responsible for the actions of a few.Recommend

  • Jeffery Fernandez

    After reading this entire post, I am still unable to understand why Pakistani men do not want to marry their girlfriends.Recommend