Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Marriage Myth

Over the last few weeks, I have read with great interest a couple of posts by some bloggers lamenting their state of singledom or giving how-to-get-your-man-to-marry-you strategies and so on. I have read these posts with a smile on my face and a shake of my head. I sort of blogged about this here and here some months ago but feel the need to revisit the subject. As you read this, please bare in mind that I am not trying to put you off marriage, just open your eye a little bit to it.

Many years ago, long before I ever got married, I was moaning to a married friend of mine about how much I wanted to get married. She turned to me with a funny smile on her face and said the strangest thing. She said to me ‘Those of us who are married want to come out and those who are single are dying to get in’. At the time I thought what the hell is she going on about? And ironically enough, these words were spoken to me at the wedding of a mutual friend. Now, almost 10 years later I know exactly what she meant by her words that day.

What my friend expressed then was not a regret of her married state but wistfulness and wishful –ness (if such a word exists) of what being single offers – FREEDOM.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been married now for five years and  I love my husband to bits, love being married to him and wouldn’t have things any other way but I will be the first to admit that  from time to time I wish I could be single again, even if it’s only for a few days.

What wouldn’t I give for those days when I could just come and go? And especially now that I have a toddler, those days of coming and going as I please are long gone. Even a date (what’s that??) with my husband to see a movie or have a meal has to be planned weeks ahead and with military precision. Perhaps it may be a little easier in Nigeria where one can get a nanny relatively easily and cheaply. Over here though, I have no such luxury.

Then there are the very unexciting and mundane day to day things that come with being married – the cooking (yes, what once used to be an enjoyable pastime, now becomes a chore.  Gone are the days of just having bread and tea for lunch because you can’t be bothered to cook), the cleaning, laundry, sleepless nights (if you have a little baby), etc. And if you have a husband who happens to be domestically challenged then you’d better believe that you’ll be taking on the role of the unpaid house girl as well. Oh you can rant and rave and rake, but if you ain’t going to do it, no one else will – except you don’t mind living in a pigs sty that is.

Oh and another thing, just in case you are not aware, when you get married you are not only marrying the man, you are marrying his whole family. But that’s a whole other issue.

And when you quarrel, you know how you could just turn around and walk off into the sunset or bang the receiver of the phone down on him when you were single and then a couple of hours later you’ll call back or he’ll call back and it’s all kiss, kiss, love, love, sorry, sorry and all will be well again? Sweetheart, when you’re married there’s no walking off into the sunset. You will be under the same roof with this man you are so pissed off with and who at that point in time you could strangle with your bare hands and na de same bed wey you go sleep in together. No receiver banging here. You will just have to sort things out and quick if you want peace and harmony to reign in your home.

Listen, marriage is not all fairy tale white dresses and parties and hearts and bells. Forget the movies. Marriage is HARD WORK. Period. Marriage is all about compromise, a loss of identity (usually yours if you’re a woman), a loss of freedom (at least in the early years of raising your children), and sometimes a suppressing of your feelings, your potential and your needs. Marriage can be sweat and tears and heartache. Many times in marriageYOU come last. Marriage is all about change, and the change is usually yours. Ask any of your married friends and tell me if my words are untrue.

I get so angry when women are made to feel that their sense of self worth comes only with a ring on their finger. We are born and we are daughters, then we go to school and we are students and undergraduates, then we start work and we are defined by our jobs, then we get married and are defined by our Mrs status and Mother status. When are we going to wake up and be proud of who we are, what we have achieved and what we can achieve in the future with or without a ring on our finger?

Oh yes, definitely, there are very good sides to marriage – being with the man you love, having your children together, being part of a close knit unit and so on. But please, please don’t feel that without marriage you are nothing or incomplete. This, as far as I am concerned is an unfortunate message that has been sent out by society to single women.

From the age of 25 or thereabouts, we are made to feel inadequate if we don’t already have a potential suitor knocking on our door. We are often questioned, sometimes by total strangers or far removed ‘aunties’, about our relationships ‘So is he serious? Ah, if he hasn’t said anything by now, you should drop him’. Or, ‘Hm, my dear, your clock is ticking oh!’ How rude and undermining.  We start to get worried when one friend after another gets married and it appears that we are going to be left on the shelf. And then we get desperate and if there is one thing a man can smell from a mile off, its the stink of desperation. And there’s no better ingredient than desperation to put a man off.

So from me to you, if you are single and reading this and have built into your head a picture of marriage as being a fairly tale heaven – disabuse yourself of this idea. There is nothing glamorous about marriage. Enjoy and celebrate your singledom. This is your chance to travel the world, take risks, get all the degrees you want, start that business, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!!! YOU define who you are- not a boyfriend, or a job or a husband.  Live your life and stop worrying so much about getting married. Believe me there are many married women out there dying to swap places with you even for only one day. And that’s the truth.


Blogger Nneka's World said...


I hear you. I am in no rush to walk down the aisle just yet.
I have seen my married friends look at me with longing in thier eyes, especially when i go to them i am going on a trip to so so place or just going out.

They tell me its not a bed of roses, its hard work, my male friend said the same thing to me he said, the ceremony, white dress and party, is only the begining, in fact that is just by the way, the real business is after the ceremony.

So its true enjoy being who you are and try not to loose your identity. Its very annoying when you reach 25 that everyone remembers that its time for you to join the others in holy matrimony.
My friends who are married or about to get married, always irritate me with their talks on, how being married really defines who you are, get a man, any man, you cannot afford to be choosy and to think that these were once "intelligent girls"

1:11 pm  
Blogger Olawunmi said...

preach it sister!!!

preach on!

3:54 pm  
Blogger Adunni said...

Thanks i really needed to hear something like this. I just wish a lot more people especially women would stop making one feel almost inadequate when it comes to this subject of marriage. Sometimes i feel like no one considers the feelings of single people all they're after is that you get married. As for me i'm not in any rush to get married and no one can pressue me into doing so.

7:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing that. I also think marraige is a wonderful thing, but women don't tell each other the truth. I asked my pastor why marraige is so glamorized, and the hard work involved is never discussed, and he said it was because no one wants to hear that side of marraige. There IS alot of pressure in nigerian circles to marry, but I thank God I have a mother who continues to remind me of my value, and the importance of not settling.

9:29 pm  
Blogger Onada said...

Belle you said it for me. sometimes the desperation to get married i see around me is alarming.. hence my sarcastic blog....Its like people forget their's life after marriage. I look at all the rocky times i witnessed my parents have(more than the good times i remember) and the thought of marriage shakes me to the core, like can i even do it? i'm definately in no rush

10:12 pm  
Blogger Ore said...

Great post, Pilgrimage! So many women need to hear this. Hell, we all need to hear this and be reminded that marriage is not the be all and end all.

10:45 pm  
Blogger Tutsy said...

Deep....real... Deep...Thanks soooooooo much Sweetheart, i needed to hear that. Mehn with all the wedding fever flying around, i swear i was seriously considering

I feel u on people being married and wanting to get out theory, i have some friends who say the same over here, but on the real, does it stop single Naija chicks 25 and above from obsessing about getting married? No it doesn't if anything the pressure is on to settle down like ur mates and stop kiddin' around.
I know it might be hard for u to relate, now that u are married but had the case being different i am pretty sure u would have a different outlook on the "single girl-marriage-phenomenon".

I understand if u feel we are getting carried away and letting marriage define our identity, to an extent u are right, but what can we really do about it? Throw away the idea of getting hitched all in the name of not conforming to society and parental standards?
its a catch 22 my dear, damned if u do, damned if u don't.

I understand marriage is difficult, but honey, being single ain't all peachy either.

3:29 am  
Blogger Morountodun said...

I'm off to email this to a few single femals friends of mine.

8:30 am  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

@ all: Thank you so much for allowing me be so honest. I am so glad I made sense.

@Onada: I loved your post about the subject and caught the sarcasim straight away. I do hope other bloggers did as well.

@Tutsy: Don't get me wrong. I am not asking anyone to throw away the idea of marriage - it's a wonderful thing when you find the right partner. What I am saying though, is that women should not make the 'need' to get married be the driving force behind their reason for existence.

Don't forget, I wasn't born married. Hey, I was single for 30 years before I `finally walked down the aisle. I was with my boyfriend (now husband)for 10 years before he finally popped the question. Of course by then I had fears and a slight desperation had started to creep in. And after 8 years of waiting, I said to myself, what the *&^%$!! And I packed my bags and left for England. Just. Like. That. It was another two years before we finally got married. But in the two years I was here on my own, darling, I discovered myself. I discovered my potential, I 'found' myself, as the Americans would say. But most of all, it finally hit me that I could SURVIVE without a man. Wow! What a revelation that was for me. And I tell you life was pretty peachy after that. Those two years gave me such a belief in myself and made me so strong, that I know if anything went pear shaped in the future (God forbid) I'll carry on regardless.

Being married or having a potential suitor waiting in the wings,from my experience of both sides, sure doesn't make the single life more peachy. The level of peachy-ness depends solely on you.

9:57 am  
Blogger Adunni said...

Ten years!!!!!!!!!! PTS you give me hope

1:10 pm  
Blogger ToyinE said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:51 pm  
Blogger ToyinE said...

HAHAHA - Nice one! Sometimes, marriage to me conjures up images of claustrophobia! I cant explain it but i aint in no hurry! It cant be helped tho' sometimes when it seems everyone around you in having wedding fever - see the amount of wedding websites this yr and numerous friends engaged and bla bla bla - catch 22 - you want to get married damned (well not really but freedom/ME MYSELF & I goes out of the window) if u do and damned (well not really but all those auntys don't help)if you don't.

7:52 pm  
Blogger adefunke said...

Good Post. Reading this post reminds me of an episode of Desperate Housewives. Lynette a stay at home mom with 4 devils masquerading as children (well just 3, Penny is really an angel) is at her wits end coping with her life, and starts taking her kids ADD medication (notice how kids living in Africa don't have ADD, cane cures all that). She gets hooked, the medication screws up her sleep cycle, and she starts thinking of killing herself. She sha has a breakdown and it was only then her friends let her know that she wasn't alone trying to cope with the challenges of raising kids. She then asks them, why didn't anyone tell me raising kids wil be like this, that I wasn't alone? I have come to the conclusion that women never tell themselves the truth, but I am always pleased when I hear/see/read stuff to the contrary

9:06 pm  
Blogger obifromsouthlondon said...

great post. i get it all the time. "12 years together! damn! how do you do it?". I and the lady don't even say the years no more. Sometimes we men take the womens position in the household for granted. Since our child I have this whole level of respect for the mothers.

it's about taking the sacrifices in stride. mama never said there'll be days like this.

5:15 pm  
Blogger DiAmOnD hawk said...

well said...

my mom has the thing about women who like to identify themselves by their's like..WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU...I mean I guess for someone ppl there's nothing wrong with it...but when I used to call you X...and now you're saying we should call you MAMA Y....

Im single, so it's natural(for me anyhow) to romanticize marriage...but I also understand the work it will take which is why Im not tryna rush anything. I mean just trying to keep a relationship going is work and with that you have the option to walk out...but you're under the same roof...

Im enjoying my freedom. Im doing everything and anything I want to do...Im living life. Yes, the man will come but not to compensate...It'd be a matching of two wholes...

well said once again

4:48 am  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

@Obifromsouthlondon: After 14 years together, hubby and I have long since stopped counting the years too! He was present for the birth of our child and he also has never looked at me quite the same way as well. Hmm, I wonder why - thoughts could swing in two directions ;-0

@diamondhawk: I so know what you mean. A very close friend of mine called me up in tears the other day - she's depressed. At 40+ her kids are both teenagers and are about to fly the coop. Unfortunately, she has devoted the last 10 years solely to the kids and in fact was called Mama K by many. Now she is at a loss - what does she do now? She has been a stay-at-home-mom for 10years, has no savings and soon the kids will be out of the house. And now, her husband is having an affair to boot and has said to her that once the kids leave the house, she can too!! In other words, she has out lived her usefulness. What does one say to that? I so appreciate my mother for one thing - she always told me,no matter what, always have money of your own, because you never know what may happen in the future.

9:05 am  
Blogger 'Funmilayo said...

Believe me there are many married women out there dying to swap places with you even for only one day.And that’s the truth.

(cant figure out the bold print but emphasis on the "only one day")

Yeah, I beleive you... but we all want to find out for ourselves.. like the more money, more problems thing.

I guess you must be really busy now with the your growing business but can you please continue blogging.... please.

10:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just got a divorce, and I got my life back. He wasn't the worst husband in the world, but I'd rather be happy and single, than married and made to feel miserable because I had come to always put his needs before mine, as most married women mistakenly do. I am happier than I have ever been. Being single is being free. No one to be accountable to but myself, no one to answer to but myself. For the first time in 8 years, I can breathe, and my enthusiasm is contagious!

2:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny things about marriage :-)

11:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Act Like A Lady Think Like A Man, is a must read e-book for both women and men. If you're trying to get over the hurt of a broken heart, trying to get out of a bad relationship or hoping not to get into one, this is the book for you. If you are lonely and haven't been able to find Mr. Right, wouldn't know him if you met him or if you've found him and are worried about keeping him, folks this is the book! If you are unhappy, suffer from low self esteem, are over weight and don't feel good about yourself or just feel like your life is going no where, this book can help put your life on the right track. It's a life changer for both single and married women. Do yourself a favor and preview the e-book at;

7:45 pm  
Blogger deedleweedle said...

I am married almost 10 years and trapped in the house with three young kids. I would give ANYTHING right now to be free again!

3:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with everything that has been said about marriage and identity.

However I need some advice on the matter. I have a friend who has been married for 20 years. Though she loves her family, her husband and children, she feels like she doesn't know who she is. She has lost touch with most of her friends, she has forgotten who she is, what she likes, her aspirations, dreams. She has sacrificed everything for her family. Her entire efforts have been towards embodying the perfect image of a wife and mother. Even given free time, she has no idea how to occupy her self. Beyond the 4 walls of her house she has no identity. Consequently she is often dissatisfied with her life.

As a person who cares about her deeply, I don't know what I can do to help her. She claims she has no time for herself. That there is always housework, children (ages 18,9 and 5) to take care of and attention to give to her husband. She has no one to go out with, she cab't remeber the last time she spent with people other than her family. I desperately want her to regain her identity but how? What should be done?

Thanks for listening. I hope someone would be able to help me.

6:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest mistake I ever made was getting married, the best thing I ever did was getting divorced.

My ex husband was/is a pig who used to put me down, degrade me, insult me, expected me to cook every day and then complain about the food, he was unsupportive,had complete disregard for my opinions/feelings and well being. I wasted more than two decades being married. I really hate my ex and vowed never to marry again. Marriage is bad for women, its bad for their physical and mental well being, it destroys self esteem and is even bad financially.

10:28 am  

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