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It’s wedding season in Pakistan. We all know what that means – our tables are strewn with intricately designed wedding invitations, making us wonder how long each wedding will last. Unfortunately, the time lapse between a wedding and a divorce has shortened, and the number of broken marriages is increasing.
Before you wrinkle your eyebrows in a ‘holier-than-thou’ frown and judge my very existence, let me assure you that this blog is not a preaching of what you should or should not do. This blog is based on mere observations of human relationships and a concept that defines our lives in so many ways – shaadi (marriage).
Talking about breakups is never easy. Recently, I came across certain figures that stated that from 2015 to 2016, there were record divorce or khula cases in Pakistan. In 2015, in Punjab, 5,000 divorce cases were filed, and thus, 4,500 parted. In 2016, the number had grown to 18,901. Although divorce is allowed in Islam, it should only be used as a final resort.
According to statistics, divorce rates have steadily decreased in recent years as a direct result of a decline in the number of new marriages. There are many possible explanations for this phenomenon.
The theories could go on – abusive husbands, extra-marital relationships, non-cooperative in-laws, financial strains, failed expectations etc. The worst is when a woman’s education or career is claimed to be the reason behind a failed marriage. The list is endless.
Interestingly, after speaking to various men and women under the age of 35, I realized that most of them sought a divorce for reasons that did not coincide with the criteria our families set out while matchmaking. Nor did it clash with the reasons these couples fell for each other and decided to get married.
No one would deny that when looking for a suitor, everyone has their list: age, financial security, social standing, citizenship, physical features, residence, degree, and so on. This list is completely material, and it makes you wonder, what happened to unconditional love? Affection? Understanding? Sacrifice? What happened to the desire to grow old together?
Historically, the Women’s Movement had a great impact on our society’s relationship dynamics. Until the 1950’s and late 1960’s the majority of married women stayed home and lacked financial independence from their husbands. Cases of physical and emotional abuse were more common, which had a direct impact on relationships.
Unfortunately, we still have similar situations nowadays, but overall, they have diminished. The second element to take into consideration is the introduction of more reliable birth-control methods. This sole factor gave women more power and leverage over relationships.
In recent years, sex through technology has caused an impact on traditional relationships. Long gone are the days when women, and even some men, claimed to be virgins before getting married, leading to long periods of courtship that helped couples to get to know one another before professing their love for each other.
What happened to traditional love?
The word traditional might convey different meanings depending on a person’s age, education and historical background, while the word modern brings on the sudden technological advances that affect romantic relationships.
There is an inherent disconnect that is ruining the institution of marriage. These days, young people tend to recoil at the word ‘commitment’. They opt for ‘friends with benefits,’ and yes, this also happens in Pakistan and an 18-year-old explained it to me. These days, people don’t want strings attached. They don’t want a deeper love. They just want what’s easy. But that is the problem. Why have people started looking at marriage in this light? Marriage is not a nightmare, neither is it a work of fiction – it exists. We don’t realize that when the foundation of a family is built for the wrong reasons and with unrealistic expectations, everything goes wrong.
Modern use of technology allows us to run an online search of any person and learn almost everything about them before you even go on an actual date. Let’s say you meet someone you fancy at a coffee shop and get their business card, with just their name you can stalk their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn (to name a few). We are instinctually inclined to gather as much information as we have access to from a potential partner, but do these cyber self-portrayed images reflect who they really are?
Many of you may not agree, but it is the parents that bring up their child with false expectations that are mostly to blame. When they match-make and promote relationships solely based on a technical checklist, most of the time it ends up in a divorce. When marriages are arranged, or even when individuals choose their own life-partners, dispositions like being supportive, respectful, patient, and responsible are not always a top priority. These traits are overlooked in search of expensive cars, bungalows in elite neighborhoods, and designer commodities.
Internet has crossed the last frontier by stepping into our bedrooms. The combination of technology and sexuality has unleashed a level of curiosity that would kill any cat. Thanks to GPS capability in most smartphone dating applications, users can find potential matches nearby. Before the Internet days, there was a certain mystery to going on a date. The mere fact of finding a date was surrounded by certain mystery and required more effort and energy than sitting at home and swiping through your smartphone. We would appreciate and cherish the person we found, instead of treating them like our latest online purchase.
I remember reading somewhere that in order to destroy a nation, one must first destroy its family structure. And marriages based on unrealistic expectations are the first step towards this destruction. Unfortunately, marriage is overrated; people have expectations that just cannot be matched out of this union. We see things in movies, TV soaps, celebrity marriages, and honeymoon updates of the rich and famous, and dream of following the same, however improbable, lifestyle.
Regardless of all this, love is present in today’s society and some of us still believe in the tradition of marriage. This institution represents more than a ceremony that gathers your family and loved ones, it represents a lifetime commitment between two people who love each other. It’s one of the most beautiful acts two people can do together besides having a child.
The concept of marriage has evolved throughout history. Until the Victorian era, marriage was merely a social contract and, in most cases, did not involve love between spouses. Other socio-economical motivations fueled loveless marriages between strangers who only shared a common interest between their families.
There is an intrinsic need to re-define the purpose of marriage; the entire concept of marriage is to endure the family legacy. Since we are supposed to continue the human race, we have a responsibility to leave behind well brought up individuals.
Marriage is just one phase of life, like various other phases we go through before hitting the grave. The rest of life’s struggles remain the same, even when we are married. Our spouse can only give and take whatever they are capable of, and asking for more is just not fair.
This multi-million-dollar industry called the ‘wedding’ has been commercialized by wedding planners, designers, social media coverage, honeymoon packages, destination weddings, professionally choreographed dances, events involving thousands of guests, dowry, and so on.
It’s time to realize that wedding festivities are only a string of events designed to make you feel happy, glamorous, and unforgettable in the eyes of your guests. Nevertheless, these fineries are irrelevant when it comes to the institution of marriage; because that entails raising a family, committing, and supporting each other through thick and thin. It is what hides behind the pretty clothes and choreographed dances. What comes after the intricately designed wedding invites – that’s the real stuff.
Our advice is to take what worked out of your life’s experience. Both men and women should be treated as equals inside the relationship and marriage should not be determined by your family, nor personal property or social status. We will always use social media to find out some information about the person we are interested in, but we can’t rely on it to make decisions or base our judgments. When it comes to sexuality, we would all benefit greatly from saving a few things for that special someone. Remember, it’s never too late to try something new. As far as dating apps is concerned, we should try not to use them as a shopping tool and base our decisions not only on the pictures, but profiles as well.
Love isn’t determined by the tools we have but instead by how we choose to use them. It would be insane to expect different outcomes from the same behaviors. Therefore, if you’re having problems finding love, try to identify what isn’t working and change your actions! Sometimes a small improvement brings great results. Our advice: get out there and don’t be afraid to feel love by your heart, mind, body and soul. Labels have no meaning since love is a feeling and not a garment to be worn!