At the first family gathering after my graduation, I was bombarded by congratulations, which were expected, and questions about any plans for marriage, which were also – annoyingly – expected. Any single Malay Muslim young lady will tell you how they dread the holiday seasons where all the makciks will pounce on you: “When are you getting married? Don’t wait for too long or nobody will want you!” Apparently, “too late” for them means the 30s because they have stopped bothering to ask my elder single siblings or cousins.
Although we like to complain about how the elders push us towards early marriage, I feel that pressure also comes from our own friends of the same age group, especially if they are Muslims who live in a generally Malay dominated community. Sure, we can excuse the elders because of the generation gap but how is it that our peers are asserting the same expectations?
Recently, during a get-together for Raya Haji, a cousin gave me a warning. “If you are not ready to control your brood, do not get married.” This was the same cousin who had joined the flock of aunts pestering me about marriage a few years ago. It seemed that she changed her tune when living away from the family and was thrown amidst the daily worries of a married couple in an urban environment. She agreed that, other than the religious pre-requisites, there are several factors that couples should consider before getting married today.
Most young couples do not realise the heavy responsibility of being a wife and mother. Instead, their expectations and excitement are very focused on having a fairy-tale wedding and a vague “happily ever after” married life. Mirah is a friend who attended a Pre-matrimony Course about three months before her marriage. She was the only one in her 30s while the rest were nearly ten years younger than her and barely through their first year of working.
Mirah noticed how these girls were obsessed and excited about the wedding without even realising that they would have to fulfil wifely duties for the rest of their lives. As for the boys, most of them got excited about marital and halal sex and couldn’t care less about preparing to become fathers. Only the more mature ones seemed to take the responsibilities in marriage seriously and had prepared homes and a family plan that spanned at least five years beyond their wedding day.
An urban couple needs to have stability in both financial and emotional parts of their lives. Most couples only think of providing enough funds for their wedding. They end up living with their parents for the first few years of marriage or living in a cramped apartment with minimal rent. Like it or not, money does make the world go round and a household cannot function well without basic necessities and comfort. This can lead to arguments and on to emotional instability.
The capacity to love someone is one thing but the capacity to live with someone is another. Dara married a man she only knew for less than a year and confessed that things got a bit on the rocks in the second year; boredom set in or she discovered things about her partner that annoys her. What made them survive that period was emotional maturity and realising that it takes commitment and understanding to make a relationship as intimate as marriage to work.
Let’s also consider the cost of living in a city like Kuala Lumpur. With the costly living expenses that young city dwellers have to endure, marriage seems like an all too luxurious goal. Since men are expected to support the wants and needs of their wives, it is no surprise that more men opt for a later marriage. (And, for a younger wife. But this is a different story altogether). Hakeem, an acquaintance of mine, is a 29-year-old man who is ready to start a family – except that his monthly wage of below 6k will bring minimal comfort for him and his future wife in this city. He decided to move back to his parents’ hometown where life is cheaper and an earlier marriage is possible. Does this mean that a happy and satisfying early marriage is possible if you’re living in a small town? That seems to be the case these days.
Getting an early start in married life does not mean having a better understanding at tackling family problems. Instead, it forces you to re-evaluate your priorities. If you are the type to have goals and dreams that you know will benefit the community and more people than just your future husband and his family, there’s nothing wrong with putting marriage aside for a bit. Many of my married peers who urged me to join the club ended up lamenting their unattained dreams. It seems like some of them even envy those who went on to achieve many things before getting married.
So let’s all start being honest to ourselves in the first place. If we are to get married now, will we be happy? Will our children’s future be secured? Are we satisfied with our personal goals so far? Are we stopping ourselves or even our partners in achieving our lifelong dreams? Marriage is beyond the stress of picking the right colour scheme for your wedding. Think of it as sticking with that colour scheme for the rest of your life. So, as my cousin warned me, think hard and make sure you are fully prepared before jumping onto the “marriage bandwagon”.
Cek Mek Molek enjoys making observations on love and relationships via her Muslim eyes and heart. She believes that life is like her namesake; crusty and hard on the surface but overflowing with sweetness once you bite the bullet-shaped kuih.
Illustration by Xeem Noor
Please note views expressed here are the personal opinions of the columnist and not of Poskod.my.