Dear Auntie,
I am a 24-year-old jewellery designer. My nikaah was solemnised with my paternal uncle’s son 21 months ago. We agreed because of the constant manipulation of our fathers; both our families were falling apart and there was some sort of business-related stuff as well. But we both are feeling miserable and very unhappy now. Even on my nikaah, I felt I was choking on something, such as I was in the middle of a crowded room screaming my lungs out and nobody cared. I remember I didn’t want to go to the salon or for shopping. I stopped my cousins from having a dholki and putting mehndi on my hands. And now, when people talk about my rukhsati, I get so angry that I want to kill everyone around me.

I see my husband every day at work. We have tried everything in our power to make this marriage work, such as going out to dinners and long walks, but nothing works. We don’t want to talk to each other anymore. We are good individuals but not each other’s type. Our families know this, but they ignore the issue. I asked my husband to talk to our dads, but he’s weak and scared of them. We tried talking to my dad’s close friends and all they say is, ‘Divorce is not a good thing. The families will separate and your parents will not be able to take it. Who will marry you then?’ Please tell me what to do.

Dear Devastated,
We know that ‘love’ marriage has been romanticised through the ages in literature and in movies. It is how a lot of matches are made in the West. They usually start out with a lot of passion and sometimes uncontrollable feelings. In Eastern cultures, such as Pakistan, marriages are usually arranged and are seen as pragmatic decisions. Other (very valid) factors such as family and financial status are considered before the match is finalised by the elders. There are a lot of pros and cons to both types of marriages. However, if the success of a match can be gauged by its longevity, then arranged marriages win hands down.

‘We are just not into each other’

Whether you like it or not, in real life your religion, class and ethnicity play an important role and arranged marriages take that into account. Sometimes though, partners in an arranged match may feel that a soul connection is missing between them. On the other hand, the passion and feelings that lead to a love marriage can also lead to a passionate break-up.

However, the upside of love matches is that, at some point (sometimes even for life), the relationship could be extremely emotionally satisfying for both partners.

So ask yourself what are you expecting from your marriage? If you require emotional fulfilment and love, then, as things stand, this partnership may not be for you. However, you should know that sometimes love does grow in an arranged match. Conversely, if you are looking for a pragmatic and stable arrangement, then you are probably in the right relationship.

Since you have already had a nikaah,
Auntie would advise trying to make your marriage work, by thinking of ways to improve the relationship rather than waiting for your husband to take the first step. Approach the situation from a place of empathy, because your husband is also feeling ‘stuck.’ Literally take it upon yourself to make the best of the situation.  I hope you will be pleasantly surprised.

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Published in Dawn, EOS, October 20th, 2019