When will you marry?
The pressure of marriage starts from the cradle, some families arrange for the marriage of their children even before the child is named. As the child grows, most of the upbringing (for both sexes) is geared towards marriage.
The girl child is taught to sweep, cook, wash and run the house so she can replicate those feats in her marital home and most importantly, not disgrace the home she comes from in her husband’s house. While boys in Nigeria are not subjected to such rigorous training, they too are prepared for the role they’ll assume as husbands and fathers.
While I have no problem with equipping a person with life skills even if the main thrust of this lessons is for marriage, the issue I have is with our ascribing character traits as marital virtues. For instance a girl with a sharp tongue will asked to curb her tongue or she might find it hard to cope in a marriage or even get married at all. We are taught to bend ourselves to weird shapes so we can be marriageable (either sex) as if marriage was some kind of goldmine.
You hear “don’t do this or no one will marry you” or “if you behave like that your husband will leave you in the future” or “if you cook for your husband and give him sex seven times daily, he’ll never leave you or forsake (cheat on) you”. Because we have been taught to aspire to marriage (as Ms Adichie elegantly puts it), we work on becoming better human beings in order to better our chances of marriage and to have fairytale marriages- living happily ever after.
Is it worth it though? Even the best marriages are hard work, it takes constant sacrifice and self-denial to enjoy marriage. All the money, virtues, cooking skills and sexathons in the world will not make a marriage last, if not many of the marriages that have popped and fizzled in divorces courts around the world have died needlessly.
Being the best at anything whether it is academics, “good” character, culinary skills, singing voice etc. does not even guarantee anyone’s chances of marriage. We still see horribly mannered, lousy and even unattractive people get married every Saturday- some of them got married today, while we scratch our heads at the fact that a person we know who has it all together is not even in a romantic relationship and might not get into one for many years.
Why don’t we tell our children, younger siblings and mentees to be fabulous at anything for their own sakes, not for their husbands or wives or future children but for themselves and to make this earth a brighter shade of blue? That marriage is not an affirmative institution neither is it the grand prize in life- there really are no grand prizes, all of a man’s and woman’s days are made for toiling for one thing or another whether it is money, happiness, BMI of less than 24.5 or good health.
I think if people go into marriage with less expectations of it being the grand reward of years of goodness and virtue but knowing it is a long journey to building a life with a fallible partner whom you love and will have to forgive again and again (my mother says a good marriage is the union of two forgivers), we’d see healthier marriages- far stronger than many of the marriages that are contracted these days. A larger number of people would not opt for marriage, it would probably be a better choice.