Your spouses are [close] as garments to you, as you are to them…Quran [2:187]
When people find out that I was married at 21, moved to a different country at 22, and had a baby at 23, they often assume that I advocate early marriage, especially for women. They also assume I hold conservative values, and ask me for advice. This impression of me, however, is pretty far from the truth.
Sure, I met my husband around my final university exams. Yes, I am a freelancer, which means I’m at home a lot and yes, as a believer, I’m pro-marriage in general and I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about my experience.
I’m asked ‘wasn’t marriage always a huge priority for me?’ The honest truth is that his first message landed in my inbox exactly six months after I decided that I needed God more than I needed marriage. I’d decided that I was happy to be on my own, with the blessings of a wonderful family, friends, and a career that allowed me to help vulnerable people. I’d been on a journey of self-awareness, learning to put God, not a man, first. One that meant I had learnt to be happy on my own, secure about my personal identity and enjoying the journey of getting closer to being the person He created me to be.
Had I met my husband even a few months before, I would have unfairly looked to him to be my source of happiness, and thereby damaged our relationship. Now, marriage is a means to enhance my life, not to complete it. Nor do I exist to complete his. I’m here to fulfill my end of the bargain.
Watching the people around me try to find life partners, it is clear that our narrative around marriage and romance is extremely problematic. Women across ethnic groups are consistently told that marriage is “half our deen, (the wording of which is taken from a weak hadith), we’re taught to live our whole lives preparing, putting our future partner in that special place that ought to be reserved for God. We’re told we need to change in order to find a spouse; compromise on our goals, lower our standards, all to become someone we think will be more “desirable.” On top of all that, we’re faced with ridiculous, ungodly, post-colonial standards and hang ups, such as colourism, preference and an obsession with careers (for men) and a horror of them (for women).
I believe in getting married when you’re ready. I also believe that that ‘ready’ goes beyond knowing basic life skills such as cooking and working. And I don’t believe marriage for its own sake is the priority, I believe that God should be top priority, with God-consciousness helping us to become well rounded, mentally and emotionally healthy believers who have something positive to offer their friends, family and the spouse they ultimately choose.
Marriage should give us a greater sense of purpose, companionship, support, and healthy sexual expression. Instead, often emotionally immature young people are told that marriage will solve everything, they then become sorely disappointed when they realize that isn’t always the case.