When many of her female friends started getting married and after she had dated and discovered that two of her perfect-looking suitors fell far short of her expectations for marriage, a progressive and career minded 23-year old Nigerian lady began to become anxious over how long it could take her to find her ideal husband. She felt pressured enough to ask in a popular local discussion forum: Is it normal for a 23 year old lady to be desperate for a husband?
Well, responses from that forum and several other forums on the internet addressing the same issue provide some understanding of the overriding views on this very topical issue concerning women.
Some are of the view that it is natural and biological for a matured woman to want to bear kids and that culture and society pressure women to fulfil this desire via a socially acceptable platform called marriage. And so once a girl begins to step out of her teens, the thought of marriage constantly comes to her mind, they say; and she starts to wonder which of her numerous suitors will be the one. They however advocate for caution in these times of anxiety. They counsel that rather than the lady give in to this natural instinct early, she should instead replace them with more productive outlets such as career, business, work, school or volunteering.
Others make an observation that these issues mostly originate in today’s modern world where career has been placed by some women unmistakably before relationship and marriage. Such women, they say, then become shocked when on trying to move from career accomplishments unto relationship-building, they discover that relationship building needed to have begun to be invested in a little earlier. Insecurity and loneliness then start to set in.
It gets worse in Africa, where parents, even while embracing the many freedoms of the Western culture, will shy away from prevailing Western feminist ideals such as the woman’s independence extending to her right not to get married. African parents constantly remind their girl kids that her pride and theirs is for her to get married to a suitable man and raise them grandchildren. This behaviour from parents in Africa certainly adds to the growing agitation of today’s young African woman who is at the point of completing her academics and starting her career. One lady put the feeling succinctly. She said: “For the major part of my life, I have been focused on school, now that am almost rounding off, am beginning to feel this pressure to be married.”
While life can still go on without a human having to have a husband or a wife, today’s generation are finding it hard to deal with the societal pressures and snide remarks that oftentimes abound for those who are of marriageable age but remain single. So they would seek anything and everything just to avoid singleness without coming to terms with the truth that being married will not necessarily solve the emotional and physiological needs existing in their life prior to marriage. They fail to realise how lucky they are until they are married and come to terms with the new challenges that come with being married.
A lady who had been through a gruelling divorce once observed: “how cruel it is with the world and society that it seems to respect me as a divorcee more than it ever tried to or wanted to appreciate me, when, as a focused marriageable damsel willing to take my time to arrive at a compatible and long-lasting marriage soul mate, it pressured me to rush into marriage.”
The question then is: is marriage a rite of passage that must be experienced at some time in the lives of women?
Maybe not. Of the varying views out there one that seems to be dominant is that marriage makes more sense as something that caps off an already great relationship. The reality is that women in today’s modern society are getting married older and older, especially those who value education, careers and building a real future with their spouse. And as they look to getting married they would need to also come to the realisation that the process leading up to getting married could take some time: that level of time and patience reasonable enough to gain a good idea of the character of someone who you would love to spend a lifetime with.
By Okechuku Kanu