Not a single day goes by at home, at work, at school, at church, on social media, on television, on radio, without hearing the word marriage? At some certain point it becomes draining, emotionally and mentally especially for a single lady like me. I personally am glad there is no law governing the age at which one should be married by, that would just be adding insult to injury(as if the social, internal and family pressures would not be enough already).
In my society marriage has been made to look and feel like the ultimate achievement for every woman. As a young woman I am easily made to feel like I am not complete if I have not found a husband. Yes, I may have achieved a high level education, I may have a good paying job and living a comfortable healthy life but all this is not celebrated as much as a wedding. At almost every function that I attend, more than one person will ask “mukwasha anouya rinhi?”(When will the husband be coming) yet in my head all that I am thinking is are all my other personal achievements and life goals outside of marriage not good enough. It is as if the moment I turned 22 a best before timer was set and wedding bells are expected sooner than later. What is funny, however, in a Zimbabwean family is how the parents place high restriction on the daughters in terms of what time she should be home, where she goes and in most cases she is not even “legally” allowed to have a boyfriend but tables suddenly turn and suddenly they want her to get married. Where and when would I have met him and known him enough to want to marry him yet I was not “allowed” to date?
The moment a young woman turns twenty five the pressures to get married begin to hit from all angles. The first source of pressure into marriage in my own opinion is the family. From the random talks with tete and mbuya, to the constant comments about Mrs. so and so’s daughter having been married recently. Enough of that already! Could we possibly sit down and have life lessons on how to manage a successful business, investment options, wars or even climate change. Holly Lichtenfield (author of Be Great: A Money Making Adventure) said “teaching young girls to start and run a business is an important step in closing the wage gap”. She wrote the book to encourage young women to step out of their comfort zones and learn what it takes to manage a business. Reality however is my family creates a comfort zone in lessons on how to meet and keep a man. In the end this is all that most young women know and as a result women remain dependent on men for support (financially and emotionally).
The pressure from the church and other social groups follows very closely behind. Most often than not the pastor is praying for marriages. The girls who reach their 30s and are unmarried find it difficult to be involved in the work for the church and are most often sidelined. They do not fit into the youth group any longer because the topics of discussion there do not relate to a young woman your age and the ones that do are marriage related. They cannot attend the women’s group because the topics there relate to the married and the mothers. The rest are couples fellowships, widow’s fellowship, single mothers and the divorced. I often question myself if marriage is the best blessing that the Lord can give to a young woman and if choosing not to get married or if getting married late is a curse from God. The bible answered my questions through 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 (I wish that all man where as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift and another has that. Now to the unmarried and widowed I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried as I am). Although it seems ideal that everyone marries, it is not necessarily God’s will that everyone gets married, and I definitely believe it is not his will that we all get married at the same age or before a certain. A single person really is not a second class Christian.
Some churches have even gone as far as having a singles corner (“masofa”) where the singles sit and the elders of the church hook them up. Are we under pressure or just plain desperate? Society has clearly made it seem like a woman is nothing without a marriage certificate. Nothing is wrong with marriage but every woman needs to get into it at her own rate with no pressure.
The third pressure point is my circle of friends, both at work and socially. I dread hanging out for drinks or coffee with young women my age because the whole 4 hours are spent talking about who is married, when they got married, who is getting married, who you are dating and the ultimate question-when are you getting married. What happened to the random pada stories, raka raka stories (just that nice talk about nothing that leaves you refreshed) #sighs.
As a result of the society I have grown in I now personally have internal pressures. No matter how many visions and goals I have, I feel at the end of it all I have to get married. I have life goals, but them too society advices you to tame down because high ambitions and successes are likely to scare away men, but do they?
I however call my society selfish. Most women daily complain about their marriages, there are enough the stories in local tabloids and on social media on cheating partners, Brocken families, marital rape and gender based violence but these are the same people advising and encouraging me to get married. Are other women that unhappy that they feel it would make them happy to see another woman unhappy?
Zimbabwean, 27 and single (unmarried)
Allow me to enjoy my 20s.
Allow me to discover myself.
Allow me to find and to get to know my partner with no time limit.
Allow me to be me, because I Am Woman: Munhukadzi, and I was not born for marriage.
Myths about marriage that society should stop telling women;
- Women need to get married to be truly happy.
- If you do not get married before 30 it will be too late.
- Women are better off financially if they settle down early.
- Successful women can’t also have successful marriages.
- Most other women your age are getting married.
- Divorce = Failure
- You’ll know you’ve met the “one” when you want to marry them.
- The best way to celebrate marriage is a fancy wedding.
Source – Kate Hakala (Connections.Mic)