Pressures of Marriage

I’m feeling a little bit emotional today so I thought the best way to express this was to write about it.

Being a single Muslim girl of a certain age is tough, and there aren’t many people who know about it. I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post that in the Bangladeshi culture, the expected age bracket for a girl to get married is between 18 – 25, the average being around 21 years old.

Now that I’m well past the average and getting closer to the end of that age bracket, the pressure is on all of a sudden. Don’t get me wrong, the pressure was always there, but the intensity not so much. It’s got to the point where I’m losing sleep at night way too often to be healthy.

It frustrates me because despite me belonging to the generation who speaks up for their rights, my parents and people of their generation are struggling to accept these changes, at no fault of their own to be honest. They have grown up with a different ‘norm’ than me and they also have their own pressures thrust upon them by the society they live in and elders in the generations above them.

But where is that middle ground of understanding? How much effort and heartache must one undertake in order to not only be heard, but be listened to?

If I’m completely honest with you, I’m in a predicament. I feel like I’m ready for marriage, it’s something that I’ve been prepared for and accepted as normal in our culture at my age. But at the same time, in the western world that we live in, you can still be considered as too young to get married at this age. We’re told that we have so much more we can achieve before we get tied down into serious responsibilities. Whether that’s further education, travelling or getting yourself in a good position on the career ladder.

I also know that life can be lonely sometimes without a companion to share it with. I’ve been very fortunate enough for the opportunity to move to London to pursue a career, but that didn’t happen that easily may I add. I struggled a lot to convince my parents to allow me to do this and had to fight for my rights for a better life, but that’s a whole different story.

Now that I’ve been able to enjoy this little bit of freedom and breathing space for just over a year, it’s time to get serious. I am blessed to have a caring family, amazing friends and people around me who have made such a big impact on my life over the last year. And I would not be the person I am today without them. But I also know that at times I feel something lacking in my life and I long to share my love and care for someone else too. 

Let me just tell you now, the search for a partner (for life) is not easy. I know it’s a commonly shared feeling, but it’s 100 times harder when you don’t have that self confidence to put yourself out there and also have to consider a restricting criteria. I just don’t know what to do.

I’ve grown up seeing my dad in the food trade where he hardly had time for his family. And despite my mother being a housewife, she barely ever got to spend any time with him either. He worked 7 days a week to makes ends meet and provide for not only his family here, but also for his brother’s family in Bangladesh. I don’t want to marry someone who is in a similar situation; there are too many people like this out there. That’s not what I call a life.

On the other hand, there are also so many people on restricted Visas living in this country, whether they’re a student or working in a restaurant who are looking to marry to get that red passport. I most definitely do not want to get involved in that situation either. 

But with my parents knowing and living in a community consisting of these types of people, the search for ‘the one’ is made 1000 times harder. They have specifically told me that I can only marry someone who is Bangladeshi Muslim. This limits the pool of people available in ‘the one’ pool.

My criteria for the person I hope to marry is that he is a British born Muslim and educated to university level with a decent enough job which isn’t in the food trade industry. Am I asking for too much?

One of my good older friends who I have known since I was a child sent me such a lovely encouraging message today that it brought a tear to my eye. She said:

“Since I have met you, even when you were that shy little girl, I knew you would go far & even remember telling you this because I see an incredibly strong, beautiful individual full of love & life and whoever has the kismet to share their life with you better hold on tight because you will show him what life is really all about. I know you will do it all and be happier than a lot of people. You have to believe it too.”

Now, if that’s not the most beautiful thing you have ever heard, then I don’t know what is. Once again, I am grateful for such wonderful people in my life who keep me going even when the times are tough. Hopefully one day I will look back at all this heartache and smile at how my life turned around.

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26 thoughts on “Pressures of Marriage

  1. Abdur Rahim says:

    Probably the best culture clash article ever I read.

  2. nur says:

    Well i haven’t read it complete well i do understand wt u mean by restaurant working people , n the ppl from back home ,,,yes i do understand ppl do get marry for there benift but all are not same , n living with them some times could be difficult ask for u all that’s because of the environment where both the individual are bought up well still i would appeal n say everyone is not same these ppl could give you better love and a good care of u life long if u get a rightman

    • Thank you for your comment. I completely understand what you are saying, and I am sure that there are some guys from ‘back home’ who are good people. I just haven’t found the right person for me yet.

  3. kawsar says:

    Hi,
    nice blog. I was searching for the statistic of how many weddings take place in London each year and found your website there. I am really touched after reading your blog. I never actually thought about the hard ship the British Bangladeshi girls face for getting married. My heart goes out for you. Also I wan to add some thought about the related issues.
    The real problem actually the mix culture you brought up in. Most of the time I complain about the British girls for the way they live after getting married with a freashi(by the way I am a freshi as well. lol). There are numerous number of cases I have heard and witnessed where girls getting married with freshies and making them slaves. Their Bangladeshi moms are the other reason to make it more worse and hard for the marriage to become a success. It is such an act that the religion also forbid us to do.
    If you follow sharia and sunnah there is noway you can accept this kind of behavior. For example the sasis are so overwhelmed for their daughters red passport that they simply ignore the fact that they are Muslims and should not do these things i.e being too nosy in their daughter’s family. you can argue vice verse but why would you marry a guy if you can not accept him as how he is? You should not marry him at the first place. If you marry a guy you have to give him due respect as your husband. Yes he can not speak English very well and works in a restaurant, so what? your father used to do the same things. If he is not intellectually not compatible with you do not marry him, end of story.
    I have tried to get married with a British girl couple of months ago and it was a devastating experience. I had to stop the marriage for their utterly non sense attitudes towards my family back home.
    There are other issues in the community such as very few British born and bread guys want to marry a British girl. Because they do not trust them. When they want to marry they always want a wife not some one who is too smart to handle. Same for the girls as well.

    PS. sorry for my poor English.

    • Hi Kawsar, thank you for your comment. I find it very interesting reading this from the other point of you. And you know what? I agree with you, to some extent anyway. I think it is wrong for a girl or guy to marry someone they are not compatible with for whatever reason, i.e. different upbringing, culture clash, lifestyle, education etc. And this is why it upsets and frustrates me because it is the family who act selfishly and only think about their gain. If they were good people, they would think about what is important for their child and their happiness, not just their own.

      I am sorry to hear about your experience with the British Bangladeshi girl – I can assure you that we are not all the same. In fact, you are lucky that you realised soon enough, otherwise you’d be stuck in an unhappy and toxic marriage. This is something I am totally against and will always continue to fight to stop girls (and guys) getting pressured into these situations. I wish you good luck in your search.

  4. hazera says:

    Hiya I’m focusing my dissertation around this issue about how culture can clash with children’s learning and I was doing a bit of extra reading and came across your blog. I had to leave a message saying that this is exactly how I feel at times. I too come from the same background and often feel at times that I am losing my roots. Hope everything goes well for you and things become a bit easier, you’re right it is hard but you sound like you’ve come a long way! You should be proud, not many Bangladeshi girls can say that they live and work away from home before marriage. Great post, wrote exactly how I feel at times 🙂

    • Hi Hazera, thank you so much for your comment and kind words. It’s always lovely to hear from people like yourself who understand this confusing and frustrating world that we live in. It is certainly tough, and as hard as I try to live a so-called ‘normal’ life, I am constantly fighting an internal battle with myself. Finding that balance is rare. Getting to where I am now was not easy, and still isn’t easy, but you’re right – I am proud of myself. Sometimes it takes wonderful people like yourself to remind me of this, so thank you. I wish you all the best with your dissertation and I will hopefully get back into writing again. Many thanks 🙂

  5. vishal says:

    Hi, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by your post. I’m 30 years old, Married with 2 young children.

    12 years ago when I was 18 and in my 1st year of studying A levels my parents took me to Bangladesh for a ‘holiday’. 10 days after arriving i was married. At the time i thought it was all for the best and was happy to live with a kind man, move out of my controlling parents home and start an life full of travel, independence, work etc. However i was too naïve.

    Throughout the 12 years I’ve suffered mental, verbal and physical abuse, major anxiety and depression. I’ve tried to get out of the marriage several times but my parents, extended family and in laws will not allow it. I was born in the uk yet am expected to behave like something totally opposite.

    I have decided 2014 will be the best year of my life. I’m taking positive steps towards leaving this marriage and finally living my life.

    • Hi vishal, I am so sad to hear about the struggle you have been through and how the support system you relied on let you down. I’m sorry if my post overwhelmed you, but I want you to know that although I can’t say I know exactly what you’re going through, I have known someone very close to me go through something similar and it was just as horrific. I made sure I was there for that person throughout the toughest of times, and Masha’Allah she is doing so well, living a healthy, fulfilling life as a single mother with a beautiful child who was sent as her saviour from Allah.

      It makes me so angry when I hear about those parents who trick their children into going to Bangladesh and then setting them up for failure for the rest of their lives. And then instead of taking responsibility for ruining your life, they act like they have done no wrong and that it’s all on you! And that you will bring shame on the families.

      I am happy to hear that you have found the strength to take those positive steps to change yours and your children’s future. Remember, you are stronger than you can possibly imagine, you have endured the worst already – nothing they do now can hurt you any more. You’re from this country, you have many rights and there will always be other people out there willing to stand by you and advise on how to move forward with your life – even if it’s not your loved ones. The hardest thing out of all of this is most definitely finding the courage to stand up for yourself – especially to your parents and in-laws. They always expect us to obey their commands and we go along with this because we don’t know any better. But once you realise that you need to escape from their controlling grip and break free, you will see life is completely the opposite of what you ever imagined.

      It’s not just about getting freedom, it is about finding happiness in the simple things in life. I hope what I have said makes sense – I wish you all the best and please feel free to contact me if you’d like someone to talk to by emailing: cultureclashuk [at] gmail [dot] com.

  6. muslim girl says:

    Hey first of all I am not a bangladeshi girl but i am currently dating a bangladeshi from bangladesh. We are here in the UK to study. We have known for a year now but only been in a relationship for 2 months. Im very interested to know his culture as this may explain some of his behaviour in a way?

    Im just curious, is it normal in your culture to NOT tell your parents of who youre dating unless youre getting married to them? My bf always ask me whether my mum knows about us which i DID tell my mum but what got me questioning is that he didnt tell his own mum about us. And when i asked him why he said he will tell eventually and that in the event when he would tell his mum it wouldnt be a problem because i am too a muslim. So why hasnt he tell her yet? Is it because i am not bengali?

    I would love to know how in your culture think of dating/marrying ppl outside of your origin. And having to read what you wrote about “arranged marriage” maybe thats the reason why my bf never mention about me with his parents. It’s not that i plan to marry him now, but i just dont feel he is serious knowing that his family doesnt even know my existence.

    Anyway, i would love to hear your reply seeing that im in need of someone’s opinion from the same culture as his. Thanks 🙂

    • Hello muslim girl, thank you for your message. I believe that you have pretty much figured out why your boyfriend is behaving this way. But I am happy to elaborate on this further. Obviously these are just my views and opinions, but I do think Bangladeshi boys have a similar pressure of marriage as girls do, but not as bad. For example, it is far more acceptable for a boy to marry a non-Bangladeshi girl, but not the same when it comes to girls marrying a non-Bangladeshi boy.

      Boys are usually scared to tell their parents because it is frowned upon to have a girlfriend/boyfriend before marriage – and I can imagine that being especially worse seeing as you are not Bangladeshi yourself.

      Bangladeshi families are overly concerned about ‘what will people say’. So their image and reputation in their community is top priority over your own happiness. Therefore, if they find out that their son is ‘up to no good’ and getting involved with girls, they don’t want this to look bad on them. So usually what would happen next are 2 scenarios: Either 1) They warn or threaten their son to stop messing around and make him end the relationship or 2) They demand and pressure him to marry you before you give into ‘temptations’ which is seen as really bad in our culture.

      And a possible 3rd scenario which would be a knock-on effect of number 1 – they will start looking for a girl for their son to marry. So basically, if you’ve only been dating for 2 months, then he probably isn’t exactly ready to settle down just yet. And by telling his parents, he would basically be asking for these situations to happen.

      Times have changed and people are more open to mix marriages, but this does entirely depend on the family. There are still many strict, religious families out there who would not accept any of this, so it’s better to check this first. One of the main reasons I believe people are opposed to marrying outside of their culture is because of the problems it can cause when it comes to communication. You know they say, you don’t just marry the guy – you marry the family too. So if you can’t communicate or understand them and their culture, this will be very problematic. And if your families can’t communicate with each other, then that’s a whole different level of drama.

      I hope this has shed some light on the complicated thinking of a typical Bangladeshi family.

  7. Zerin says:

    Hi Culture Clash,
    first of all great blog! I stumbled upon it whilst trying to find out about other people in my shoes. I also live and work in London, and am Muslim and Bengali.

    Would love to read more from you and know more about you. It is comforting to know there are other people going through the same things. I am at a point where I am starting to lose sleep over these things too and it’s starting to really affect me. I do hope your situation has changed since then and things are looking better for you.

    Totally see what you mean about having a restricted pool to choose from and the time pressure does not help. I know I am sounding very negative but I guess it’s just the way I have been feeling lately.

    Will look forward to reading more from you and would be great to get to know you too 🙂

    • Hi Zerin, thank you for your comment and my sincere apologies for the ridiculous late reply. I’m sad to say that 1 year on, I am still going through the same motions. But it’s always so lovely and encouraging to hear from wonderful people like yourself, who understand what i’m going through. I have done a few life updates on my blog, so please do feel free to have a read. Really appreciate the time you took to leave me a comment.

  8. nc says:

    Thank you for putting how I feel in words, it’s nice to know I’m not alone, I’m a 20 year old Bangladeshi Muslim American currently in university and feeling lost, i still live with my parents, but I’m at a point where I feel so done with always thinking of what i want to do vs what I should do. I dropped my parents dream of being a doctor and am pursuing a degree in Anthropology.
    It’s nice to see that you got to a place where you are a working woman and living on your own, I wanna get there but it seems so hard and far away. Sometimes I just wanna drop everything and run away. Thank you for making this blog, it really helped knowing there were others struggling with similar issues.

    • Hi nc, thank you for your lovely comment and I’m so sorry for the late reply. I hope things have worked out well for you – I’d love to know how things are going. I have done a few more life updates on the blog, so please feel free to have a read. One piece of advice I will give you is to not give up on your own dreams, because at the end of the day, your happiness isn’t anyone else’s top priority. It’s not an easy fight, but it will all be worth it in the end. x

  9. Bengali Girl 22 says:

    Hi,

    This was very interesting to read because I am in the exact same position. I am ‘at that age’ and only just getting older. I am about to finish my studies and when I do the search will be full steam ahead, its already started.

    To be honest the thought of ‘marriage’ just scares me. I feel like I will have to become something else to fit into this world of marriage but in our culture. Not only is it piles of responsibilities but its so true! Its not only the guy you marry, its his family. It totally scares me because I am really not built to be ‘the perfect wife according to Bangladeshis’. Like for example, I hate going to people’s houses to mingle with the older Bengali women where there is NOTHING in common. I hate having to have meaningless boring conversations but keep talking with a smile just to give a good impression – my Bengali isn’t the greatest either. But lets be honest, Bengali women are so unbelievably judgemental. They will literally look you up and down in front of you and if they aren’t satisfied with the outcome, the whole world will know about it.

    Like you I am lucky to be blessed with a caring and loving family that aren’t pressurising at all. But at the same time, I’m not stupid I know what the expectations are. I say most likely I will be married within 2 years time (that’s if anyone wants me, haha). The other thing is though, my family have no idea what kind of person I want. I am getting ‘talks’ at the moment and my family seem to go on their job, the fact that he lives like round the corner, his family have business(es) and hes suppose to be okay looking. Sure this is all expected but personality is a huge factor to me more so than the other stuff. Someone with a big heart, a giving person who actually cares and suits my personality. I really doubt my mum will find one of them. She won’t understand in terms of what our generation wants. She will only go on facts (their CV) lol. I don’t like to express myself totally in terms of emotion with my family. It just gets embarrasingly awkward – so having a conversation with what I do want is something that I avoid very much.

    But its totally scary because you hear about all these unhappy or failing marriages – a lot of the time due to a demanding stressful mother-in-law and a husband who isn’t prepared to question their mother. Theres so many issues that happen in our culture’s marriages and I know I just couldn’t cope if that’s me in one. The Bengali culture is in my view a very demanding one.

    • Hi Bengali Girl 22. First of all, I’m sorry. I was so overwhelmed with responses to my blog that I forgot to respond to your message. But that is no excuse!

      I really enjoyed reading your comment – it was like you were reading my mind. This is exactly how I feel about these stupid cultural expectations and I am fighting the good fight to stop people expecting me to conform to these ridiculous traditions. Bengali woman ARE THE WORST! But I have made sure that my family know that I will not engage in these silly things. I know exactly what you mean about mothers not understanding what you want. I’ve been there, and I’m still going there! In fact, a year on, hardly anything has changed on that front. If you’re interested, I have done a few life updates on this blog, so please do feel free to have a read and tell me what you think. I would love to know what’s happened in your life since your last message.

      Thank you once again for your brilliant message – really comforted me to know there are sane people out there who think like me! x

  10. jp says:

    Som members of my family particularly my mum, older brother and sisters are pressuring me to get married to a bangladeshi man on a visa – as they think that these guys on visas will be forever indebted to you when u marry them because you gave them a passport. and therefore will never cheat on you or leave you. where as a british born bengali man is more likely to cheat or divorce you because he is not indebted to you. what if the visa guy does leave you? my older sister says well that’s a chance u have to take and at least you have your family to support u, but if i got married to someone of my own choice and it didn’t work out i wouldn’t have my family support she says. i know that this is only her and certain members but i know the rest of the family will support me whatever decision i make. i told her thats really sad our family would do that to me, she replied well thats what happens. i was really disappointed when she said that because i never thought that would come out of her mouth. so it means get pressured into marrying someone they want you to marry as well as that he has to be within the same tribe. it doesn’t matter what you want. you have to make it work whether u go into the marriage unhappy. the reason i don’t want to marry someone on a visa is because of the culture communication clash. i attempted to get to know someone on a visa – thought I’d give it a try – he was a nice person and all (apart from saying he fell in love with me after 2 dates- which i thought was a bit fishy -what was he trying to influence? ) but i found myself unable to communicate freely with him purely because my bengali is crap. There were some silence here and there. We talked about alot of things but not 100% just bits and pieces. Not enough to give him what im actually trying to say. And he would reply in bengali and 40% of the time i would understand what he meant. Regardless i passed on his information to mt sister to progress things forward but she found out that he was hiding details about his previous divorce where he got married to his cousin which he failed to divulge to me. He wasnt telling me everything. From that experience- i was willing to give it a try but it just was not meant to be.

  11. […] priorities change. But I came back to some wonderful comments left on my last blog post about the Pressures of Marriage and it made me think about how far I have […]

  12. […] someone from ‘back home’. I outlined my reasons in one of my previous posts about the pressures of marriage if you are interested to find out […]

  13. […] via my siblings that I’m about to get a warning of some kind. I’ve spoken about the pressures of marriage and the issues around my imaginary wedding many times before, but even I’m getting annoyed at […]

  14. […] life of a single 30 year old Pakistani muslim girl who, like many of us, is constantly under that pressures of marriage from family and friends. Even though she’s not Bengali, I found it so relatable to my own […]

  15. Trapped Voice says:

    I started my blog because I thought I was alone but now I found comfort from reading yours. Although we are from different cultures, my struggles as a Muslim woman growing up in the UK are very similar.

  16. […] And now as I get closer to another milestone, I am anticipating tough times ahead – the pressure of marriage. So I often reflect on my life and wonder, what have I achieved? Have I been making the right […]

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