When it comes to friendships, I tend to love the other person hard. And when you love someone, you want the absolute best for them. You want them to spend their days as happy as possible.
That’s why anytime a friend of mine talks about how they need to find a husband, I urge them not to rush into anything. The pressure on women to get married once they hit a certain age is very real in almost every culture, western or eastern. It’s especially so in cultures where dating isn’t encouraged, like many South Asian or Arab cultures. So, while the fact that you should really get to know someone before marrying them may seem obvious to some, it is extremely common in these cultures to get married after having known the other person for just a few months, weeks, or even days.
During one conversation, I told a couple of my friends to please, please get to know a guy for at least a year before they decided to get married.
That’s easy for you to say, one of them told me. You’re engaged to someone you grew up with.
Yeah, it is easy for me to say, but not because I’m engaged.
It’s because my parents are divorced.
Take it from someone who knows more about divorce than they should. I am never going to have Thanksgiving with both of my parents. Holidays were tough growing up, having to pick one or the other, and they still are. I couldn’t have my dad at a lot of school events. My parents did the best they could, but you can’t erase the fact that, in a world where a household with two parents in their first marriage is considered the norm despite statistics, it’s hard to not have that.
Especially when you’re Muslim and/or Desi. No matter how much I get used to my own situation, someone else always has to bring me back from it by asking “Wait, your parents are divorced?” when I say the word ‘stepfather’ or mention my siblings in North Carolina. And it’s always in that surprised tone, the widened eyes that I honestly never got from my non-Muslim or non-Desi friends.
Yet, despite the fact that a mismatch can have disastrous results, I don’t see that much caution among the South Asians and Muslims that I know. There are actually a lot of divorces in my family. I’ve also witnessed other divorces over the years among friends and others in our community.
There are also the many couples who have no business being married but are either staying together due to familial pressure, fear of being alone, or “for the kids.”
An intact marriage doesn’t necessarily mean a successful one.
And in nearly every single one of these relationships, the couple didn’t get to know each other, as well as they should have before they decided to tie the knot. Either they married too quickly, only spent time together in the presence of their parents, or lived far from each other beforehand.
It’s true, there’s always a risk.
There are couples who are together for years before they get married and then it all falls apart. But the longer you take to get to know someone, the more you learn about them. Studies that say that the honeymoon period lasts about 12 to 24 months. To quote the show Bojack Horseman, “When you look at someone with rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”
You need to take the time for those rose-colored glasses to come off. You will be eating, drinking, sleeping, laughing, grieving, pooping, and arguing with this person for the rest of your life. If you decide to have children, this will be the person who raises them with you.
The trauma of my parents’ divorce and its aftermath affects me to this day, and I often wonder where I’d be if I never had to go through that. I’ve seen how it’s affected each divorcé I’ve ever known—their goals, their careers, their finances, their happiness, their social life— and the people around them. Divorce isn’t horrible, it isn’t life-ending, and sometimes it is the absolute best decision.
But it’s best to try and avoid that situation in the first place.
You won’t ever get to know someone just sitting across from them in the living room with your parents. Even a few coffees won’t do it. God knows how many times I’ve seen couples hide mental or physical illnesses, past relationships, abusive behavior, even eye color until after the wedding.
Marriage is not a box to check off on your life ‘to-do’ list. It deserves more thought than buying a house.
Many couples have been lucky. I do know people who got married very quickly after meeting and are happy to this day.
But there are far too many who are not. Why not take the time to decrease your chances of being one of them?