Marriages, they say, are made in heaven.
But when things don’t as planned, they can become a living hell. There was a time when I fantasized about my marriage, about finding Mr. Perfect and living the perfect life.
Unfortunately, they were just fantasies.
Not long ago, I was in the middle of my own wedding. It was an arranged marriage, and I was only given the photograph of the guy I was going to marry.
I belong to a very conservative Muslim family and talking with my fiancé before marriage was not allowed.
From what I knew, I didn’t like him, but I said yes to his proposal anyway. I thought perhaps he was my destiny because he had accepted me despite my imperfections. I was tall, dark-skinned, and broader in physique.
For so long, the Rishta aunt (the matchmaker) would bring incompatible and ridiculous families to my house for us to judge one another. Most of the men she brought were either divorced or widowers and double my age. I was only 24!
I still remember that she once said to my mother, “Your demands are too high. People look for fairer, slimmer and beautiful girls, unlike yours.” That thought took root. I accepted that I wasn’t good enough to meet anyone’s standards, but after all of that, I finally had a fiance.
A Pakistani Muslim wedding consists of three ceremonies: Nikkah, in which the marriage contract signed in front of two witnesses. Next is Rukhsati, the official departure of the bride with her groom, followed by Walima, a reception given by the groom’s family. If the bride and groom are living in two different countries, people prefer to do the Nikkah well before the other ceremonies so the couple can complete the legal documentation if the bride or groom needs to immigrate to be together.
At my Nikkah, I signed the official documents that changed my status to married.
My fiancé lived in Australia, and I was in Pakistan, and the wedding was to take place once I had my spouse visa. I was excited to finally have found “the one.” I felt accomplished. I thought I was lucky to get to marry a decent, clean-living person even if it meant living in Australia. I thought I had hit the jackpot.
I was wrong.
As his wife he saw me as his property, his kingdom to rule.
My immigration documents required us to include Skype and telephone conversations despite my parents’ reluctance to allow us to speak. I discovered during that time was that he didn’t like anything about me.
I enjoyed freedom, but he was a complete control freak. He had a problem with everything, the clothes I wore, where and with whom I went out, even my choice of music. He used to message my family members to confirm if I was telling him the truth.
He joined Facebook to stalk me and interrogate me about my posts and who I was friends with. Finally, he complained to my parents and accused me of not being interested in him and only marrying him for his citizenship.
That was it. I called it quits.
My status changed from single to divorced in a span of a few months. I never got the chance to see what it was like to be married. I became depressed. I realized I spilled the very water I had slipped on, after all, I had decided to leave the marriage to avoid the nonsense I would have had to endure.
So much has changed in this past year: for good and for ill. I have a more coherent idea of how I want my future husband to be, but on the other hand, my plans to find him are weak. I’ve been told by my family that since I’m divorced, I should be more flexible and less demanding.
Time heals everything.
I learned from my mistakes, but I’m left with regrets. While my friends have prospered in their careers, I have been fighting this battle.
I had to work through so many questions.
Why did I let people’s perspective of the ideal bride get to me? Why didn’t I tell my parents that I wanted to meet him and see if we were compatible? Why wasn’t I vocal about my likes and dislikes to him, for that matter? Why the hell did I not consider myself good enough to find someone understanding?
I underestimated myself. I deserved better than that! I still do, but circumstances are different now. I’m a divorcee. It just doesn’t sit well with the community I live in, and my parents are very much part of it.
I married to make my parents happy. I suffered in a toxic relationship for six months for them.
I’m exhausted from trying to make everyone happy, and I don’t know what to do anymore.
All I hope now is that I don’t repeat the mistake again.
I don’t want to underestimate myself again and settle for less. I worry that with a broken relationship in my past, it will be impossible to find the ideal guy.
I fear I will have to compromise again and say yes to any person who’d approve of me despite my past because of course, I don’t meet the standards of a perfect bride.