I’m probably NEVER getting married. I don’t mean I won’t have a girlfriend, I just won’t get married. I don’t see much use for this peculiar institution. What does marriage fundamentally change between two people who love each other, and decide to build a life together? Indubitably, an unwed couple can do all the things a married couple can. Furthermore, with most marriages ending in divorce, there seems precious little need to contribute to an artificial institution that has no real bearing on whether a relationship will last or not.
And yet not ten years ago, marriage was all I could think about. I was consumed. It was relentless. Let me give you a little background. Around this time in my life, I was a Muslim. I had recently converted, and I was in my twenties. There was this ever present expectation that young people should get married as soon as possible to prevent zina or fornication (not that it helped, as nearly every Muslim I knew had fornicated at some point. Even having a boy/girlfriend was considered illegal). But marriage in Islam wasn’t some quick fix to get a nut (unless you’re a Shia Muslim, they have temporary marriage contracts that keep a couple married for a specified duration, and during that time, all they do is FUCK!), if one got married, it was expected to be for life, even if divorce isn’t considered a sin. Incidentally, divorce rates among North American Muslims are on the rise.
To be frank, I’m not surprised. As a Muslim, I had a deep abhorrence for marriage. I detested the contractual nature of it. It felt sterile, like a business negotiation. The expectations of each person in the marriage were steeped in old world misogyny. Women were expected to be submissive to their husbands (have you met the modern American Muslim woman?) and men were the providers for the family, the “bread winner” if you will. Now as I already mentioned, there is this overwhelming cultural pressure on young adults to get married. Compounded with the raging hormones that aren’t being satisfied except through premarital sex or masturbation (come on, you’ve done it! The masturbation, I mean. Maybe the premarital sex?), and you have a recipe for anxiety. When I converted, I felt the need to meet the right woman and “complete half my deen” which is what marriage was called. In case you’re wondering, a “deen” is an Arabic term meaning “way.” It’s like Tao, but it also can be used to mean Islam, as in Islam is the way (not really).
I met a woman shortly after I embraced Islam. I won’t say her name here; she might read this one day (doubtful) and decide to sue me. I don’t believe we ever actually loved each other, but we said we did. Now that I’m a few months knocking on 40 years of age, I can look back to that time with a sense of hindsight. We never loved each other; we were just horny. She moved to New Jersey because her family arranged a marriage with a man who lived there and for two years, maybe more I forget and it isn’t terribly important anyway, she lived with this man in matrimony and to hear her tell it, it was hell. They divorced and she was terrified no one else would marry her because of the heavy stigma attached to divorced women in particular in some, if not most, Muslim communities. When we reconnected, she was already divorced. We found each other on Myspace (yeah, it was that long ago). I noticed her status read divorced and at first I thought it was a mistake. I asked her about it and she confirmed she was divorced. I’ll spare you the boring details, but suffice it to say that over a period of a year, we got closer. We spent time on the phone and any computer with an internet connection and a camera. I’ll let you use your imagination as to what we did with the camera, but as a hint, we ALWAYS felt profound guilt afterward. We didn’t hurt anyone and it felt good at the time, but there was always this guilt.
Our relationship, if one could call it that, deteriorated over time and the last conversation we had resulted in her telling me she no longer cared about me–I made her mad a lot, but in my defense I think her anger was from a place of sexual frustration more than anything I did to her. You have no reason to believe me, but I always tried to be respectful to her in any case, but she was sensitive and most of what I said to her was always taken the wrong way. I hear she’s now married and a mother, something she always wanted. I hope she’s happy.
At the end of it all, I just want to be happy and I don’t see marriage as a vector for happiness. One day, I’ll meet the right woman and we won’t need to be married to be happy together. We just need to be together.