People who know me well, know that I had an arranged marriage at an early age. This is becoming more and more uncommon but not enough to become an alien concept. Arranged marriages aren’t essential a bad thing and done well, it can result in a life long happy relationship so I don’t have any issues with it.
My issue comes with how it is being carried out by some parents which can include bullying, blackmailing, as well as more serious like threats or even actual violence if either party doesn’t comply. This is not limited to the bride but also the potential groom involved.
We were not a very social family, my parents didn’t socialise much and being the eldest child of the family living in another country away from extended family left me clueless about a lot of things. I knew very little about my culture and what I did know, I learnt from watching bollywood movies which you always have to take with a pinch of salt.
My parents and I never really spoke about anything, not school or friends or even things happening in the family. So I grew up not talking about things happening in my life to anyone and I still struggle with it. However, I’ve recently decided to revisit events that has had a strong emotional and life changing affect on my life in order to deal with it and move on.
Coming from a Bangladeshi community, the subject of arranged marriage is a common topic of conversation. However, I was very oblivious to the reality that I would be faced with the pressures of an arrangement married until it started happening at the age of 16. Living in the UK made me think that if I didn’t want it, I wouldn’t have to go through with it.
However, it is very hard to go against the people who are supposed to be the ones looking out for your best interests even when they are making poor decisions or judgements. This is a very common occurrence and is what happened to me.
I can be very oblivious sometimes so I was 16 when I first noticed a suiter come to our house. My parents being as old fashioned as they are were desperate to get me ‘married off’ to offload their burden of responsibility to minimise the risk of me coming home pregnant or people gossiping because they saw me with a male school friend and because they felt Islamicaly, it was a sin not to get me married. Also they felt it was the normal thing to do.
I managed to get out of the first proposal of married at 16 with some help and persuasion from a family friend. It was a different story when I was 18. My parents became more paranoid about something happening or the prospect of me wanting to marry someone outside of our community. And by that I don’t mean the Bangladeshi community. My parents would prefer someone from our district in Bangladesh, anyone else would be considered unsuitable.
So they had a proposals for marriage from people from my small community in Bangladesh, they were living in the UK at the time. They lied to me about their age and didn’t tell me anything else, just that they wanted me to marry them. I said no every time they asked so one day I was at my friends house and they called to tell me to come home as we were having important guests at our house.
I was oblivious to who that might be so I went home. I got home to find out that my parents decided not to listen to my decision about the marriage and arranged everything including a minister so all I had to do was turn up which is what I did inadvertently by coming home.
I’m not a fighter, I never have been. I don’t like to argue too much so if someone persists beyond my ability to resist, I tend to end up going with it. My parents obviously knew this and took advantage. I decided at the time, I’ll go a long with it, see if it works. If it doesn’t, then I can get a divorce. That day was a turning point for me and my relationship with my parents. We didn’t have a great relationship but after that day I lost all trust in my parents.
Having made the decision to accept the marriage, I did what I could to make it work. I wouldn’t say it was a great marriage but we have some good times. But our differences in terms of personality, upbringing and culture made our marriage progressively worse until it eventually ended 7 years later. Our marriage involved a lot of family drama as every marriage does and I decided it’s not something I wanted to keep maintaining as it wasn’t bringing me any joy.
You can learn to love the one you’re the one you are with but love isn’t enough to keep a relationship going.