Say ‘Not yet’ before you say ‘I do’ : Against early marriage

There are several noteworthy things that come to mind when one hears the words ‘early marriage’. According to me, all these things can be grouped into two categories which are, quite simply, a) Pros and b) Cons. A lot of girls my age and in fact even the younger crowd is of the opinion that the pros outweigh the cons. Many of them believe that marriage is an event that brings with it so many benefits that one would have to be quite dense to reject the idea completely. Without sounding too cynical about it, I can enumerate multiple aspects of matrimony that reflect on a good life. Like Gerard Butler said in the ‘Ugly truth’ marriage is about social status and sex and like my sociology book says, the need for marriage is precipitated by the need to procreate. Marriage also brings with it- family, wealth, property, security, stability and companionship. All of this is fairly basic and one-dimensional, which means there has never been much fluidity in the concept of marriage. Slowly though, the nucleus of a different kind of life is forming in modern society. I’ve met some who happen to share my views on early marriage, but I’m afraid we’re in the minority. Most, are so engrossed in anticipating the pros that they tend to gloss over the cons. A friendly organization that I recently collaborated with, started a twitter campaign (If you’re not on twitter I don’t know how to explain this) about fighting early marriage. In order to understand why they would do so, I should enlighten you about the cons of marriage and particularly, marriage at a young age.

1. Psychological growth : Independence and liberty are probably two of the most important things that young adults value these days. These are also two things that are essential for their mental health. It isn’t acceptable to the modern young adult, that marital pressure be exerted on them ruthlessly by elders and relatives simply because their age makes them eligible. At such a young age, the average personality has just emerged dripping mud from the bog of adolescence and it takes quite a while to uncover the grown-up hiding beneath that muck. Although the phases of childhood and adolescence have been concluded, the phase of individuality has just begun. Marriage at an early age indisputably leads to personality maladjustment. In order to maintain that precarious balance between a healthy body and a healthy mind- it is necessary for young people to become well-established in all respects before entering into married life.

2. Sexual maturity : To put it delicately, getting a young person married is almost absolutely committing the person to a sex life. At such a tender age in spite of the raging hormones and the conflicting messages they give, kids have not attained the kind of sexual maturity that matrimony demands. This is especially true for young girls who are subjected to a lot of pressure to bear children. Usually, and I speak for the Indian culture, couples have barely settled down before family-planning is forcefully introduced. Call it the demands of Religion or Society, young boys and girls are not capable of developing that kind of maturity so suddenly.

3. Education and Career : Most girls today are ambitious and very clear about their future (There are lots who are not, but I’ve never been friendly with them). Education and a stable career have assumed greater importance as compared to family and marriage. If you ask young girls what they want to become when they grow up, you will rarely hear them say ‘ mother’ or ‘wife’. Today their answers range from ‘lawyer’, ‘doctor’, ‘psychologist’ to ‘actress’  ‘model’ and ‘writer’. Whatever may be the career choice, it is obvious that without the bare minimum education, women cannot get enough degrees, and without the necessary qualifications they cannot aspire to become career-women. An early marriage more often than not, tends to disrupt the flow of regular education and work. No matter how liberated and progressive the husband and the in-laws are, sooner than later the woman will be expected to take charge of household duties and mothering. When the girl is young, she will most likely be in the middle of pursuing some degree or another when she is wedded and chances of her continuing to pursue a higher degree become quite slim post the marriage.

4. Incompatibility : A very consistent problem in modern relationships between any man and woman is incompatibility. Now I know that a romanticized version of this would involve love, attraction, chemistry- a host of other unrealistic words that would somehow reinstate your faith in relationships. The truth is that compatibility is very hard to attain. In order for a relationship to survive all extraneous variables- friends, relatives, idealistic notions- have to be eliminated. More importantly, for compatibility to be achieved an adequate amount of time and familiarity is required. That doesn’t come easily or quickly and it certainly does not appear simply because ‘they’re married now’.

5. Family responsibilities : A majority of young adults and teenagers in India are far more receptive and sensitive to their family situation as compared to children in Western nations. (I’ve never been there but word spreads). In India, the average young adult will not only be aware of the financial situation but also of the health, career and filial issues of both parents. Not only have kids become more responsible towards their parents, many in fact believe they are obliged to ensure that their family is secure and happy before even considering marriage. This is characteristic of single children who are not only closer to their families but are aware of a deeper sense of accountability towards them. Hence, before they feel they’ve discharged the necessary  duties, forcing them to marry becomes tantamount to well, abuse.

CONCLUSION : All-rounded development. My point in writing about all the negatives of early marriage is simply this : That for any marriage to be happy and stable the people involved need to acquire the necessary level of emotional and mental maturity. It means that in their individual lives, they must have attained those goals that are integral to their happiness. Without possessing that core contentment, an early marriage will only engender regret. And for anyone who knows even a little bit about marriage, regret is a silent admission that were circumstances any different, those same two people would have never married one another.