By Clare Muhindo
On November 10, 2019, Sheila Nduhukire, a local television personality tweeted, “Baitu mwanangye n’osherwa ryari,” Runyankole Proverb. Loosely translated, the phrase means, “But my child, when are you getting married?” She was looking for someone to inscribe those words on a T-shirt and deliver it to her.
Nduhukire’s tweet reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend. Kathy (not real name) turned 31 years old in October. On the weekend after her birthday, her parents invited her home for dinner. Excited, she cancelled all the plans she had made with her friends and heed to her parents’ call. But this was no ordinary family dinner. In attendance, was a reverend from their church and two members of the choir, who led a two-hour prayer session to dedicate Kathy to the Lord so she can find a husband.
To date, Kathy does not clearly understand why her parents did that, yet they had never shown any signs of worry before.
A lot of us have had a pushy relative pressuring us to get married. Stories of aggressive aunts, grandparents and mothers harassing any woman of childbearing age during Christmas holidays are legendary. If you are unmarried, comments about your withering ovaries and biological clock come so easily. For many women, this is a constant buzzword whenever they are among family and for some, it starts early in the most subtle ways. For instance, parents will take you to events, teach you how to dress, how to behave around people, how to speak to people and most commonly introduce you to their friends’ sons.
My friends and I joke a lot about issues, but once in a while, we spare some time to discuss pertinent issues about our life, career, relationships, marriages and the like. On a slow afternoon last Sunday, a meme was shared on our WhatsApp group.
It read, “My aunt: When are you getting married? Also my aunt: Haza otatureteera omushaija wóruganda orundi.” The second part loosely translated, means, “…and don’t bring us a man from another tribe.” See the irony in that? Yes, on top of the pressure they exert on you to get married, is the pressure to get a man from your tribe. As we laughed at the meme, one of us said, “Girls, on a serious note let us talk about the marriage pressures, how do you guys deal with them, because I am losing my mind.”
We are all in our late 20s, each at our first or second job, with just a few of us married, others planning to get married and many others still putting their lives together. The group went mute for a few minutes before responses begun trickling in.
“Personally, I do not look forward to Christmas. I have got to that point where I never want to step home unless it is something pressing,” Sharon responded.
As the discussion gets deeper, the ladies testify that being unmarried by a certain age is a daily nightmare, which goes as far as organizing blind dates. At 28, Gina is focused on building her career, and making a name of her own. But while at it, her paternal aunt is voluntarily preoccupied with helping her find her a partner. One evening after work, as she sat on her couch after a long day, Gina received a text from her aunt.
“I was sipping on my tea as I chatted with friends and I saw a text from my aunt. She said she had got a man for me. She explained that the man was a brother to her best friend and added that he drinks a lot, but is single. So I have to try and deal with his drinking…,” Gina narrates.
She, however, cannot get her head around the fact that her relatives actually do not care what kind of person she ends up with, as long as she gets married. “Long story short, I met the guy just out of respect for my aunt, but could not get my mind around it,” she adds.
To those who took career paths that are considered prestigious or high end, the pressure takes a different turn. Bridget (27) is a lawyer and advocate of the High Court and recently bought herself a brand new Allex. “In line with my practice, people, relatives and family come and tell me how men fear lawyers and women who drive themselves, and that I better get married before men start fearing me, funny!” she exclaims.
Despite the pressure from extended family members, some of these women have a strong support system in their nuclear family setup.
“I have a very understanding and open-minded mum. Sometimes she shyly asks me if I am seeing anyone and I usually tell her the truth. If I am not, she will shrug it off and be like ‘let’s wait on God.’ And my aunties can’t even try. My happiness isn’t in anyone’s hands. And if the right person comes my way, well and good. If not then it wasn’t meant to be,” another member, Teddy says.
“My parents tell me marriage isn’t to be rushed for, take time till you’re ready. So I am still a ‘ka child’,” a one Grace commented.
“So right, many people have told me not to rush because when you get there, then you are there for the rest of your life,” Rosette supported Grace’s point of view.
For many cultures and families, marriage is highly regarded as a symbol of social status. But while family and society pressures you to find a partner, get married or have children, do they know the effects that kind of pressure has on the recipient?
Samuel Ssetumba, a freelance counsellor, says pressuring someone to get married creates artificial urgency to get married.
“The individual might make mistakes in order to yield to the pressure. They might marry the wrong person or go in when not ready,” he says, adding that it can bring about feelings of resentment towards the people that are exerting the pressure.
“They become irritated and fall out with the people putting pressure on them. They go into resistance mode and at a point when they need advice, they won’t take it.”
More so, Ssetumba notes that marriage should be an equal union between two people in love, not something to fulfil one’s sense of identity, self-worth or validation. Finding love comes down to re-evaluating your reasons for wanting love and how they relate to your own self-worth.
“For the unmarried, understand you first. Do not think that marriage will define you. If you are waiting for marriage to complete you, then there is a problem.”
Ssetumba, however, adds that it is good to encourage people to get married after finding out the possible challenges and reasons why the person is not considering it at the moment.
“Find out how these people feel about marriage at that particular time and depending on the relationship you have with them, it could be because they have seen so many negative stories from their friends and they need to be assured that it can work.”
All in all, marriage is important, do not pressure anyone to do it. As the old adage goes, “Everyone has their own timing.”