Featured, Opinion

The Parental Pressure For Marriage In Nigeria

Ogunbiyi Kayode


May 12, 2024


Are your parents pressuring you to get married, and you’re either not ready or unwilling? You’re not alone; this is a common issue that affects not only Nigerian families but families around the world. This week’s newsletter will explore the unfortunate realities of parental pressure that lead to unplanned marriages.

Marriage is often regarded as one of the most significant milestones in an adult’s life. Whether you are aware of it or not, announcements of weddings, engagements, pregnancies, and childbirth from peers, friends, or acquaintances signal the transition into adulthood, accompanied by certain societal expectations.

Experiencing pressure to get married can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience for many individuals. Whether the pressure originates from family, friends, or society at large, the expectation to conform can be profound.

From an early age, many of us are taught that finding a partner and starting a family represents the pinnacle of life’s achievements. However, it is crucial to recognize that each individual has their own unique path and objectives. While some may place a high value on marriage and family, others might prioritize career advancement, travel, or other personal endeavors.

According to Dupe Fatoyimbo, a marriage counselor based in Lagos,

“I’ve dealt with many unmarried clients who struggle to tell their parents about their views on marriage—whether they want to get married, if they’re truly ready for it, what kind of partner they’re looking for, and if they’re even ready for such a big commitment. Disagreements make it hard to talk openly, and they often end up butting heads with their parents’ expectations that they’re just not ready to meet.”

It is essential to examine the origins of societal expectations surrounding marriage. Many of these expectations derive from traditional gender roles and cultural norms, which can be both restrictive and antiquated. In different societies, marriage is viewed as a critical social institution that forms the basis for family structures. Consequently, it is frequently laden with various expectations, norms, and pressures. These pressures typically stem from religious, traditional, and cultural beliefs that regard marriage as a cornerstone of societal stability and continuity.

Pressures can cause individuals to feel obligated or compelled to marry, irrespective of their personal feelings, beliefs, preferences, or readiness. Parents often place the burden of marriage on their children for various reasons. Some believe that marriage will provide their children with happiness, security, and support. At other times, parents may experience social pressure from relatives who inquire why their children remain unmarried. Additionally, parents may desire assurance that their children will be cared for after they are gone. They may also wish to experience grandparenthood, and see legal marriage as the pathway to fulfilling this desire.

Some parents may hold the belief that certain life events should occur at specific ages, mirroring the sequence of their own lives. They often possess a predefined notion of what a family should resemble and what constitutes true happiness. Frequently, parents’ definitions of happiness, fulfillment, family, security, and support may differ from those of their children. Misunderstandings between generations can exacerbate if parents remain unconvinced by their children’s perspectives.

The pressure can take a toll on individuals, especially when compounded by other factors. For example, if you are the only single person within your circle of friends, it can become isolating and frustrating as you observe peers getting married or starting families. At this juncture, you might find yourself contemplating the ideal age for marriage and parenthood, or questioning whether it is the right time for you to marry.

Not everyone will marry or marry at a specific age, yet societal pressure and expectations can lead to confusion and concern. Many may find themselves thinking, “Why am I still unmarried?” The situation becomes even more challenging when siblings marry, which can highlight one’s single status even more conspicuously.

Idris Kafaru believes that marital issues often stem from individuals entering into marriage for the wrong reasons and with inadequate preparation. In his words:

“A lot of marriages begin the wrong way. Couples often aren’t even friends first. People don’t fully understand what marriage involves. Many men feel pressured into getting married, so they’re not truly ready when they do. I know several guys who said they got married because they were given an ultimatum, or their fiancées rushed the wedding, or they loved their partners but marriage was all she talked about.”

Pressure from partners, particularly women, can sometimes be a cascading effect of societal and parental expectations. Men and women approach marriage differently due to their distinct societal conditioning. Marriage functions like a constitution, similar to an organization, complete with rights and obligations. Entering into it demands that both parties understand their responsibilities and the privileges to which they are entitled. Achieving this understanding necessitates clear communication about roles. Exerting excessive pressure simply to adopt titles such as Mrs. or to be recognized as the head of a family does not constitute a sufficient reason to enter into marriage.

According to Priscilla James, a recently married woman from Lagos,

“Some women try to control how their man think or criticize them if they don’t like what they hear. If they just listened more, they might avoid a lot of unnecessary trouble. You don’t have to agree with everything, and you might not like what you hear, but listening to men can offer a perspective that’s different from what your girlfriends might think. This can save you from a lot of frustration and disappointment. It can also help you understand why men and women often see things differently.”

Some may find this difficult to accept, but many men perceive what is often called ‘pressure’ to marry as a form of manipulation. Generally, men will pursue what they genuinely desire, and marriage is no exception. Most prefer to enter into marriage voluntarily, without feeling coerced or faced with ultimatums. If a woman tells a man that he must marry her or she will leave, it is likely that if he agrees under these circumstances, he may harbor some level of resentment towards her. Consequently, she may always question whether he truly wanted to marry her in the first place.

Engaging in an open conversation with your partner and parents to gain clarity on their reasons will facilitate a balanced dialogue, making them feel acknowledged. This also allows you to understand their feelings about your stance on marriage, including whether they are frustrated, angry, fearful, or worried about your future.

Strive to understand their perspectives and empathize with them, as despite their good intentions, their approaches may not align with your feelings. This understanding provides an opportunity to genuinely recognize and mitigate their fears or concerns. If they are worried about your future without a family, address these concerns by sharing your plans. If you need more time to choose a partner, or if you decide against marriage, explain how you intend to secure your future and manage your well-being in old age.

Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that there is nothing detrimental about waiting for the “right time” to marry or start dating. If you find yourself feeling like the last among your peers to get married and are resistant to succumbing to pressure, it’s essential to fortify your mental resilience to handle societal expectations effectively.

Parents often seek reassurance, so it is important to communicate clearly that you will make decisions about when, whether, and with whom to marry. They may view it as their duty to see you married. If you prefer to make these decisions independently, reassure them that you are prepared to take responsibility for your choices. Explain that you will make decisions at the appropriate time, and discuss how you would like them to be involved in the process.

It is important to question the assumption that marriage must conform to stereotypical societal or parental expectations and to make decisions that reflect your personal values and desires. When faced with the pressure to make life-altering decisions such as marriage, taking time to reflect on your own life goals is crucial. If pressure continues, establishing clear boundaries is necessary. It is likely that relatives might occasionally tease you, which could be frustrating. Even with firm boundaries in place, you may still face occasional conversations about marriage and relationships. Instead of allowing this to cause distress, focusing on pursuits that are most important to you can help divert attention away from marriage, especially if you are the last among your peers to marry.

Remember, marriage is not a short-term union but a long-term commitment that should be entered into for the right reasons.

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