From the title, you can see my shaadi was arranged by my oh-so-dear parents. I mean, I didn’t show up on my nikkah day never having seen my soon-to-be mian, so I guess I would call it more of an arranged marriage that included a bit of pyaar.
A little over a year ago, we said “Qubool hai, qubool hai, qubool hai”
I know that sounds a little filmy but I promise you this is exactly how it went. I sat in the bridal room waiting for the qari saab to show up with some papers and a pen for me to sign my life away to a man that I had only known for a month. He sat on the stage, with his friends teasing him about life after marriage, waiting for me to accept so he could make his public acceptance in front of everybody.
That day is pretty hazy now because, in a year later, a lot has changed.
Everyone likes to say that the real journey starts when the “honeymoon” phase ends, and well I didn’t want to believe those people. I thought because my husband and I weren’t the most affectionate and lovey-dovey people in the world, that we just didn’t have a honeymoon phase.
Oh boy, was I completely wrong…
We started off as any normal new couple.
I was head-over-heels for him. I wanted to cook the best food for him, I wanted to go on dates every Friday, I wanted to celebrate month-a-versaries.
Well, I learned pretty quickly that marriage isn’t always about celebrating the good parts, it’s about being able to live with the ugly, grow with the rough, and tough it out with the hard parts. You can only live in harmony and be happy when you have seen all sides of each other, and that happened pretty early on in our relationship.
Two months into our marriage, his grandfather passed away. That was the first test in our relationship.
My husband moved to the United States to live with me and since he was in the process of becoming a U.S. resident, he was not able to travel back to Pakistan to attend the funeral and be with his family.
That truly tested my ability to support him emotionally. That was the first and last time I saw my husband shed a tear. To see pain and hurt in this powerful and strong man’s eyes – it broke me. I cried for days because I couldn’t do anything to make his pain go away. For days I avoided talking to him about what happened because I didn’t know what to say or do to make him feel better, small-talk was my to-go.
I eventually spoke about the passing of his dada-ji a few weeks later and he wanted nothing to do with that conversation. As it turns outs, he would rather keep his emotions and feelings to himself than to share them with me. That bothered me, it affected me on a deeper level, I felt worthless and useless. It took me a while to understand why he shut me out like that, but when I did, it all made sense.
That’s when I realized our “honeymoon” phase had ended. We were no longer two people deeply in love and starting a new chapter in our lives. We were two people learning to live in past chapters of each other’s lives.
Marriage isn’t a new start, it is a continuation of two lives that are now merging.
As much as I hate to admit this, we did have our own version of a honeymoon phase. Our version consisted of living together without arguing and disagreeing. We didn’t speak our minds and say how we felt because you know a “perfect” couple is always happy and doesn’t fight.
The worthless and useless feeling would creep on me every-so-often and I would hide out in the bathroom crying to myself.
I didn’t know why I felt like this. I had suffered from depression in the past, but this was a different form of depression. I was happy and healthy and living life, but there was an empty hole in my heart. My husband was not able to fill this gaping hole, and some days the hole would suck me right in.
I couldn’t understand why my husband’s mood and attitude would affect me so greatly. I wouldn’t feel loved and wanted to be by my husband, because he didn’t want to tell me what was wrong or what he was thinking. He wasn’t the open book I was and it bothered me. I needed constant confirmation he was okay or else I would feel guilty for making him feel a type of way when in reality I was just overthinking.
I thought I didn’t deserve him or his love.
I started to believe he was better than me and that there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t love me or care for me the way I did. I couldn’t grasp the idea that people could act differently in love, that people have different love languages and the way they express it differs due to that.
Just because I could pour my heart and feelings out, the same doesn’t go for everyone and that is a hard lesson to learn, especially in a marriage.
As a Pakistani woman, I had been taught marriage would be the answer to all of my problems, but that did not end up being the case.
While this was all happening behind closed doors, I would exit my room smiling and filled with joy. I would tell people that getting married was the best decision I had made, but in my heart, I knew I wasn’t happy. I would preach love and marriage to my friends and family, but it was so far from how I really felt.
The longer things went on like this, the more I became sad and insecure.
I would kiss him good-bye every morning, but there was a part of me that never wanted to come back home. I knew I wanted to make it work because at the end of the day I loved him. He wasn’t a bad person, he wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt me. The truth is we were both new at the marriage thing and neither one of us really understood how to make our marriage successful. We wanted to be able to say proudly that we never fought and that our relationship was simply out of a fairy tale.
We quickly grew out of this fairy tale phase as well. I remember the night that I completely broke down and had my first panic attack in our relationship. I was sobbing, barely able to get words out of my mouth because I felt like my relationship was crumbling and holding on by a thread. It started with tension between my family and him, which translated to a fight between us, which ended with me locked inside my room hysterically crying, trying to get a hold of his brother and him smoking a cigarette outside of the house in the cold.
This was the first time I had to involve someone in our relationship. It was the first time I had to “phone a friend” because in my head divorce was the only option left for us. This had happened a lot within the past few months, but not to this extent. We were no strangers to disagreements, but this was an all-time low for us. This was not what I had signed up for and neither did he.
His brother finally answered the phone and I went on a rant about how his brother didn’t love me and respect me. After listening to it all, the first thing he asked me was, “Did he move across the world, away from his family and friends to be with you?” I answered yes to his question. He proceeded to explain to me that his brother and my husband will never open to anyone, that I needed to break down his walls, no matter how long that took. He told me that his behavior is nothing out of the ordinary, that he’s just always been like that. He assured me that I was his brother’s number one priority and he would take a bullet for me.
That night I realized I had the idea of marriage all wrong.
It wasn’t about the flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day or expensive rings for anniversaries, it was about compromise and struggle. As long as we loved each other and we wanted it to work, and I knew we could.
From that night, I made a promise to myself I would jackhammer the living shit out of my husband’s self-made walls. I would get to know him beyond the surface. I would force him to open up to me and share his every thought and feeling with me because after all, I am his damn wife.
We were never given a cheat sheet on marriage, we had to create the test and answer the questions all on our own.
We are responsible for our actions and we are responsible for each other, and we made a vow to do it together. This is where we were going wrong. We weren’t leaning on each other, we were still stuck in our own ways and that needed to change. I needed to trust his love and he needed to trust that I could be his backbone as well. We needed to remember we were one.
After that God-forsaken night, things started to get better.
I began to bother him about what he was thinking and feeling, just enough for him to start to get annoyed with me. Being the stubborn person I am, I continued my mission until I got him to talk. Slowly, but surely he began to tell me what was going on inside his mind, never his heart, but at least it was a start. He didn’t hesitate to talk to me about anything and I started to become myself again.
If there was something I didn’t like that he did or I felt he was not too pleased with me, I would ask him to come to our room so we can talk about it. After a few, “kuch nahi hua’s” he would open up. Most of the time, the issue was next to nothing and with a few exchanges of words, things would go back to normal. I adopted this method and to this day it is my go-to method to normalize fights and arguments.
Things didn’t get easier at an exponential rate. It took work and energy. It took the two of us working together as a team, you know you can’t clap with just one hand.
There were endless nights of me crying, us talking, us making up, us discussing how we felt, but we made it through each and every time. The reason why we are still together and this strong is because we learned to respect each other and each other’s opinions. We learned to agree to disagree, and that just wasn’t enough to break us up. We became each other confidants and each other’s backbones. It was us against the world. Except when we fought with each other – then all hell could break loose.
We continued to compromise, not to the point where one of us was suffering, we just learned which battles were worth fighting for. Fights that would have been explosive in the past became mere discussions and they always ended with a hug. We knew what we meant to each other and why we had become so invested each other from the very first conversation that we ever had.
We had fallen in love with each other’s souls and minds. We didn’t have an unrealistic image of love in our eyes, we didn’t believe in unicorns and leprechauns, we believed in each other.
After a year of locking myself in the bathroom muffled crying in the middle of the night, and silent suffering, I have learned a lot about myself and my partner.
We are not perfect, we don’t aim to be either. We are realistic and honest with ourselves and most of all with each other. Every day we honestly learn something new about each, which just brings us closer, as cliche as it sounds. We work on our relationship in a healthy way by communicating and talking to each other.
At the end of the day, there are no hard feelings or sadness. We go to sleep after talking about our days, the ups and the downs, never forgetting to let the other know how much we love the other.
There are still days that I cry or feel unloved, but that might just be a me problem at this point. The good thing is that he is willing to hold me tight to his chest until I feel better. A kiss on the forehead is enough to alleviate any feelings of loneliness.
He shows love in a more practical way, while I crave words and actions of affirmation. He would rather drive me to the store, so I don’t have to drive, while I prefer to lay in bed telling him how much he means to me. As different as our ways of loving each other are, we end at the same results and that’s what matters.
I don’t get insecure anymore, I know better.
A year ago I doubted his love for me, today I can honestly say he is my better half. I now know him not opening up to me isn’t him not wanting me or loving me, that’s just who he is as a person. I am the first and last love of his life and that will never change. He continues to look at me with admiration whether I am chilling in sweats or with a caked face of makeup.
A year ago I didn’t know what true love was because I had never felt it or seen it (messed up family situation), but today I am proud to say true love isn’t visible because it isn’t physical. It is the way I feel about him and my relationship. He is my biggest supporter, my biggest fan, and most of all, my best friend, and that is all that matters to me. He was the same person a year ago, but I had a hard time seeing it, because I was too insecure about myself to believe him and his love. I am no longer the woman I was a year ago.
A year later we are stronger and better.
Now that I have faced so many ups and mostly downs in my arranged marriage life, I can actually with full surety say marriage saved me, it made me the person I am today. Without the things I were through last year, I would have never seen myself for who I truly am. Without my husband, I would have never been able to explore my love of writing or completed my education or even found a loving family that wants the best for me with no strings attached.
I finally know what the real definition of marriage is (don’t go looking in the dictionary, you’ll figure it out on your own journey someday). It has a lot of learning to love myself before I can allow someone else to love me, which is something I am still working on, but this time with the love of my life.
Cover image via nikkahexplorer.com