Ahmad Tolba: An 18-year-old Egyptian guy, born and raised in Cairo. Studying at Sciences Po. Very interested in politics and economic development and reading about various social issues. Quote: “Lost half of my personality when the gyms closed in Reims.”
How would you define the purpose of marriage?
I’d say that from a traditional standpoint, marriage would shape various aspects in people’s day-to-day lives.
Throughout most of the previous century, marriage would be the base of the family. Meaning the majority of families (in most societies) consisted of a working husband and a stay-at-home wife who took care of and raised the kids. Marriage would therefore play a role in power dynamics between sexes.
MARRIAGE A SYMBOL
However, as society progressed, and women gained more autonomy, rights and presence in workplaces; the point of marriage became symbolic.
The idea behind getting married was showing your partner and society that you wish to solidify your relationship in a legal and institutional manner. It would be a generalization however, to state that the status and weight of marriage is becoming insignificant in every culture.
In many countries, notably in the MENA region and sub-Saharan Africa, women consider marriage as an economic safety net in a patriarchal society (especially since in a lot of these countries, divorce rates are similar to those in Western Europe and North America.
A SAFETY NET
Even though more women are entering the workforce in these areas, there still exists an enormous pay gap, so getting married and having the option to leave your partner who is generally more economically stable serves as a safety net for women). It should be noted however, that it is also unfortunately common in these nations to find that men are the only ones with the legal right to ask for a divorce, thus carrying this unbalanced power dynamic into the 21st century.
As of right now, do you envision yourself getting married in the future? Is it a decision that’s definite (be it a political statement or a definite plan OR to just be played by ear)?
I used to tell people that I didn’t want to get married just because it was considered “the norm” where I grew up. I wanted to destigmatize the idea of dating in your 40s, 50s, 60s, etc. I mostly wanted to show people that I could do whatever the fuck I wanted, and that I won’t play by society’s rigid rules.
I know myself
However, it is because I’m going to do whatever the fuck I want that I will probably end up getting married. I know myself and I know that in the long run I will want to settle down, marry a woman and have kids, and that I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone regarding my views.
I would not say this is something definitive since I like to stay open minded, but it is how I currently see myself ending up.
If you do choose to ever get married, why would that be?
If I do get married, it will be because I would want to strengthen my bond with my partner.
NOT ONLY OPTION
I grew up in a society where getting married was the only option and where marriage was the only way to truly stabilize a relationship. I now realize that this is by no means true, however, because I was socialized to think in this manner, the association between marriage and stability is deeply imbedded in my psyche.
I know myself and I know that I am a very independent guy that’ll probably focus on his career and personal growth for a big part of his adult life. I also know that I would really want to travel and move around a lot while I’m still young.
want to share
I do, however, realize that, in the long run, I will probably want to share these experiences with not only a partner, but a spouse.
Do you think your decision to get married or not would ultimately be tied to your parents’ expectations? Elaborate.
My decision to get married wouldn’t be tied to their expectations in the sense that I would want to get married to please them. But it would fit their expectation because the way they have socialized me to think when approaching marriage is very present in how I look at my long-term romantic life.
A LOT TO LEARN
I am however, approaching my twenties and only just entering my second year of university, which means I have a lot to learn about myself. My point of view and opinions shift the more I grow, so I guess just like everything else, the only certainty here is uncertainty.
Do you think we enter marriage all too absentmindedly (without questioning the purpose beyond the glamorized image)?
I think that some people enter marriage absentmindedly in a legal and economic sense. Avoiding prenups if you make more than your partner because you’re certain that you’re in love and will never get a divorce is a nice thought. However, you’re blinded by your feelings for your partner, so you choose to not protect yourself and your assets.
It is refreshing though that conversations such as these are becoming more normalized today. Bringing this up with your partner no longer makes either party look greedy or money hungry.
Because many of us were socialized to think we have to get married or it’s the natural next step in any relationship that the idea becomes too romanticized in people’s heads, which can lead to some people approaching marriage absentmindedly.
Nevertheless, if marriage is becoming merely symbolic, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that putting the legal procedures aside, ending a serious long-term relationship wouldn’t be too different to getting a divorce.
Do you believe marriage solidifies or weakens a relationship?
It has the potential to do both. It can strengthen a relationship by showing your partner that they are the only person you want and that you want to take furthest step possible with them.
DON’T TAKE FOR GRANTED
It can however also be detrimental to a relationship if either party starts getting too comfortable that they start neglecting or mistreating their partner because they get used to the feeling of security and certainty that comes with marriage.
It all comes down to how people define marriage and what it means for them. Marriage isn’t as rigid and restrictive as it once was, different communities have fought to change the way various societies approach marriage around the world (interracial marriage, gay marriage, women gaining the same marital rights as men are all examples of how marriage has the potential to evolve and change with society).
What do you think is more of a political statement (politics meaning this decision reflects an attempt to try and jab at the system at hand we abide by without questioning): to not get married or to not have kids?
I would say not having kids is probably the bigger political statement. This is because a couple in a relationship and a married couple could have the exact same relationship and even family (in many countries today, the number of kids born outside of wedlock is more than those born inside it).
having or not having
However, not having or adopting kids and having or adopting kids are two very different experiences. A couple in a serious relationship will be able to identify and relate to a married couple, however a couple or an individual without a child can never relate to a couple or an individual with a child.
To sum up: in your eyes, pros, and cons of marriage?
I’d say the pros of marriage, like most things, has the potential to be redefined and progress. It also holds an important symbolic meaning for some people and has the potential to solidify and strengthen some relationships.
In some societies, marriage is also considered as an economic safety net for women (this can also be seen as a negative however, because some societies may consider that since women can get married into economic stability, there is no incentive to better work conditions and decrease the wage gap).
The main cons of marriage for me would be how normalized it has been in most societies.
an option not a symbol
Marriage is seen as this end point and symbol of success to a certain extent (this is clear for example when someone compares themselves to their “successful friends” and point out that even though they are the same age, their friends are already married). Marriage should be presented as an option, not a status symbol or an obligation.
About the Article
A Egyptian university student, studying at Sciences Po in France, reflects on the significance of marriage today.