You just graduated and segueing into the working world. Naturally the next step will be to work hard, build up your finances and settle down when the time is right.
The first two milestones is easy. Most likely you’ll land a decent job which allows you to save some money every month. But the last one may not be straightforward as it hinges on a few variables – your priorities and whether you’ve met the right one yet.
Culturally, guys don’t get pressured into tying the knot as much as the ladies. But for the latter group, the emotional stress is two fold. In addition to the societal and family pressure of settling down, it’s also a race against time to have children before 30 (scientifically the best time to have kids).
These factors add on to the anxiety for ladies to find a partner through various means such as dating apps.
But unfortunately, the buffet of dating apps available did little to ease the anxiety of the group they set out to help. It is either a hit or miss – users spend most of their time swiping and chatting on the app in hopes of landing a perfect match.
Such concerns are a reflection of our priorities today and have been deeply ingrained in our culture. But where did it all start and how did we get here?
Cultural shifts in the marriage institution
Through most of human history, love was not a consideration for getting married. The notion that love would lead to marriage was considered almost anti-social and parents would disown their children for doing it.
Couples wed to form new political alliances, raise capital, expand the workforce or for a whole array of practical purposes.
Today, people generally tie the knot out of love and the pleasant qualities of their potential partners and families.
Self-worth and romantic relationships
Humans are naturally sociable; we always look to forge new relationships. For the bigger part of our lives, we thrive within our social circle of family, friends and relatives.
Unfortunately, popular culture today assumes that so long we are not in love (with someone of the opposite gender outside the family), we are incomplete. These feelings of inadequacy drive singles to focus their attention and efforts into finding a partner.
With marriage now being the focal point of our lives, have we stopped to ask ourselves – is this what we were created for?
Marriage is not the be all and end all solution
The reasons to get married are endless. For one, marriage enhances the quality of life as people with close and loving relationships experience better emotional and physical health, as compared to those with strained or conflicted partnerships.
However, a failing marriage is worse than no marriage at all. Even married couples can feel troubled and depressed due to a spouse walking out of the marriage, domestic violence, addiction and a myriad of other problems.
The feelings of anxiety and helplessness faced by their partners deteriorate under the weight of commitments and responsibilities such as looking after children and aging parents.
Therefore, it really isn’t the wisest decision to cave into the pressure to settle down just for the sake of it. Not having the right intentions when starting a family may have serious implications in the future.
External pressure aside, sometimes you may develop feelings of loneliness and jealousy, especially when you see other married couples or being the third wheel in a group outing with married friends.
It is ok to experience those emotions. And when you do, try to take the first step to managing it and stop negative thoughts from brewing by deepening your self-awareness – introspect where these feelings are coming from, and why.
Once you have identified the source of negative thoughts and addressed them, try to reframe your perspective by counting the blessings in other areas of your life.
Recalibrating your focus back to Allah will help to reframe your perspectives and look for the goodness that is already present in your life instead of longing for something which you don’t have.
Possibly the best years of your life
A growing number of people are single by choice and enjoy the flexibility to live as they please. It allows them the freedom to choose where to live and organize their schedules around themselves.
Being single often means having fewer social obligations, and having more time to engage in our personal interests and adventures that you may not be able to enjoy if you were married.
I can attest to that as I had more time to myself when I was single. Being married (and staying peacefully married) is a serious commitment which requires time and effort.
People who remain single for life are often just as happy as their married peers if they use the time to further develop their careers and take risks that they might not have taken if they were married.
Outside career and self-development, they can learn to surround themselves with friends, and engage in activities and physical environments that enrich their lives and enhance their happiness.
For your mental well-being, having a trusted friend or family member who can hold space for you to share your private thoughts, will allow you to enjoy the emotional benefits offered in a good marriage.
A reminder on our purpose in this life
Allah says in the Quran.
And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days - and His Throne had been upon water - that He might test you as to which of you is best in deed. But if you say, "Indeed, you are resurrected after death," those who disbelieve will surely say, "This is not but obvious magic." (Quran 11:1)
He also provided a detailed description of paradise for people who do good in this life.
“…the chosen servants of Allah. Those will have a provision determined - fruits; and they will be honored in gardens of pleasure on thrones facing one another. There will be circulated among them a cup (of wine) from a flowing spring, white and delicious to the drinkers; no bad effect is there in it, nor from it will they be intoxicated.” (Quran 37:40-47)
Happy stories of love and marriage can sometimes pull you away from enjoying your life. It also distracts you from fulfilling your bigger purpose in this world.
Singles can take comfort from the fact that time is on your side, and you have the liberty to transform your life in ways that married couples might not be able to do.
Use the time to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone. Engage new hobbies and learn new things. Seize every opportunity to grow and make the best of every day in your life.
You can also spend the time to strengthen your relationship with parents and family members.
Be patient and focus on the bigger picture
The process will not be easy. There will be periods of frustration, but God reminds us to be patient during difficult times.
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, "Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return." Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided. (Quran 2:155-157)
When you reframe your views on being single, it will be easier to live your life as a single in an intentional way. InshaAllah, when God finally opens the doors to you, you will look back at these years fondly and already prepared to move onto the next phase of life.