It has been wedding season in Ethiopia and I have seen so many caravans of wedding cars all over the city. In the past few years many of my classmates from high school and college have been getting married and I have had the honor of being part of their celebration. I have seen it all, small weddings, big ones, extravagant ones, all types. Weddings are always a great time to catch up and we all end up talking about upcoming ones or past ones with great fondness.
Marriage and weddings are an important part of our culture and they are literally drilled into all of our heads from childhood. We are all expected to do it at some point, sooner than later, and the rest will just work out as it is supposed to, babies, a home … etc. There isn’t much talk about that. I mean, why point out the obvious, right?
Fast forward a few years and some of the people whose weddings I have had the pleasure of attending are no longer together, have lost their partners or are struggling in their marriage. And what surprises me the most is that no one is talking about it. Not to them, not to each other, not to anyone. The deafening silence about those facing challenges in their marriages, failed ones or ones that are not worth staying in, is highly alarming.
What happens when it does not work out? What happens when one no longer wants to do it anymore? Where should one go when a couple has no idea how to keep going? Seeing how much enthusiasm our society shows on weddings versus helping people stay married, it seems to me that we are more into the event than the life after the event.
As marriages and relationships evolve and change, our society is lacking in support system to maintain them. Although we would all like to think we will do things differently, reality shows us that there are certain defined roles. The majority of child care, if not entirely, rests on women even if they are full time employees. The man is expected to provide financially for the family, even if we see that women are reaching higher heights and getting paid more.
I have asked a few of my guy friends whether they would marry a woman who makes more than them, is more successful than they are and would probably provide for the family for as long as they are married. They answer is usually “yes, why not?”, for political correctness, but their faces tell a different story. Is it not only logical that as much as we talk and rave about weddings, we also build the necessary tools to help couples navigate the realities of our times? Of understanding our roles, old or new? Is it not myopic to think that because they are married, they will stay married?
At the end of the day, divorce is always a possibility. The law has provisions for it, it has happened many times and will keep happening. It is tough to see couples going through such a thing. What is even tougher, however, is to see is that even in divorce women get the short end of the stick, the way the society looks at a divorced man and a divorced woman is worlds apart.
Silence is never a good thing, it says that we are looking to sweep our troubles under the rug. But I think it is time to break the silence and shed light on this darkness, today is as good a time as any.
Let me also mention that a lot of the couples whose weddings I was invited to are still very happily together. So it’s not all gloom, at least not for everyone.