What Did She Do?
Called Off My Engagement 8 Days to The Wedding
The Runaway Bride-to-Be: It all started when I turned 29. My mother was a traditionalist Yoruba woman. She believed women should be married in their early twenties and should have finished giving birth before 30. All my life, I had believed this to be true. So, it became one of my goals. I started dating as early as 16 years, and believe me, every relationship was ‘the one’. I would start planning the wedding and imagining what our kids would look like from the moment he says ‘Hello’. Every break-up was like a funeral… burying my hopes and dreams of ‘happily ever after’… my unborn babies. After the third and fourth funeral, I became very desperate. I needed to be married before 30 or I would have failed my parents, especially my Mum. I desperately cooked, cleaned, and gave up my body to every ‘potential husband’ who came my way. I needed to get married and fast. On the night of my 29th birthday, I was extremely depressed. I had just one year to be declared ‘unmarriable’. My mother called me to come to her church that Sunday, she said it was very important because she wanted to pray away the ‘yoke of singleness’ off of me… her exact words. That Sunday, after service, we went to her pastor and he prayed over me to ‘break the yoke’. “Linda, you will find a husband”, the pastor said as he spoke to my mother in private at the corner of his office. After the conversation, Mama took my hands and asked me to follow her. She walked with so much confidence (as if she had found the answers to my problems). In seconds, I was being introduced to Babatunde. He was tall, dark and handsome with a charming smile. That Friday, we went on a date and he said to me “Your mum says you’re looking to get married as soon as possible… I am too. It’s a perfect match”. I laughed, but in my mind, I heard a loud undertone of entitlement that made me very uncomfortable. He proposed to me 2 months after that date. I was happy I had finally achieved my most precious goal… just before 30, no less. But it didn’t feel real, I felt like I was being done a favour. That was not how I wanted to feel before getting married. Soon after the engagement and introduction ceremonies, Tunde started to show that he truly did feel like he was 'doing me a favour'. Two weeks to the wedding, I gave Tunde back his ring. I was not going to let societal pressure allow me to end up with a man who thought of his marriage to me as a gift.
How Did She Do it?
I Had to Put My Happiness & Mental Health First
The Runaway Bride-to-Be: “I’m sure you’re happy you’ve gotten what you always wanted. Right?” those were his words right after I said “yes”. I was very disappointed. The weeks following the engagement were met with more disappointing remarks. I was at his house one Friday night, I was tired from a long day at the office, and I really just wanted to relax in his arms. “Baby, are you not going to make me dinner? You’re not acting like someone that wants to be a wife again” he said when I asked that we ordered food because I was too tired to cook. I kept wondering why he made these types of statements. Was it because I was 29 years? Did he not love me? Did my mother tell him I was desperate to marry? These questions kept hoovering in my mind, I was unsettled. They all came pouring out one evening in his car during the fight that made me change my mind about everything. I was hysterical and so emotional. His response to my query? “Linda, please do not stress me… If you do not want to get married, let me know. I have plenty young women who want to take your position. You need this more than I do, you know you’re not getting any younger”. His words sent me into a state of shock. I felt very unwanted and embarrassed, a feeling I have since sworn to never allow myself experience again. I said nothing the whole ride home and sunk into a deep depression. I couldn’t really blame him. We lived in a society that glorified marriage as an accomplishment, more for women than for men. I had become a victim of this unjust cultural norm. I continued with the pre-wedding activities. The introduction, the wedding planning, everything. I did not want to disappoint my mother; I did not want to disappoint all my family members who were so excited. I kept telling myself that my marriage did not need to be perfect… I should be happy I was getting married, at least. But the depression did not stop, until I decided to put myself first before my mother or society. My happiness and sanity were more important, so I returned his ring to him 8 days to the wedding. It was the most liberating thing I have ever done. I felt so free.
A Moment That Tested Her
Letting Go of the Glorification of Marriage
The Runaway Bride-to-Be: The depression after the big fight was most difficult. It was an internal battle with myself. All my life, I had been programmed to see marriage as one of the most important accomplishments. It was like, you could be a successful businesswoman, a leader in your career, but it would all mean nothing if you were not married (with children). There is this respect we attach to women who are married that we take away from unmarried women. A woman may be most qualified to be the president of a company, but she would be instantly disqualified the moment she is identified as a single woman. Some people even feel it is better to be a divorcee than to have not been married at all. I had always been one of those people. So, failing at this goal after years and years of trying was very painful for me. This was worsened by the feeling of rejection I felt from Tunde. I felt very worthless and disadvantaged for being a woman pushing 30 who was still unmarried. Dealing with these thoughts and emotions and still finding the strength to walk out of the engagement knowing that it could mean that marriage may not happen for me (or would be more difficult), was the hardest thing I had to go through.
Her Eureka Moment?
Finding Complete Happiness in Independence
The Runaway Bride-to-Be: I think the moment I returned the ring was the moment that changed my entire life. It was like I finally found this peace I had never experienced before. I did not just drop his ring that day, I dropped the pressure society placed on me to get married as well. I definitely still believe in love and marriage, but it is no longer a goal of mine. I have since found so much peace and happiness in myself. A kind of love and happiness I am not willing to sacrifice for anyone. I sometimes think about the girl I used to be, and many other girls just like her and I hope they experience this eureka moment too. I am in my late thirties now, and I still haven’t found love or being married, but I have love in myself and in many relationships with friends and family who mean a lot to me, and I am truly happy and content.
What She Learnt
The Runaway Bride-to-Be:
Society’s pressure on women to get married is toxic and is extremely counter productive for the fight for Gender Equality. We need to advance from the point where men feel entitled enough to think that marriage is a gift to a woman.
We also need to stop glorifying marriage as a form of privilege. A woman does not need marriage to be respected, and a woman who is not married is not unhappy.