Weddings in Pakistan are a grand affair. As soon as the wedding bells ring, everyone from the bride’s third cousin to the groom’s distant aunt has something to bring to the table. The older women gather around the bride and sing songs that throw light on blissful union of marriage whereas older men surround the groom and tease him by sharing jokes about bossy wives and how the poor guy is going to lose his freedom after getting married. On the other hand, young people are seen practicing meticulously choreographed Bollywood dances while the bride is seen in a frenzy over the photographer not capturing her special moments. The situation is even heightened by the influence of Pakistan’s entertainment industry which is devoted to packaging and marketing love tales that culminate in a big fat wedding. We see luxurious weddings trending on social media with the hashtag #couplegoals and our impressionable minds are taught that getting married in a fancy ceremony is not just a pinnacle success, it is also the endgame.

Growing up in Pakistan, I always questioned the Desi people’s obsession with weddings. As the tradition demands, people in our part of the world spend months excitedly preparing for a wedding, not that anything is wrong with it, but it would have been fruitful if the same enthusiasm was shown to the sacred institution of ‘marriage’ instead of its ceremonial celebration.

As a centennial and a stereotypically-modern-Pakistani woman who recently got married, I have seen a stark contrast between how people view the wedding celebrations and how they look at the actual process of being married. Whenever I told someone that I was getting married people enthusiastically asked me about dresses and what photographer or salon I booked. However, as soon as I mentioned the life after wedding, there were a plethora of statements that made me feel that by getting married I was confining myself to the demands of my husband. Statements like ‘Shadi k baad bhi job karo gi?’, ‘shadi k baad tou wahi karo gi jo shohar chahay ga’, ‘shadi k baad kahan time milta hai apnay liye hum aurton ko?’

When I heard such things, I questioned the ecstasy of preparing for the wedding and reluctantly accepting the patriarchal norms and giving into the culture of compromise once the wedding festivities were over. I found it extremely ironic that if the marriage was that difficult then why do we glorify the wedding ceremonies? For what? I am not saying that people should stop getting married but the question is that can’t we pour as much effort into our marriage that we put in to our weddings? Shouldn’t we try to make the marriage work better instead of just accepting it the way it has been for centuries?

Now as the wedding festivities culminate and the fairy-tale montage comes to an end, you may find yourself waking up to feeling horribly isolated and depressed. While the world expects you to be dressed to nines and ooze out the post marital glow, you might be longing to hug your mother or just have a shut-eye in your most comfortable lawn ka jora instead of the flashy gharara your sister-in-law expects you to be wrapped in.

In a patriarchal culture, marriage is a huge transition for women. Women here do not marry the man; they marry his family. Resultantly, after getting married, being the center of attention is no longer cherished, and this is something that many women can relate to. She is expected to juggle a multitude of new tasks and demands, which can take a toll on her mental health. Consequently, depression kicks in leaving the woman feeling worthless and shackled in the cultural expectations. A research study identified the prevalence of depression to be around 66% among married women belonging to both high and low socioeconomic status women in Pakistan. Loss of agency, transition from being a pampered daughter to a responsible bahu in someone else’s home, lack of control over one’s life, limited freedom, putting an end to your social life, giving up your career and moving away are the main factors that trigger post-marital depression.

 “I got married young and moved from Karachi to Islamabad. Being the only daughter of my parents, I was indulged thoroughly. However, things changed as I got married. I was no longer the center of attention in my new home,” Alina, a psychologist by profession tells me. “Things got worse when my sister-in-law started to act angsty against me and made me feel as if I took away her brother. She lived nearby and would spend the whole day at my place. From deciding what I wear to dictating what I cook for her brother (my husband) she interfered with everything. When I confronted my husband, he said that she was like a mother figure to him so he could not stand up to her. I went into a state of deep unhappiness and was later diagnosed with depression. Things have changed now. My sister-in-law has now moved to another country with her husband. Life is good but I still wish I could live the early years of marriage again without the involvement of an insecure person”

Amna, a lecturer at a girls’ college shared her grievances with me of how she was expected to change herself according to the wishes of her in-laws. “One of the reasons why I felt depression after marriage was an extreme difference of values. Whatever I found wrong or rude was completely acceptable to them. In fact, I was even expected to adopt those behaviors”.

Talking to women who have gone through post-marital depression, I realized that I have been in the same boat. At this point, I feel that I should give a disclaimer to not give way to idle gossip. I am happily married to an extremely supportive and the most emotionally available guy on the planet. Nevertheless, marriage itself did not come naturally to me. For someone who always defied the patriarchal norms, is opinionated, proudly identifies herself as a feminist and got married on her own terms, I thought it would be easier for me than it has been for most women. But from leaving a job I loved to saying goodbye to my friends, family, the city I grew up in to being miles away from home and starting my life in a joint set-up, I felt as a woman I had to sacrifice a lot. Sometimes I’d resent the culture or sometimes my husband would become the target. Somedays I just wanted to stay in bed and not dress up at all. Somedays I would go all in with gold to keep up with the impression of being a newly married woman but as night fell, I’d find myself crying to sleep. On other nights, I’d keep tossing and turning in the bed all night without sleeping a wink. When my husband found me in a state of complete mental chaos, he started to encourage me to seek therapy, would take me out to get my favorite coffee and often spent the nights holding me in his arms as I cried against his shoulder. In retrospect, I realize that I have been one of the lucky ones who went through post-marital depression and I am acutely aware of the fact that this comes from a place of privilege. Now after nine months of being married, I have finally found myself a job I love and have made some likeminded friends but looking back I have no doubt that my husband’s relentless support pulled me out of the worst phase of my life.

On that account, it is important that we challenge the power dynamics of our male-oriented culture and that certainly cannot be done by women alone. For a healthy and a sustainable marriage men need to be complicit in the struggle against challenging the conventional standards.

Lastly, we need to understand that weddings are not the goal, as our culture has it dictated to us. The goal is to have a marriage that is long-lasting, comforting, and joyful. We could save a lot of people from silent anguish if we put as much care and effort into our marriages as we do in to our weddings.

So, if you are someone who is experiencing post-marital depression, know that you are not alone. If you are hesitant about getting help know that while therapy varies from person to person, some therapists work with clients to help them develop goal-setting strategies or find ways to overcome cognitive distortions (such as irrational or exaggerated thought patterns) so that they may look forward to this new chapter in their lives. Seek support. Talk to your wingman (read husband) and be unapologetic about it.


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