Apr 20, 2023Liked by Freya India

I have been married for 25 years and I consider my marriage to be one of the best things in my life. I got married when I was twenty two, I wasn't pregnant. It was a conscious choice that I have never regretted. It is not true that marriage must mean the end of self-realization. In my case, on the contrary, my husband encourages me and supports me, thanks to which I can study philosophy at the university. I must say that the narrative you write about is very sad and I think it is harmful to both women and men. I will add that no one is telling them the truth that delaying marriage and parenthood has its great disadvantages. My children are practically adults, so both my husband and I have time and opportunities to fully consciously enjoy life. Looking at my friends who decided to have children late, I really feel sorry for them. Being about fifty years old and taking care of small children is difficult.You can't change the fact that we get older and the energy we have as parents in our twenties or thirties will never be the same when you're in your forties. Many late parents I know complain about fatigue, envy the time that people with adult children have for themselves. To say that they went wild in their youth is little consolation, because now they have the better material means and life experience to enjoy life to the full. Unfortunately, small children make this impossible. Looking at myself and other parents of adult children and our peers with small children, I see that the decision to become a late parent is highly overrated. This applies to both women and men.

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Great article. I'd like to pick up on one idea.

The idea of 'finding oneself' has been around a long time. Young people in my day (I'm 61) used to travel to India for some reason to 'find themselves'. The premise being that there is a 'self' somewhere inside us 'to find'.

While there clearly is a well of potential in each of us that has a shape that seeks expression, the idea that you can't find this in ordinary, every day life is a nonsense, since it is in ordinary every day life that we are designed to fulfil that potential as that in reality is the only life there is.

For our forbears this was not only not an alternative, it was not even conceived of as an alternative as they dind not have the wealth or the technology or the opportunities offered by these to provide for this.

Modern life offers an increasingly fantastical array of freedoms and opportunities, which are in truth meaningless illusions. It is in succumbing to and seeking after these illusions that we loose the very self we then think we then need to find.

Leaving a long term marriage relationship to be free to find yourself is one of these.

We idolise freedom. However there is no true freedom without constraint. Freedom is only meangingful if it is freedom to be something. Absolute freedom is in truth 'nothing' but unrealised potential. At some point, to be something, even a 'self' we have to choose the constraints that are going to realise that self.

The constraints of life are the crucible in which we mould that potential not to find, but to become ourselves.

Without making the perfect the enemy of the good, a key reason why, for generations, wiser people than us decided that marriage was a solemn, sacred, lifelong contract is precisely because it provided an ordinary set of tough constraints in which we could realise the potential to be ourselves and through which to find meaning and some joy.

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Great article. Strong points made.

Sometime in 2019, I posed a question to some of my friends. I asked them what the essence/joy in a wedding ceremony was. I also promised to give a gift to the best answer. Well, no one gave me a good answer. Fast forward to 2020 December, I found the answer.

The essence/joy in a wedding ceremony actually lies in a marriage itself. And the essence of a marriage is complete sharing.

Humans have an instinct to share (and thanks to social tech, we are over sharing). But all sharing have their limitations. Except marriage. Marriage is the only institution/relationship that allows you share everything. Like everything: body, soul (and spirit if you may). And that is the joy of a marriage.

We suffer when we don't share. It is painful to be locked up within ourselves. That is why the idea of an individualised self is itself a lie. The self is nothing but suffering without others. Unless we recover this truth, this false narrative of delaying marriage prevails.

I also recommend winning the linguistic warfare involved. Use language to show that the idea of the golden self is an illusion.

Finally, we must beat the framing of success in material terms (degrees and assets). Reframe it with spirituality and character. Then, we can recover all.

Until then, this was a nice article. And I hope you bring the change to girls and the world that you so want to see.

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“If we love someone, then maybe we should marry young, while we’re still figuring ourselves out, and figure it out together.”

My intuition is that, under this tentative prescription, a lot of the “figuring out” would mean “figuring out that we should not have gotten married.” I largely concur with the article and your perspective — our society discourages commitment and genuine community-building, both of which are ultimate sources of meaning and fulfillment.

However, the proposed solution fails to convince me. For many older women I know, marrying young was the most consequential mistake they ever made. I wish they hadn’t had to figure that one out, and they do not wish it for the younger women in their lives. So they cautioned us to wait, to assess the worthiness of our boyfriends, to consider what might go wrong, so that we can figure it out before it has already happened.

In our current context, I can’t imagine this ‘marry young’ formula not leading to a massive rise in broken homes, with young children of young (and therefore impulsive/immature) parents as the main, but not sole, victims. The alternative to the cultural narrative about marriage should rather be a sensible middle ground: date with views to marry, go slow, carefully assess the long-term feasibility of your commitment, don’t waste your time on people whose approach to dating is not similarly intentional. This formula allows room for appropriate doses of both “figuring out” and committment.

Furthermore, I am somewhat skeptical that delaying marriage and celebrating divorce is the message that most middle-class girls are “getting.” It seems to me this is an overcorrection for the wedding mania that afflicts so many girls since way before puberty. Weddings and “getting married” (rather than “being” married, tbf) are dreamed of, talked about, and even planned by the majority of girls I have ever encountered. I’m a teacher at a top private school, where attractive alternatives to marriage and married life are much more accessible than in other contexts. It seems that we are going to need a lot more than Frozen, Moana, Brave, and TikTok to beat this dream out of the majority of the teenage girls I teach. Yet, as you imply in your piece, perhaps this overcorrection is just the flip side of the flawed Disney narrative on marriage, an arrangement in which someone else is ‘there’ to “affirm and validate every part of you, to make you happy, all the time.”

Nonetheless, the ‘marry young’ formula necessarily begs the question: Who are these young women supposed to marry? Are there enough fit-for-purpose candidates? They’re to do (most of) the proposing, after all! A recent post by Mary Harrington comes to mind: https://reactionaryfeminist.substack.com/p/incredible-shrinking-men. Choosing to manifest long-held wedding dreams in Pinterest boards and waiting for a suitable time and/or candidate seems like a better option for most young women than a precocious marriage.

On a last point, material conditions such as access to housing and financial security are surely far greater impediments for marriage than any cultural narrative girls and boys are bombarded with. What’s the point of getting married if you still have to live with a sublet roomate after the party? Rather anticlimatic!

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This is a really interesting article. I think the thing that’s missing, though, is that you can’t ignore the advice coming from the older married friend who is saying “marriage isn’t good for me. I would be happier if I weren’t married.” It seems like you’re saying that married women who feel unhappy and stifled just have unreasonable expectations, and if they just changed their expectations they’d be fine, and maybe there is some of that going on.

But it does seem like there’s a large number of women who aren’t thriving in marriage, and it’s worth exploring why. My take on this is that while women have had legal equality for some time, and barriers to career success have largely been removed, change comes much more slowly in the home, and so many of us are stuck between traditional roles and expectations of women and modern roles and expectations. Husbands who mean well, and are supportive and even expecting about women’s careers and financial contributions to the household also don’t necessarily comprehend that this means they can’t behave the way their fathers did at home - they are unaware of everything their moms did and wives are still doing. Women in this situation find some fulfillment from working for their families, some from their careers, but find they can’t do extraordinarily well at either. They feel overwhelmed by impossible expectations, exhausted by too much work, and feel they are failing at everything. Is it any wonder they’d warn younger women away from getting into that situation, and view a decision to leave the situation as empowering? I think discarding the experience and advice of women who’ve been there, and encouraging young women to marry young without understanding the reasons why so many married women don’t feel like it’s in their best interests, is irresponsible.

Does all of this sound like complaining? Yeah, I admit it kind of is. But still, I want the best for my daughters and I cannot honestly say I would advise them to enter into the kind of life I have, in spite of it having many rewards. I am tired, and I do more work on less sleep than any human can be expected to do. I could lower my expectations and try to be content with my lot in life (which admittedly, I chose, though I could say I didn’t have complete information when I made that choice) but that seems like the wrong answer. Telling women to simply be happy with marriage, without addressing the situations that are making them unhappy, is missing the point. We need to help young women choose the type of marriage, and the lifestyle, that lead to better life satisfaction.

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Apr 22, 2023Liked by Freya India

Freya, you are wise beyond your years. I’m one of the women who married and had children late in life(at 39 and 42). For years I bought into the duelling narratives of you-can-have-it-all and it’s either a career or marriage.

I was reeling from the embedded misogyny of Islam and Middle East’s culture which are immersed in stereotypes. I hated being told how to act in order to be accepted as a woman, a “lady.” The ideal woman was submissive, silent, home bound.

When my family and I came to the US 50+ years ago. My 3 sisters and I were shocked and delighted to hear about challenges to stereo types and the 2 narratives described above. But after a decade and a half of that, it was losing its luster. I eventually married a man in my office and had two daughters, now grown. My sisters did not do as well, unfortunately.

Yes, it’s great to hear of people marrying young and sharing life’s travails together. The problem is most marriages that fail occur where the couple was under 27 yo when they married.

I don’t think I could have made any marriage work in my 20s despite having 2 wonderful men I loved dearly in my 20s. I was just too immature, crippled by rage against Islam and stereotypes and the disaster it caused in my parents’ marriage.

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May 3, 2023Liked by Freya India

I love this!! I am so sick and tired of the cultural narrative on this topic. Literally cannot get enough of hearing this kind of message ... it’s so validating for what I’ve always felt in my heart and soul❤️ thank you.

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Great commentary, I agree with most of your points. The pendulum has swung back too far to the point of family structures collapsing.

I wrote an article on a similar topic,


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Fantastic piece.

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Wow this was interesting and a very good read.

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I find that women of this generation that have any exposure to social media have been exposed so much to this concept that we need to "find ourselves" before any form of commitment is made that it becomes part of their ideology even if they have other beliefs that contradict this concept. Like it is said in this article, marriage is something where (preferably at least) both women and men can go through a journey of finding themselves together.

When I was in my church's women group (in which all women are in age range of 16-22) the topic of marriage came up and I spoke very openly about my desire to get married around the age of 20. This not only shocked them but it also made them all slightly uncomfortable. The leader of the group started trying to convince me that marrying that young wouldn't allow me to pursue a career and indirectly mentioned how the sort of life I would lead if I went down that path wound't be very satisfying or fulfilling.

I see the opposite in the lives of all the married couples I know, including my own parents. In all the married couples I know, the women are all homemakers and are all some of the most peaceful and happy women I've ever met. Not only that, but in terms of "finding themselves", in their relationship they grow so much more than if they were to wander around the world without a path and without a partner. The main problem you could find with this lifestyle, is that it is currently significantly hard to find someone truly worth marrying but that is a different issue for a different day.

My point is that, of course, such as in everything , there are exceptions and there are trials and errors, but I do think it is negatively impacting women's choices and mindsets along with how the dating system currently is. We should give women true freedom of choosing whether they want to marry or not by letting them choose from their own perspective... not ours.

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I think the advice to use the 20's to explore and experiment with work and relationships and "lifestyles" is sound. I think most people develop a pretty good sense of themselves by the mid- to late 20's, and therefore make better partnering decisions. Statistically, marriages before age 25 fare/survive less well than later ones. But of course each case is different so no rigid rules on this.

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Whew 🔥. All of THIS. I started dating my husband in college and we married a month after we turned 23. My boss, a powerful woman in her fifties, said to me with a straight face, "You're making a mistake getting married this young." Excuse me, ma'am, this is a staff meeting. My husband and I just celebrated fifteen very happy years together, and my favorite thing about these years has been how we have grown up together. What a gift.

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I'm Gen Z and totally bought into all this girlboss anti-marriage, anti-children feminism in college. I didn't *not* want to have kids and get married, but having kids and getting married was certainly NOT on my radar. Like at all. I thought both were things I didn't--shouldnt'-- have to think about until I was at least 30. Then I met my husband, and everything changed. He's held a mirror up to myself and helped me to see just how miserable subscribing to girlboss feminism had made me. He challenges me in every way to be the best, most authentic version of myself and I'm the happiest, most fulfilled, and most inspired creatively than I've ever felt in my entire life. I attribute so much of my growth as an individual to my relationship with my husband and everything he has taught me (both directly and indirectly). And I to him too. It's the most pure and beautiful thing in the world.

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There's so much online misogyny that girls and young women are exposed to these days. All these "red pill" coaches reviving "traditional gender roles" and other such outdated nonsense, no wonder they're putting off marriage. Who wants to be bossed around by a narcissist who thinks it's your job to do all the house chores and childcare because he thinks these things are beneath him - and so are you. Then you've got the "trad wives" telling women to "submit" to their husbands. All of them make marriage sound like pure Hell. If I were a girl I'd be scared out of my wits.

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I once heard a sermon where the pastor defined the essence of Christianity in one word: "Others".

Of course, you have to be equally yoked.

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