I am engaged, but it has not brought any of the anticipated excitement, anxiousness, nor eagerness. I have had growing pessimism, doubts, and concerns because my parents have asked for my cousin’s hand in marriage. I did oblige initially, but the more I think about my future with her, I begin to have more doubts. I worry that because I have been born and raised in Canada and my cousin was born and raised in Pakistan, the cultural differences, and more specifically, the language difference—my Urdu is very poor—will be a major hurdle. I have no doubt that my cousin would be a good wife; however, I personally believe that I would be more compatible with a sister that has grown up in Canada or the United States.
My sister happened to have a marriage fall apart with her ex-husband who lived in Pakistan. But the problem for me is my father was really impressed by my cousin, and with the divorce of my sister and his overcoming of a stroke, I feel now as if I have no choice but to say yes to my parents’ wishes. I feel very guilty sometimes. Am I being too selfish in wanting to marry someone of my liking? Do I tell my parents my wishes and risk hurting the stability of my mother and her younger brother’s relationship, if I were to say no to the marriage?
It is clear that you do not want to marry your cousin, and you are feeling pressured to do so in order to honor your parents. The respect you have for your parents is a noble characteristic. However, when it comes to marriage, one should never agree to marry someone in order to please others. Marriage is a serious endeavor requiring commitment and compatibility.
It can be challenging to feel conflicted between wanting to select your own marriage partner and wanting to please your parents. If you feel strongly that you prefer someone who shares a similar cultural outlook and speaks English as their first language, then those are important characteristics for you to establish in a potential spouse. Do not ignore all the red flags you are noticing in your current engagement. Your conclusion that your cousin is not compatible with you does not mean that there is anything wrong with your cousin—it just means that she may not be the right person for you.
Sometimes in life, we have to make difficult decisions that others may not understand. You can honor your parents by being honest with them about your concerns. Being honest about how you feel today will potentially save you and your family much heartbreak in the future. You also have your sister’s experience to learn from when making the best decision possible for yourself. Even if your parents are unhappy with your decision now, they will come to respect you for your honesty and self-reflection. You ultimately have to take personal responsibility for the choices you make in your own life and you will not be able to blame others for any consequences.
Trust your heart. Pray istakhara (prayer used in helping to make decisions) and make du`a’ (supplication) to God to light your way.
You may also find the following articles helpful:
Am I Marrying the Right Person?
10 Ways to Avoid Marrying the Wrong Person
VMCounselors was a collaborative advice column produced by two previous website authors, Amal Killawi, a Clinical Social Worker with a specialization in mental health and marriage education, and Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine, a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in premarital counseling. Please note that our counselors are not religious scholars and will not issue religious rulings.
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