People still want to get married, just on their own terms and conditions

13 Jan 2024 09:18am
A wedding venue. (123rf image)
A wedding venue. (123rf image)

KOTA BHARU - In the Malaysian culture, where traditions often interwine with the winds of change, the institution of marriage has undergone a notable transformation.

While the concept of tying the knot has long been ingrained the fabric of Malaysian society, data from the Statistics Department (DOSM) for the year 2022 hinted an evolving narrative that beckons exploration.

The DOSM report reveals a subtle narrative of shifting dynamics amid the backdrop of a pandemic-ridden world where the divorce rate in Malaysia surged by a significant 43.1 per cent since 2022.

Concurrently, the number of marriages experienced a subtle dip, standing at 214,824 in 2022 compared to 215,973 the preceding year.

This prompts a question – is there a discerning shift in the perception of marriage among Malaysians?

Sinar Daily spoke to two women and two men on the ground from various background to shed light on the perspectives of those who still held the single status and exactly why they have opted to stay that way.

Despite majority expressing their keen inclination towards marriage, the women highlighted the importance of personal choices and impact of the evolving cultural norms and expectations of a woman and marriage.

Aunt of two, 29-year old Fatimah Mansur said after years of terrible relationships with men, her objectives in life now were to focus on herself and family instead of chasing after men.

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“I see getting married as just a bonus in life. I don’t need to be married to feel happy and secure but also it’s not something I’m against.

“I wait because I want to make sure I have that sense of peace and financial security with myself, to make sure if anything goes wrong I got my own back.

“Also, I will never settle with anyone I’m not 100 per cent confident with. I believe I deserve the best because I can give the best as well, the ratio needs to be right,” she told Sinar Daily.

Fatimah, who works in Kuala Lumpur, also highlighted that although she was raised in a happy family, citing that many of her friends had either divorced parents or multiple step-mothers; she also grew surrounded by successful career-driven unmarried women.

She said there’s just a stark reality where women sometimes “just cannot have it all” because being married or a mother comes with other personal responsibilities that may prevent them climbing up the corporate ladder.

“But there are some who just excels in everything - their family, career and even looks, they are the exception we hope we can be one day,” she said.

Videographer Shahir Samad, 37, spoke about the fears he has when it came to marriage and having long-term partners, stating that it was not an issue of commitment but more on finding the right person.

“It isn’t that I’m uninterested in marriage but I kept getting into relationships with crazy women and even one time - which I found later - she was someone’s wife.

“This begs the question, would I be safe with any of them I were to settle?” Shahir, who was been dubbed an eligible bachelor, asked.

Age, he said, was not an issue and he was confident that he will eventually get married when the right person comes even if he was in the more older side. He admitted that he was not actively searching for “the one” either as he was still not ready to take up the responsibility of a husband and potentially fatherhood.

Mother of two kids, Jenna Lee said she still believed in the marriage institution despite going through a divorce two years ago when she was 29.

She entered her 30s single with a new perspective in life where growth and happiness can happen without seeking for a man’s validation., 30

“I married at a very early age and I guess now I want to focus on myself and my kids. Finding myself again and feeling like myself again.

“Granted, it does get really lonely but I’m starting to find the loneliness kinda like a solace? If that makes sense.

“And I don’t want to get married again because I have kids, so what if I get married again and my partner wants another kid? I definitely don’t want that,” she said.

Lee, who is a copywriter from Cyberjaya, said although she still believed in the concept of marriage and its importance in society she personally has no plans to partake in it.

“I’ve gone through that and it failed so I don’t want to get married again,” she said, adding that if someone comes her way in the future “we can cross that bridge later if that happens”.

Giving a voice to the Generation Zs, 22-year old student Haris Iskandar from Terengganu said youths of today were inherently opposed to the idea of marriage, they just don’t see the significance of it anymore given other pressing concerns.

“The economy are in shambles. The evironment gives us no hope for future survival. The socio-cultural climate of Malaysia and the world is questionable.

“We keep ourselves alive while everything burns around us,” he said referring to a popular internet meme of the dog in a burning building.

However, he said all was not lost among Malaysian youths as he believed this theory where people no longer wanted to marry was “confined to urban privileged and western educated Gen Zs”.

“The general population of Gen Zs in Malaysia I think still see the importance of marriage from a cultural standpoint,” he said.

Similar sentiments were shared by Kelantanese women here where they believed waiting for the right person was better than rushing into marriage despite still wanting a fairytale ending.

The conclusion is clear: Marriage is not dead. It is just undergoing an evolution of understading while statistics show a subtle but significant transformation, marked by a notable surge in divorce rates against a modest dip in marriage numbers.

From the resilience of those prioritising personal growth and financial stability to the caution exercised by individuals navigating the complexities of commitment, the interviews portray a diversed perspective on the contemporary dynamics of marriage but the same belief system.

Although marriage at this point in time becomes a clear choice for many, this will automatically result to the reduced number of procreation. As Malaysia transitions into an ageing nation status in just six years - in 2030 - where 15.3 percent of its population are expected to be aged 60 and above - what will be strategy by both the government and the people be to enable us to lead a more active, healthy and productive life?