Thursday, July 18, 2024

Marriage ties women BFFs in knots

There is nothing like marriage to throw off women’s BFF routine. Newly-wed friends discover they suddenly “have to check with my husband before agreeing to plans with” their single BFFs.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “I think quite honestly when you get married your life and focus shifts during that time and sometimes friendships are relegated to the backburner but not intentionally. In a few instances it could be the cultural practice of being inducted into marriage where a woman is given dos and don’ts of marriage. When you get married, your focus changes. It is no longer all about you, but about you two as a couple, and eventually about the children as well if you become parents. You will find that you may drift apart from your current friends if they remain single because your interests no longer are the same. Marriage has no blueprint and is really done by modelling (watching what other married people do). Usually soon after marriage a woman starts having babies, she is establishing herself professionally, learning new roles of parenting amongst a few. Priorities change when women get married. Some women however don’t conform to the norm and just continue their friendships.”

Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, Social Work senior lecturer at the University of Botswana shares Dr Mosime’s views: “I’d say it is both common for women to drop their single friends and there is a certain level of expectation to do that.  There are many reasons why this happens. Usually when a woman gets married, she is inducted into marriage with a practice we as Batswana know as go laiwa, which is done by older married women and where non married women are not allowed. The idea to drop one’s single friends may stem from that. Another reason may be because of patriarchy and how there are power imbalances within the marriage. In this case the husband plays the dominant role in the union and whatever he says goes as he controls everything. You find that some men in their marriages tell their wives, “what are you doing with so and so she will teach you promiscuous ways’, ‘you are now a married woman, find friends of the same status’. This leads to women feeling isolated most of the time.  But with men that is hardly the case.”

This is one of the first hurdles married women get to jump over once they say ‘I do’. 

Botswana society places married women on a pedestal and beyond the league of single friends. Then there is the paranoia among married friends that their single friends may want to snatch their husbands.

Dr Ntshwarang says “some women personally make the choice to cut off their single friends and not influenced by anyone, maybe because they feel that they are not on the same level and have other priorities now. The most common reason though has to be the idea that when you keep your single friends when you are married then they envy what you have and will want it, which also includes your husband.”

It is also believed that married women who dump their friends do it because upon marriage, their priorities change and would no longer be the same with that of their unmarried friends. There is a sense that married women are more comfortable making friends among themselves because married friends are less likely to steal husbands. Reality however is another story. Attraction is not a choice and spouses who want to cheat will do so with anyone in-spite of their marital status.

Marriage is regarded as a holy grail for women. The socio-cultural perspective of marriage as a whole package it as something women aspire to, and men give in to. Women are sometimes pressured to end all social contact with their unmarried friends. There are a lot of stereotypes about unmarried women, they are seen as she-devils ready to disrupt one’s marital home. Married women are told to not heed advice from unmarried women, not to entrust the inner workings of their home to friends, to keep everything to themselves. We are accustomed to the idea of men moving in a pack, men needing their man time, men needing to escape, it is never questioned whether the men are hanging out with their single or married counterparts. In fact, the position of “bachelor” is admired more than that of a married man, and men are always ready to aid and cover up for their philandering friends.

But this is the complete opposite with women: women are pitted against each other, groomed to distrust each other’s motives, all of it is tangled in a tale of envy. Unmarried women are hyped up as irresponsible, having “failed” at dating, promiscuous if they still lead active social lives, bitter and envious of married friends and mostly having diabolical intentions.


Read this week's paper