Attempting to pursue love in Pakistan’s socially and religiously conservative environment is a tough endeavour. With so many obstacles in the way, how does one go about trying to navigate being in love in Pakistan?
Spending time with your significant other
One of the key components of any relationship is spending time together. This is a universally known fact. By spending time with your significant other, you get to know them in a gradual and intimate way therefore formulating your opinion of them and strengthening your relationship with them. In some cases, after prolonged time together you can realise that you’re not right for each other but either way, it is important to enthusiastically want to be in one another’s presence.
Pakistani society makes this difficult though. Most families are conservative, this means that there are strict restrictions upon the mingling of men and women. This not only makes it difficult for you to spend time with one another in the comfort of your own homes, but the socially conservative sphere we live in makes being together out in public just as nerve-wrecking.
Social media has massively changed the way we conduct our relationships, both platonic and romantic. In many ways this has been a positive way, you have the opportunity to stay connected with your significant other at any time of any day which somewhat helps the issue of not being able to physically meet as much as you’d like. Aside from personal chats though, it is still difficult to tackle how to handle making your relationship public on social media. The lines between what’s deemed as appropriate content and inappropriate content are quite often blurred as they are interpreted differently from person to person.
Additionally, a major problem with expressing yourself on social media is that so much of what you be trying to say or what image you’re attempting to portray can get lost in translation. This is bound to make couples even more reluctant to publicly express affection to one another.
Introducing your significant other to your friends and family
Most individuals growing up in Pakistan are taught that there strict boundaries between men and women. This translates into all types of relationships you pursue with the opposite gender. Because we grow up internalising a sense of guilt, shame and impurity associated with close relations to our male or female counterparts, it becomes especially hard to come clean about your relationship to your social circle. Pakistani society doesn’t promote dating or relationships as a normal part of life, the way Western culture does. For this reason, attempting to bring your relationship to light with family members can become very daunting. This fear stems from the belief that you’ll either be perceived as ‘less than’ or doing something inherently wrong, or that you’re ready to get married. Either of these assumptions can take a huge toll on your relationship.
Moreover, although it may be easier to speak to friends about it, because the conservatism of Pakistani society is so nuanced and complexed, in that people tend to cherry-pick what they believe is right or wrong, it’s still difficult to imagine how someone will react. Most of these fears are formed on the foundation that your reputation, image or social standing will be tarnished should anyone know about your relationship.
This is all amplified if you’re a woman
Sadly, as with most things in Pakistan, the brunt of the relationship will fall on the women. Although most of these worries are image-related, it is far more likely that the women in the relationship will have her reputation tainted rather than the man. Another feature of a highly conservative society is the notion that women must be ‘pure’ and free from anything action that can make them seem ‘indecent’. The same standard doesn’t apply to men, however. Growing up with this double standard makes it tough for women to pursue relationships to begin with, couple this with the expectation to get married and matters get even more complicated. To gradually develop a meaningful and emotional connection with someone takes time, and if the pressures of marriage are in the back of your mind then there’s no way to truly understand whether you like an individual or whether you like the idea of them.
There seems to be no short term solution to the perils of pursing love in a conservative society. What can be done, however, is that you can be mindful and intelligent in that way you go about your relationship. Beyond this, there is also confidence. If you have a significant other, you should be proud to be associated with them and confident in your relationship, regardless of what others will think.
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