“What Is Wrong With Me?” – Single Women’s Reflections on Missing the Marriage Transition

  •  Rozita Ibrahim    


This paper is based on a research about the experiences of singlehood amongst Malay Muslim women in Malaysia. In this paper ‘single’ refers to never-married women past the normal marriageable age or better known as ‘andartu’ in the Malay language. The word ‘andartu’has similar connotation as ‘spinster’ in the English language and it indicates failure or a mark of shame. Being a collective society, Malay women’s identities are defined within familial roles – first as daughters and later as wives and mothers. As a member of the Malay society, women are expected to follow the societal norms of being married after certain age and having children of their own. This way of perceiving women’s roles leave singles at a marginal position and they are deemed as inadequate or incomplete. In relating their experiences of singleness, some women are affected by these negative perceptions. This paper presents case studies of never married women over 30 years old, who asked ‘what is wrong with me?’. The paper aims (1) to understand the concerns of these women who pose the question of ‘what is wrong with me?’ and (2) to examine how these women deal with their feelings of inadequacy. The findings suggest that single women’s feelings of inadequacy are related to three major factors which are (1) inability to form a relationship that ends in marriage, (2) not having children of their own, and (3) having lower social status as compared to married women. However these women have their ways of dealing with their feelings of inadequacy by having close relationships with friends and family members, not giving up hope on marriage, committed towards self-improvement, and developing their identities as professional career women. 


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