Woe Is Me! “My Mother Forced Me to Make a Profile on a Marriage Site. Will I Ever Be Able to Forgive Her?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I’m a 25-year-old woman. My mother forced me to make a paid account on a marriage website; I was never interested but gave in so that she would stop pestering me. She also thought I won’t get matches easily, but when matches started pouring in, I panicked. My mother assured me she won’t force me with matches, but my anxieties got the better of me. Eventually, the account was deleted. I now feel guilty since it has strained my relationship with my mother — she now thinks I don’t trust her. I don’t know how to approach her, considering I’m also bad at talking about my feelings.”
— A Strained Relationship
DR: First, please don’t feel guilty? I understand Indian families have a superpower to induce guilt in their children when they’re the ones at fault themselves — I’ve fallen into that trap many a time myself, and if truth be told, still do. Second, if she thinks you don’t trust her, the onus is on her to win your trust (back). I don’t know your mother, or even you, personally — but I have a feeling your anxieties didn’t just appear out of thin air. Yes, anxiety can take the form of a disorder. But per se anxiety stems from the evolutionary underpinning of protecting ourselves from danger. So, perhaps, the fact that she “forced” you to create an account led you to worry, and quite naturally so, that she’d force you into a match too. I think you’re justified to feel that way — especially so, if she’s had a history of coercing you into things either by guilt-tripping you, or asserting her authority as a parent, or any other covert or not-so-covert tactic. I’d say let her sulk until she realizes it’s the consequence of her own actions that flipped your self-preservation switch on.
If, however, you do want to talk about your feelings so you can explain to her where you’re coming from, I’d say note down your thoughts on a piece of paper, and keep it handy during your conversation. Also, in general, if you’ve noticed you’re prone to feeling guilty for doing no wrong, I’d suggest you talk to a therapist and seek their guidance in helping you overcome the ideas or beliefs that steer you towards guilt irrespective of who’s at fault.
RN: Firstly, it’s not your fault that the relationship is strained now. Your mother should have respected your boundaries, listened to your concerns and anxieties, and not undermined you by expecting you not to get matches! All of these things are on her and not on you. If she thinks you don’t trust her, she is right. It’s on her to earn your trust back, because what she did was harmful and wrong. But having said that, I understand how it’s difficult to have these conversations with your parents. All of the above was to allay your concerns about being the one at fault in all of this. But when it comes to actually speaking to her, maybe, the best way to go about it would be to be honest about how the whole experience made you feel, and try to come to a middle ground that works for you both. It’s not easy, but nothing about family ever is when we’re in a culture that doesn’t know how to talk about our feelings! Taking this first step is big enough on its own.
AS: Well, I don’t think you’re the only one who has to make reparations here. In fact, based on this question I don’t think you did anything wrong at all because you shouldn’t have been forced into this in the first place. However, I can understand why you could be feeling guilty — things get complicated when parents play the martyr, which seems like your mom is doing in this case. From your end, I think the only thing you can do is to say your piece and let your mom know why you felt anxious or uncomfortable about the whole rishta-process. Maybe it’ll help to start indirectly, and then bring this up? Say, you watch a movie together — maybe something about parental pressure –themes that relate to your situation — and then you could share what you’re going through. Another option is to write your feelings down as a letter, and read it to her. In any case, if it doesn’t work and she is still upset with you, then I think you might have to give it more time. Once she gets over this, maybe she’ll realize her part in this and try to make amends from her end.
PB: She forces you into a situation that you had no interest in, and then acts offended when it goes south? Yeah, that sounds similar. I understand the feeling of guilt at causing any sort of distress to your mother, but please make it clear that she is quite evidently in the wrong here. Your guilt is unfounded — she must accept your trepidation and let you pursue your personal life yourself.
Let me ask you a question — do you trust her? If you do, make your feelings clear, and hope she deals with it herself. Her plans for your personal life might be well-meaning, but your plans are what matter.
Most of us are immensely weak at being honest with our mothers, because of the classic guilt-trip tactic they usually resort to. Do not apologize for deleting the account — lay the cards on the table and let her know you’re the dealer.
SK: I understand the guilt that comes with “disappointing” your parents. And it’s definitely not on you that there is friction; that you felt coerced into something as big as marriage is by no means your fault. While you process the power dynamics here, there is also a greater conversation in store for you. The one about getting married, and if so, what level of understanding/breathing room you expect from your mother. When you do choose to speak to her, it’s important to clarify the discomfort you felt this time around. If she thinks you don’t trust her (which you are fair not to), laying bare all these thoughts — in writing, in person — can probably satisfy her. But the constant hounding and criticism (she thought you won’t get matches easily?) are not minor things to be brushed under the carpet. If anything, they made you feel more anxious about the whole situation. Your relationship must be able to handle the concerns of both sides, not only hers.