Woe Is Me! “My Parents Want Me to Dump My Boyfriend for an Arranged Marriage. What Now?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“My parents recently found out about my serious relationship, and are now threatening to disown me. They fear I will marry for love, rather than going down the more “acceptable” route of arranged marriages. Why is dating still not accepted by Indian parents?”
— Love is a family matter
DR: The short answer to that is: “Parampara. Pratishtha. Anushaasan.” An even shorter answer? “Control.” However, you are not going to be able to solve much of these socio-cultural issues alone, in a day — or, perhaps, even your entire lifetime. So, let’s leave that aside and focus on you, in isolation. In a world where you can’t have both, would you rather have the freedom to live your one life the way you’d like to, or would you rather be a laadli beti — loved by your family, but caged by said love, too? That’s a question for you to answer — depending on your age, your circumstances, and your individual goals and aspirations. It’s possible that your parents’ threats are empty, but I can’t say that for sure. So, if you do decide to flout their rules, they could, indeed, distance you. But if you submit to them, you don’t know where they’ll draw the line at attempting to control your life.
If you are dependent on them financially, though, can you afford not to submit to their demands? If you’re independent, you also have the option of leading a double life to live life on your terms while also avoiding conflict — it’s not recommended, of course, but circumstances often force our hands in undesirable ways. Or, you could set some boundaries with them, and throw their threat back at them — saying you’d go no-contact with them if they attempt to dictate your life choices. Think hard about your choices, the consequences they may bring, and which ones you would rather live and deal with.
RN: Your last question is something that we’ve tried to crack for centuries — to no avail. I doubt an advice column will be able to answer this, so let’s try to unpack everything else here. Do you want to marry your boyfriend, and are you both adults? If yes, go ahead and get a court marriage. It’s heartbreaking to hear that your parents are threatening you in this way, but it may be best to pre-empt their threats now and plan your immediate next steps. Do you and your partner have a stable source of income? Does your financial situation allow you to rent a place temporarily? Do you have access to a therapist to help you cope with these big changes? If the answer to any of these questions is a no, pause. The next best thing you can do is deflect your parents’ attempts to marry you off in an arranged marriage, rather than disobeying them outright. Be a difficult person — make their efforts at finding you a match hell. Simply wait them out — until they get tired first, or you acquire the means to go and marry whomever you want.
AB: There are two parts to this question: understanding your parents’ thought process regarding dating, and deciding what to do about your relationship. First, if your parents themselves had an arranged marriage, they likely don’t believe in the long-term potential of your relationship — for them, dating is akin to hooking up rather than actually deciding and getting to know your partner. They don’t know your partner’s history, your safety, any potential long-term “problems,” and so on, which they believe they would have in an arranged marriage scenario. Marrying for love, from their perspective, isn’t necessarily a guarantee of stability in the future — they aren’t entirely wrong, though, since it does take more than love to make a marriage work. This, of course, doesn’t excuse their attitude, but it might explain their perspective a bit more.
Now, when it comes to your relationship, the best way to have power in these situations is to be financially independent. You need to be at a stage where you can live comfortably on your own, or have the ability to move out if you’re living with your parents. Financial independence gives you bargaining power, in economic terms. And if your partner, too, is in a similar position, you can force your parents’ hand into accepting the relationship by making it clear that you’re not relying on them any longer; while you would like them to be a part of your life (if you do), it has to happen in your terms.
Yes, this might seem harsh, but don’t let them emotionally guilt you — they chose to have kids after all, they agreed to take the responsibility. Tl;dr: While your parents’ actions might have a reason, it’s no justification. So, ensure that your partner and yourself have the financial capabilities to support yourself and approach your parents with a necessary ultimatum.
AS: Parents love to manipulate their children with threats of disowning, especially if it’s a matter of their children not relying on the parents for taking decisions about their future. I feel you should stand your ground here, because if you give in now, then they will definitely stretch this further, and manipulate you into doing things their way by threatening to disown you every now and then. They need to understand the meaning of boundaries.
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