Woe Is Me! “My Parents Want Me to Marry Soon, But I’m Just Not Ready”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I fear the idea of marriage and am not mentally prepared for it at all. When my parents say they wish I’d marry soon, it drives me crazy! How do I tell them I’m not ready?“
— No Nuptials Please
RD: Tell them what you associate with marriage. Tell them how you see gender roles playing out, how much happiness you expect to get/not get from the institution, tell them everything else you’d rather do instead. Tell them times have changed, and marriage isn’t the only goal for young people anymore. Tell them you’re hoping they understand and decide to support you because you’re not about to change your mind. Sometimes, pushing back on pushy parents is the only way to get them to stop. They may not even realize how annoying they’re being — pushing their child for marriage might be the only thing they know. But you have to sit them down and explain, and pray they understand.
KB: I believe your autonomy as an adult is paramount, and you should have the agency to make whatever decisions are right for you without the influence and pressure of family members who impose their hang-ups on you. But I also recognize that if you don’t have a family that respects your autonomy, it is very difficult to get out from under the weight of those layered expectations. The truth of the matter, though, is that if someone else pressures you into a major life choice that you then take without any sense of agency, you will end up unhappy.
There is no long-term happiness in making decisions to appease other people. I want to say “just tell them you’re not ready,” but I realize that’s facile advice in this situation. You may want to approach them strategically, using whatever tools will speak to their particular arguments (like stats, emotional appeals, career goals, etc), and explain that you understand their concern, but now is not the time. Usually, parents just want their kids to be happy, and they see life-partnership as one stepping stone on the path to happiness. You won’t be able to undo this perception of theirs no matter how hard you try, so I think the best you can do is have an open conversation about how it’s too soon for you.
However — and this is very important — don’t squander this time. If you manage to convince your parents to give you a few years of no pressure, use that time to solidify your career prospects and ensure your financial independence. The single most effective tool you have to convince your parents that you can’t be pressured into anything is the ability to live completely independently. If you live under their roof, and depend on their largesse, you will always have to live by their preferences. Respect and treasure the parents who love you and want your happiness (in whatever misguided way), but also understand that financial independence is the crucial difference between being able to nod-and-ignore and being forced to make life choices based on their “advice.”
DR: Ah, one of the commonest woes of most Indian, unmarried women! I think, you need to sit them down, and explain calmly, and in detail, why you’re not ready for the commitment and responsibility that this institution entails. Honestly, I don’t think this will get them off your back completely — so, here’s the next step: statistics. Do your research, and tell them the statistics of marriages failing worldwide because of people being pushed to marry without being ready. Tell them, samaaj kya kahegi (what will society say) if a marriage you’re unprepared for breaks down too. Indian parents fear society more than anything else, and I hope that works out in your favor. Good luck!
AM: Your woe is so relatable! The idea of marriage can be overwhelming and you’re right, it requires a lot of mental preparation. But what you need to ask yourself is why is it that you’re not ready? Which part about marriage scares you the most and is it something you can work upon? You need to think of all this only if you want to get married sometime in the future. If you’ve decided to never get married, then there is no need to think but you have to convey it to your parents as soon as possible and work on making them accept this fact.
I used to think parents force us to get married because “everything should happen at the right age,” but over the years, I’ve realized that I never really thought about it from their point of view. In India, it’s that one big life event that they think they are responsible for and feel the need to get done with it while money, age, health are on their side. Without getting their kids married, it gets harder for them to plan their retirement, utilize funds for bigger investments, and think of doing things they’ve always been wanting to do but ended up saving money instead for their kids to secure their future.
It’s also that one big responsibility taken off their shoulders that gives them the opportunity to travel, spend time with each other and more. They don’t do it because of “log kya kahenge” all the time, there are a lot of other practical decisions involved behind their pressure to get married. So if you can have a conversation with them about how your getting or not getting married is affecting their life currently and whether it is being an obstruction for them in planning their future, you might have a better idea about why they think you should get married soon. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice yourself into getting married if you’re not ready but at least it’ll help you warm up to the idea of marriage if it’s something you are interested in and will do at some point.