Do you find yourself stuck in a position to make a choice between your parents/ family and the love of your life? Then this article is for you.
Lisa had been waiting for this day since she had started dating John, but as soon as she introduced John to her family she could see the disappointment in her father’s eyes and her mother’s silence spoke loud enough. Lisa’s parents thought he wasn’t ‘the perfect match’ for her and that she could do much better. She felt torn between her parents and the love of her life.
Lisa’s story is nothing new, starting from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this ‘disapproval’ has been serving as a plot twist in many works of fiction as well as in real life, and parents do usually give various reasons which all often have the underlying theme of ‘you can do much better than him/her’. Research indicates that this is in fact evolutionary, especially with parents of females who expect the mate to be more supportive than themselves.
A few common reasons given for this disapproval includes mismatch of family community, caste, financial status, religion, and even the stars (astrology), but you cannot change any of these. In a country like India, the existence of a collectivistic culture also reflects in the opinions of your parents which also depends on whether the extended relatives and the society would ‘accept’ your partner as well, here again, there is not much you can do. As an Indian, you can understand the story of Upasana who elaborates what it is like to say ‘NO’ to an arranged marriage.
Adding to these, your family might have other ‘conditions’ as well, but remember that parents take pride in searching for your match so you might actually be ‘robbing’ them of what they consider as their duty as a parent. but knowing all of these can help you draw a picture and adapt your strategies to effectively handle this process starting from the initial jitters till the end even.
1. The preparation phase
First and foremost, do not expect everything to go fairy tale-perfect or dissolve into a mess. Be clear in your head about what you want, but do not already decide and then go in for your parent’s opinion. The following strategies can be used before you actually introduce your relationship.
Think about how your parents would react and be ready to face them. If it helps, even mentally rehearse or practice with your friends. Ask your siblings or friends who have gone through a similar situation to get a better picture and then take the next steps.
Desired guy fit
The ads for ‘wanted bride/groom’ will reveal the typical criteria expected by an Indian parent, and as an Indian child what you expect in your partner might vary, but try to figure out the overlapping aspects, for example, your parents might expect a financially stable partner and your partner has a good job! This overlapping area will help in ‘impressing’ your parents but the important point here is to not sugar coat the other undesirable traits because you might want to reach a fair decision at the end.
The close circle
An effective strategy would be to slowly letting know the ‘close circle’ of people, which might include your siblings or few family friends. This way you would get some people to share your cold-feet-moments with and brainstorm possible obstacles. An added advantage would be there when this close circle can support you and influence your parent’s decision making during the ‘revealing’ phase.
I am capable
Involve parents in your day to day decisions. You might think, “they are more than just ‘involved’ in my life already”, but you need be more active in it, that is, involve them in your other decisions and show them that you are capable of critically thinking and making a rational decision as well. The decision can be as simple as which phone to buy or which places to go for a vacation.
Also taking baby steps like these will reduce the pressure on you.
2. Do not rush things
There might have been fear of rejection of your partner by your parents, anxiety and ambiguity regarding your choice, or maybe even pressure from your partner, whatever it might be, remember that it is your life so take it slow. Discuss with your partner if you both are on the same page so that you can support each other. Think about what you will do and how you will unveil things step by step, because dumping information so suddenly might be overwhelming for your parents as well. Do not be hasty, because this is a major life decision which you have taken so bravely.
3. The rose- tinted glass
The nail-biting moment is when you await their responses and opinions, sometimes parents can give vague opinions such the ‘I just don’t like him/her’, in which case you can get ready to take further steps to enhance your selected partner’s likability with your parents. After all, the very nature of every parent is to protect you; this, in fact, shows that they are looking out for you.
Sometimes, parents do have valid points, in such reasonable cases, as mentioned before, be open and re-evaluate your choice of mate. After all, parents have spent a lot of time with you and have personal life experiences in choosing partners, so value their points. Be open to reality and accept it if your parents have a valid point before trying to fight it. You might be looking through a tainted glass, and while choosing a partner it is better to think now rather than when it’s too late.
4. Listen and do not get defensive
The concept of choosing one’s own partner might be a new concept to your parents, and as mentioned before, it could be very overwhelming for your parents (which is well portrayed in the move Why him (2016) as well). For your parents to accept your choices, you should be ready to take responsibility as an adult and the first thing you should not do is to take sides. We often listen only in order to reply, so the whole point of communicating your message across might get difficult. Moreover, since you have chosen someone, you might get defensive about your parents’ disapproval, here you must also remember that with freedom comes responsibility. Therefore, instead of immediately trying to give good pointers about your choice, listen to them and validate their point, which will, in turn, make them feel like they are also playing an important role (which they are). Remember, there is no ‘you vs. them’. As this topic is vast, to understand better you might want to try reading this article.
5. Non- violent communication
This is a psychological technique used to convey one’s points, it involves:
- Observing the facts and having a mental note (or even in paper- pencil, if it helps) of all the pros and cons instead of just “opinions”. This helps in understanding the situation better before blurting out emotionally laden comments which we might regret later. Reflect on how you ‘truly’ feel about the relationship.
- Being clear on how you are feeling about your partner and parents’ opinions which will give your parents a clear picture. Your parents are not ‘villains’, so freely express your emotions using appropriate terms which will indicate the importance of the whole thing to them, such as saying “I feel secure with him/her” or “I am upset that you would not give me another chance”
- Be clear on what you want out of the situation, which will be your need. For example “I want them to understand why I like her/him”.
- The most important point is to express your need as a request using terms such as “I would like you to…”. Make sure that this request isn’t the end product such as marriage, but start off with small ones such as meeting your partner or giving you another chance to express yourself better. The smaller the request is, it is easier for your parents to accept it.
The last two steps are crucial even after your parents have actually made a decision.
Finally, remember, throughout this whole time, keep your partner in the loop so that they do not get unnecessarily stressed by the situation, stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Do not hide things from them because your decision is going to affect them as well. If you are feeling ‘torn’ like Lisa, remember, you need not choose between your parents and your partner because, the same way you do not want to lose your partner, your parents do not want to lose you either.
If you have any more doubts and need some support for those jitters, speak with our counselors on an anonymous and secure platform and work with your relationship counselor in addressing these issues at Askmile.com.