Convincing my traditional parents that marrying my boyfriend (as opposed to an arranged marriage) is not a "sin". Tried for many years; can you help me try more? I will start with a little bit of my background. Please bear with me for the verbose description.
posted by alady to Human Relations (41 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I am from a country where arranged marriages are quite common. And I am from a community in the-said country where non-arranged marriages are very rare. Almost all my first cousins had arranged marriages and typically met their to-be-spouses once/twice (with the presence of other relatives), before they said OK.
My parents were very progressive when raising me and my sibling. I am female and 30 years old. I had a great childhood. Education was important and I fared very well both inside school and at extra-curricular activies. There was a lot of quality family time growing up. We were instilled with great values (work really hard, go out of your way to help people, do nice things for people when you can, etc) and I was constantly encouraged to do anything I wanted to. I was a shy child and was often appreciated by my relatives and friends. I could see my parents were happy with me. Although they were not the type to appreciate me directly using words.
I came to the US to get my Master's degree and stayed on for a PhD. 4 years ago I told my parents I met someone I really like and would like to marry him. My boyfriend is from a different state and "community". Our mother tongues are different. (Though we're from the same country these two languages have no commonalities and cultures are very different too) My parents initial reaction was shock and they said that it was impossible to even imagine that I had fallen in love, let alone want to be married to someone of my choice. Their general view: We sent you to the US to study and how could you think of finding your own partner? So I think the background behind this is that, parents firmly believe that they are the ones who are experienced enough with the ways of the world to find a suitable partner for their children. Through many months of many-hour phones call, I tried to explain to them that this wasn't wrong and that i knew him well, he was a good guy and requested them to reconsider their decision. They responded by saying that I have sinned and that I would be betraying my ancestors by such a marriage. Basically they were trying to make me see that I had 'taken the wrong path'…and unfortunately that the "West" had made this normal for me. :( This went for a few months. Although I knew that my parents may not accept eagerly, I believed they would consider it, talk to him and see that he was a really nice person for their daughter to be with. But I was grossly mistaken. These few months were the most traumatic period for me and my boyfriend. It was for my parents too. During this time me and my boyfriend seriously considered moving apart - since we knew that there was no way we could be happy with my parents so unhappy. We tried this for sometime, but we got back together again because we just couldn't accept the fact that we would be giving up on such a wonderful relationship we had, for a "belief" my parents had. And we told ourselves that we're going to try our best to make my parents see that this wasn't wrong.
On and off over the last 2 years, we have had brief conversations about this. The tension underlies other conversations too. We have also tried to avoid the "marriage" topic because my academic committments have been very demanding and I just couldn't focus with all the blame and heated conversations we were continually having. But even when the conversations were on and off, when it did come up, it lead to many days of pain, bitterness and anger for everyone and included guilt for me. Guilt for me because (even though I know what I am asking for is not wrong), I know how much this pains them. Also in my country/community's context, having an unmarried daughter older than 25 yrs is almost a societal shame. This is extremely sad but true. Their argument has been that: it is so hard to make "marriages" work even within the same community when there is so much similarty in upbringing to bring two people together. And in arranged marriages, parents on both sides of the groom and daughter are so supportive and holding their backs for any sort of trouble. They've asked/told me…You don't know what it is going to be like. You're young, inexperienced and don't understand the workings of the world. You will be ridiculed by society. You and your children will not be able to fit in to either communities. (In fact I believe in what is completely contrary to this - I think our children would be positively influenced by the two diverse cultures). One of the things that has been hardest for me to come to terms with is that - my family was not at all traditional and conservative when growing up. We were trained to question everything around us. My father asked us not to follow tradition if we couldn't understand why. My parents both have college degrees. My father works in a multinational firm outside of my home country and meets people of many nationalities. I have spent a big part of my primary and middle school years in international communities. My mother is a homemaker. My mother was deeply religious but always gave me and my brother complete freedom in their choice with respect to religion. My dad was an atheist and so even dinner table conversation was quite a healthy dose of debate. This was in fact a part of my childhood I was really proud of and happy about. Even with respect to "community" where this is a loaded concept in my country, it was never a big deal - it was just a thing on paper we had to fill in on forms. I have always studied in multi-cultural schools (when we came back to my home country from abroad) and had a diverse set of friends. So, differences in religion, community etc was never a factor in my friendships (or in my head). But suddently after all these years, when it comes to marriage my parents seem to insist on the importance of language, community and state. For a long time I was quite upset with them (mixed with a lot of guilt), on these double standards in raising us and then when push comes to shove, they wanted to follow the what they consider is the "risk-free right" path. But after many months of introspection, reading and pondering, I came to some peace within and understood better where they are coming from and why these biases are so ingrained in them. And I have been able to compartmentalize this aspect of my life with them. We have had some happy conversations and we have met a few times. And I am in a state of mind where I respect them and love them at the same time. But when I do think of how much I have had to wait and am continuing to wait…to go ahead with my relationship - it leaves me angry and bitter.
Outside of all this, I have had the most understanding boyfriend. Thankfully he is aware of these deep-rooted biases and has been so patient and more supportive and helpful in this process than I could ever imagine. And fortunately my boyfriend's parents have supported us both whole-heartedly through all this. He values his family a lot too and wants us to both do our best to try to make it work with mine, before we decide we can't wait any more.
A lot of people in this situation would just go ahead and get married and stop worrying about their parents. But I don't want to do this just yet. I have a little more strength and hope left in me to try some more. I believe I just might be able to make my parents understand. I don't want to crush my parents more than they already are (unfortunately it is all in their own minds, while the so-called society that seem to care so much about, just goes on). For eg, they do worry that my family will be the "talk of the town" if people knew). I have shared my relationship status with very few people, out of respect to my parents. And it has been hard to keep a part of my life away from so many people in my adult life.
So here is my question to you all: Please help me reason out with my parents. How can I make them see that in the majority of the world, men and women choose their own partners and that it isn't wrong? If they think love-marriages as opposed to arranged marriages are a moral depravity, is there anything that can be done to make them see the truth? :( Any opinions, ideas, related comments, reading material, personal or second-hand experiences, anecdotes, historical references of how communities who moved from arranged to choose-your-own-partner style of marriage will be most welcome!!!
I have been a silent reader of AskMeFi for many, many months and have learnt so much. This is my first post. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.