I think I want to find my own wife now.
February 24, 2009 8:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm from a South Asian culture and made the mistake of allowing my parents to start looking for a girl for me. How do I get out of this?

First, some background: I'm a 30 year old male, originally from the Indian Subcontinent. I've been living in the US since 1990.

Recently, my parents began bringing up the topic of marriage. They said they could find some girls for me and there wouldn't be any obligation for me to take things farther with them unless I really wanted to.

About a month after I gave them the go-ahead, my folks presented a prospect to me. She was nice looking, but had spent 8 years in undergrad. This was a red flag, and I decided not to talk to her. This girl was my uncle's friend's daughter, so my parents and my uncle and aunt were on my back to talk to this girl. I firmly said no, I had no interest. Eventually, all parties left the matter alone.

Over the last month, I've been talking to another girl. She's the niece of a family friend. The girl seems nice enough, but I don't feel a connection. I told my dad to let her dad know it would not be moving forward. My dad told me to think about it before he gave the final word to her parents. I thought about it and still said no. Then, my parents started pressuring me to go and meet this girl, so I could "see what she's really like". I said no thanks.

So, yesterday, my dad calls me up and gives me this big lecture about how I need to think this over again. I have no interest in meeting this girl, but he doesn't seem to want to let it go.

I'm now very disillusioned with all the pressure being put on me to move forward with a girl I don't think would be compatible with me. I feel like this whole process was misrepresented and I want no part of it any longer.

How can I tell my parents to back off and that I no longer want an arranged marriage without hurting their feelings? If hurt feelings can't be avoided, I need a way to tell them that will minimize hurt feelings.

posted by reenum to Human Relations (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Start dating someone of your choice, even temporarily.
posted by Pants! at 8:14 AM on February 24, 2009

You have to be completely and totally upfront and honest with them.

"Thank you so much for all your love and concern, I know that this is all coming from your hearts, but I need to do this on my own."
posted by jerseygirl at 8:21 AM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: How progressive is your relationship with your parents? It sounds like you at least have somewhat open lines of communication. Are you able to discuss things with them logically, instead of them feeling that you're disrespecting them when you're actually disagreeing with them?

If you can talk to them, simply say much of what's up there. That you were ok with the prospect of them helping you find someone based on the initial indicators that it would be YOUR decision, not a group decision. But now, you feel that they're invested in these choices, and you don't want to hurt them, but you do feel like you should have the only vote in the process.

If your parents were an arranged marriage, then they'll probably respond that they learned to love each other over time after they were married. But counter that with the simple statement that you're not comfortable with it, you want to know going in that this person is the absolute right person you want to marry.

I think you should approach it from the standpoint that you don't want to have to go through a painful divorce (they'll understand this as divorce is an uncomfortable topic for south Asians), so you are going to be highly selective when making your choice. It's not an insult to their friend's daughters, it's just that you want to find the one right person for you.

There initial reaction is going to be that you don't trust/value their judgement, and they may get emotional. You need to weather this storm, be firm, and just repeat that it's not about their judgement, just that it's a very personal decision, and no one knows what you want in a person better than you. If they want to be able to suggest people, they need to respect that. If not, then you'd rather just return to the previous state of affairs, where you handle your own romance logistics.
posted by dnesan at 8:25 AM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

If telling them you aren't interested, and explaining it neatly doesn't work out, then just keep saying no to people they propose. Even if your parents don't back off, other people will quickly realize you aren't amicable to the process.
posted by chunking express at 8:38 AM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: Dude. I hear you! I have seen more friends go through this than I care to remember. I nearly missed being a victim myself. I say 'victim' not because it is per se a bad idea but because I have NEVER seen the idea implemented in its 'pure form'. Pure form = only your interest in mind.

As you have seen in a very short span that people in the system find it just to pressure you to rethink (read=change your mind) rather than say no to uncle's brother's dog's grand daughter's neighbour's best friend. I am sure you have also been told about how rich or influential, 'established' the parents of the prospective girl are, you get the drift... This is the culture we are dealing with.

Here are the practical step by step programme:

1. Analyse your dating/relationship history to decide how likely you are to find someone you will like to spend the rest of your life with on your own.

If the answer to the above is an overwhelming YES then move to step 3. otherwise go to 2.

2. Sit with your parents and set down some criteria and tell them that it is more important to you what the person is like than who the person is (ie whose daughter, grand daughter etc). Also, agree that sometime you will say NO to someone who ticks all boxes but you dont find connected to. It is hard for them to understand this bit because most of the people you will be talking to had arranged marriages.

In many cases this negotiation will not be successful for various reasons. Go to step 5 if that happens.

3. If you feel that the answer to 1 is overwhelming YES ask yourself how able are you to put forward the case to you parents of wanting to marry someone who may be of a different caste, colour, creed, religion. Dont forget, that unless I have completely misread your situation you will have to fight to get your choice 'accepted'. If you think that this is something you are morally, spiritually, practically ready for go to step 4 otherwise go back to 2.

4. Get your dating boots on and give it a whirl, meet as many people as you can. Go to match.com, plentyoffish and try until you meet someone you like and love and fight for her and make her your soulmate. It happens all the time, you need focus, determination and willingness to allow someone to become your partner in every sense of the word.

5. You dont want to live on your own the rest of your life especially not after alienating your family in step 2. Try all sort of sideways tactics like: 1. Enrol siblings - if you are older then your younger siblings may want you to lead the way, get their support 2. Enrol friends - show your parents happy married friends etc. If all fails just be clever, find 'conventional' faults which they can see in the ones you dont want to proceed with.

Sorry if you are confused. Mefi message me if you want more.

posted by london302 at 8:54 AM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

Are you actually dating/courting/meeting other women? Please interpret that however it is culturally appropriate. I'm asking if you are beginning the process to meet a woman with whom you'd like to have a relationship.

If you aren't starting the process with another woman then they will probably hound you. If you are in a relationship, they may not.

BTW, it does sound as though you might be rather quickly dismissive. That she "had spent 8 years in undergrad" is not a red flag. She may have been sick, worked part time, or got dual degree. You won't know this until you actually speak to her. I graduated EARLY, but I still know not to make judgments if someone had a different path through school than I did.

What experience do you have in dating? You've been in the US nearly 20 years since you were 8 or 9. Have you had some romantic relationships with women or is this the first time you've pursued this? Knowing that would have a huge impact on the advice I'd give you.
posted by 26.2 at 8:57 AM on February 24, 2009

Just say no and tell them you're starting to look for yourself through Indiandating or Shaadi.com or whatever. Be honest about your doubts. Your parents may initially be like, "But she's a nice girl!" but then you say that you have doubts about how long she spent in undergrad or whatever, and you need to figure out what you're looking for. Also, you can blame Vedic astrology if it gets really bad. Say someone told you it was a bad time to look now or that she had something incompatible in her chart. Barely anybody knows how to interpret those charts correctly anyway and it seems like there's a lot of differing opinions.
posted by anniecat at 9:02 AM on February 24, 2009

Uh, I know I told you to be honest and then lie about Vedic astrology, but I mean lying about Vedic astrology as a Plan B, in case being honest doesn't work out.
posted by anniecat at 9:03 AM on February 24, 2009

Anniecat, astrology to kill prospects is a great idea (add this to step 5 above ;))
posted by london302 at 9:05 AM on February 24, 2009

Don't just say no, give them an indication that you're taking care of things yourself. And then tell them that they're not going to be involved in the process until you independently find someone that you're interested in introducing to them. Let them know you've got the project under control and they'll back off. Of course, if you're not interested in getting married yet, this could be a pretty long project timeline. If you think your expectation of getting this done is different from theirs, address it. Just like getting you educated was their job as parents, getting you married off seems to be their job as well. If you want to take that project out of their hands (which is reasonable) you're going to have to give them assurances that the job is getting done in your capable hands.
posted by smallstatic at 9:21 AM on February 24, 2009

Response by poster: I have had a couple of romantic relationships, but my first one wasn't until 2005. So, I don't have a ton of experience in this area. I was engaged to my last girlfriend, and was devastated when that ended.
posted by reenum at 9:58 AM on February 24, 2009

I’m not sure what you should do, but im sure you should not get married unless you love the girl who you want her to be your wife. I’ve been through an arranged marriage and now what? my life is being destroyed . I don’t feel in love since I got married. if I knew what I know right now I would not got married at all. I spouse you love and respect your parents and you want a good relationship with them. You care about their ideas and suggestions and you also need their support. Therefore, First thing you have to be clear about is whether you are ready to get married or not? If you are ready then be honest with your parents and tell them that you respect their idea but you have some criteria you are looking for in your wife. Do not say “NO” without explaining “why” unless you are not ready yet to get married. If you are not ready simply tell them and im sure that will understand.
good luck.
posted by kitkat09 at 11:37 AM on February 24, 2009

Stick to your guns. If you don't want to marry the girl, don't do it. You don't need to explain, except to say she isn't suitable.

Let them continue to suggest mates for you - it's not worth making this matchmaking stuff an issue.

Once you end up dating someone you're serious about, you can tell your parents to knock off with the matchmaking. Until then, why not enjoy meeting attractive young women? But if you don't want to marry them, stick to your guns. Any inter-family politics are not your concern.

You might want to encourage your parents to hire a professional matchmaker from your ethnic community, because your parents are obviously are screwing it up themselves.

My wife (who is Japanese)'s parents had an arranged marriage. It was normal in Japan 40 years ago, and arranged marriages are not considered unusual in Japan now. Although most married couples I meet seemed to have met in tennis club at university.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:26 PM on February 24, 2009

I was engaged to my last girlfriend, and was devastated when that ended.

I'm sorry that happened to you. Heartbreak like that is difficult to move past. It also explains why you might have gone along with your parents suggestion to find you a wife. You know it's rough out there in the romantic world; giving someone you trust the task might feel safer. It might also explain the relatively quick dismissal of candidates. Maybe it feels less risky to cut your losses before your heart gets attached. Those hypotheses may or may not apply to you, but it's worth noodling on your decisions.

Here is my suggestion. Tell your mom and dad that you are looking for a partner. If they meet someone fantastic, then you'll meet her. However, they shouldn't be screening every single woman is the community. You are not looking for them to arrange a marriage. Thank them for their efforts, but finding and selecting a spouse is fully your job. A bit of parental matchmaking is probably unavoidable, but establish that you are the decision maker. You get to make your decisions without having to justify them.

It'll be a hard message for your parents. That's unavoidable. Be sure to tell them that you know there offer was made out of love for you and with your best interests at heart.
posted by 26.2 at 12:45 PM on February 24, 2009

Agree with 26.2 that it is a hard world out there and even with the best of matches it is always hard to know if she (or he) is the one. Having a bunch of people who you can trust to help you through your decision process is great. However, be mindful that their own relationships with their partners are based largely on compromises made in the general interest of the extended family. Are you ready for that?

To answer your original question: How do I get out of that? - There are plenty of ideas above to get out if you are sure that the alternatives work for you.

One word of of caution - dont fall for the usual trap 'oh what is the harm in meeting some nice girls'. Declining repeatedly will only cause friction between you and your family.

Good luck.....
posted by london302 at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2009

It is not as low-stakes for these girls as it is for you, is it? Whether they like you or don't, or would like you or would not -- being declined is an embarrassing and uncomfortable thing, particularly for a traditional girl. If you want out of the whole matchmaking lark, I bet this would be a good way to sell it to your parents. You just don't want to hurt any girl or embarrass her parents, or your parents, when you know yourself to be so picky. The slight chance of finding the right girl for you, versus the near certainty of rejecting some perfectly lovely girl. It's not them, it's you.

Alternately, should you decide to proceed, Apache Indian is here to guide you every step of the way.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:06 PM on February 24, 2009

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