Parents are against love marriage, but this is bound to change eventually
Love marriage is a hot topic in India, a country that is considered to be the torchbearer for arranged marriages!
Here is an interesting data point from the India Human Development Survey, conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland.
First of all, arranged marriages are not going away and continue to be the preferred way for people to get married in India.
At the same time, love marriages or, at least, the practice of exercising greater choice by young men and women continues to grow. Just look at the chart below. You will see that a greater percentage of younger women meet their husbands before marriage.
This point becomes even more important as the below trend was from 2012 and we can reasonably conclude that this trend should have become stronger ever since. While meeting husbands before arranged marriage does not automatically mean love marriage, it does indicate a growing preference to exercise choice in the matters of marriage.
That’s not all. At least in urban India, especially large metropolitan cities, online dating is becoming increasingly popular. It was recently reported that the dating app, Tinder, saw a 400% increase in the number of downloads in India and that women are more active in dating apps like Tinder.
Now combine this with a widespread prevalence of male-dominated cultural limits on women and you have a recipe for a major clash between young people and their traditional parents. One of the outcomes of love marriage and intercaste marriage (which are love marriages anyways), is “honour killing”.
We have decided to combine real-life lessons and also borrow proven principles of negotiations and apply these lessons to help you convince your parents. As always, we rely on experts and scientific research to substantiate our points where we can. So let’s begin.
Tip 1: Learn from your friends and family
You will not be hard-pressed to find a few friends and family members whose parents are against love marriage. These examples provide clues for how to convince parents who are against love marriage.
A young lad from Bangalore wanted to marry a Japanese woman. After the initial drama, he went ahead and married her. After marriage, they are leading normal lives.
A girl wanted to marry out of her caste. The family disowned her and refused to attend the wedding. After she had a child, everybody is back to talking terms and all the drama before the wedding seems like a distant dream now.
A south Indian man joined a spiritual organisation on the insistence of his parents. He met and fell in love with a north Indian woman (from another caste) working for the spiritual organisation. The parents were against it initially but because the head of the religious organisation gave his consent, they relented. The marriage was successful and everybody is happy now.
Each of these real-life stories has some lessons for us. The common thread among all the above stories are:
- People chose their partner based on love and perceived “compatibility”.
- They refused to back down from their decision.
- People that chose to marry outside their caste and nationality were financially independent. In other words, they were ready to walk away from the family.
- They believed in their cause and luckily, they have had a successful marriage so far.
- Their spouses tried their best to win the hearts of the families that rejected them.
- Parents who rejected the idea initially did not take extreme measures such as suicide or hire goons to set things right.
- Parents were not financially dependent on the children that wanted to defy their wishes.
- Parents eventually realised that the decision was sound and came around to accepting it.
All you have to do now is to figure out what is your situation with respect to the above points and see if the balance is in your favour. I don’t think your family is in a state of mind to accept rational arguments. Taking a calculated gamble is the best way forward. The gamble could be to get married to your love interest against your family’s wishes or break off the relationship in light of your family’s opposition. Obviously, you want to get married to the love of your life!
Tip 2: Negotiate like a child
You wouldn’t have noticed something that parents face all the time. It is children and their negotiation tactics. They throw tantrums, win over through sympathy, approach the parent that is likely to say “yes” or pretend to fall sick. Most of the times, they end up getting what they want eventually.
When you bring up the topic of love marriage at home and you know your parents are against love marriage, you probably braced yourself for a stern opposition. Unlike a child, you are overcome by empathy and go through incredible anguish that can potentially derail your plans. According to Adam Galinsky, people who empathise during negotiations tend to lose out!
In the book titled “How to negotiate like a child” by Bill Adler, Jr gives us practical ways to borrow the negotiation techniques that children commonly use to get what they want. Here is a simple lesson you can apply to great effect:
“All children quickly learn that there is no unified, single mind known as “The Parent.” There is Mommy and there is Daddy, and they have different personalities, weaknesses and abilities. Sometimes it’s better to ask Mommy something; sometimes it’s better to ask Daddy.”
Some of you may say, “In my house, there is only one parent that calls all the shots”. In that case, Bill Adler suggests other useful techniques to deploy.
Playing one parent against the other is a great strategy. Approach the “relatively more liberal” parent and win their approval for your love marriage and have them negotiate on your behalf.
Another strategy would be to take your time and stick to your guns till you reach a point that your parents give up!
When your parents are against love marriage, just remember that all Indian parents want you to get married by a certain age and holding on to your demand long enough should eventually do the trick!
Tip 3: Build trust with your parents gradually
When it comes to announcing to your parents about your intentions to marry someone you love, avoid surprises. Surprises in these matters don’t end well and only ends up reinforcing the hardline stance that your parents are inclined to take.
From the perspective of your parents, you have broken their trust and ruined their dreams of getting you married to a person that they believe is suitable. But the question of building trust is not just between you and your parents. A strategy that might work in your favour is to introduce your love interest casually as a friend (if your family is not too conservative in these matters). This will give you and your love interest to build rapport and gain trust. So why is trust important when it comes to convincing parents about your love marriage?
Dr Robert Adler is currently a member of the Obama administration in the US. He is an expert in negotiations and has written award-winning books on this topic. He is a believer in the concept of selective information-sharing. This is about sharing pieces of information that will help you and cannot be used against you. Introducing your soulmate as a friend, at first, is a similar strategy! Of course, you need to make sure your partner put her or his best foot forward and create a great first impression when your parents are against love marriage.
According to the author of Give and Take, Adam Grant:
In an experiment, Stanford and Kellogg students negotiated over email. When they only exchanged their names and email addresses, they reached deals less than 40% of the time. When they shared information that was irrelevant to the negotiation, schmoozing about their hobbies or hometowns, 59% reached an agreement. When you open up about something personal, you send a signal that you’re trustworthy, and your counterparts will be motivated to reciprocate.
You may have found the most accomplished partner that you could ever imagine. You may believe that the person you fell in love with so much more accomplished by anyone that your parents might have lined up for arranged marriage. But just highlighting that fact that you have caught a “big fish” may not work well. In fact, your parents may turn around and tell your lover is way out of your league and that the marriage will never be successful.
The findings from a research paper titled “Preference of Potential“, (published by experts from Harvard and Stanford University) explains this concept through field studies that included athletes, comedians, students, chefs, university administrators. According to this study:
“When people seek to impress others, they often do so by highlighting individual achievements. Despite the intuitive appeal of this strategy, we demonstrate that people often prefer potential rather than achievement when evaluating others. Indeed, compared with references to achievement (e.g., “this person has won an award for his work”), references to potential (e.g., “this person could win an award for his work”) appear to stimulate greater interest and processing, which can translate into more favourable reactions.”
But, please remember that this study was focussed on assessing talent as a student or restaurant chef. Do not apply this concept blindly. Use it as yet another tool in your attempt to influence your parent’s thinking.
Tip 5: Build allies and seek advice
When your parents are against love marriage, one of the easiest strategies for convincing them is to build a strong coalition that can champion your cause and provide advice. At the least, they provide much needed moral support when things get heated between you and your parents.
Tip 6: The best time to break the news about your love
Breaking the news about your love interest to your parents is a nerve-wracking experience for some of us. The response you get from your parent(s) about your love is dependent on several factors such as how open they are to accept such ideas, their prevailing mood, and of course, your horoscope (just kidding).
Research has shown that the consumption of glucose enhances complex brain activities, bolstering self-control and regulating prejudice and aggressive behaviours. The key lesson from this insight is that people have a tendency to be in a better mood when their blood sugar levels are on the higher side. Perhaps, Diwali is the best time to break the news about your love affair!
Tip 7: Win-Win strategy always helps
Parents are against love marriage because they love us and want us to be happy. But culture and traditions also define how they want us to seek happiness. They are convinced that we may not have the maturity needed to take unilateral decisions on marriage and going against conventions is an affront to their traditions. When the dust settles, a majority of parents only want to see their children have a happy married life.
When your parents are against love marriage, your task is to make them see the end objective beyond the haze of culture, traditions, and “honour”.
Now, it’s time to apply these techniques to convince your parents for love marriage. Here is a four-step process that helps you break the news and win your parent’s approval for your love marriage.
Step 1: Breaking the news
This is the toughest step in the process! You will need plenty of guts and courage to tell your parents that you are in a relationship or you are in love and that you have already made up your mind about who you will be marrying. You can choose to break the news in several ways. Use an approach that works for you.
a. End of rope strategy: You break the news about your relationship only when your parents ask if you are in a relationship and not before. Most parents don’t ask this question when they start looking for a suitable groom or bride. You just play along with their matchmaking process and keep rejecting every person they shortlist. At some point in time, frustration sets in and they are bound to ask this question.
b. Break the glass strategy: As it is apparent from the name, this is an abrupt approach to breaking the news about your relationship. This works well if your parents don’t seek your consent or force you into an engagement. This strategy also works well if you have the financial means to pack your bags and leave your house (if needed).
Step 2: Agreeing to disagree
The first instinct for most parents is to object to your decision. Overcoming objections is a gradual process and cannot happen overnight. The key strategy you should agree to disagree and calm the tempers all round.
Take time off: Agree not to discuss your marriage for the next few months. Let your parents know that you respect their opinion and you need time to contemplate. During the time off, agree not to surreptitiously spend time with the person you love or elope. In return, ask your parents not to pursue their hunt for a bride or bridegroom.
Apply the Active Listening technique: Apply the concept of active listening when you listening to your parent’s objections. Active listening is a phrase coined by Thomas Gordon, author of Leader Effectiveness Training and here is what it means – “Listeners need only restate, in their own language, their impression of the expression of the sender.”
While this may sound easy, practising active listening is tough when you take an adversarial approach to your conversation with your parents.
Step 3: Use objections to your advantage
Parents are against love marriage for several reasons – religious / caste differences, economic disparity, perceived loss of family’s honour or reputation, age difference that defies norms (bride older than bridegroom or too much age gap), marrying someone who is divorced or divorced with a child are just some of the reasons parents are against love marriages.
Spend all the time you have in figuring out why the person you love is the right choice for you. Now start listing down your response to every objection your parents put forth. Here are some hypothetical counterpoints for common objections:
Adverse age difference – Talk about a strong bond you have with your chosen partner such as a profession (example – both are musicians) or lifestyle choice(example – nature lovers).
Different religion / caste – Highlight value system and lifestyle compatibility. Example: You and your chosen match are actively volunteering to give back to the community, you both were raised by broad-minded parents who inculcated the idea that religion is just a path to the same God.
Marrying someone who is divorced or has a child: Make a list of people you know or celebrities who married someone who was divorced or had a child from another marriage. Find out why did they marry and what keeps them together. Invariably, the answer boils down to compatibility. When a child is involved, highlight the bond you have with the child.
Your personal situation is unique and you need to be creative in unearthing positive factors that can be highlighted to over the objections your parents have.
Step 4: Win your parent’s trust
Indian parents treat their grown-up children as kids. In fact, you can never really become an adult if you have Indian parents! However, parents do appreciate responsible behaviour. The key is to remain consistent. Make sure your behaviour is consistently responsible and considerate in all aspects of your interaction with your parents. If you live with them (chances are you probably are), make sure you stick the rules and the etiquette of the house, lend a helping hand to your parents even in daily chores.
Take ownership of issues and challenges your family might be facing and lead from the front in resolving them. Your actions and behaviour will help communicate the idea that you are a responsible person and you always have the best interests of the family in your mind.
Trust can also be won by identifying allies (close relatives) who can see the merit of your choice and become a de facto negotiator with your parents on your behalf.
All said and done, you will have to make up your mind on how far you will go to marry the person you love and if the love of your life has a similar commitment to you. Please remember that in most cases, your partner’s parents may also have similar objections.