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I am a 29 year old South Indian, been living abroad for sometime now, born into a conservative family that's religious and is society influenced/fearing in that what the society thinks matters a great deal, to my parents specifically and certain things have to be done at a certain time because it is "right" and on certain matters, what they say goes or has to. While they are entitled to their beliefs and opinions which I try not to get involved with as there are things that I don't agree with, I am not comfortable doing what they want me to do because they think it is necessary and that's the right way to do. Given my age, this problem has reached its peak where now they want me to get married. Arranged marriage of course. While I personally have a lot of issues with many Indian conventions and traditions, I do not have a problem others following it as long as they don't force it upon me to do it. In my family, like in most families similar to mine, 26 to 28 years is about the "right time" to get a man married and soon after, upto maybe 3 to 5 years later, they expect that person to have kids. I am simply against the idea of arranged marriage or having to marry when one does not want to or to have kids. I feel these are the choices of an individual. But in families like mine, this becomes a family affair where the family pretty much ends up dictating the terms through different types of pressures most important being guilt tripping. Parents, they will have a certain idea of how their child's life should be. I understand that, but I feel by doing only what they want me to, I don't know where I am in my own life. I do not wish to change their mind, while it may help me a lot. Because they are free to have their own thinking but at the same time but I wish they did not try to change mine. Here are certain things that I thought are worth mentioning:

  1. My older brother got married at the "rightful" age of 28 a few years ago, arranged marriage and is planning to have a kid soon. So he is the "good" kid. Which means, I have the added pressure of someone already doing it as expected in my family and that I have already crossed that age.
  2. About a year ago, I tried telling them that I do not want to marry but it usually ended up being a Q&A session where I am asked for reasons and I present them some which are shot down with no regard and they give reasons why marriage is necessary. Although, my main reason is that I simply don't feel like it.
  3. In India, weddings are a big deal with requires months of preparation, hundreds of guests etc. This kind of celebration is not for me. If at all I want to get married, I would prefer that it is just the girl, myself, her blood related family members and those of mine. This I did not expect it to go down well and it didn't. I am thought of to be silly or simply gone nuts for thinking so. I have my reasons which are apparently impractical to them.
  4. I am not planning to have kids. At worst, if my partner and I, really feel we need to, I wish to adopt. This again is seen as idiotic. And the question of "If you have the capacity to have your kid, why adopt?".
  5. Matches are found by families via their friends, acquaintances etc. The next thing is to share horoscopes between the two families and check for compatibility. When both families find them matching, they think that's sufficient for a marriage and once the families inform each other of their results, the families go visit each other to confirm and go ahead. In these visits, the potential bride & groom get about 5 mins or maybe 30 mins to speak to each other to decide if the other person is the right better half for them. And the emotional obligation is that we would usually come out with a "Yes" after the brief talk. This I find extremely difficult to take in as I do not believe it is possible to understand a person in such a short time. I told my parents that I needed more time maybe months before deciding and they did not agree to it. And I do not want to visit the girl's family before I decide she's the one. Because people around talk, and visiting and later rejecting is usually exaggerated by useless folk. While I do not care about what is talked about me, I care that such things may affect the girl very badly and future prospects for her may become more difficult. And considering the amount of problems women go through in India, I believe strongly that the girl should know what she is getting herself into and how many of us reveal the kind of person we are in the first 5 to 30 minutes of meeting another one?
  6. Families think it is their responsibility to marry off their son/daughter. This mindset is very hard to change.
  7. Guilt tripping usually includes and is not limited to:

    a. Saying that I am selfish to think the way I do.

    b. That I do not respect my parents.

    c. Some grandparent wants to see me married before their time comes.

    d. People are continuously questioning the parents as to why the son/daughter isn't married yet.

    e. Fear that the society or people around would end up talking nonsense and create their own reasons for why the person isn't married.

    f. Parents have a certain dignity and respect which I shouldn't tarnish (this includes the idea of my having a girlfriend, which I do not but it is my preferred option for a marriage) or dishonor the family.

    g. I have a younger brother too. So I need to be done with so that his life should not be affected. More precisely, parents should not have trouble finding him a bride because of me.

    h. That I am not maintaining the culture of the family that I was brought up in and living abroad has somehow changed me. The fact is, I have been living abroad only for couple of years now while my beliefs and idea have been this way for far more than that. Which the family does not want accept no matter how hard I try telling them.

What I want to know is how to be more assertive when I tell my family that my views are just as important to me in deciding how my life should be hereon instead of being forced to live a life envisioned by them.

Edit

I did tell my parents that I might compromise on the grand wedding because it is everybody else's dreams while clearly stating that I am not happy about it. When I agreed to do this, they said, I should not tell the girl that I am unhappy about the grand wedding.

I told them clearly that the kids option is something that I will not compromise with.

But I also told them, it is the decision of the girl who might be willing to marry. And I wanted to be honest with her and told them that I need to speak to girl upfront and be straight about my views so that she can decide if I am a good fit for her. Because the things that I am asking for myself and for the girl are quite extreme compared to our traditions. But the girl has to decide for herself. But given that it is an arranged marriage and the girl would primarily be of my parents choosing, I know this would be a traditional girl who would be hurt with what I have to say but I need to say it anyways so she is informed.

But talking to a girl about this or for the time I might need before anything is even decided also seemed like a pretty radical thought to them and they said no. The initial offer was that I could talk to her for 5 or 10 mins when we visit the girl's family. When I said that is not enough time to understand a person, they said, "Ok, 30 mins".

I am hurting them. I am aware of this, I am not the kind of son they want me to be. Given the disparity in our thoughts, I may never be. But I want to remain true to what I believe in. There are things that I keep to myself despite wanting to be honest with them because, while they say "be open and honest, we want to hear you out", when I start speaking, it is usually attacked with ways on how my thoughts are wrong and it is ok for me to be wrong, everyone makes mistakes and finally they try to convince me of something that I know I will not be convinced about. One of the things I haven't told them still is that I have been an atheist for more than 10 years. Religion, caste etc are things that I do not like associating myself with. I cannot tell them this, because I know they will try to convince my otherwise and additionally now, they would still think I changed after moving out of India. My mother is someone I think I can convince. While I believe she has her reservations, I think she may come around. Because she wants me to get married, that is her wish. When I do it or who or how is not something she insists on, at least not to me. My dad on the other hand is very vocal about his views and thinks that I have strayed away from my path.

  • You say you're living abroad now. Do the approaches to marriages (and arranged ones) differ between India and where you are now? – user8671 May 7 '18 at 14:23
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    There is an amazing amount of detail here on the cultural practice of arranged marriages and the thoughts of both you and your parents. Which is great, it really helps at lease me understand the situation better, but: There's only 4 lines of text that state what you've tried and how your parents reacted (under point 2). If we're going to help you, I think we need a lot more detail on how you've tried to be convincing and how your parents reacted to that, to avoid giving you tactics/skills you've already tried. – Tinkeringbell May 7 '18 at 15:02
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    How much of a breach with your family are you willing to accept over this? – Erik May 7 '18 at 15:12
  • @Kozaky, Yes it differs significantly because here people find it strange when they hear about arranged marriage. – KNP May 7 '18 at 15:37
  • @Erik & Juan, responding to both your comments together as they're linked. If I compromise on what I believe, I do not think I can be at peace as there are strong reasons for them. And yes, like Ammar's situation, I am being told to return to India for good within a few weeks. They are worried that since a couple of years here has changed me so much, continuing here may change me even more. But truth is, I did not change after coming here. My views have been the same even when I was in India. There is already a lot of friction due to my apparent behaviour. – KNP May 7 '18 at 15:45
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I have some acquaintances from India who have similar views to yours about bringing children into the world. For them it's an ethical stance about doing their small part in avoiding overpopulation. (I'm simplifying their ideas greatly, of course.)

It's a courageous personal stance worthy of respect. It's also a radical stance that flies in the face of all (more-or-less) human customs throughout most of our history as a species.

And, as you know, you are not just challenging your family with this, but also challenging the customs of your country and the world. It seems unlikely that you will be able to convince your parents or other family members that you are right.

Even if you challenge your parents on a trivial matter they are unlikely to say immediately, "oh dear son, you are right about that and I am wrong." It may take a few hours or days for them to come around to your point of view. And that's about trivial things.

On such a vast question as marriage and children, it may take your family centuries (literally) to accept your point of view. In the meantime your parents will be puzzled and hurt, and wishing it were not so.

You ask about being assertive. You will have to say something like, "I have made up my mind about this. I am aware of your reasons for changing my mind, and with great respect, I do not accept them. I am willing to have an honest conversation with you about the reasons for my choice. But I am not willing to negotiate my choice with you."

You will probably have to repeat those words dozens of times to the same people. Keep in mind that your parents' dreams for you will not be fulfilled. They will require a period of mourning for the loss of those dreams, before they can move on.

You can't expect them to agree with you, or even admit that your position has merit. And you can't expect them to stop using guilt to manipulate you.

Edit You asked, "how can I be assertive?" Please consider this: being assertive is not being "aggressive." Being assertive means speaking truly with personal conviction.

It's hard to be assertive with family, because they will try to draw you into negotiation. They will try to draw you into a word game where there are winners and losers: where being aggressive helps. If they do get you to join the game they will work hard to win. And, for you to win the game you're forced to make them lose. That's hard with family. It's much easier, and more respectful, to avoid the negotiation game by refusing to play it.

Your choice is one of great courage. The future life of the world depends on choices like yours. I wish you continued courage and steadfastness.

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As I'm sure you know, cultural and family expectations are really hard to change. In your parents' case, it sounds like if they want to be open-minded then they'll take a ton of flack for it from the rest of their family and acquaintances. This shouldn't change what you decide to do (I wouldn't advise anyone to get married to appease someone else) but perhaps remembering this will help you deal with some of the push-back that they give you over this.

Be Firm And Honest

You need to help your parents understand everything you feel about this. They might think you are just rebelling or whining, and if you are completely set that this isn't the life you want for yourself, then you need to explain it. They will probably not understand, as it sounds like this is a long cultural tradition that they've expected you to accept for your entire life, but do everything you can to show them that this isn't some rebellious phase, a fit you're having, a Disney fantasy, or anything of the sort. Be clear that you've made a decision on how to live your life, and that you aren't willing to participate in an arranged marriage or some imposed timeline on when you should marry or have children. You should probably try to help them understand that you didn't just start thinking this, and that you've always objected to the idea of an arranged marriage.

Offer Alternatives

If you are not completely shut off to the ideas of marriage and a family (just that they have to happen on your own terms and timeline) then you should explain to your family that you are going to get married when you are ready and to a woman of your choosing. This may be easier for them to accept than the idea that you never marry and never have children (of course, if that's what you really want then skip this step). If you are open to it, consider promising them that they can be involved in setting up the marriage when you are serious about it.

Show Love In Other Ways

Your family is very likely to take your rejection of this tradition as a rejection of them; perhaps they will think you are in denial of who you are, you're ashamed of your family, etc etc ad nauseum. Try to show love for them in other ways. Make sure to call and care for them, and make sure they know that you still want to be their son and part of the family despite the fact that you reject having an arranged marriage. Whether or not they accept that is up to them, but make sure they know that for you, this isn't a rejection of them or your heritage, it's simply an unwillingness to have an arranged marriage.

Don't feel ashamed

This is kind of an aside, but a lot of people's families expect very specific things from their lives. For some families, the idea that you move to another state - under any conditions - is equivalent to telling your family you wish they were dead. Lots of parents have unrealistic demands for their children, and just because yours isn't a common one for the country you live in doesn't mean you should be ashamed of it.

  • You're right. Even if they tried being open minded, it is close to impossible given the rest of their family, the neighbors (here it matters, because they're almost like family). I told them that I had my kids opinion for many year, but they did not even acknowledge that I said it. So it is difficult for me despite telling them that this is not a new thought, because I asked them for 5 years time to decide although in hind sight I must have been clear. Regarding alternatives, like I mentioned in the question, #7-f, it is hard to do. Despite everything, no matter how it goes, I will love them. – KNP May 7 '18 at 16:31
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I feel for you. Unfortunately you are talking individualism and social conformity. You are either on one side or the other.

Individualism puts one's personal perspective, desires and life direction above obligations or belonging to your group or society and its rules.

This is the society I grew up in and is the principle I want my children to follow, because in the current world of opportunities, they can find real fulfilment and expression.

Your parents come from the world of arranged marriages, accepting one's Karma, and place, and submitting to the pressures all around. In this world view you will be punished if you rebel.

You could bring the view of these two cultures to your parents, and show them why you are taking the path you are. I personally respect both approaches which have their benefits and costs, and in various circumstances either can make sense.

For me, my mother liked playing roles and social conformity and one of my aunts spent her life being true to herself. They never understood each other, and there was always a war going on. So some of these bridges can never be crossed, and you just have to live with the price you pay.

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    Precisely. When I spoke to my father about my views, his response is always telling me not to bring a different culture into our family's and that it will not work out in our ways. Which I understand in that, I will not ask them to submit and follow my way of life. But anything I say is seen as a challenge against my parents and the values that we were taught like listening to elders and following what they tell us to do. I have seen the problems with their ways and I chose a different path. I feel it comes down to the perspective of right and wrong and we each have our own. – KNP May 8 '18 at 15:27
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Two thoughts, first, is it possible to just tell them that you will marry when you find the right girl to make them happy and leave it at that? Or second, if you are resigned to marry, could you look for a woman who has the same perspective on this as you do, so you can marry to make your families happy and then essentially be friends and roommates?

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    The main problem is that, they are not ready to wait. They say things like, "I am getting older", "soon no one will give their daughter in marriage because you have crossed a certain age" etc. I had a deeper conversation with my brother once because he is just a couple of years older and he insisted I speak out. I told him before I did my parents. I told him that if they found a girl who shares my views, I would marry her but like I mentioned earlier, any girl of their choosing would be traditional and my views will get probably the same or similar response. – KNP May 7 '18 at 22:37
  • Also, as mentioned in #7.f, that too involves a problem. Although I am not opposed to the idea. – KNP May 7 '18 at 22:40
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    It involves a problem but the only thing that won't involve a problem would be you doing literally exactly what your family want, which you don't want to do. Every compromise suggested is going to involve a problem. You're going to have to be okay with that. – Sophie May 8 '18 at 1:16

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