Marriage is a choice, but very often, in India, people make it seem as if they don’t have one. There are some people who feel obligated to be married for their parents’ sake. While parents would love to see their wards married and “settled” (an unattainable state of stability that parents dream of for their children), it’s okay if people don’t get married. A lot of parents’ hopes/ dreams for us, get shattered at various points in their lives and so one more won’t make so much of a difference.
Until a generations ago, marriage used to be an essential transition people made in their lives by default. This was probably driven by a lack of purpose, entertainment or choice in people’s lives. By the virtue of our Indian values, parents bulldozed their choices on children about when, how and who they married.
But today, there is no need for this.
Firstly, there is so much to do in life on your own, and you’re surely not going to die a miserable single life like that uncle who didn’t marry 50 years ago when everyone else did. Secondly, people are much older when they make this decision today, and so they’re expected to be more independent and not depend on their ageing parents to find them playmates.
Over the last five years, I’ve been meeting lots of fully grown adults, well into their thirties, who are still waiting for their parents to find them partners. This makes me wonder if their parents were too focussed on keeping the family close-knit and in the process missed raising independent decision makers. Parents project their desires and preferences on their children, both knowingly and unknowingly. In the marriage market, this becomes counter-productive unless the children live with parents after marriage.
Just to be clear, I don’t blame the parents. This generation was navigating the transition from large joint families into small nuclear ones. As a way to compensate for quantity of relatives, they tried to amplify the intensity of relationships leading to the concept of helicopter parenting. As an observer in this market, it scares me to see the number of people who remain unmarried because they haven’t found anyone suitable that passes through both their filters’ as well as their parents’. It scares me that this is an acceptable excuse for someone to remain single well even into their 30s.
Some people are very particular that their partners be independent thinking. A popular proxy for this is people who did their undergrad while staying in a hostel or currently live in a different city from their parents. When people live independently, they grow up in so many ways that staying home with parents doesn’t let you.
People learn a lot about themselves, learn to take control of their day-to-day lives, constantly make independent decisions and get better at taking responsibility. It may also set them free from conditioning. This may result in a recalibration of bonds with one’s birth family, but it’s an important step in becoming marriage ready to welcome a new bond in your life.
Sometimes, this recalibration can be confusing – people may feel shame, guilt and range of other emotions as they “grow up”. But it’s an important step to take for one’s own well-being and long-term stability in their overall ecosystem. A lot of people attempt this re-calibration for the first time when they get married. It’s a lot harder, especially when prioritising oneself appears as if they are making a choice between their birth family and the new person who has entered their lives.
The only way to gracefully balance these roles is by learning to make your own choices as an adult from the get go.