In an ideal world, parents and children would all hold hands and embark on the wonderful road towards marriage in harmony and sync. The fact that I couldn’t even write that sentence with a straight face should tell you that this is not always the case. Unfortunately, parents and children are frequently at loggerheads over who to marry, when to marry and how to marry. Even in the absence of serious conflict, your parents may not necessarily be all that helpful in the search for a partner. This may be through no fault of their own, but it only serves to make a complex process that much more awkward, icky and painful.

Parental obstruction or lack of assistance can take on any number of forms. Let’s take a look at some of the most common forms:

1.) The Inflexible Parents

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‘She must be Lebanese’

‘He must have a house and a bank balance of $100,000.’

‘No one from that part of Pakistan.’

These are just a few examples of conditions set by parents. Sometimes these are communicated through direct warnings and ‘advice’ sessions, and sometimes they are entirely implicit. Some of their suspicions are grounded in prejudices about other cultures. Sometimes they just can’t be bothered dealing with anyone or anything outside of their comfort zone. Sometimes there are real fears about loss of control and identity if their children were to marry into the unknown, and very frequently, it’s all of these things mixed together. Whatever the case may be, their inflexibility is going to leave you with the choice of either falling in line and abiding by their rules or trying to open up a space for negotiation.

2.) The Clueless Parents

These parents are supportive in theory, but can’t or won’t offer much in practice. They just aren’t quite sure how it’s all supposed to work. The way they met and got married either just doesn’t work in your context, and their suggestions are just not all that applicable to you. This is often because they lack know-how and social connections i.e. there’s no waiting auntie brigade to make suggestions. Maybe your parents aren’t practising Muslims or into the cultural scene. Maybe your parents aren’t Muslim at all. Whatever the case may be, you’re pretty much on your own here.

3.) The Hands-off Parents

These parents expect you to do all the legwork. This may be because they just think it’s your life and you should decide what you want to do and how you want to do it, or maybe they just don’t really care if you get married or stay single. Bring them in towards the end when you’ve already made up your mind and they’ll be fine, but again, don’t expect much help from them along the way. (But if you’ve been raised by hands-off style parents, you’re probably used to doing things of your own volition in any case.)

4.) The Pushy Parents

These parents are keen to get you married off. Embarrassingly keen. They’ll take any opportunity to push you in the pathway of eligible prospects and have little regard for whether the person is actually compatible with you or not. They’ll guilt-trip you into meeting just about anyone who ticks their boxes, regardless of whether the person ticks any of yours. They think you’re ‘picky’ and immature, but you think they just don’t get it.

5.) The Inconsistent Parents

These parents send mixed messages. They claim to be  fine with someone of a different culture, but if you actually bring it up they’ll shut down the idea entirely. They’ll say the guy must come over and formally ask for your hand, but then freak out if any guy actually wants to come over. There’s one rule for one sibling and an entirely different rule for another.

I don’t want to paint a picture of parents being horrible bogeymen out to destroy their children’s lives.  It’s not easy for parents to see their children diverge from their traditions and accepted norms, but it’s certainly easy to be a child whose parents are inflexible and difficult to communicate with. Some compassion and empathy is required on both sides to make the situation work.

What are your parents like when it comes to marriage? Are they very involved or are they more hands-off?