It was a nice sunny November morning. Weather in Mumbai was turning into the slight cold that is actually a cooler summer by any standards. Rashi thought it was the right time to bring up something about Kumar, her husband, that was nagging her.
‘Good morning baby,’ she tried to sound excited with two cups of tea in her hands. They had just been married for last three months.
Kumar’s reply was not that enthusiastic,’ Hi babes, can I sleep for ten more minutes.’ He ignored the fact that the tea would be cold by then.
She was a bit turned off but still didn’t lose it fully, ’Oh, I understand, you are so tired by the time you get home that sleeping is most important item on your agenda. I will heat up the tea after ten minutes.’
Ten minutes later, she poked him again, ’Get up now or I will have throw water on your face!’
Kumar got the message and sat up in the bed. They started taking small sips together indulging in small talk. Then Rashi mustered up the courage,’ Hey, you keep getting late in office everyday. If it is once in a while, it’s fine but current situation is not good.’
‘What do you mean to say? Am I having fun in office? If my work doesn’t get over soon, I cannot help it,’ Kumar started a bit on the defensive note.
‘No no, I don’t mean that. I am concerned that your health may be badly affected due to these late nights. Also, the quality of our life is suffering. We are hardly getting any time together.’
‘Rashi, I cannot help it as things stand now. I have a tough boss who doesn’t have the phrase ‘work-life balance’ in his dictionary. At least we get the weekends together.’
‘This boss of yours even calls you even on weekends. You also end up bringing work home. Do you think we can develop a meaningful relationship if things go on like this?’
This was too much for Kumar to handle early in the morning as he was already stressed about getting late for work. He was half-shouting now, ’See, I don’t have any option but to do this job. It is our main source of income and unless you can come up with some other solution, there’s no point in talking about this.’
Rashi was mad that Kumar was not getting her point. She also shouted,’ Looks like you are wedded only to your job. I agree that we need this job for money but at least we can discuss some way out. You are not even willing to explore other options.’
‘You don’t even understand that the job market is pretty bad. I don’t have time now for this crap. I am going to get ready and head off to office. Our global head is in India today. I have lost so much time that I can’t even have breakfast.
Kumar got ready in a jiffy and headed out, while Rashi started to cry. With no one around to comfort her, she was lying on the bed with her face buried under the pillow for more than an hour.
Then she thought of calling her mother to take some advice on how to handle this situation.
‘Mom, what’s up?’, she asked in half crying tone.
He mother got alarmed, ‘What happened, Rashi? Are you alright? Did Kumar fight with you again?’
‘Yeah, we had a small fight. He is now gone to office,’ Rashi told her mother the entire episode.
‘You know Rashi, these men need to be handled strongly in the first few years of marriage. Otherwise, they just take the woman for granted. You need to do what I tell you to establish your position.’
‘But mom it was just a small fight. I am sure when Kumar comes back in the evening, we will be fine. Maybe, he was in a hurry and hence didn’t want to talk about this. Let me talk to him over the weekend.’
‘No, you don’t understand. You need to teach him a lesson, so that he takes you more seriously next time. Even if he tries to talk to you or sends you a message, you need to promise that you will not talk to him for at least two days. Then, you see how he begs for mercy in front of you.’
‘You just shut up and do what I say’, her mother cut the phone.
As soon as Rashi was done talking to her mother, she noticed that Kumar had sent a text on WhatsApp,’ Hey babe, sorry for getting irritated in the morning. Love you.’
Now, she was in a dilemma. Whether to accept the apology and move on or create a bigger fuss. She thought about it for a few minutes, unable to decide, she again called her mother and told her about the message. Her mother insisted that she should repel all gestures and stay cold for a couple of days. The episode dragged on for a couple of days and snowballed into a bigger fight. Finally, she relented after two days when her mother asked her to.
In his mind, Kumar was wondering if this episode would ever end. He even started to think that it would be difficult to live with Rahsi if she fought and dragged on like this every time. A dangerous seed was sown in his mind which may result in a separation in future if either party didn’t relent just in time.
Sonia had always been her father’s girl. After marriage also she used to call him to share her experiences and routinely asked for advice. When she was planning to go to US with her husband on a vacation to US, she naturally reached out to her parents. Her father wished her all the best for the journey and asked her to have a good time.
Then her mother got hold of the phone,’ Sonia, all the best! You remember all the stuff that I told you at the time of marriage, right?’
‘Oh mom, you are always giving advice. Things have changed now.’
‘Some things never change. You follow my advice. Always buy only designer clothes, shoes and bags. Never settle for second grade things. Otherwise, Jay will never understand your value.’
‘But mom, both of us earn and saving our money is our responsibility. Jay is financially prudent and I want to act in our long term interest.’
‘You don’t know these men. They always have money for their own indulgences and luxuries. But when it comes to our needs, they push back. Your dad is sitting right next to me and I can say that he mostly rejects my genuine demands for jewelry or clothes. So, don’t fall in this ‘prudence’ trap and follow my advice.’
Sonia knew that she could not be so extravagant and decided to use her own judgment. But whenever Jay pushed back on her desire to buy something, her mother’s words rang in her ears. There had to be some truth in this after all.
Krish was happy to get engaged to Priya last year and their wedding was just round the corner. During their courtship period, they really enjoyed each other’s company. Even though it was an arranged marriage, they were getting the feeling of love marriage now.
During one of the outings or ‘dates’, Priya asked him,’ So, after marriage do you want to live with your parents or we move out in a separate house?’
Krish knew that this question would come up but he was pushing the discussion to their honeymoon time. He countered,’ What do you want, Priya?’
‘Hey, that’s not fair. I asked the question first, so you tell me your opinion, then I will.’
‘Ok, I can see why they call girls smarter. I would ideally like to live in a separate place. But I don’t know how to talk to my parents about it. They may not like the idea.’
‘I like your honest answer, Krish. I also feel the same. Maybe, we can spend a couple of months in your parents’ house and I can get to know them better. Then, we can move out. But let’s talk to them about this now. They should not feel that I coaxed you to do it after the marriage or that I didn’t like living with them.’
‘Fully agree, Priya. If we live separately, we can be more independent. We will also have more freedom to party and enjoy life!’
So, one fine day, they sat with Krish’s parents and explained the situation to them. This being a tricky conversation, they were extra careful to not hurt their sentiments. Both his parents didn’t actually like this idea but kept quiet in front of Priya.
As soon as she left the place, his mother started pouring her fury,’ What does this girl think? She has not even married my son yet but wants to dictate terms.’
His dad tried to pacify her,’ Oh leave it to them. They are grown up people. Let them decide what to do with their lives. As far as I am concerned, my responsibility towards my son is over. He is educated and well settled. If he stays here, I would like it but not against the wishes of his wife.’
‘Why are you guys blaming Priya for this decision? We had an open discussion and both of us felt the same way. What if I was working in a different city?’
‘Don’t give us this open discussion logic. Today’s girls have no family values. Even if you suggested this, as an Indian ‘Bahu’ she should persuade you to stay with us. What will my friends say? If she is not willing to stay with us now, what will happen when we become old and dependent on you guys? There will be no family bonding. This girl clearly wants to avoid responsibility and live a free life away from her in-laws. I am telling you Krish, feel free to think again. She may not be the right girl for us.’
Krish thought,’ I know she is the right girl for me.’
He spoke,’ Mumma, she is a good girl. I am sure she will take care of you and papa when the time comes. However, right now it would be better for all of us if we have an independent life. In fact, she even suggested that we stay together for a couple of months and then find a house in the same neighborhood.’
‘I know this gesture is just a show-off. She doesn’t want to live under our discipline. Krish, let’s think again about our decision.’
Now Krish was coming under pressure. He either had to buckle under his mother’s pressure or revolt outright. Parents interference in marriage only made the situation worse.
All these stories are true, although names are changed. After my earlier post on parental interference in the life of married children, numerous girls and boys shared their experiences with me over email. I could see a trend in these experiences.
Do you think that mothers or parents interference in marriage of their children helps anyone?
Parents need to realize that once their children have got married, they should let them be on their own as much as possible. But parents, specially mothers, have trouble letting go.
If the interference continues, the couple will never be able to develop a good understanding among themselves. This understanding is what forms the base for long and good married life.
Leaving the couple to sort out any differences and quarrels is the best thing. In most cases things settle down and the couple make up with each other. But if there is parental interference, the differences continue and just a temporary patch-up happens. If one party has to bend more than required, due to the other party’s stubbornness, it is not good for the relationship in the long term.
In the Indian context, the girl is supposed to leave her own house and move to the boy’s house, living either as nuclear family or in the joint family. In this scenario, it is natural for the girl’s mothers to be more insecure about the well-being of their daughter. But once they have married their daughter to a trusted family after all due-diligence, they need to take a backseat, rather than continuously worrying and trying to solve all her problems. This happens more in well-to-do, higher middle-class families. Parents feel that they have given their daughter a great upbringing and she should not suffer any hardship. But in trying to reduce her hardships and solver her problems for her, they end up hurting her relationship with her husband and in-laws.
Even the boy’s mother is insecure in most cases. They have a feeling that they have lost their dear son to a new entrant into the family. The relationship between a mother-in-law and a girl starts on a very delicate footing. Ultimately, both parties will either work on developing a cordial relationship or live separately maintaining a healthy distance and transactional interaction only. It is better that the new bride uses her own intelligence rather than being governed by the remote control of her mother.
Interference is justified in cases where the girl is not able to manage things on her own due to abusive behavior of the husband and in-laws or other abnormal situations. If she is harassed for dowry, she has no recourse but to keep her parents informed. The mother’s should give a patient hearing if the children share their normal problems and issues but should refrain as much as possible from giving solutions or provocative suggestions. This will be in the best interests of the new couple.
Feel free to post your comments here or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.