An overwhelming majority of the counselling requests I receive deal with parents not allowing their children to get married to the guy/girl of their choice.
Picture this. Your daughter is approaching marriageable age. You’ve been thinking of starting to look for a suitable partner for her. She suddenly announces, “Hi mom/dad, meet my boyfriend X. We’ve known each other for three years and we feel we’re made for each other. I’m completely convinced he’s the one for me. You might get a bit worked up over his caste though. Think it over. We’re not in a hurry. We’ll get married only with your blessings.”
Your daughter’s “marriageable age bracket” has already started shrinking. You have to come to a decision fast. Generations of conditioning makes you feel anxious about giving your daughter up to a guy you haven’t chosen yourself. Add to that the beliefs you hold about the likely dangerous consequences of inter-caste marriages. Tell me honestly – do you feel gung-ho about your daughter’s marriage to such a stranger? We all know the answer.
Hence, the key to creating an environment more conducive to parental cooperation is not being a stranger. How do you do that? By building a rapport with your girlfriend’s parents over time. Always remember:
A rapport cannot be built in a day.
Here are some tips to cultivate a relationship with your girlfriend’s parents which would make to easier to get a “Yes” out of them when it comes to your marriage.
- Get introduced as a friend first: Start visiting her at her home as a friend. If that’s not possible, start as a part of a group of friends. The idea is to allow her parents to get to know you in a relaxed environment (without the pressures of a possibility of marriage). Continue this throughout the period of your courtship, such that it gives them ample time to know you and trust you. (I hope you’re not planning to get married before knowing each other at least for three years.)
- Spend time with them: If possible include them in your chat with your girlfriend from time to time (of course all the while appearing to be “friends” with her :D). Watch a movie together (of course the kind you can all appreciate ;)). No matter what they might show, parents always like to be included in children’s lives. If you come across as the type of friend who values elders and likes to spend time with them too, you’d have earned a lot of extra brownie points. That will make it easier for them to visualize you as a possible son-in-law later.
- Drop inhibitions: Stop thinking of them as “my girlfriend’s parents” when you interact with them. Think of them as a friend’s parents instead. Drop inhibitions, relax and be yourself. If you try too hard to impress them you’ll feel strained, under constant judgement (when you’re not) and will be unable to sustain the show for a long time. Do not approach the whole thing with the objective of impressing them but with that of familiarizing with them.
- What to talk: Whenever you’re having a chat with them, steer the conversation to a topic on which they’ve got a lot to say but you have very little. Like her mom’s childhood, her dad’s work, vintage movies etc. This will serve two purposes. First of all, good listeners are hard to come by and everyone loves them. The more you come across as one, the better for you. Secondly, you can’t afford any bad blood between you and them, and there are always chances of disagreement and tempers if you discuss something of mutual interest. You can avoid that by letting them speak about topics which you’re neutral on.
What are your stories of interactions with your girlfriend’s parents? Let me know by leaving a comment.