Ask Sahaj: My parents are ‘obsessing’ over who I marry


Q: I’m a 25-year-old second generation Indian American. My dad is a doctor, and my sister is a gynecologist, who married a pediatrician at age 30. My mom wanted me to go into medicine as well, but I rebelled and now work as a computer engineer with great work-life balance in another state. My mother rejected my wants and needs initially, but eventually came to terms with it.

Now my parents are obsessing over me finding a partner to settle down with, specifically someone who works in medicine, is Indian, and is of a certain faith. While I’ve been putting myself out there, the city I live in does not have a large South Asian population. My parents have hinted that when I turn 27, they will look into getting a marriage broker from India to set something up.

I love my current job and the work I do. I bought a house here with the intention of planting roots, and could see myself spending the rest of my life here. However, with the stress of trying to find someone to date for marriage, I’m considering moving somewhere with a larger South Asian population just to give myself a shot before I’m forced into an arranged marriage. With the specific demands my mother has, I don’t have a ton of hope of being able to find a partner in my current city. What do I do?

– Struggling

A: One of the biggest questions I have after reading your question is: Do you want to find a serious relationship or get married? You discuss this issue solely from the pressure you are absorbing from your parents.

It’s clear how eagerly you want to make your parents happy, but you are navigating a conflict of values – loyalty to your parents and happiness in your current life. I can sense how much tension this has created for you.

It’s hard to be the “first” to do things in your family, and you are pushing the envelope by teaching your parents that there is a different way to live. It seems like they came around to respect your career, so there’s evidence that they can be swayed and do, in fact, want you to be happy.

If you are struggling to meet people (and want to), you can ask friends to set you up. You can also consider certain dating apps that are specifically for South Asians and Indians. You could widen your settings to include other locations before deciding to move. This may help you explore what the prospects are like in other cities without making an impulsive decision that may not lead to your ideal outcome.

I encourage you to differentiate what you want from what your parents want. Hypothetically, if your parents weren’t pressuring you, what would be your ideal goals, values, and relationship needs? This may feel uncomfortable to explore, but it separates what is expected of you from what you actually want. Once you do that, you may feel better-equipped to start identifying your non-negotiables from what you’re willing to accept and do.

Regardless, it might be worth having a more vulnerable conversation with your parents about their expectations and about how they’re impacting you. Often, parents do want the best for their kid, but from what I’ve observed in my work, immigrant parents may have to be convinced that we can make these choices for ourselves.

Your parents sound like they are coming from a frame of reference that is limited to what they have known in their own lives and circles. So, to them, being a doctor or being married to a doctor may be the only way to be financially secure. Or, being married by 30 is the only way to guarantee finding an acceptable partner. Or, marrying within your race, culture, and faith is the only way to maintain connections to your cultural roots. It’s important for you to confront these fears to move the conversation in a different direction.

There’s no easy answer here, but you wrote in because you are stuck, and the only way to get unstuck is to excavate a bit deeper to what you really want, what you’re scared will happen if you speak up for it, and what this might mean for your relationship with your parents.

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Sahaj Kaur Kohli. Photo Twitter @SahajKohli

Sahaj Kaur Kohli is a mental health professional and the creator of Brown Girl Therapy.





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