Our Discussions

Parents' Pressure to Prevent a Marriage
1 (a daughter)
i am a 20+ year old who was born and raised in Austria- both parents are iranian, old fashioned and closed minded. last year i met the perfect iranian guy - he proposed and i said yes. he came round and ask my parents for my hand - they agreed - sounds like a happy story doesn't it... but then it all went wrong.
my mum decided not to like him anymore for stupid reasons - such as why isn't the diamond as big as hers. (just for the books it was a very nice ring from tiffany's - not that bad really.) i love him and am sooooo happy wiht him
now she is claiming to kill herself, dis-own me etc if i marry him. the problem is that she has become ill over it had a break down and has gone mad. i have tryed to get friends and other members of the family involved and begged for their help - but all i hear is how can you do this and if anything happens to her then the blood is on your hands.
anyway the problem still remains - no one is willing to help and i don't know what else to do - i used to be very close to my mum but now i hate going to visit them. (thanks God i live on my own)
please help me.... i am very desperate
2 (a madar)
This does not sound like a complete story to me. How did she met this person? What is her Dad's position? Does she have any sister and brother, what do they think about this? Does she have any relative on her site? What does she believe is the reason for her parent not liking the guy (besides the size of the diamond)? Are they upset that she has to come to US? I think there is much more to it than what she is just telling us.
3 (a madar)
I don't think if the details of the story are important. I think there is a complete picture of extreme parents' pressure on a 22-yr old duaghter and all the family members expect the daughter to give in to her parents' pressure simply because of our culture!
I don't think if knowing the details will enable us to decide who is right. and even if we do, it will not help the young woman. the fact is that the mother thinks she is right, and the daughter thinks she is right. but who should make the final decision? and what price is each side is willing to pay to enforce her decision?
I think the daughter is asking us how she can enforce her decision without paying a too heavy price for it?
p.s. I also would like to hear about subtle ways to resist the parents pressure such that relationships and their feelings are not hurt. I may benefit from the techniques, too:) yes, I do still experience my parents' pressue in many ways... the details are not that important, the important thing is that I will always be their child and they expect me to listen to them no matter how old I am! I think the WORST part is that I DO feel guilty about displeasing them even though they don't threaten me... I wonder if it is me or this "guilty" feeling is a cultural thing??? is it a good thing that arises from love and sense of resposibility, or it is abusive for grown-up children? ... ??
4 (a madar)
this may sound very cruel since i am a mom myself too. the bottom line is my opinion is , and this is coming from a personal experience when my two cousins were in love and both set of parents were against this marriage expecially the girl's side. but i guess always the love wins. they fought and screamed and hit and made a big big mess but at the end they got married and both parents had to come to terms on their own that these tow youngesters were in love. it was very hard at the begining, even after they were married they pulled many tricks to separate them but they grew closer and closer because of it. (like the hiding the passport of this girl ) so what i am getting at is that TIME and time will solve this mother's issue . after they will be together and she will witness their happiness she will be happy for them.besides the fact that may be she is having some emotional problems of her own and this matter just made her situation worse. thanks
5 (a madar)
I had the same reactions from my mom when I wanted to marry a guy who was a politcal prisoner at the time with an unknown future!!! I was about your age. I stayed faithful to my love until he was released after several years and we were married. my mom and other members of the family did their best to match me with well-educated, rich guys when he was behind the bars. but I was stuborn and I won! and guess what: my mom did NOT die, and now my husband and my family have a good relationship:)
6 (a pedar)
From what you are saying your father is not much involved in this mess, is he? I think you have to get him involved.
my impression however is that you a communication problem. the most civilized manner that you could handle this mess is that you ask you mom and your dad to set aside a time where you can talk to both of them in a calm environment. then ask why she does not agree with you marring him. ask them not to use any adjectives which usually make the water muddy, and also ask them to be specific and concise. do that before your official meeting. so that they are given enough time to think about what they want to say. set the time,i.e., 15 minutes or one hour, or whatever, but make sure they know that you don't have a whole day; and that you are seeking a peaceful and respectful solution. get yourself a pen and paper and write down all her (them) concerns, regardless of the importance, just jot them down.
Please please make sure you are calm. this will increase your authority as someone who knows what she wants. (you have to show them that by acting right).
once they are done with their reasoning, see if any of what they are saying is directed to your status as being able to have a better life. if you find something that has to do with their social standards and has nothing to do with your safety, well being, progress, happiness and a promesing future for you, then you can just cross it out of the list. remember you have to protect your rights as a free human being. if you find out that they are treating you as a means to promote their own social status, you have no obligation to respect the demands. personally, I love to see that list. because from what you are saying is really hard to figure out their (her) points of view.
the bottom line is that you have to be able to control your life. this does not necessarily mean that you have to be rebellious or have to accomodate your parents. the hardest part is to be able to really hear what they are saying. see if you are their concern. if this is the case then I think you owe your parents maybe more reasoning and justification of why you think you'll be a happy person with your crucial choice. if on the other hand you find yourself out of their equation, then you have all the rights to make your chioces, and ignore all the manipulations and ...
if you can get a list of their demand and expectations you have accomplished what one the hardest tasks in your life. But you know you have to be able to communicate with them in a civilized manner.
at the end I want to congratulate you for being such a person who does not want to make easy chioces and is trying hard to find a common ground with your parents.
Good luck!
7 (a pedar)
Please suggest to her to make an appointment with competent threapiest(one with speciality on immigrant background) who has expreince with immigrant issues,(in U.S. there are a lot) and really can help her to arrive at a right decision, after all it is a life and future here at stake!, although we like soap operas(part of our "culture") I don't think we are professional and capable to disccuse this.
8 (the daughter #1 )
In reply to a question of why my mum doesn't want me to marry him.... I really don't know - the reasons she is giving me are all financial - but the ironic thing is that he very financially comfortable!!!!
Thanks very much for your help. Just one more question - how shall I actually carry this through eg run away to the US, get married on the quiet etc?
can i also add that i do have brothers and sisters - but noone is willing to help or listen to me because my mum has such authority in our family. My dad says he doesn't agree with what she is doing - but says that it is out of him hands and she has become uncontrolable - but when he speaks to her he says that he agrees with everything that she is saying - don't know who to trust or what to believe.
Thanks for your time and efforts.
With Love
9 (a mother)
I am an American and therefore maybe not the best to provide advice, but my mother was also very good at putting guilt on me to make me behave how she considered proper. I was about 25 before I finally resolved the situation and was able to both be independent and keep on good terms with my mother.
I would suggest you talk with her as calmly as possible. If indeed the only objections she is raising are financial, it seems to me her true problem may be that she realized you would move out of the U.K., and therefore would be separated from her. My mother had a very difficult time with the idea that I was marrying someone who might take me to another country (Iran) and then not only would she see me infrequently but also she wouldn't be able to see for herself that I was happy and well-treated.
If you can calm the situation, maybe your fiance could visit the U.K. again. She may just need to know him better to be reassured. I don't recommend your coming to the U.S. alone to see him, either. It would be much better if you could bring your mother or at least a sister. It never hurts to be sure, and remember that you've only seen him in your world. He may be a different person in his world. You may be a different person in his world, too.
Also, remain calm but firm. Don't do anything you'll regret later just to assert your independence; I dated a jerk for 2 years just because my mother was throwing a fit! What a way to convince her I was all grown up and capable! Listen to her fears and concerns and truly consider whether they have any foundation. Let her and the rest of your family know that you love them and you respect their feelings. Don't invite opinions only to disagree with them. If you show your maturity and wisdom, chances are your family will respect that. After you've calmed the situation down and reassured them that you are not making a terrible decision, then perhaps you can convince them that you are capable of making decisions for yourself.
Good luck.
10 (a madar)
With all respect, from what we know that you have shared with us, in my humble opinion, you are not ready for marriage, I believe that a 22-years old individual should have a separate and somewhat independent character from her/his original family. I think you have been led and controlled by your parents (mostly mom) and by marrying anyone, your choice or hers, she (your mom) will be replaced with your spouse, even if your partner to be is not a controlling person, most likely you will develop this negative quality in him! To me, you do not have fundamental disagreement with your mom, the size of stone is acceptable to you, it is not to her! Financial status is reasonable to you, it is not to her! I think you should first enable yourself to take the control and responsibility of your life, then marriage will have a different meaning to you which goes beyond stone size and bank statements.
I wish you best of luck in dealing with this issue, I hope you can succeed in establishing a loving relationship with your mom which is based on mutual relationship.
11 (a madar)
A suggestion to a woman in love:
First of all, you're not alone. There are Iranian mothers everywhere who are at this moment threatening to kill themselves and having breakdowns over this very same issue. They are ghar with their daughters or their sons, and have manipulated everyone else to their side.
Women from traditional cultures (especially the Iranian and the Italian) have learned, through lives of little power, that the most efficient way to get what they want is to become sick. Men have a really hard time dealing with women in tears, on bed rest, or in straight jackets. These women don't always know that they're being manipulative; they may actually be sick, but the truth is, THEY DON'T HAVE TO BE. This is an adult tantrum.
I don't know how old you are, what your experiences in life have been, or how mature you are. These are important factors. I don't know if your fiance is a serial killer, street bum, or a very nice guy with a good job and a true heart. But, judging from your message, I'd bet you are sweet, kind, and no dummy, wanting to make the right decision.
Let's face it, it's likely that you'll spend most of the rest of your life without your parents, that is, if you want a family of your own. And believe me, the gratification of having a family of your own will be no match for playing the obeying daughter. If your Mum was thinking clearly, I'm sure she would agree. I think you're Mum's got cold feet, suddenly afraid of letting you go, especially if it means sending you off to the States. It's HER issue, not yours. And NOTHING about it is your responsibility. She's doing this to herself; YOU are NOT doing it to HER.
We Iranian women are taught, from childhood, that we must feel responsible for other people's feelings -- that if people are hostile or overly-forward or hurt or depressed around us, we can do something to rectify their feelings. It's simply not true. It took me more than thirty years to understand this and several more to be able to change my attitude and make decisions for what was best for me and my future.
If you believe that this marriage is the right thing for you, then do it. Do it now. Suggest that your Mom visit a therapist (which she won't, but you never know) and tell your parents that you want them in your life, you love them, but you're mature enough to make your own decisions. Remind them that they blessed this marriage in the first place, and they must act like adults and honor their word. Don't argue about the ring -- believe me, it will never be big enough. Neither will your house or your car or your backyard. Be calm. Don't let them suck you in to the guilt machine -- it'll grind you to death. Insist on having your passport back, and if they refuse, get a new one. Tell them -- and this might turn your mother around -- that you intend to marry this good man, and that if they don't go along, you'll elope and there will be no big wedding (she might not want to pass that up). Tell them that they have made you very sad -- use some of their medicine on them -- and that you wish they would be a part of this very exciting part of your life.
And remember, when you have an Iranian mother, nothing goes smoothly around wedding time.
Good luck.
Here's an addendum to my previous email on this subject. I hadn't yet read the young woman's second message.
It seems that you, and everyone else, knows that your mother likes "control". Not uncommon. But remember, when everyone in the household is duplicitous in allowing her to continue holding her position -- either out of guilt or, in the case of your father, mere exhaustion at opposing her -- it is best for you to stop turning to the others for advice and help. They have all spent a lifetime adapting to the bad habit of acquiescing to your mother's wishes. They can't help you, even if they want to. They will merely confuse you. And it seems that you already know what you want.
I neglected to say, in my last message, that, whatever you decide to do, your life will be miserable for a while. You will feel guilty and sad and scared. Accept those feelings and move forward. Eventually, your mother will come around. It make take a long time, but she will not be able to expel you from her life completely. Oh, and by the way, she will never say she is sorry or admit that she was wrong, not even if you manage to put a dent in her resolve when you tell her you are leaving. At this time in your life, you think of yourself, because in so doing, you gain some of the independence you need to be a grown woman, a wife, a mother. Your mother should want this for you, but her emotions are getting in the way.
12 (daughter #1)
I just wanted to say thank you to the lady that wrote the message #11 - she made a lot of sense and everything she said was soooo true.
I have read that message over and over again and I am so glad I wrote in to you for your help because I have really been guilded and the response has been fantastic.
Please thank that lady and I will keep you posted if there is any progress.
13 (a pedar)
I am an Iranian-American father, in my forties, and I will start by saying that At the end,YOU must decide.
However, as a person that was in a similar situation many years ago (I was the guy, and her parents wanted her to marry someone that they had chosen), I can tell you that running away, eloping or getting married without the consent of your family will not make a good, healthy and happy marriage. Mine endured for ten years and finally the house of cards came crashing down. So I speak from first hand experience, without prejudice.
My advice is for YOU to exercise patience and understanding. There is no need to rush these things. You mentioned in your note that you really don't know why your mom is against your planned marriage. You also mentioned that none of your siblings are supporting you. In my opinion, it is of utmost importance for you to know what your mom's true objections are and why your siblings are also in disagreement with you. ( I can understand that they may not support you openly because they are "afraid" of mom, but what do they say privately?) I suggest that you ask sit down with your parents and discuss the issue. Not an argument of who's right and who's wrong, but a real discussion of understanding what the issues are. You obviously know your reasons, but listen and try to get to her real reasons. Is she worried about loosing you? Is she not happy with him or his family? Was she ever OK with you getting married with your fiance? Or, is she upset that she is being left out of her dreams? If the ring was bigger (!), would she be supportive? The getting sick and threats of suicide are "acts or tantrums" which you must pass over and get to the real issue.
It's also good to ask yourself some questions ahead of your discussion with your parents so that you can answer their concerns. "Love is Blind." Are you making your decisions because you don't want to give in to your parents? Or, are you truly going to be happy in USA with your fiance? Have you ever lived away from your parents? These are all issues that whether you like them or not they will come into play in your life. May be not immediately, but they will, in time. People need to have a support system in times of crisis. The natural support system for most of us, is the immediate family. If you do not include them in your decision and cut them out, they will always be against your marriage. Although the natural answer in your situation may be: "So what! I can't wait to get away from them!", believe me, there will be crisis in your marriage and you will use your "support system". If your family is for your marriage, they will always support you and help you find the way to work things out. If they are not in support of your marriage, they will end up adding fuel to every fire in your life.
Your mother's anger and tantrum is real. Although you are not, and I repeat, you are not responsible for her anger, you can help get to the root of that anger. Not knowing your situation, she may simply be upset that you are making decisions on your own! Not a reasonable thing from your view. But for a controlling mother, a very real issue. She needs to come to grips that you are an adult and can make decisions for your life. Let her know that even if she thinks you are making a mistake, it is your decision and you want her support. Mothers sometimes feel they are "loosing" their loved one to someone else. Reassuring her that you love her and you will love her despite all the hoopla may help. However, let her know that in the end YOU will make YOUR decision after you have listened to their concerns.
A marriage, specially for an Iranian, is a family affair. Everyone wants to be a part of it. Your marriage also is the instrument of bonding your family with your fiance's family. The idea of running away and doing what you want to do may be appealing now, even may be suggested by some. However, let's not forget that a marriage is the beginning and not an end. Although you will live far away from your family, the bond is there. There will be phone calls, e-mails, sharing photos. There will be holidays, your children's birthdays, vacations, your siblings weddings. There will be many many other occasions when you will want to be with your family along with your husband. He (your future husband) needs to be welcomed into your family from the start. Unless you are prepared to cut yourself off from your family, I suggest that you take some time and get things worked out.
On the lighter side. Sometimes life situations are like the flu. You can take all the drugs and remedies available and force the flu away in seven days. Or, you can rest in bed and the flu will go away in a week. :-)
My suggestion is to patiently work on turning your mom around. The dividends will be tremendous. How does your fiance feel about this? This may be the first "family issue" the two of you have to face and work out to an acceptable solution with peace.
Good Luck, and any way you decide, let us know your decision.
14 (a madar)
I agree with pedar # 13, marriage is a family affair.
Whatever you do don't exclude them from your wedding. your family won't ever forgive you for that and his family won't have much respect for you.They might think that you are too young and not mature enough to make the right decision. Running away does not prove that they are wrong. To have a successful marriage you have to learn patience and compromise, start practicing now. if you really love each other waitting a little bit won't kill you.
Make sure that you want this marriage because of all the right reasons and not for "lajbazi".
concentrate on who you are and who he is and what you both want in life , don't do anything in spite of your mother.
I lived in London before I got married and moving to America and living so faraway from them was a genuine concern of my mother.
Take Care And be Happy
15 (an American teacher, male)
There are just too many facets to the story to say anything.
Remember: In Iran, the mother is the lord and master of the house
What you have here is a lose-lose situation. Both are right and wrong at the same time. There is nothing cultural about this, it is found in every nation. You have the youngster making the decision on her own to marry. At first the mother thought it was a good idea-then she began to get other opinions from her friends who were probably saying "How could you let her make that choice? It is YOUR responsibility to find her mate! How do you know what he really is? After all, he's an AMERICAN (with all that goes along with that!) And of course, worst of all, is that the young man didn't make his intentions known to the family before he asked her to marry him.
So you see what a rats nest of problems she is going up against? What you need is for the young man to go through the back door. Go to England and talk to the father and have the father introduce the idea to the mother. Maybe even talk to the siblings......in other words, kiss up to the family so that they begin to think that it was THEIR idea for them to wed.
That's a shot from the hip.
The daughter can't win. Culturally, she cannot elope. If she does something stupid like that and deprives her mother of the wedding, that's the end of her relationship with her entire family, extended and otherwise.
in answer to madar # 3:
You will always feel a bit guilty about going against your parents wishes. After all, they raised you with their ideals and you will always have that within you. Watch when your mother wants to get involved with your children.....Then is when you'll begin to feel the pressure. But you must remember, your culture is your heritage, and you have moved on to a new life as an American. So enjoy the best of both worlds, and pay homage to your mother while you enjoy your new freedom. Unless you wear the chador, you have already found the freedom that most Iranian women lost in 1979.
The question about abuse is moot. You and your mother (spiritually) are life givers, with that, comes the extension of protection and wanting to protect your children. Think of it that way and you'll know how to live your live.
16 (a web visitor, male)
First of all i want to make a point in regards to whom and where our loyalties stand in life, death and love.
We are humans with intellect and morals. We don't follow culture or its silly man made practices. Anyone who is sane and wise will know this fact. However, most of the time (parents more often) due to their own way of thinking and cultural practices want us to let go of reason and our rights as humans, especially when it comes to marraige.
Many perants would try to convice their children of their experiences in life after failing to make a logical case for their actions and decisions in order to justify themselves.
Human experiences are not universal and not a criteria for justifying what is right and what is wrong.
I think you should decide for yourself and act upon your own wisdom and seek religion as yoru guide so that your marriage would be a happy one. Islam allows for freedom of choosing who your marriage partner should be as long as he/she is muslim.
16 (a pedar)
Doostan Salam,

The problem of peer pressure for our children is just as paramount as it is for us adults. In the same manner that we handle peer pressure, the kids should be taught to handle the peer pressure, by improving their self confidence through strong system of values and knowledge. The absence of proper teaching of values and lack of proper knowledge for any kid would create a vacum in the kids apetite for understanding between right and wrong. The kids appetite for learning new experiences and developing a sense of values, is like a container; the more we fill it with good stuff the less room it has for other stuff. If we provide the light the darkness is therefore non-existance. The kids acceptance of negative values and yeilding to undesired peer pressure, is a result of insufficient care and inapropriate attention to the kid from the parents through ages between 4 and 12.

Please send your replies and/or opinions regarding this subject to madar-pedar@surya.eecs.berkeley.edu.

Back to madar-pedar