Parenting includes consciously helping children grow into happy, wholesome and secure individuals. Individuals, who can extend themselves in relationships, and share their lives harmoniously and lovingly with their life partners. But more often than not, parents inadvertently raise their children to be selfish, suspicious and insecure. They do so by often modelling such traits themselves, and sometimes even consciously and verbally teaching them to distrust or disregard their spouse.
Avantika had issues with her husband from the day of their wedding because her mother had ‘warned’ her about her in-laws grabbing the wedding gifts that were ‘rightfully’ hers. Her in-laws had no such intention and had even specified ‘no gifts’ in their invitation. In spite of this, Avantika grilled her husband on the wedding day about the ‘evil intent’ of his parents.
The seed of suspicion planted by her mother became a full-fledged paranoia in her. And she started levelling baseless accusations against her husband and his family. Soon, the marriage went downhill with her asking him to choose between her and his family. He chose his family and they got a divorce.
Today, she is living in a women’s hostel feeling abandoned—her parents asked her to live on her own as according to them the divorce was ‘her decision’. <?p>
Her mother has no insight into the role she played in ruining her daughter’s chance at a happy marital life. Avantika’s realisation in hindsight cannot get her back the affection of her ex-husband and the warmth of her in-laws who had welcomed her as their son’s life partner. She regrets getting carried away by her mother’s suspiciousness.
Sympathy and support
Sometimes parents are insecure themselves, either because of an unhappy marriage, or the fear of ageing and sickness, or financial concerns. In doing so, they do not realise that in the attempt of securing themselves, they keep their children from having happy and well-adjusted lives with their spouses. Like in the case of Rajesh.
Being the only son Rajesh’s mother banked on him for support when his father dominated her. In return, she looked after his every need. Rajesh became starkly aware of this unspoken pact between his mother and himself after marriage, when his wife told him to ‘grow up’ and stop acting like an overgrown kid who wanted to be humoured and pampered at all times. He also felt unreasonable guilt pangs on taking time out for his wife.
All this slowly contaminated his marriage, as he spent much of his time listening to the woes of his mother and comforting her. It took a major showdown between the young couple. Couple’s counselling [suggested by friends] helped Rajesh realise that it was time for him to build his own nest with his wife, and allow his mother to find resources other than him to cope with her life.
Over-protective parents stunt their childrens’ psychological growth. Their constant support and bending over backwards to re-arrange the world for the comfort of their child suggest that they do not have faith in their child to be able to tap into his inner resources to help himself. Children of such parents lack faith in themselves and their own capabilities. They continue to be anxious about growing up, fearful of life in general and remain psychologically dependent on their parents.
‘Papa’s girls’ and ‘Mama’s boys’ remain psychologically immature. They keep turning to their parents for every problem including problems in their marriage expecting them to ‘fix’ things as always.
If the parents continue to ‘fix’ everything for their children, including their intimate relationships, children never mature. They never learn the art of sustaining warm, nurturing and loving relationships on their own. They then find themselves ill-equipped and anxious in their marriages and might even resign to remaining in less than mediocre and unfulfilling relationships.
Sachin was an only child. His doting parents took care of all his material needs and fought all his battles for him. He had extremely low frustration tolerance and turned to them at the slightest inkling of problems. He never turned within to stretch himself in any area of life.
His rigid and inflexible ways continued even after marriage. His wife too was immature. Conflicts became an everyday affair between them, and they sought counselling on his parents’ insistence as a last ditch effort to ‘fix’ things for him. After counselling, he realised that even though he had now learned to stretch and extend himself, the basic difference in core values was so wide that he and his wife could never be happy together.
His parents’ over-protectiveness and making life ‘easy’ for him at all times, had left him ill-equipped to think in his own interest. He couldn’t choose wisely, make confident decisions and take action to live a fulfilling and happy life.
Some parents interfere with sensitive issues in their married children’s lives such as their sexual relationships with their partners. This can only spell doom for the marriage of their children, as no son-in-law or daughter-in-law can accept such interference.
Veena was dissatisfied with the reduced intimacy with her husband, who worked in a call centre. This left her increasingly frustrated. She unwittingly vented her frustration with her parents, and that was the beginning of the end of her marriage. Her mother confronted her son-in-law. She accused him of hiding his ‘sexual weakness’.
Being perfectly potent, this allegation was unacceptable to Veena’s husband. The bitterness between Veena and him increased so much that he broke off all communication with her and they ultimately separated legally.
Parents often subtly influence their children by showing their disapproval when they don’t get their way with their children’s spouses. This creates disharmony between couples. When parents expect their children’s partners to fall in line with their valid or invalid demands, they sow the seed of trouble between the couple and create a rift between them. As the children pressure their spouses to please their parents and get their approval, marriages start crumbling under such pressures.
Dev and Nisha were contemplating a separation because Nisha insisted that Dev attend all social functions of her extended family. She also insisted that as a sign of respect, he make regular phone calls to enquire about her parents’ wellbeing. Her parents would voice their disapproval if Dev did not do the ‘respectful’ thing.
Moreover, Nisha worked with her father and got a handsome salary, which was more then what Dev was making in his business. Nisha felt they ‘owed’ her parents this ‘show of respect’ as the more than generous salary helped them financially. This mounted more pressure on Dev.
Dev wanted to be able to decide the extent of socialisation with her parents. He did not want to feel obliged to make frequent courtesy calls. Nisha’s loyalties were stretched as she felt caught between her parents and her spouse. In the battle between daughter and wife, the daughter won and the marriage ended.
A word of advice for parents
Parental agendas and anxieties can ruin a child’s marriage. If parents cannot free their children to be happy and give happiness to their spouses, they have failed in their role as parents. It is their moral duty to model genuinely mutually respectful relationships as a couple for their children. And raise them as caring and compassionate individuals, who can nurture themselves as well as others.