Monday, 2 August 2010

Loosening the reins

When I was young, it was still the custom for couples to get their parents' approval before they got married or engaged. Nowadays that would be considered laughable.

In the fifties and sixties, some parents would resort to anything to keep their beloved offspring out of the clutches of someone they deemed unsuitable - even locking them in the house. And in those days even smoking the odd joint or liking Mick Jagger could qualify as unsuitable.

There would be furious arguments between teenagers and parents about the freedom to choose your own girlfriend or boyfriend, and parents would claim the final say in the matter.

Thankfully that's all changed and most parents no longer assume the right to interfere in their children's relationships. They believe it's their children's decision, and if they make mistakes, then it's just a question of trying again with someone else. No big deal, and it's unlikely to ruin anyone's life.

Even cohabitation, which was still quite rare when I was growing up, is now considered not only totally normal but like marriage a matter for the couple and nobody else.

But some parents still try to influence their children's choices. They're convinced a relationship can only end in disaster and they have a duty to cut it short, even at the risk of their child snubbing them instead.

They object that the girlfriend or boyfriend is the wrong class, the wrong colour, a spendthrift or just a permanent loser. They think their child is too naive, too besotted, too young, too mixed-up. Their judgment is not to be trusted.

They still can't accept that their children have to make up their own minds and determine their own lives. They can't accept that the most unlikely relationships can prosper and survive despite everyone else's doubts. They can't quite cut the apron strings.

16 comments:

Baino said...

How times have changed. I remember my Ray doing the right thing, no matter how embarrassing. Mine? Well I'm fortunate, my son's choice of wife is perfect, my daughter? Well I'm working on an arranged marriage without her knowing hahaha . .have the perfect guy just need to get them together. And quietly, no man is good enough for your daughter . . and few women good enough for your son.

Nick said...

Baino - I can imagine that, who could possibly be good enough for your wonderful daughter/son? It must be hard to accept that their choice makes sense to them even if doesn't to you.

Rummuser said...

In India, things are vastly different Nick. Though change is taking place, for the vast majority of Indian youngsters, mixing with the other sex, other than close relatives, is still taboo and any breach can result in serious injury or even death as I had written about in my post on honour killings. Parents still arrange marriages! Living together, one hears of it in the major cities, but in other places, impossible.

Nick said...

Ramana - Yes, I should have noted that it's not the same in other countries with different cultures and religions. And of course for followers of certain religions within the UK. I can't imagine who I would have ended up with if my own parents had arranged my marriage....

secret agent woman said...

When I moved in with my boyfriend (later husband) more than 20 years ago, my grandmother groused that he was only after one thing. I asked her how she knew I wasn't only after one thing. But she learned to accept it and I still think it was a good idea. I would surely support my kids in a decision to live with the person they loved rather than marrying hastily.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Hasty marriages are an interesting topic on their own. Is it a bun in the oven, not wanting to be lonely, peer pressure, wanting the spectacle of a white wedding? Marry in haste, repent at leisure....

kylie said...

cant comment on this one, nick but dont stop visiting me, huh?

Nick said...

Kylie - If I really knew you, I would know you have fairly strong opinions about suitable marriage partners....

Scarlet Blue said...

Men and women should be kept segregated until they know their own minds.... that'll be till they're eighty then.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Indeed, do we ever really know our own minds about anything? Or do we just stumble from thing to thing, frantically rationalising what we're doing with semi-plausible bunkum?

tattytiara said...

I keep thinking my parents would be amazed to meet my boyfriend. Nobody ever seemed to get that actually I'm attracted to stereotypical nice, clean cut guys, them included.

Nick said...

Tattytiara - They were presumably terrified you were going to fall for some boozy, chain-smoking rebel. Parents sometimes have little faith in their children's common sense.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I firmly believe that I wouldn't have made as many relationship mistakes as I did if my parents had not been such absolute control freaks.

Nick said...

Heart - I'm sure that's true. They must have greatly undermined your self-confidence and ability to work out for yourself who was a promising partner.

Terra Shield said...

Asian parents are still like that... they intervene, which causes some strain in an otherwise normal relationship between their kid and his/her prospective partner :(

Nick said...

Terra - I'm sure "some strain" is a bit of an understatement! I've known situations where parents and in-laws are permanently at daggers-drawn!