I am an Indian girl, 21. I just completed my graduation and am awaiting the exam results. My parents want me to marry a rich guy I don’t even know. But I am not ready for this marriage thing. I am not mentally prepared for this, and I don’t feel I am at the right age for marriage.
I tried to convince them, but my father is not listening. He just wants to marry me to a rich fellow. I don’t know what to do. I am really depressed. Please help.
Ami, in a letter to her niece, Jane Austin wrote that “anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection.” We agree.
But you need to be smart about this. You need to be grown-up about this. You have to make the better argument. Examine your father’s motives in trying to arrange this marriage. Does he want status? Additional wealth? Prestige? Whatever it is, your arguments have to overpower and outweigh his.
“I don’t wanna” is the argument a 6-year-old might use. Adult arguments lay claim to a higher ground. They sound like this.
Parental rights are not property rights. Human beings are not to be bred like cattle because that demeans them. One adult does not have a moral right to control another adult in this matter. Forcing a woman to marry a man she doesn’t know and doesn’t want is tantamount to violating that woman.
Tell your father, as an adult, you are obligated to speak the truth, and coercing you into a loveless marriage shows he lacks compassion for you. If there is a religious authority or someone else your father respects who might take your side, by all means enlist them.
You are in a horrifying situation, not because you have done anything wrong, but because someone else wants to use you and your life to their ends. There is a strong moral argument against that. Like the conscription of child soldiers and the sale of young girls for sex, forcing you into a marriage denies your inherent dignity as a person, and it violates what should be your right to decide.
But don’t act out of panic or desperation. That may cause you to do something which won’t help. Use your brain and review your options. If you say no, what will happen? Can you support yourself? Do you have a place to go? Will you be safe if you resist?
If it’s not safe to leave and you have no place to go, you may have to consider subterfuge or passive resistance. The silent treatment, abstaining from food, eating too much, not bathing and cutting off your hair are all options.
If you have no other power, what can you get away with? If there is an opportunity to meet the prospective groom, you can be mean to him, tell him you don’t want to marry him, refuse to speak to him or give him dirty looks. Or, as Jane Austin advised her niece, “…whenever you are together behave with a coldness which may convince him that he has been deceiving himself.”
In the past arranged marriage depended on two things. Young people had no access to another way, and social pressure could be used to bring them into line. Not going along meant losing your family and place in society forever. But today freedom and self-determination are seen as higher values.
Your final alternative is to simply say no. There is no appeal from no. But whatever you say, however you act, you must do it with conviction. Keep your goal uppermost in mind: I do not want to be married off now to someone I do not love.
As you consider your options, rule out anything which threatens your physical safety. Rule out doing any harm to yourself which is permanent and irreversible.
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of July 14, 2014
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