Conversations Before Marriage: We have had many conversations on what is the right age to get married. But why don’t we talk about the right mindset with which a woman should marry?
It is no hidden fact that many women are raised to fit into the narrow definition of a good bahu even if that means giving up their dreams, ambitions and agency. “Pati parmeshvar", "thoda bardasht krna padta hai", "nibhana padega” women are indoctrinated with these regressive ideas by their mothers to sustain their marriage. But this is a patriarchal conception of marriage in which a woman’s choices, agency and freedom are controlled by her husband and in-laws. If women marry with this mindset, can they ever be happy? Is it not important for women to unlearn their gendered upbringing before getting married so that marriage would mean equality and happiness and not servility? In other words, marriage can be beautiful if women (and men too ) are taught about equal relationships, mutual respect and the importance of self-respect. Since mothers impose some of the major patriarchal conditionings on daughters, they should be the one who should help them unlearn. So here are some conversations before marriage that a mother should have with her daughter before getting her married
Mother-Daughter Conversations Before Marriage
1. A good relationship is based on equality and mutual respect
Every discussion on marriage begins with the idea that women must compromise and sacrifice to have a happy marriage. Dear mothers, please stop telling your daughters that marriage is all about one-sided sacrifices and compromises. Do not force them to internalise that a woman alone is responsible to sustain a marriage. Rather, dear mothers, teach your daughters that marriage is about love, equality and mutual respect. It is a bond of two people and both of them have to be equally invested in sustaining the marriage.
2. Bad marriages exist
In our society, the idea of a bad marriage is unacceptable. It is believed that if a couple gets married once, morality is in sustaining it forever. And it is immoral to seek a divorce, especially when it is initiated by a woman.
Dear mothers teach your daughters to not bear any injustice and enforcement in life. Tell them that some marriages might turn ugly, demand more sacrifice and obliterate a woman’s self-respect. And the right thing to do in that situation is to walk out. It is not her duty to sustain a marriage that cannot value her choices and existence. Teach your daughters to value their self-respect more than anything else and fight for it no matter who is on the other side of the battlefield. Normalise divorce and ensure them that you will be their support in every situation.
3. Consent is important
In our country, marital rape has not been declared a crime. The thought that goes behind this is that after marriage, a woman’s sexual consent either doesn’t matter or is always assumed to have been granted. Marriage is more about legitimising any sexual relationship between a man and a woman.
But dear mothers, teach your daughters the importance of consent even after marriage. Rather than expecting her to selflessly serve the sexual pleasures of her husband, teach her to have sexual agency. It is her right to deny or demand a sexual relationship with her husband. And if her right is infringed, encourage her to raise a voice and walk out of a toxic relationship.
4. Serve your in-laws but expect the same from your husband too
Dear mothers, it is good to teach your daughter to respect elders and in-laws. But also make her understand that husbands too should respect and take-care of his in-laws. Both husband and wife should share the caretaking responsibilities and take care of each other’s parents together. None of them should be forced to give up their careers because both husband and wife have the right to earn.
5. Do not give up your choices just because your in-laws asked you to
After marriage, many women are expected to make major changes in their life. They have to change their names, clothes, the city where they live and earn and sometimes their jobs too. At times, this is a compromise that women make willingly but simultaneously many forced to undergo these sacrifices in order to prove themselves as good wife and bahu.
Dear mothers teach your daughters to stand by their choices in every situation. Marriage doesn’t have the right to breach a woman’s privacy and control her personal choices. Tell your daughters that changes and compromises are a part of marriage. But these changes must not be based on gender. They shouldn’t affect a woman’s self-respect and should involve personal choice.
6. Motherhood is a choice
Dear mothers teach your daughters that motherhood is a choice and not an obligation. No woman should undergo the mental and physical strain of pregnancy just because her in-laws are pressurising her. It is her body and only she can decide whether she wants to be a mother or not. Tell your daughters that it is okay to value career and dreams more than motherhood. It is okay to delay motherhood, adopt a child, abort a foetus or never have one.
7.Housework and Parenting is not your responsibility alone
Indian daughters are expected to ask the recipe from her mother on her pehli rasoi at her marital house. But why aren't they encouraged to question the gender inequality in housework? So dear mothers, rather than training your daughters to make the perfect roti and sweet kheer, make them understand that housework is not the woman's responsibility alone. She has got to earn too! Men also should pitch in and divide the housework. Same goes with home parenting too. Mothers should tell their daughters that if they choose to be a mother, the responsibility of raising the kid is not the daughters' alone. Rather than sacrificing jobs, demand the fathers to share the parenting responsibility.
8. Marry the person you love, not the gender, caste or class
Marriage in our society is a legitimisation of heteronormativity and caste division. A woman is expected to marry a man of her caste and religion, love and personal choice rarely matter. But dear mothers, tell your daughters to marry the person she loves irrespective of gender, caste or religion. Encourage your daughters to believe in love and freedom and not in society’s conventions. And ensure them that you will support every decision that they make.
9. Marriage is a choice, not enforcement
Lastly, teach your daughters that marriage is a choice and only women can decide whether they want to get married or not. Neither parents nor society and its conventions has the right to enforce marriage as a goal in women’s lives. Encourage your daughters to be single and happy if that is what she really wants in her life.
10. Be the role model of a feminist married woman
Children learn by noticing and imitating the actions of their parents. So if you want your daughter to be a feminist married woman, be one yourself. Give her the example of a married woman who is happy in her marriage, who doesn’t let anyone dictate her choices and has the will to raise her voice against any injustice meted out to her. Many mothers themselves face domestic violence and remain silent rather than opposing it. And the daughters either inherit this silence or develop a fear of marriage. Such mothers must unlearn their patriarchal conditioning and use their experiences as an eye-opener for their daughters. Make them believe that marriage is synonymous to equality and happiness and not sacrifice and silence.