I am a 25-year-old who is being forced to get married. My parents’ marriage is not a happy one. Since my childhood, I have been blamed by my mother for her fights with my father. I don’t get along well with her, as she has a cleanliness obsession and I being the opposite always end up fighting with her. Since I grew up witnessing their fights, I have completely lost my belief in the institution of marriage. This is the prime reason why I would prefer to stay single throughout my life.
Even when I imagine myself as somebody’s wife, I always get scared and wonder what if my marriage ends up like my parents’. I don’t want to take any step for which I have to go through the same pain once again.-
Answer by Zankhana Joshi:
Growing up in a conflicting and turbulent environment can be very stressful, that coupled with your strained relationship with your mother can make emotions very confusing and difficult. I am really sorry that you are in this situation but healing from this is possible.
Parental conflict is found to have a bigger impact on children, more so than even parent’s divorces. The environment becomes very volatile, toxic and unstable for the child. It leads to a lot of self-blame, followed by guilt and shame as they feel responsible for the parent’s conflict – they become anxious as they no longer know which of their actions will trigger a fight.
It gets worse when parents involve children in their conflicts. Where they blame the child, make them feel responsible or compel children to choose sides. Children love both the parents and having to choose one over the other creates dissonance and anxiety in their mind. Eventually, they get so tired that they keep only one strong relationship and sacrifice the other – this could have impacted your relationship with your mother.
Parents are so absorbed in their own difficulties that they fail to make the child feel fully secure and prioritized – the result we often see is that the child grows into the adult life with a basic mistrust towards everything in life. They stop depending on people outside, have diminished connections, lose the ability to have faith in anything or anybody and walk around like survivors who will only be able to make it by relying on themselves.
The psychological impact of this dysfunctional environment can vary from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, distancing from parents, less satisfying relationships, trust issues, and low frustration tolerances. Their experience may result is avoidant and commitment phobic personalities.
Your fears that you may end up in a similar marriage as your parents is not misplaced – we all experience an unconscious modeling of negative parental influences. These patterns are often buried, which only emerge later in your own marriage and often arise from unresolved issues with a parent.
Working on unresolved issues with the parents would be the first step towards healing. I would strongly urge you to seek help in a safe therapeutic environment. Try to reflect if you have gained anything positive from these experiences. Did it make you more resilient, independent or help you grow in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise. Parental legacies on your emotional, behavioral and mental life can be identified and resolved. Fears can be dispelled, hurts healed, anger released and life force reclaimed. Trust can be built, faith restored and forgiveness is given to help you build lasting and fulfilling relationships; help you reconnect with your parents and most importantly with your own self.
– Zankhana Joshi is a practicing counseling psychologist in Mumbai