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The matter of individual choice

The matter of individual choice
Highlights

The relationship between parents and children is bound by love. And, this affection, which is a natural emotion should not be mistaken for entitlement and it is wrong to exercise unwarranted control in the name of love.

The relationship between parents and children is bound by love. And, this affection, which is a natural emotion should not be mistaken for entitlement and it is wrong to exercise unwarranted control in the name of love. Our experts explore this important facet of individual choice and how in many families this freedom to choose is compromised

I am a 54 year old man. I have 2 daughters; one married and in the US. The other, doing her masters in the US, engaged to marry soon. I lost my wife to cancer 15 years ago. Since then, I have been a single parent to both my children. Many asked me to remarry but I was concerned that my daughters would not be happy with a step mother. Now they are settled. I live alone and am very lonely. I recently met an old high school classmate who is single. Our friendship has grown into deep affection over time. We decided to share a life together. My two daughters and my son-in- law are expressing severe objection. Am I wrong when I feel I would like to settle down with whatever life I have left and seek affection?

First let me congratulate you on being a wonderful father who has guided and cared for his daughters. It's not often that we see a father not remarry after the demise of his wife.I'm not discriminating here, but it's quite common in our society and culture to expect a woman to not remarry and care for her children. While a man is pressured into remarrying for both companionship and because a mother is important for the wellbeing of the children.

Being a single father and parent must have been difficult but definitely a pleasure too. And let me reiterate, from what you say, you have done a great job.

Now about wanting to settle down! I see nothing wrong with wanting a companion. The world will always have something to say about everything that happens around us. In this case, your world has always been your family. It must be hurtful to see your own misunderstand you. Don't be in a hurry to do anything. It might work to get your children to meet and socialise with your friend. All of you are adults and definitely an adult interaction might change the paradigm.

Since your daughter is in the US, maybe frequent video chats both with your daughter and son-in-law might break the ice and create a space of comfort. Reassure your children that while no one can take their mothers place, you are human too and would like to have a companion.

Your younger daughter is in India,maybe visiting her frequently, or calling her home and letting the ladies spend quality time together might create a better understanding between them. Please encourage your friend to take the initiative to call them and try and be a good friend. Please understand that your daughters love you very much, and are possessive about their father. So it is natural to dislike or be suspicious of the new entrant in your life.

Once reassured that the lady in your life is going to be a good companion to you and a good friend to them, may help them relent. My advice to you is to not hurry and take your time to acquaint your family to your friend. I'm sure it will work out.

I also suggest that if there are any financial settlements to make or arrange, talk about it to your family. Sometimes, financial issues can also cause relationships to suffer, so get that done with too.

Lastly, it might help if both of you took pre-marital therapy and counseling. Marrying late does have its perils and pitfalls and it's always good to start the new chapter in your life on a sure footing.

Good luck ! I wish you luck and every happiness.

- Dr Purnima Nagaraja, Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist.

I'm the only son of my parents. They have given me everything I could possibly want. I am 38 and yet to be married. My parents, particularly my mother feels marriage will change me and I will stop loving them. I have met a woman who I love dearly. I want to marry and settle down. My parents are refusing to entertain the idea, finding all kinds of faults in the girl. I'm frustrated.

On one side are my parents and my love for them,and on the other side,the lady I deeply love. What should I do?

Parenting is a delicate balance between being protective and guiding love, and trusting the choices that children make as they grow older. There are many times that parenting styles are so unique to humans alone and are also guided by the happenings of life events. You have waited for these many years to find your love, and as you are expressing your intent to settle down now, perhaps you did not feel this strongly before. This by itself gives an indication that you might have been quite careful and cautious in your choice making. It also shows that you would have been very conscious of the pros and cons.

As for your parents, specifically your mother, it is a strong, perhaps exaggerated form of love, that can be clouded by self-focus. Though it could be induced by fear of loneliness, these kind of dependences can sometimes form the gentle cage around a child clipping their wings towards independent flight. Being a single child and trying to fulfil the expectation of the parents is sometimes a lifetime task unless there is a conscious effort from both the sides.

You need to take a stance to reclaim your life. It is important for you to notice and convey that you are not disrespecting your parents' love for you or vice versa, when you find love.

Give assurance to your parents that you will continue to love them as a Son, but that your need for your personal life is equally important. Love is not a limited commodity, you can find a way to express it in a quality way, to all your loved ones. Gently nudge her to answer the questions

1. Is love as a son proven only if I sacrifice something?

2. Does it make you happy that I may simply lead a life alone?

3. What if I were a daughter? Would you have expected the same?

4. Is love limited?

It is important sometimes to ask some difficult questions to stir some thought process.

Do not carry these discussions or this worry into your relationship. The woman you love may unnecessarily develop negative bias about your mother and your relationship.

Be firm in your commitment to this relationship as you are of the age to do so. You need to ask yourself some questions as well.

1. Am I afraid to deal with the situation on hand and hence not taking a strong stance?

2. Am I hiding behind the expectations of somebody else to camouflage my fear?

3. Am I worried that my personal relationship could become as suffocating as my relationship with my parents?

Please check and then take a positive step towards the future that your love is offering. All the best!

- Dr Vasuprada Kartic, Anthroposophic counsellor and Psychotherapist.

- This feature is in support of 'Rotary Kshemam' initiative for safe and happy communities. Do you have any relationship-related queries or issues with your friends, loved ones or family? For informed advice by professionals, send in your questions to features.thehansindia@gmail.com.

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