Recently, 33-year-old pop singer Britney Spears made headlines after she broke up with her boyfriend, television producer Charlie Ebersol. Subsequently, reports revealed that after the split, the pop star’s father, Jamie Spears, asked her to stay single for at least six months. But just a few days later, Britney was spotted on a date with baseball player Charlie Morton, clearly ignoring her father’s advice. Apparently, this isn’t the first time Jamie has been involved in his daughter’s personal affairs.
Earlier this year, he had discouraged her from marrying Charlie (they didn’t get married eventually). In 2013, when she was dating David Lucado, he ran a background check on him, leading to several debates about how far is too far for parents, when it comes to meddling in their kids’ romantic lives.
Although, unlike the west, in India, many conservative parents don’t encourage conversations about their children’s relationships, experts say that the ones who do should know where to draw a line. Over-interference on the part of the parents, they add, can strain those familial bonds.
A case in point is Naman Suve’s (22) relationship. The engineering student used to communicate often with his parents, but since the age of 17, he has started keeping to himself. The reason is that his mother and father have repeatedly been reminding him, in the last few years, of “a few guidelines” with regards to who he should date. “They’re conservative, and have laid down a few guidelines about the kind of person I can go out with. They wanted me to date a girl of their choice,” says Naman. As a result, he has not informed his parents about his girlfriend, Suvarna Pandya (23), who he has been in love with for over two years now. “All hell will break loose if they ever get to know that the girl they meet casually during festivals is actually my girlfriend,” he adds.
Relationship expert Geetaanjali Saxena says, “People who face frequent interference from their parents tend to distance themselves because of the fear of their parents’ disapproval. Then, without realising it, just to fill the void that is created by that loneliness, they get into rebound relationships.”
On the flipside, those kids who are emotionally close to their parents might find themselves stressed, conflicted and even dependent in situations like these. Adds Saxena, “Relying entirely on your parents for relationship advice can make you dependent. You will turn to your parents for every decision, and after marriage you are bound to listen more to your parents than your spouse. You won’t develop your potential to make your own decisions.”
Last year, a study in the US concluded that couples’ relationships can indeed be jeopardised because of parents’ over-involvement. It found that “participants reporting higher levels of interference or lower levels of approval reported poorer relationship quality regardless of outcome measured”. They studied 396 people over a period of three to four months for this study.
Twenty-six-year-old banker Santosh Puri has actually ended up straining his relationship with his parents because of his involvement with Nitisha Agarwal (23), who works for an events management firm. Santosh’s father wants them to separate, because he feels they are not right for each other. “I give my parents a deaf ear whenever they start talking about my relationship. I’ve tried getting them to understand my point, but they don’t listen to me. I’ve not even decided to marry Nitisha, and they are already bothered about the expected consequences post-marriage,” he says.