I’m a 25-year-old woman from a very traditional family. My older sister recently passed away suddenly from a rare disorder.
Earlier this year, I’d moved out of my parents' home to avoid having to marry a stranger from the same religious community. My dad wouldn’t take No for an answer.
I got a job and a place to live and left without telling my family. I felt guilty and afraid but it’s gotten easier.
After my sister's death, I learned that my parents had withheld her health information from me. Despite this, my dad thinks I'm selfish for not having visited more while she was ill.
I stayed with family for a couple of weeks and returned to my secret place. My dad’s convinced I’m dating someone. He’s wrong.
I'm trying to surmount childhood issues and decide what kind of future I want. My parents want me back home and since my work’s remote, I could spend more time with my mom and brother.
I’ve learned that living independently requires a lot of secrecy and distrust.
Religion and arranged marriage are huge issues constantly raised. My dad said he won't pressure me to marry, but he repeatedly mentions men for that purpose.
He pressured my sister into marriage years ago and it turned out badly, yet nothing could stop the process.
I’d accept being with someone from the same religious/griefcultural background who’s also not so serious about upholding the practices.
But I hate doing something that’d bring me closer to my dad. He repulses me, even in our shared grief.
He’s cried and begged me to move back. But he’s such a toxic presence. Toward the end of my sister's life, he was still blaming her for not making her marriage work with the abusive guy he chose. He never stood up for her.
I just wish I could be more involved with my mother and brother without it backfiring on me. And I wish my dad wasn't making it a thousand times harder to deal with my sister's death.
You’re dealing with several very serious issues - grief over your sister’s death, anger and resentment regarding your father, loss of connection with your mother and brother, and loneliness.
It’s too much to handle by only deciding whether to move back or stay on your own.
One thing’s certain... from your account, you can’t trust your father not to somehow push you into a marriage of his choosing.
Meanwhile, you have the opportunity to get objective guidance and support from a grief counselor (available online) who’s not directly associated with your parents’ community.
That doesn’t mean that your religious/cultural values don’t matter. But you do need some distance from pressure about it, while you mourn your sister.
If possible, keep in touch with your mom and brother without disclosing your address.
Stay self-protective. Remember, your father believes strongly that he’s doing the right thing for you... just as he felt about your sister’s marriage.
Once you feel strong enough to insist that you’ll one day choose your own partner - possibly someone within the community but whom you find yourself - that’s when it’s time to be more open.
Till then, be careful. He fervently believes it’s his duty to “protect” you by marrying you off to someone within the belief and cultural system he’s been raised himself. To him, it’s the backbone of generations of family life. Somehow, you have to show him that you can handle living with your own choices.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding seeking a biological mother (Oct. 11):
“She should ask herself what outcome she’s seeking. She’s had loving adoptive parents and stepmom, happy marriage and her own family.
“I, too, was adopted as a baby. The non-identifying information I’d obtained didn’t provide the health information I was seeking. I also wanted to express gratitude to my birth mother for her decision to carry me to term so I could be adopted by my loving parents.
“Finally, my birth mother and I contacted each other directly. I didn’t want to meet, because I already had a family. She understood that.
“She hadn’t told anyone that she’d had a child out of wedlock. Her husband (my birth father!) was deceased by this time, but her children reacted positively.
“One tried to meet me, but I felt she’d be looking for a sister, and that’s not me. Shared genes don’t create a family.”
Tip of the day:
Even religious/cultural communities appreciate love marriages chosen by the bride and groom.