THE BLOG

The Effects of Dating Pressure From Parents

12/03/2014 13:51 GMT | Updated 12/05/2014 10:59 BST

Do you ever find yourself sitting around the dinner table with your parents while they ask yet again if you have met anyone special? Or do they drop not so subtle comments about hoping to be a grandparent before they die?

Most parents, whether they admit it or not, hope to see their children happy - and for most of them happy means settled with a partner they approve of and maybe the sounds of wedding bells and the pitter patter of tiny feet in the not too distant future.

Geographic Differences

Pressure from parents varies from country to country according to cultural norms and it is particularly rife in China, where many women may have the latest designer handbags and a better education than ever before but they are single. Many of these 'shengnv' - or 'leftover women'- are often only children and feel so pressurised by their parents to settle down that they pay men to pose as their boyfriends. Along with Christmas and New Year, the Lunar New Year, which is also the longest public holiday in China, the business of renting boyfriends is booming, with the single women paying a fee and also funding accomodation and travel.

In Shanghai's People's Square Park there is also a weekend "marriage market", where thousands of middle-aged parents flock to look at rows of adverts, hoping to find their child a suitable spouse. Their aim is a simple one: these parents want their children to marry before many of them feel ready to do so. And it's not just parents, even the government are keen for these women to get married because the one child policy has left 20 million more men than women under the age of 30.

In places like India, the situation is also complicated, with tradition and pressure from the older generation on their children to have arranged marriages, valuing social status, property and social connections above love. Many arranged marriages also take place when both parties, especially the women, are very young. However, the younger population have been affected by the media and want to go on dates, fall in love and then get married, in that order. The debate is endless with both sides producing convincing arguments.

Here in the UK, the situation is less extreme but many of our members tell us that they feel the pressure from their families to date and eventually settle down.

The Right Choice?

As well as dating and being seen to be actively looking for love, parents also have a big say when it comes to whether your partner is right for you, especially if you are a girl. Even in countries like the UK where most parents hold no control over the children's choices, they often clash over love.

A recent study published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour, scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Groningen evaluated this phenomenon. The reason for the arguments is a primal one and apparently, is rooted in the genes. The researchers found that parents invest more resources in a daughter whose partner is hard up or not caring enough, which leads to conflict. As a result, girls evolve to exploit this allocation by choosing a man who is not in the parents' best interests, so she will benefit from more help. This in turn then leads to conflict.

In another study in this country last year, one in five parents admitted they have secretly tried to rid their children of a girlfriend or boyfriend of whom they disapprove. Common tactics included stirring up arguments between them, not passing on messages, banning them from seeing each other and confiscating or hiding mobile phones.

One in three mothers admitted they had battled to split their child up from someone they considered "not good enough" - and succeeded. Other reasons for taking a dislike included them having a bad reputation, not liking their family, or the fact they came from the wrong area.

Dealing With Pressure

My advice when it comes to dealing with pushy parents is to make it clear you're not willing to settle for second best. Given the high divorce rates - with the latest statistics in 2013 showing that 42 per cent of marriages don't last - make it clear you want to get it right the first time round.

Another key aim is to be active in your dating life. Don't wait for Mr and Mrs Right to turn up on your doorstep: seek them out yourself and put yourself back into control. Finally, be positive and don't let the pressure get to you. Your decision about a potential life partner needs to be a confident one that you have given lots of time to, rather than caving in under pressure from elsewhere. It's always worth remembering that the end goal is the same for both parties: for you to be happy.

Brett Harding is the Co-founder of Lovestruck.com and thankfully for him, his parents have always been pretty relaxed when it comes to his dating life.