Cunning Vietnamese parents cajole children into marriage

By Pham Nga   March 20, 2023 | 11:13 pm PT
Cunning Vietnamese parents cajole children into marriage
Many Vietnamese parents push their children to get married when their children reach "marrying age" but still remain single. Illustration photo by Pexels
Nguyen Thi Hoa from northern Ninh Binh Province became impatient when her 33-year-old son and 28-year-old daughter still had yet to marry.

They were single, and there wasn’t even the hope of a spouse on the horizon.

So tiger mom Hoa took matters into her own hands and began trying all sorts of clever methods and creative ways to find partners for her children.

Hoa, 55, said her son Phuc has a stable job, a good income, bought a house and a car, but his love life was not good. Her daughter Hanh is also pretty, but she hasn’t brought a single man home to meet the family. Hoa has gone to the temples many times to pray to the gods that her children will find the right match.

"My husband and I are getting older day by day and we just want our child to settle down soon," Hoa said. Every time the children come back, Hoa urged them to get married, but nothing changed.

La Linh Nga, director of the Hanoi Center for Research and Applied Psychology Education, said many parents are worried and impatient when their children reach "marrying age" but still remain single.

"Parents push their children to get married because they think it's a natural thing. However, some people worry too much about this conception," Nga said.

This year, Hoa decided to do a ritual that involves sprinkling rice and salt and burning special votive papers to chase away her children’s bad luck and attract love toward them. To please their mother, Phuc and Hanh followed Hoa’s ritual.

"I told my mother that it takes a long time to find happiness, but she was eager and impatient," Hanh said.

A screenshot of a video that shows Nguyen Thi Hoas son doing a ritual to attract love

A screenshot of a video that shows Nguyen Thi Hoa's son doing a ritual to attract love.

Minh Thuy, 30, from My Duc District, Hanoi, has a mother who asks her every single day if she has a lover yet or not.

"Sometimes I get angry and tell her to stop asking because I cannot find a partner in just a day or two," Thuy said.

On Lunar New Year (Tet), she texted her mother Bich Hang that she's coming home for the holiday, but the 50-year-old coldly replied: "If you can't bring anyone home, you don’t have to come."

When Thuy didn’t go home, Hang had to ease the tension by telling her that she won’t interfere in her daughter’s love life anymore.

However, it didn’t stop there. Thuy’s brother told her that Hang used her shirt for a ritual at the temple twice. The first time cost VND30 million ($1,272) and the second time VND50 million ($2,120), which equals nearly half her annual salary.

"The money that my mother saved up for my wedding is now used for rituals," Thuy said.

After Tet, Hang asked Thuy to go to another ritual and this one also cost dozens of millions VND.

To find a partner for her daughter, Hoang Hong Thu, 60, from Ba Dinh District, Hanoi was even more extreme. Besides performing rituals, whenever Thu meets a guy around the same age as her daughter, she asks for their phone number or social media and then sends the info to her daughter, demanding that she contact these strangers.

Thu has also posted on dating columns, and signed up for matchmaking services in the hope of finding a partner for her daughter.

"Getting married is as important as education. When you get older, no one is going to notice you," she told Bich Ha, her 30-year-old daughter who is studying in Netherlands.

Last year, Thu planned to match Ha with her friend's nephew. During the summer, the nephew returned to Vietnam. Thu pretended to be sick and texted her daughter to fly back to Vietnam urgently. Ha tried to get her mother on video call, but Thu said she was too tired to talk. Ha had to take days off and flew back.

When Ha came back home, she was stunned to see that her mother was not only healthy but also excited about matching her with the friend’s nephew.

"This guy is one year older than you, also studying abroad, handsome and has a decent family. If you marry him, you don't have to worry about anything," Thu told her daughter.

The mindset and actions of these mothers reflect Vietnam’s massive generation gap when it comes to matrimonial culture. The previous generations got married and settled down before the age of 24. Young Vietnamese tend to get married later and prioritize spending time to develop themselves and build their career before marriage.

A survey on population change and family planning by the General Statistics Office in 2020 showed that the average Vietnamese marriage age has increased over the years, from 23.8 in 1989 to 25.7 in 2020.

According to the study, Vietnamese men used to get married at an average age of 24.4 in 1989, But by 2020 the average age had jumped to 27.9. In some big cities like HCMC, the number hovers around the age of 30.

The percentage of unmarried people in Vietnam has also increased rapidly, from 6.2% in 2004 to 10.1% in 2019.

Hang said her daughter hasn’t brought even one boyfriend home. When she was Thuy’s age, she already had two kids. But Thuy said she still wants to enjoy the single life.

"She told me that she doesn’t want to settle down yet. If she doesn’t want to get married at 30 years old then I don’t know when that will happen," Hang said.

Psychologists warned that being worried and urging people to get married won't solve anything. On the contrary, it can add much more stress to their lives.

"Many parents worry so much that they end up stressing their children out by constantly criticizing them for not going out and not taking care of themselves in order to attract a partner," Nga said.

Thuy lives just over 30 km from home but only returns once every few months because her mother’s constant pressure makes her feel uncomfortable.

"I can't talk to my mother for more than 10 minutes. Sometimes I want to open up, I want to vent, but no matter what the topic, eventually my mother will make it about marriage," Thuy said.

During Tet, Thuy stayed in her room most of the time and skipped many meals because she didn't want to meet people and relatives who were only going to ask her about marriage.

For Ha, after taking days off to fly back and then realizing that her mother Thu was lying to her, Ha then created an increasingly large amount of distance between herself and her mother as a way of setting a healthy boundary for herself.

"I love my mother, but she doesn't understand me, our opinions and mindset are too different," Ha said.

Psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam said that instead of urging children to get married, parents should sit down and talk to their children. They should explain to their child the importance of marriage in life.

According to the psychological development pyramid, the period of adulthood is from 18-35. The most important feature of this period is establishing intimate relationships with the opposite sex and building a career.

This is also the ideal time for women to give birth. By the age of 30, despite having a stable career, young people can easily fall into a state of loneliness, emptiness and anxiety without a romantic relationship.

"Parents should remember that children can decide what to do with their life. Parents should not and have no right to interfere in their decision." Tam said.

Even though Hanh and Phuc obediently followed their mother’s ritual, they no longer feel under pressure to get married.

"We told our mother to wait a little longer as we are still looking," Hanh said. "When we find the right person and feel ready, we will bring them home to our family."

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