My own experience with arranged marriage wasn’t quite arranged. By parents. Or family.
Maybe it was arranged by the Gods. Or the Internet. Or the Internet Gods.
Sure, my former wife and I shared the same cultural traditions, spoke the same language and came from the same community in South India.
Although it felt a whole lot like an arranged marriage because we had so much in common, ultimately it was one of our choosing.
We had met each other from across the globe thanks to the power of an online community.
We talked, romanced and wooed each other. We thought we had outsmarted the traditional Indian marriage and found true love.
We married and lived happily ever…
Well, we lived happily. For some time.
Marriage didn’t turn out as we had imagined. Unlike the passionate world-wide initial romance which catapulted us to our wedding day, our relationship fizzled to a melodramatic and sad end.
The separation was fast. The divorce was straightforward.
Although the paperwork was easy, the emotional pain of divorce was probably more painful than having a truck run over me a few times. Greater than through a field of thorny roses.
If I had written this post ten years ago, I would have argued vigorously against an arranged marriage and advised anyone who was considering one to visit a shrink. A really good one.
But eight years of married life plus two years of post-divorce life plus observations about marital success in several cultures are factors that lead me to question if arranged marriages are the way to go.
What is an arranged marriage?
Arranged marriages are essentially fixed or set-up marriages by parents and family of the bride and groom. Practiced throughout the east, arranged marriages can range from formal arrangements by family members of the bride and groom to informal introductions.
Generations ago, brides and grooms would be arranged to be married by their families with little or no say. Sometimes the bride and groom would not even see each other until the wedding day!
But the arranged marriage of today allows for a brief courting period and hell, even input and approval by the boy and girl!
Today’s brides and grooms can either give a thumbs up or down to their future mate, similar to a Facebook “like”.
While this post isn’t for everyone, there are probably many of you out there (in or originally from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and other parts of Asia and Africa) who will face the prospects of an arranged marriage.
If you’re a white dude in the United States, U.K or Australia, please do not email me asking how to have your nuptials arranged. Instead read my earlier post on why you’re likely not a suitable match for an arranged marriage.
For the rest of you, here are 12 reasons why your arranged marriage can be like a bed of roses:
1) A family affair. You don’t have to worry about how your spouse is going to turn out. You’ll know he’s compatible because your family does a thorough police-worthy background check on his family, their personalities, their mental health issues and how they interact with other families.
You family also hires a financial detective also check out his family’s stock portfolios and real estate holdings! J
2) Shared values. Families tend to pick spouses based on shared values. So you can bet your roti, the guy you’re marrying cares about education, financial stability and maintaining religious and cultural traditions.
He, ok fine – his family, also values gold and diamonds which they intend to shower you with for the rest of your life. Score!
3) Love blooms. You may not fall madly in love, but you can be ready to love a life that’s comfortable, stable and enduring.
There’s something endearing about a love that lasts. I’ve noticed the longer arranged marriage couples are married, the stronger their love and affection for each other tends to be.
Also, it is likely this relationship is the first real relationship both parties have had. When you don’t have anyone else to compare to, the person you’re marrying can seem like an exquisite Rugosa rose.
4) No need to wait forever for that perfect suitor who may never materialize.
As Tracy Macmillan has mentioned in the case of love marriages, many women don’t get married because they’re looking for all kinds of shallow qualities in men.
She says that the only quality that should matter is character. Because men of character commit to marriages, and often, for the long-term!
In arranged marriages, the character research is done early and extensively. Once a potential bride or groom passes the character test, families are usually pretty flexible on most other issues.
(And it goes without saying of course, people of good character live in palatial homes and sport Versace exclusively)
5) Parents screen for deal-breakers.
Having your parental units make early decisions, they can see what the potential pitfalls and problems may be with your future partner, as this New York Times article points out.
“They’re trying to figure out whether something could go wrong that could drive people apart,” Dr. Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavior Research and Technology in Vista, California says.
Your parents essentially become troubleshooters before the match is made knowing innately if your personalities, lifestyles and families would suit each other.
6) Parent approved and endorsed. Your parents intend to spend a significant amount of time with your soon-to-be spouse which only means additional consideration, reflection and improved selection.
If they can’t stand being around him for hours (months) at a time, you are definitely not going to enjoy spending time with your parents and husband.
Since he’s going to spend family holidays and gatherings with you, might as well find someone who is family approved and endorsed.
7) A solid foundation. Families look out for those things that will stick in the long run – earning capacity and professional and career potential. Sure this may be on the duller side of things to young people but if you’re being practical, money matters.
The more you have of it and the more your future husband earns, the better off you are.
Oh, and let’s just say your in-laws want to move in with you in their old age, they’d like to know you’re going to be able to financially support them.
8) Takes the guesswork out of dating. Online browsing. Lunch dates. Whacky set-up by friends and blind dates. Who needs it?
You don’t have to ask too many questions or guess what matters to your future partner.
With similar cultural backgrounds and values, YOU KNOW you’re going to get married, have a couple of kids, raise a family and send your kids to
professional medical school where they can earn well and take care of you in your old age.
Simple. No blood needs to be shed if everyone does their part.
9) Spend more time wedding planning. It goes without saying, but if you don’t have to spend all of your time dating and working on your relationship, you can spend all your time planning your elaborate three to seven day wedding.
Don’t worry about the small details about your future love and relationship. The research on your future spouse is more solid than research done by Consumer Reports or Harvard research labs.
Focus on what really matters in life: sending out hundreds of wedding invitations to people you don’t know and have never heard of, selecting the bedazzling jewelry and foraging the sari shops for the overly-priced silk wedding wear you’ll be dazzling everyone with on your wedding day.
10) Family gets in your business. You may hate the thought of your family in your business, but if you’re of South Asian or Indian descent, it’s a fact of life.
If you haven’t accepted it, you’re probably spending time in a far away ashram or have lost all communication and contact with your family. You’re probably in the family witness protection program.
Along with family comes accountability and support.
When your parents are involved in your dating life, they’ll be there as a backup support system in case you need counseling, unwanted advice or a kick in the rear.
If one of you is acting silly or foolish, your family can put you in a headlock and emotionally blackmail you to your senses.
They’re most likely your neighbors or live just down the block from you for unwanted and intrusive visits.
11) Your parents pick up the wedding tab. Yes, the wedding is stressful, doesn’t feel like your own and will be as chaotic as a three ring circus but what are family occasions for after all?
You’ll want to choke your parents and lock up your relatives but your big day will only be filled with hugs, kisses and lot of good cheer.
Usually, regardless of how horrible, chaotic or dangerous the wedding is, the wedding tab will be picked up by one or both sets of parents.
You can save up for that big 60th birthday party your parents plan to have down the road where you can gift your Mom with a Debeers diamond necklace or your Dad with a Porsche Carrera. (or, more likely, a Toyota Camry).
12) Less confusion for your children. With such strong cultural and traditional values in place, you will usually get free baby-sitting which will allow your parents to inculcate your children with eastern values and traditions.
With that free babysitting and brainwashing, your children come to think all this arranged marriage rituals are normal. They’ll be heirs to two parents who speak the same language, practice the same religion and follow all the same traditions.
You won’t have to spend much time explaining different holidays to your kids or spending money for gifts for two different sets of holidays.
Traditions, culture, religion, practices, marriages, rituals, career and professional expectations are all in place for them.
You just sit back to collect the big bucks. And harass them as they’re growing up when and if bizarre thoughts like ‘love’ marriages starts entering their minds.
Hmmm. Love marriages. Who could possibly ever think of such a far-fetched cockamamie idea?
And of course, my views may be a little skewed. There are horrible stories out there of arranged marriages gone wrong.
In fact, if my marriage had been more of an arranged affair, I’d probably be writing to you to run for your life from arranged marriages. Simply, because it didn’t work out.
But I’m going to give it you straight. There are many positive reasons to have your marriage arranged. There’s probably 1001 reasons you shouldn’t have one either and that’s for a future post.