Allow Love to Bloom: 12 Sensible Reasons to have an Arranged Marriage.

by Vishnu on October 21, 2013

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 reaasons you shouldn’t have one either and that’s for a future post.

Did you have an arranged marriage? Would you be open to idea? Or would you rather be shackled and tossed into a shark-infested swimming pool? Let me know in the comments below.

{ 30 comments }

Anu October 21, 2013 at 6:30 am

Hi Vishu,

Enjoyed the post thoroughly. Let me begin by saying that mine is an arranged marriage(though I did know my husband and his family before we were married). I used to believe that arranged marriages were ridiculous but did go thro one myself to save myself from the melodrama that goes with doing anything against your parents wishes….BUT, as I’ve gotten older(ahem can’t believe I acknowledged that) I really think there is something to the tried and tested tradition of an arranged marriage. For all the reasons that you mentioned above and then some. In my experience, when love grows softly,slowly it grows strong.
But more than love vs arranged, I think it is how you approach your marriage that is most important.
Understand that you and your spouse will change over the years, know that you are not going to have the first years whirlwind love all through your life, it too will change…find happiness within yourself first, before demanding it from your marriage or anyone person or thing, and you should be good!

Vishnu October 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Anu, some great tips and real wisdom here! Especially in the last part where you say that it doesn’t matter if it’s love or arranged, it’s more of how you approach marriage in general. And finding happiness within you, instead of another person.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with arranged marriage (glad it worked out:) ) and glad you enjoyed the post too:)

Vidya Sury October 21, 2013 at 8:52 am

Interesting post, Vishnu. Oh yes, I come from the very culture of arranged marriages where the marriage is between families, including extended families. It does have its advantages. The family acts as a support system (in many senses of the word!). I met Sury through a matrimonial ad, we met and decided to get married eight months later. Then we involved our families. So – ultimately whether the marriage will work or not depends on a/him and her b/ how much influence the families are able to exert on the bride and groom. In our case, Sury is a bit of a rebel and believes that family shouldn’t interfere in anything that involves the two of us, because we are responsible and we should sort things out, when things turn sour.

That being said, it does feel good to have a family, but I too wouldn’t prefer they interfered in our relationship or mediated for us. Because ultimately it is our responsibility.

I enjoyed your post, Vishnu!
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Vishnu October 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Thanks Vidya. Thanks for sharing your experience. of how you met your husband. It sounds like you both decided first before allowing your families to decide:)

You make a good point that it doesn’t really matter about how involved families are but how NOT involved they are (how much influence they exert) And the less influence they have in the relationship, the better? I’m glad to hear of how you keep your families out of your relationship which is better for both of you. (and also for them:) )

Martha Orlando October 21, 2013 at 9:41 am

Such an interesting topic, Vishnu. Sorry to say, but had my parents arranged my marriage, I don’t think they would have chosen correctly. We see life differently and, while I love them both, my mom has been and always will be excessively controlling. Very hard growing up . . .
Yes, I did make some wedded blunders, for sure, but only have myself to blame.
Great post, my friend!
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Vishnu October 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

hey Martha, you make a good point in that in arranged marriages, we can hold our parents accountable and responsible for the success/failure of it. And maybe that’s why it’s not a good idea to have them help. If we go on it on our own, there is no one to blame but ourselves. Thanks for sharing your experience with your parents and glad to hear you chose yourself and made your own decisions:)

Balroop Singh October 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hi Vishnu….You have only painted the rosy picture of Arranged Marriages….it is not always the ‘bed of roses’ as you have made out to be in your witty style!
Though my marriage was arranged, without giving me a chance to meet the guy [and when I insisted on meeting him, I was told I couldn't say no!!] and I am glad I didn’t have a choice, even after meeting him once, in the glare of family members! I have been happily married for 36 years, I still have my doubts about arranged marriages being very successful.
Yes, it may become a bed of roses if you are ready to make sacrifices at each step, if you let the parents prevail over all your major decisions, if you think love grows with time[ which is more for the family and your own children] if you believe marriage is more essential for a settled life and is not for your own pleasure… It is quite difficult to quit such marriages as you are more bound by culture, traditions and decisions of your family. I have seen people dragging on…wishing to divorce but the anguish of displeasing their parents often holds them back.
Who would know better than you how girls get trapped in arranged marriages at a young age, not knowing what to do if it turns out to be unsuccessful! I know love marriages too meet the same fate, many times.
So marriage is more of a two way process, wherein both the partners should have mutual respect and freedom to live together happily, without any compulsions. It doesn’t matter whether it is arranged or love induced or a combination of both.
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Vishnu October 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Wise words, Balroop. I think I’m gathering a pretty good perspective here on the fact that it doesn’t matter how marriages get formed but what matters is what happens when two people get married.

Are they willing to sacrifice, be patient, compromise, have respect towards each other, be mindful of culture and traditions, etc.

From reading yours and other comments to this post, I get the feeling that the issue isn’t so much which marriage is better but how do we make marriage in general work? You’ve offered some excellent tips. Thanks for adding your perspective here and congrats on your successful and happy marriage :)

Sridevi October 21, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Hi Vishnu,

Nice post, though I am not a big fan of arranged marriage as mine didn’t work out but I echo almost all your points except for the love between two in an arranged marriage, I dont want to stereotype from my experience though!!!

Your post would help the younger generation to believe in arranged marriage and go for one…

Vishnu October 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Sridevi – thanks for sharing. I haven’t really made up my mind one way or the other but I think some of the other comments I’ve received to this post lead me to think that we should get beyond, love and arranged, and look at what makes a marriage work.

I’m not sure my post will help the younger generation – it might help a bunch of parents who are hell-bent on convincing their kids to marry someone they’ve picked. haha

Glad you liked it and thanks for contributing your comment.

Razwana October 22, 2013 at 12:42 am

Hah! Got the t-shirt AND the divorce papers! Love this post V – not at all what I was expecting!

In my view, arranged marriages do work, for those that want them. My bro had an arranged marriage and is doing well. I had one and it ended in tears. One of us was cut out for it, and the other …. well, she had other ideas!

The bonus is that the family stick by you no matter what. They have a vested interest in the marriage working since they helped bring it together. The flip side is that a couple should get this support no matter how they met, right?

But who am I to say what families should or shouldn’t do? WaddoIknow.
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Vishnu October 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm

hey Razwana – yeah, works for some, doesn’t for others.

The families can mostly be helpful til things go south or when families decide to get too involved. Sometimes they tend to ensure a marriage that doesn’t work still works so their reputations are protected and they feel no guilt for having set up a match that didn’t work.

richmiraclefiles October 22, 2013 at 3:20 am

Hi Vishnu,
That’s a veritable storm- in- a- teacup of a post!
Never knew folks thought sooo much about arranged marriages.
But i have to confess we all do go through our pendulum swings about arranged /non arranged when we are in the “zone” of marriage.
Marriage is actually at a deeper spiritual level,only a continuity of the contract you undertook in your previous lives.Hope that’s not another storm in the teacup again.
Harmony in life and peace of mind is an important aspect of married life.Not just the wedding day but the entire wedded life is intended to be a smooth sailing.Without rancour ,without the deep disagreements,without creeping suspicions.Its like two lost souls who come together for a short while and who need to discover their true purpose of meeting each other.
I have an arranged marriage,and i can say that marriages are decided in heaven and made on earth so the end result is harmony for those who want it and disharmony who dont work on it.I’m thankful for my marriage.
Harmony is the single most ingredient of marriage.nothing else matters.The mantra is humility , patience,and a prayer for both.
Thanks
Mona
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Vishnu October 25, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Yes, indeed marriage is decided in heaven and made on earth.

I think you’re right that you get out of marriage what you put into it. If you work on it, harmony will be the gift. Thank you for sharing the recipe for harmony – humility, patience and prayer.

Elle October 23, 2013 at 8:56 am

There were times where I laughed out loud at your tongue in cheek tone Vishnu. As SSS says, are you serious here?

Ultimately as with all things in life it’s about what we bring to the experience. Arranged marriage or not, if we have a boatload of rubbish we’re carrying around with us, it’s going to show up. Then it’s all about how we can grow individually and as a team as we deal with who we are and how together we can create the best relationship possible. Or not!
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Vishnu October 25, 2013 at 6:01 pm

hey Elle – trying to keep you all guessing:) with the humor.

Yes, it’s not how we end up to the party, it’s how we do when we get there. How can we create the best relationship possible in marriage is a better question than which marriage is better. Thanks for your insight and perspective here.

Hiten October 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Hi Vishnu,

This was a fantastic post with some great humour in it. I think I’ll most likely have an arranged marriage. Your post reminded me of a friend who went to India to get married. He saw about 200 girls in about 3 weeks! Once he had selected his wife, his family did a detective type investigation to ensure she was truly suitable and compatible.

Thank you.
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Vishnu October 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Hiten, please please don’t tell me I convinced you to have an arranged marriage. I better write the post that says run for your life and away from arranged marriages as quick as you can. haha

Of course, you know best what’s going to work for you and I’m sure will do so with wisdom and awareness.

A detective type investigation ?!? Hilarious and I’m sure all South Asians will get it. Thanks for your comments Hiten.

Sandra Pawula October 24, 2013 at 12:50 am

It’s hard to tell which parts of your article are serious and which are not! I don’t believe in arranged marriages although I’m sure some have worked out gloriously.
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Vishnu October 25, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I try to keep you guessing, Sandra. I think it is a mostly serious post but when trying to explain it to others, it sounds a little on the unbelievable and over the top funny side! Thanks for your perspective – there have been a lot of successful and not so successful ones also.

Wendy Irene October 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I thought the free babysitting part and brainwashing your children was so funny, lol! I think this would sound familiar in any culture.
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Vishnu October 25, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Yes, the babysitting is free and the brainwashing is free too, Wendy:) Glad you had a good laugh and thanks for your comments.

Janet October 27, 2013 at 7:50 am

epic article, V! I love it. and as always, love the interaction in the comments too. As iffy as I am about marriage, I actually think arranged marriages work. Something about it.. Maybe it’s the cultural thing and how different cultures value marriage.. but it just seems to WORK… a lot better than when two people choose marriage and then end up divorced half the time! i’m now left with a crazy decision to move in w/ someone i’ve been dating for only two weeks and it would normally sound crazy, but when you think about it in relation to arranged marriage, how crazy can it be? ;P
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Vishnu November 3, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Thanks for dropping by. wait, you think arranged marriages work? What? !? but not regular marriages? lol

I think there are a lot of benefits to an arranged marriage because you have an entire research department trying to figure out every aspect of compatibility. Your family and parents get very involved.

In your case, although it’s only been two weeks, you can do your own research into your beau’s life, family, finances, web browser history, credit history, etc etc. Kidding J :) ! (somewhat lol)

Steve October 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm

My marriage wasn’t arranged, but I’ve been fascinated with how they work. Like I didn’t know that financial detectives were employed to make sure that side of the person was in order. So I’m guessing a full background check is performed? I would assume so since the decision to back a particular person would have to be done quite carefully.

Something I was exposed to by my future in-laws was something kind of like a survey. My wife and I had to take a questionnaire about our values and viewpoints and a bunch of other concerns. My in-laws sent it in to get evaluated and we matched almost perfectly on everything. We matched 100% in some categories. It was useful in that we got to see the areas that might be a concern.

I may not have had an arranged marriage, but I can see how input from parents can be useful. That was my experience anyway.
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Vishnu November 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Steve – there aren’t financially detectives per se. lol but more questioning, interrogation and gossip. Like all communities, word gets around pretty quick and everyone knows everything about each other. So it’s not so much as professional financial trackers like the IRS employs but an informal family based nosy neighbor policy that unearths such facts as financial status and real estate acquisitions.

Sounds like you had a feel of your in-laws getting involved with your marriage and doing a values-based matching system. Once again, I think this is done also in the Indian community but without the formality of a questionnaire or survey. Gossip, rumors and insider information about each other’s families usually gets the job done:)

Thanks for your visit and adding to the conversation Steve!

Dave Arnold October 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Really great post Vishnu. Although I’m a Westerner, I’ve worked with – and know -
many from the East and, some, in fact, had arranged marriages. My wife & I never official dates; we had a courtship because we lives across the country from each other. But that was good because it allowed me to get to know her parents. I then asked her father for his daughters hand. Sorry to hear about your divorce. I so appreciate your insight & perspective.
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Vishnu November 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences Dave and glad to hear you’re familiar with the topic. Sounds like you didn’t have quite an arranged marriage but had a chance to know your wife and her parents before proposing. Sounds like that’s a recipe for success.

John Vespasian October 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm

The arguments in the article do not make any sense to me. The article implies that a third person is able to decide what is best for you much better than yourself. If you extrapolate this principle to other areas of life, this would mean that you should delegate all your professional, business, or investment decisions to someone else. It does not take long to see what the result would be. A well-written article, even if I disagree with its ideas.
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Vishnu November 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog, John. YOu pretty much got it right – a third person does the research and makes the proposal to you. It’s sort of like having your own research department or like vetting a judge for a presidential appointment :) Being from the culture, I’m not sure if I can say it makes complete sense or not but I know it’s practiced and I know there are lots of success stories.

And in the other contexts you describe, we often to farm out or delegate duties we are unfamiliar with to other professionals. For example, taxes to accountants, legal issues to attorneys, etc. They all come back to us with advice which we can act upon.

I’m not so much advocating for arranged marriages as pointing out the benefits I see in it. I’ll definitely add your thoughts to the counter-post on why people must be nuts for having an arranged marriage :)

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