We all hear the horror stories of young women forced into loveless arranged marriages by their families and unfortunately this does happen but that is only one aspect of arranged marriage, albeit a very unpleasant aspect.
When I came to the Middle East almost 3 years ago, with my 40 year old independent career women “these poor oppressed women” attitude, I quickly found that what I believed to be the truth was in fact just a very one sided opinion led by the media.
I have met many women here that are in arranged marriages, often with their cousins. Whilst it is only true and fair to say some are utterly miserable, virtual slaves in their own homes, they are in my experience the minority.
Most of the women I meet are perfectly happy with their marriage, more so than most Western women I know. Why should this be?
Let’s have a quick look at the process of arranging a marriage over here (that is one arranged for the interests of the couple and not for the interests of the families).
1. A young man will choose someone he is considering for a wife and will inform his family.
2. His family will go to great lengths to find out everything they can about her and her family.
3. If his family approve of his choice in the first instance he will approach the brother/cousin/uncle (but rarely the father) of the proposed bride to be.
4. They will inform the girls family who will look into the proposed grooms background, family and future prospects.
5. At this stage the families get together and discuss the proposed marriage and whether they all feel this is the right marriage for both bride and groom.
6. If everyone, including the bride and groom, is in agreement then the engagement is announced.
This is all assuming that they have not lived 3 streets apart all of their lives and already know everything there is to know about each other, which is more often than not the case.
Ok so it all sounds a little clinical but think about it, the families are not looking through loves young rose tinted glasses, they don’t have hormones raging through their veins and aren’t in the slightest bit concerned whether he’s a good kisser.
Their focus has been on long term compatibility and whether they believe the marriage can survive. Are they of equal intelligence, is she religiously pious but he gets drunk every weekend, are they financially able to start a marriage or family, do they have similar goals in life? All these questions and many more are taken into account to assess whether a marriage between them is viable or simply an infatuation that will quickly fade.
Divorce statistics for the UK show that the highest rates are among people in their 20’s, who have no doubt leapt into an unsuitable union due to infatuation. The stats also show that many divorces occur within the first 2 years of marriage when the initial lust wears thin.
So maybe there is something we can learn. I’m not suggesting we get our families together and go through each others background with a fine tooth comb but a degree of removing the rose tinted glasses and looking at the practicalities of life before marriage may save many people from heartache in the future.