Can we learn anything from arranged marriages?

Tue, Jun 10, 2008

Dating Advice, Marriage

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.

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Dating Advice, Marriage, Relationships

5 Responses to “Can we learn anything from arranged marriages?”

  1. Srinidhi (1 comments.) Says:

    You are right all arranged marriages are not oppressive… You must go to India and see this concept at work… and believe me you will return enlightened…

  2. Sally Says:

    Thank you for your comment Srinidhi, it is certainly easy to be led by the media and I agree to see whether something like this works or not you have to go to a country where it is practiced with large success for most.

  3. Erik Says:

    Hi Sally, Basil Brush from Country Couples here. I also have been deluded by the biased western views on arranged marriages. Thanks for helping to provide a more balanced point of view. With regard to young UK people in failing marriages, I always liked the pre-christian pagan system in which they had handfastings, which is a trial marriage lasting one year so that you can test it before entering into permanent commitment. This was one of the main purposes of the May festival, to marry people until the next May festival, at which point they could either part or repeat the ceremony for permanent marriage. The Victorian period did not offer any flexibility but these days people are in a way imitating handfasting with cohabitation, where they live together for a while before deciding to get married. Arranged marriage is likely to result in a properly matched couple, but if you choose your own partner then getting married without going through at least 1-2 years of domestic life and sex life first is asking for trouble.

  4. Sally Says:

    Hi Erik, how did the pagan system view women who were no longer virgins? I just wonder if the man got to say ‘tried that, now where’s the next one’ and the girl is left without being able to find a new husband or if they were more flexible about such things.

    The trouble with going through 1-2 years of domestic life first is any resulting children, of course modern day contraception may deal with most of that but I really think we have lost the commitment angle, even in my mothers day you got married and then worked damned hard to make a marriage work. These days we seem to divorce the moment our partner squeezes the toothpaste tube the wrong way. My current theory is we simply have too much choice, we have numerous relationships (changing partners the moment we get bored) before we even think of marriage .. so what happens when we have been married a couple of years and things start to get a little normal and boring, yep we divorce and find a new partner.

  5. LJ Says:

    Arranged marriages are more semi-arranged now. They arent forced. They can date beforehand. They can date and then inform their parents (to seek their approval). They can find eachother/date online. Via MSN as well. And career women can use their parents to find suitable grooms because the grooms moms wont want him to marry a stupid girl. They can hire servants to do the work if they are bringing in 2 solid salaries.

    Look at the divorce rate in India/Japan vs US/Sweden. Not even close.

    No fault divorce is a joke. Divorce should try to be avoided.