Friday, July 20, 2007

Arranged Marriage Anyone?

I read this post by T with a lot of interest. It's about arranged marriages, something I have changed my opinion on over the years. I like T's writing, I don't know her but I like the things she writes, she uses all the correct tools like commas. full stops, and verbs. Nice.

In fact, when she got to the bit about her ideal man I was tempted to send in my application until I saw this

"His popularity isn't as important as how he treats you, and nice hair isn't as important as the presence of hair".

I guess that rules me out then.

I digress though. The post is an interesting one as I used to share very similar opinions on arranged marriages. Being Asian and brought up in England means we see a variety of cultures and I was no exception. As a young adult I'd often see cousins having arranged marriages, some arranged more loosely than others. I observed friends and relatives in England and Sri Lanka having love marriages, arranged marriages and all other sorts. Not that there are any other sorts.

Then, over the years, I've watched these relationships develop and grow, I've seen many crumble too, the diversity has been interesting and unpredictable. I've seen some of the most strictly arranged marriages ever grow into strong and powerful relationships. From a pre marriage situation in which the couple have hardly met to a strong force to be reckoned with as a couple. On the other side I've seen "perfect" couples, seemingly madly in love, get married after living together for years and collapse in a heap of hatred and court battles.

Yet I used to pour scorn on arranged marriages. I used to think that there was no way they were right, that they were fundamentally wrong. As age has mellowed me acceptance of things I don't necessarily agree with has become a big thing in my life and my beliefs. It's the powerful thought that I don't have to either agree with everything or try to persuade everyone that my views are correct. It's ok for me to like Coke and you to like Pepsi, that sort of thing. Even if Pepsi does taste likes crap.

Now I marvel at many arranged marriages. Sure there are some who are unhappy and who are never going to be happy, but there are also many who are very happy, couples who grow into each other and become a couple, even though they weren't one when they actually got married. Where I think arranged marriages are fundamentally wrong is when they are imposed upon kids, against their will. When I hear stories of young girls forced to have marriages and to live a different life to that which they desire I can't see the sense, I can't understand why a parent would do that to a child.

I work just near Southall and have done for the last god knows many years. Many of the people I've worked with and for have been Indian and I've seen plenty of young people have arranged marriages. The modern way (here at least) is a half arranged and half love marriage. Often the couple know each other and have been dating for a while but the marriage is still technically arranged by their parents.

I've also witnessed people who have totally arranged marriages, in which they don't do much in the way of courting (I'm not sure I've ever used that word before!), yet they get to meet and sound each other out before they decide on the viability of a match. Then, if they get on they choose to pursue things a bit, commonly ending in marriage. It's all rather decent and rosy.

I wouldn't want either of my girls to have an arranged marriage though, no way. I still believe in choice and love and all that stuff, but I can accept arranged marriages as a concept that often works. The differences between Eastern and Western attitudes towards marriage intrigue me immensely. People in Asia often think of marriage more seriously than their European buddies do. Many Westerners approach marriage with a far more blase attitude, of "I can get divorced if it fails", whereas for many Easterners it really is a lifelong commitment.

Perhaps this means that the average arranged marriage can last longer than a love marriage. If the couple don't know each other then they'll have to spend a few years getting familiar, learning how to deal with each other's habits. If, as is the case with many westerners, the couple have lived together for some years, then there's less discovering to do after marriage. This can be both good and bad, it's good to know that your partner likes to listen to Slipknot every morning before she gets out of bed, but it's bad if you prefer a touch of Bryan Adams singing "summer of '69" every morning.

I'm far from naive about this whole thing too. There are so many potential pitfalls in arranged marriages, cases of intimidation and victimisation, of young women being forced to do things against their will. But there are also lots of successful and happy arranged marriages, there are lots of happy and blissful love marriages.

What's my conclusion?

Oh, I don't know, each to their own I guess.

If everyone's happy then everyone's happy.


Parthi said...

well in my opinion arranged marriage and love marriage is just personal choice..but for the last few weeks I heard stories which are incredibly pathetic and painful to know that such ppl still exist among us..a guy loves a girl who are form the same religion but different branches..from the beginning of their love story they have always been saying it wont workout bcoz of the religious differences..and the parents got to know abt it and were ready to disown the son if he continues the relationship..therefore he immediately dropped the relationship and still claims hes in love with her..and all this happened for a minor difference in a religion? whats this stupidity? then a week later i heard a similar story and this time the girls parents immediately got her married and sent her to another country....pathetic eh?

Theena said...

Totally against it.

I find the whole idea of marrying and settling down with a complete stranger to be absurd. Can you imagine the first night and the honey moon?

I want to be making sweet love and hump away to glory like rabbits starting that night. No, I don’t want to spend the night getting to know her – this is presumably what such couples do on the night of their arranged marriage.

My parents and most of the married couples in my family are results of arranged marriages, and they all seem happy. So I really don't know why I have this irrational hatred of the idea of arranged marriages.

All I know is that I won't do it.

Unless the bride looks like a Bollywood actress (minus the melodrama and fake accents). Then I’ll reconsider.

n said...

Ok in support of arranged marriages check this link out. Just take a look at the bird and the guy…jeesh

Anyways I used to be adamantly against the idea of arranged marriages and in a way I still am, where the kid has no choice on who they marry or who they want to marry. I am not however against the ‘rents and others finding me appropriate matches, which I used to be against back in the day. Why? Well unfortunately the life that I and most of my friends in international countries lead means that we rarely come into contact with marriageable girls. With the work and social lives that we have we mostly meet random people in clubs, etc. Most people meet their significant other through friends networks and ours are highly fragmented as a result of being immigrants (for the time at least). So what else can we do, when I connect with my network on and off I meet some nice girls but that’s very rare…

beside the fam will check the girl for insanity..which is a trait I still have trouble identifying for some reason.

Java Jones said...

Then there's that 'dowry' business. Most often in arranged marriages this is of prime importance to both parties, as is 'connections' to families for mutual advantage. So there's 'economic' and 'social' aspects too to consider. And then there's 'tradition' - a social conditioning that's difficult to deviate from for many folk.

Gobblezygook said...

I couldn't agree more with u 'n'...Parents can be very handy insanity radars. I now realise how right they were about all the losers I had dated in the past ;)

Living abroad sure is a bitch ! I guess I've already given up, just too tured of the game !

N said...

whoops...wrong link! This is the link...and I meant "kid has no choice on who they marry or whether they want to marry"....bloody speed typing at work!

Anonymous said...

arranged marriages. an interesting topic. i , much like rd was totally against them but as i have aged and mellowed, i think arranged marriages are a great idea if you actually believe in marriage.

unlike in a love marriage where you fall in love then marry then fall out of love.. i think in an arranged marriage you fall in love WITHIN the marriage. thats super romantic too.. you just have to back a good horse at the beginning thats the key.

arragned marriages also work in essense because you have a signboard that says "i want to get married" and your potential partner has the same signbaord. so there are no games, no hot adn cold, no chasing, no running.. its the big card on the table scenario. so you dont have memories of the ugly games, the does he love me, or not, is he playing a game or not.. HE IS NOT.. its just two people wanting to be married, who then decide to be married to each other. simple.

and something huge i have learnt as i have got older is there are men you date, and there are men you marry. often they are very very different men . so the arranged marriage already cuts out 50% of the above. leaving you the best horses for the course... and if i was a betting woman, then i woudl say that its more likely that one would thus come in...

Indyana said...

You have to work hard in both cases...circumstances permitting, and sometimes if you really want to.

T said...

RD, sorry for taking so long to comment on this. thanks for the compliment, it was much appreciated :)

it was great reading this post, and the many comments left on it, and mine. a kind of heads up from the older and wiser. gives me hope that things will turn out well for my friend.

caitlin said...

Hello Everyone,

My name is Caitlin Pincus and I am a recent graduate of the University of California, San Diego.

I’m doing an internship with Dr. Robert Epstein, the former Editor-in Chief of Psychology Today, a visiting scholar at the University of California San Diego, and the host of "Psyched!" on Sirius Satellite Radio. He is currently working on a book called Making Love: How Couples Learn to Love and How You Can Too, which will include research on arranged marriages.

We’re looking for couples in happy arranged marriages. If you or anyone you know is in a happy arranged marriage, and is interested in being interviewed for Dr. Epstein’s book, please contact me at:
Interviews are confidential. They may be done in person if you live in San Diego, CA, or by phone or through email. I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Caitlin Pincus

Anonymous said...

I found this post on googling marrying a Sri Lankan. My British born Sri Lankan origin boyfriend has recently proposed. Very happy, I was actually looking for wedding ideas, to include both our backgrounds. Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked.

My fiance is against arranged marriages, as his parents arranged marriage did not work out. I'm not sure whether there's was an arranged marriage by coercion, or happy to be arranged.

I just wanted to point out that unlike the stereotype given in the article, my english parents marriage is the one that has gone the distance (40 year anniversary this summer), rather than my fiance's parents arranged marriage.