In my circle of friends growing up, more than half of our parents were divorced or separated. By the time I reached my senior year, my parents were in the minority, as they were still together. Recently I discovered that an estimated 43-50% of marriages in this country will end up in divorce. As a child of the ’80’s, living in a ego centric western world, I was always told that I could do whatever I wanted to do, and be whatever I wanted to be.
Like most teenagers in Western society, growing up was all about me, and I viewed my parents as a major inconvenience in my life. I would sit with my friends and daydream about going away, either to college, or to see the world, and imagine how sweet life would be when I was finally old enough to live it the way that I wanted to. All of which is why when I was growing up, the idea of arranged marriages freaked me out. Imagine having to marry a man chosen by my parents, possibly a man who I would not meet before the wedding, maybe even a man who would be way past his prime (and thanks to my over active imagination, a man who possibly resembled Hugh Hefner). Then when my uncle married an Indian woman, who had to fight with her traditional parents into being allowed to marry my uncle, as opposed to the arranged marriages of her siblings, my mind was made up; arranged marriages are no good.
…But are they really?
Before you just dismiss this as the rantings of a crazy lady, consider this, arranged marriages of some description, have existed for generations across numerous races, nations and social classes. From the Native Americans who arranged marriages to keep bloodlines strong, to the European aristocrats, who arranged marriages to consolidate wealth and ensure the monarchy stayed confined to a small group. Prince Charles and Lady Diana anyone?.
Currently, in India, the divorce rate for arranged marriages is estimated at only 4%. While the nay-sayers will write this off as an irrelevant statistic, due to the stigma of divorce in India, or family pressure to stay together, the stats cannot be ignored. Even if there is more family pressure put on arranged married couples to stay together, making couples at least try to solve their problems before rushing straight into the courtroom is surely a good thing. And who knows, perhaps if there was more sigma of divorce in our culture, maybe people would try harder on making their marriage work, or at least not rush into marriage.
‘What about free will?’, I hear you ask. Well, I’m not talking about forced marriages, I am only talking about arranged marriages, where the involved families have the consent of the marrying couple. And besides, what is so wrong with having help from your family when choosing a life partner? After all your family is only concerned with what is best for you, and we all know that in matters of the heart, sometimes it is best to take a step back from the situation and assess from there, as with hormones racing, we perhaps don’t have the best judgment. NBC certainly think so, if Momma’s Boys is anything to go by.
In our ‘I’m going to get mine’ culture, it seems unbelievable to think about marrying someone who you are not 100% in love with, but in my experiences with arranged marriage, my friends, when met with my scepticism, have told me that you just start off as friends, and the love grows. It may happen before the wedding, or it may take years, but it grows.
Isn’t that the way all relationships start? I have never met anybody who wasn’t friends first with the person they eventually fell in love with. And even though it probably doesn’t mesh with everybody’s ideal falling in love scenario, where you are swept off your feet by a handsome stranger, the love is no less valid. Moreover, I’m sure we all have a friend, or friend of friend, who met their husband on a blind date. How is that any different from an arranged marriage? People who cared for the blind date couple thought about who would be a good match for them, and arranged so they could meet.
I don’t think we should be so quick to judge arranged marriages. It shows a lot of courage and restraint to trust someone else with your life, and the proof appears to be in the pudding. It may not be conventional, but arranged marriages have a proven track record of a lower rate of divorce, and maybe with arranged marriages we all have a greater chance of ‘happily ever after’.