Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Love Versus Arranged Marriage

Arranged marriage is still alive and well in India. Since coming here, I've seen some really lovely matches, and I've seen some not so lovely matches. One even ended in divorce within the first year of marriage.

When I first met my now husband, he asked me if I was interested in a love or arranged marriage.  I told him that there are no arranged marriages in the US and that for most couples you could call it a "love" marriage most days of the week. I asked him which set of couples were more likely to get divorced. He said that couples who were in a love marriage were more likely to get divorced. I asked him if that was because parents were better at finding a suitable mate for their children. He explained that no, that wasn't the case, but a child wouldn't disgrace their family by ending an arranged marriage in divorce.

I couldn't imagine the kind of pressure that would put on a young son or daughter. Not only do they have no say in who their parents match them up with, but in many cases, never even meet their future spouse prior to the day of their wedding. Furthermore, it's traditional for the bride to move in with her husband's parents and extended family post marriage. Now you have a virgin girl, who's married to a stranger and expected to share a bed with him, who's surrounded by strangers, who have their own set of house rules and routines. She's expected to learn and adhere to those, while having little contact with her own family during that time. I can't imagine having no one to talk to during that intense period of adjustment. No option of just getting away for a while.

That's not to say the transition will be a smooth one and that the new wife will bow down to her mother in laws wishes without a fight. I've witnessed firsthand some pretty argumentative new wives who will really make things difficult for the new family. Who will buck everything said to them in their new house, and make the transition, if you can call it that, as painful for everyone as possible. I've witnessed one bride even run away, returning to her parents after not being able to get settled in her in law's home.

On the other hand, I've witnessed some really beautiful couples embrace their marriage relationship. I've seen wives, that prior to marriage, were very hot tempered, find amazing levels of patience in their new roles. They've embraced the rituals in their new home and found a balance between the husband and son relationship. It's often said, that married or not, a man's first priority is always his mother. I've seen this in probably 100% of cases. I've also seen men who ran wild before marriage, immediately start focusing on their career and become upstanding providers once they've gotten married.
 
In my husbands family, there are six children. Three of them have arranged marriages, two have love marriages (including ours) and one has a hybrid of the two.
 
I'm very fortunate in my personal situation. My in laws have accepted me from day one. If there's ever been concern over my character, how I would support their son, or how our marriage would be, it's never been expressed. Secondly, we don't live with the in laws. Their home is on the other side of the city, and rather then face 3.5 hours of commuting daily, my husband and I opted to take our own flat, on the other side of the city in order to be closer to the office and have more of our already limited time daily to spend with one another. Third, because I am earning, my mother in laws household expectations of me are lean, at best. While I do laundry (by hand), and basic daily tasks around the house, I don't cook. I've never had an interest in cooking, so we have someone come in daily and do some light cleaning as well as prepare food for us. For the most part, we eat at the office though so I'm spared from having to spend countless hours in the kitchen preparing Indian dishes for my husband. Additionally, because I spend so many hours a week at the office, I get spoiled when we visit the in laws. I'm spared from any household or cooking chores and I get waited on all day and told to relax, nap, etc after such a long stressful week. Finally, and most importantly, my husband balances his roles as a son and husband impeccably. For the most part his mother is not demanding, and when he does need to take a family related decision, I step out of it, keep quiet, and respect the outcome.
 
One concept I've recently been struggling with, however, is whether arranged marriages are more respected in Indian society then love marriages. I feel as though some people don't take our relationship seriously. Now, that could be because I'm a foreigner, or because I'm working outside the home, or because we don't live with my in laws, or because I don't speak Hindi. It could be for many reasons, however this is what I've experienced as of late. My husband's youngest sister was recently married. Her new in laws told her they'd find a suitable match for my husband. My sister in law informed them he had a love marriage and there was no need. They stated that was fine, they'd still look out for a good match for him. This conversation was carried over the other day while my husband was on the phone with them. He again told them he was already married, to which they replied, that was fine, they'd still look into finding a match for him. All the while I'm like WTF? Who are these idiots and how dare they step on the toes of my marriage? Thankfully they live abroad so I don't have to deal with them regularly.
 
If you ask a young Indian what their hopes for the future are, they'll tell you they hope to have a love turned arranged marriage. Essentially, they want to chose their spouse, and have their parents blessing. When they ask me what kind of marriage we have, and I tell them it's a love marriage, they will literally clap with joy and say they hope one day they could be so fortunate. If you ask the older generation, however, they'll tell you something different, though not overtly. One auntie in particular, who has several unmarried (albeit young) nieces and has had her eye on my husband for quite some time, always kind of gives me scowl when we meet. Followed by a comment that I better take good care of "her boy." When the older generation meets me and finds out we do live on our own, I don't speak Hindi, and I don't cook, and ::gasp:: work outside the home, the response is less then supportive. Granted they won't come out and say it, but I have to think they're wondering where my husband dug up this foreign harlot versus allowing his family to find him a nice Indian girl to marry. Thankfully my sister in laws are always there to support me and mom and dad are never far behind.

I asked someone once, what do people do, if they're in love with someone, yet their parents find a match in someone else for them. The answer was simple: They have an affair. I know more cheating men then I can count on my fingers and toes. Granted you don't discuss such things with these men, but everyone knows it. It's like the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it's there, but no one addresses it. Where is the sanctity of marriage? Indians are expected to be good boys and girls and marry the person of their parents' dreams, yet run around behind everyone's back in order to find happiness? It seems that the family unit goes only as far as the husband providing for the family, and the wife putting a hot meal on the table three times per day. Beyond that, it's a sham. Sure, not in all cases. Like I said, I've met some really lovely couples who've had arranged marriages and settled into things nicely. But that seems to be the exception rather then the norm.
 
I have to wonder, if India wants to consider themselves progressive, does that developing future hold a place for arranged marriage? Can India really move forward while holding onto such traditions?
 
What do you think? Post your comments below.

7 comments:

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  2. You know it's more about the character of the guy in question. I am a 20 year old Indian male, studying MBBS who doesn't mind love marriage but I would personally prefer arranged. My parents had an arranged marriage and it seems to be working fine. I don't think I would ever want a love marriage simply because I have no time for it. Love requires some commitment and effort to keep going and that's not possible for me because this is the time when I can study with no distractions. By the time I finish my education I'll be 28, I'll live, sleep and work in a hospital as a junior doctor. Working long hours and many patients who come for check ups. My social life will be essentially zero. The only people I'll meet and hang out with will be other doctors because they'll be able to understand what I go through better than my school friends can. Social activity zero and the probability of all guys gang is 100% so, love for me is impossible. I respect people who get love marriages but sometimes I also feel it's over rated as is arranged marriages. I would like arranged because quite frankly I have seen many love marriages end in disaster and messy divorces. To be fair I can say the same for arranged but I feel as of now I have no interest in love because I can't stand my own feet until I am 28. To use my fathers money to take care of a girl is simply, how to put it delicately, nauseating.

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    1. I think a lot of career minded Indian men do prefer an arranged marriage. I think its viewed as being "easier" and allows them to focus more on their career then on their relationship.

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    2. I think a lot of career minded Indian men do prefer an arranged marriage. I think its viewed as being "easier" and allows them to focus more on their career then on their relationship.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. I think a lot of career minded Indian men do prefer an arranged marriage. I think its viewed as being "easier" and allows them to focus more on their career then on their relationship.

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  5. Oh no, that's not truly a general conception you see it's not our careers we are worried about. Marriage is a great balancing act between two people or so I assume therefore I feel that both have to put an effort into the marriage. Even arranged marriages fail if the guy or woman is too career ordinated and don't make time for each other. I believe it would be like you are living with a stranger, to quote GOTYE, "You're somebody that I used to know" !!������

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