Updated: Oct 9, 2019
This topic has been pending since the beginning of my 8-month project. A debate that consistently comes up within my friend circle and my family from all across the world – one that always sparks a real argument.
An uncommon concept in the West is the one of arranged marriages, largely contrasting to the popularity of it in the region of South Asia. For those who are unfamiliar with this, an arranged marriage begins by the family seeking out an alliance for their son or daughter, either through word of mouth, marriage brokers (sort of like real estate agents?), print advertisement or more commonly now through online matrimony websites. Following on from that, the families meet, sometimes with the girl and the boy, and within agreement of the two parties over time, the wedding is fixed. In this time period the girl and the boy get to know each other, where this time period can vary any time between a month to a year, depending from family to family. Also, within the concept of arranged marriages is the practice of dowry – wherein a payment is made to the groom’s family in agreement for the marriage to take place. This is either in an open expression of a payment, which the groom’s family requests from the girl’s parents, or subtly understood between the two families and arranged in the form of assets such as gold or property. I’m sure there are other forms of dowry; would anyone like to add further insight into this?
This sounds like a business transaction, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, it isn’t always this bad.
I personally grew up hearing the romance of my parents being high school sweethearts and married at 25, with their struggles together and against their respected families to reach where they are today, 32 years later. No doubt being that dreamy-eyed 16-year old, can you blame me for watching their love and craving for the same? 7 years later, a fair amount has changed in that aspect. As I pointed out in my last blog about marriage not being a priority, I’ve also understood that love alone isn’t enough for a marriage to take place. You do need so much more. Having said this doesn’t mean I support arranged marriages though. When I planned to write about this topic, I desired for a diplomatic take about both love and arranged marriages. Yet now I realise that that would not be true to my writing or to my heart. Hence one can understand that this will definitely create a flurry of arguments. 🙂
Now, before the controversies come in, I will point out one thing: although I do not stand in support of arranged marriages (and I will explain shortly why), it does work for some people. My brother recently had an arranged marriage, and I have watched their relationship blossom beautifully over the past 8 months. Hence you may ask me, how can I discuss the flaws of arranged marriages?
I’m not saying that they don’t work out. I just don’t believe that everyone is as lucky as my brother and sister-in-law. And here’s why.
1. The Matrimony System
The matrimony system is one of the biggest flaws within the arranged marriage system. I spoke about this briefly in my blog post about the obsession with fair skin in India.
Here are the following five complexions of skin colour in India:
How is it that a marriage should be determined on the skin colour of the guy or the girl? We’re in the 21st century folks. However, according to society, ideally the girl should be fairer than the guy; else heaven forbid, log kya kahenge? (What will people say?) Aside from this are several other characteristics a successful marriage proposal is determined by.
Caste and religion. The background of the girl and the guy; their current earning status – which fair, you can consider the concept of equality. Unfortunately, the situation is such that this concept of equality is not one that is acceptable in our patriarchal society. It is instead deemed important that the guy should be superior to the girl – in all aspects. Be it in height (I’m not kidding), in his background and wealth, and in his educational level amongst many other traits. Believe me, I’ve heard this said straight to my face – so before you come and say that this doesn’t happen, it actually does.
Hence, this notion of superiority is one that I personally don’t believe would lead to a successful marriage. How can you walk into a marriage where the foundation of it is determined by the simple fact that the guy is considered to be “superior” in his standing against the girl? Why can’t they be equal, or even just balance each other out for all of their qualities?
What happened to trust and compatibility that is built over time?
2. Societal Peer Pressure & Cultural Norms
Naturally, it’s understood that our parents want us to be happy – and they do say it often enough. “We want you to be happy and that’s why we want to see you get married.” Using this statement, I go back to my last blog topic and state the same thing I had written in that: If you are not ready to get married then don’t – it will only lead to disaster. There’s the definite aspect that you can be happy when you’re married, however you should never succumb to it to please someone else.
Yet because of societal pressure, there is a fair amount from the older generation to see their children get married. In one aspect, can you blame them? It’s not easy to be “gutless” and suggest to ignore society, because society can rip apart a family if there is no suitable explanation for the delay in marriage. Frankly, society has built this over time given that the cultural norm places such heavy importance on marriage. However, having said this, times have changed.
3. Misunderstood Aspects of Marriage
Do you believe that marriage can sometimes be slightly romanticised? I do. I believe this can occur when individuals choose to get married. I’ve personally had my parents speak to me about how marriage is a compromise and an adjustment, and alternatively also it can be a beautiful journey together. Talk about my “knight in shining armour” and “prince charming” – which is all a wonderfully romantic thought, but frankly, I don’t believe that either of those are out there.
The epitome of marriage is in its values.
You commit to being with one another for the rest of your lives despite whatever forthcomings may come your way. Do those values stand today?
Irrespective of whether you fall in love and choose to get married, or you have an arranged marriage, the morales behind marriage have weakened. Hence this is what I would suggest; if you’re ready to get married, and you want to get married, then opt for an arranged marriage – you may be able to find a companion who is suitable for you! However, if you know you’re not ready to get married, such as myself – financially, physically, or emotionally, don’t push yourself. It’s not worth the heartache.
My final question to you, as I have asked before my dear reader: