Ahh…arranged marriages. You have either been in one, have run away from one or are absolutely mortified to even hear about what one is.
It’s the ancient custom of families introducing their sons and daughters to each other so that their kids will live a lifetime of wedded bliss.
I’ve written a few posts on my blog about arranged marriage — mostly about its many virtues.
See, I didn’t have an arranged marriage myself. Pretty close, but not quite.
While my former wife and I shared a culture, a community, a language and values, we met on our own!
We met and romanced each other from across the globe and ultimately convinced our parents that we should marry each other.
Our parents weren’t able to “arrange” our marriage, but finally gave in — after all, we were compatible in almost every way. And what Indian parent could oppose a budding lawyer and doctor marrying each other? This is what every Indian parent dreams of at his or her child’s birth.
While I’ve passionately made the case for arranged marriages, and have even now written a book about it, I want to give you the full picture because some people can romanticize arranged marriages.
If you’re considering an arranged marriage yourself, you might as well know what you’re getting into.
Here are 7 common problems with arranged marriages to keep in mind before you tie the knot.
- You’re too independent for an arranged marriage.
An arranged marriage requires that you conform to a lot of social norms, cultural practices and traditions.
If you’re an independent, freedom-loving person who wants to live your life without the meddling of your parents and in-laws, you will find it virtually impossible to live within these traditions.
Like it or not, everyone will be in your business. You’ll also play a role that you may not be comfortable playing.
If you were not planning to stay at home and have kids, think twice about an arranged marriage. Or at least discuss it twice with a potential partner; make sure you’re both on the same page regarding work, kids and your expectations of each other.
2) Your parents select your partner based on superficial qualities and their own values.
While Indian parents feel they’re doing their due diligence and looking for someone who has all the right qualities, these might not be the qualities you’re looking for.
How much property his family owns in New Delhi or how much jewelry her family has stored away for her wedding is of little relevance to your future.
His education, financial future and dashing good looks all matter, but do they really matter as much as his character and personality?
Her double PhD, world speaking engagements and apartment in Manhattan matter, but do they say anything about your compatibility or the likelihood that your marriage will survive?
You might have to check your expectations of your future spouse. Are these expectations about things that matter, or are they the qualities of a fantasy person who doesn’t exist?
Finally, remember this — your values could be the exact opposite of your parents’ values. Their goal in life is to see Lord Krishna appear in front of them, to find themselves taken care of in their old age and to have their grandchildren become doctors.
Your values might be different; you might want to contribute to the world and raise sane children. Your parents are spearheading your partner search, so walk with caution.
3) You can’t get to know someone over dinner at the Taj Palace.
It’s virtually impossible in the dating world to get to know someone.
How are you going to learn about someone over one dinner? Or two? Or ten?
Arranged marriages make the “getting-to-know” process awkward, rushed and to the point.
There’s no “getting-to-know-each-other” time. You’re talking kids, where you want to live and career objectives on the first date!
When you finally get done with your nuptials, you’ll wonder who it is you married.
When each person puts his or her best foot forward, you can’t be sure if the person you’re marrying is the person who will show up after you’re married.
4) Everyone cares too much about what everyone else thinks.
What do you do when you meet someone in the community and this news quickly spreads to everyone else in the community?
When you show up for an arranged marriage introduction, with your entire family and every person you’ve known in your life, the news about what happened during your first “date” spreads far and wide.
Your wedding announcement then spreads like wildfire. Your marital problems spread faster than a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey flies off the shelf.
News of your divorce spreads faster than the time it takes to double-click on a Taylor Swift photo on Instagram.
Not only does news spread, and not only do you have no privacy, but everyone is concerned about what everyone else thinks. In arranged marriage cultures, reputation and social standing can be deadly.
If you don’t want your real life to become as public as The Real Housewives of Atlanta, you might think twice about a community-based, family-set-up arranged marriage.
5) It takes an act of Congress to get divorced.
You can get a divorce in arranged marriage cultures if the marriage doesn’t work and if you’re not compatible with each other.
But be prepared for a holy war with your family, his family, your priest, his astrologer and essentially anyone who knows both of you.
The greatest shame you can bring to your family, other than dropping out of medical school (kidding, people!), is to get a divorce.
You will cause parents to have heart attacks and grandmothers to insist that they’ll jump into the village well out of shame.
It won’t take an act of Congress, but you’ll find yourself surprised at the number of people will try to stop the divorce, interfere in your marriage and attempt every tactic possible to prevent your union from dissolving.
And if you get divorced, plan to live with the inexcusable crime and shame for the rest of your life.
As you can imagine, divorce is more of a raw deal for Indian women, who not only have to live with the stigma, but who also suffer economically due to Indian property laws.
6) Forced marriages, abuse and dowry.
All these issues are alive and well in India and other arranged marriage cultures.
Unfortunately, some women find themselves forced into arranged marriages without a choice of their own. Parents or elders in the community make matches for their daughters without much input from the women who are getting married. They do this for family prestige, wealth, immigration or other unscrupulous reasons.
Parents try to marry their daughters to economically prosperous families, overlooking the grooms’ behavior and personalities. This can lead to domestic violence, spousal abuse and sexual abuse in the marriage.
To make matters worse, the dowry system is alive and well in India, which means that boys’ families benefit by collecting dowries from potential brides.
7) Casteism, classism, sexism and more.
Finally, arranged marriages try to pair up couples from the same community or caste.
While the caste system (i.e., a system that divided people by their occupations and that separated Indian society into different social classes) is illegal in India, it’s still very much in practice.
People continue to marry within their castes, within their social-economic classes and within their own communities of people. This leads to economic inequality, class stigma, social divisions and a segregated society.
The arranged marriage system is also unusually hard on women and their families, who have more to lose — financially, legally and in terms of social standing — from an arranged marriage gone wrong.
If you have a choice about arranged marriage, run for the hills.
You might get a husband or wife, but this person will come in a station wagon filled with olden-day customs, archaic traditions, inquisitive relatives and family drama.
If you’ve still not made up your mind about arranged marriage or would like to learn more about it, you’re in luck — my new book is out: Arranged Marriage: Run to the Altar or Run for Your Life
For more stories about tradition, culture and relationships visit my blog at www.vishnusvirtues.com.
*Photo credit @jitbag