“In India, love begins after marriage. In America, love ends after marriage.” — Indian proverb
I’m half Indian, and I’ve always wondered about the success of arranged marriages. A quick Googling doesn’t reveal much in the way of comparative studies. Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to define “better.” If I had to compare the third of my elders who’ve had arranged marriages with the third who’ve had love marriages, it would be hard to say. They both seem to be about even on happiness and about even on “success,” if success were defined by cohesion and harmonious family investment.
One thing that’s certain, though, is that love marriages are still one big experiment, despite seeming like they’re on the right side of history. History is written by the victors, and the West has been dominating for 500 years, so we may be biased in thinking that love marriages are the be-all-end-all. The West’s domination conveniently overlaps with the rise of romantic love.
A historical perspective would see romantic love as a teenage impulse, akin to a crush, something to be transcended with age. Meanwhile, the West took this childish impulse and made it into the governing principle of its civilization. It may seem like a leap to say so, but governments are an extension of the family unit. And in a few cases, we’ve seen religious and constitutional crises arise out of attempts to prove that “love conquers all.” For example, Edward VIII of the Windsors almost lost the monarchy when he abdicated in 1936 so he could marry a divorcee. And the most dramatic example is Henry the VIII of the Tudors, who, in 1531, formed the Church of England so he could annul his first marriage and remarry. The resulting schism risked alienating Britain for the sake of the freedom to love whomever you want.
Fast forward to today, and the power couple and nuclear family are part of the American Dream. It’s uncertain whether this is all a net positive, but it’s undoubtedly avant-garde. Avant-garde may be a bit of a misnomer, as this transformation started around 500 years ago. But the era of love marriage is still a minor blip compared to the eons of functional or convenience marriage. It remains to be seen how this will all play out.