Lately I have been reading lots of blogs that have a lot to say about arranged marriage. Some of the views expressed in those blogs are general ideas while some of them wrote their own personal experience with arranged marriage. I agree with a lot of information while there are some with which I disagree. One of the biggest misconceptions about arranged marriage that I want to clear out is that “Arranged marriage is not forced marriage”.
I was born in Nepal where arranged marriage is common even till today. I wanted to write about arranged marriage for a while but then I had a love marriage so I was not sure if I was right in commenting about it. Finally I decided to write about what I have seen and learnt about arranged marriage in Nepal. My ideas and views are of Nepali arranged marriage, specifically in Kathmandu. I do understand that it may be different from other South Asian arranged marriages.
Both my parents and parents in law had arranged marriage. Both couple are happily married for around 3 decades now. I see love between them every time I look at them and there is no negative effect of arranged marriage in their relationship.
With my parents, they met 3 times before they decided to get married. Everything was arranged by the two families and they met to see each other and make up their minds. On their first date, they had company while on the other two they were able to talk to each other by themselves. According to my mum, in those days it was normal to meet your future spouse only a couple of times before getting married.
After marriage, they slowly started to know each other and build their relationship. If you see them now, you will agree with me that they are soul mates who are in love and living their happily ever after.
My dad has 6 siblings and my mum has 3, out of which only 1 of my aunt and 1 uncle had a love marriage and the rest were arranged marriages. All the arranged marriages are going strong. Out of 2 love marriages, one has ended in divorce (not the fault of love marriage of course) and the rest are doing well.
You might say it is an old story but I know people who had arranged marriage just a few months ago and even a few weeks ago. One of them is a good friend while other is my cousin.
With my friend, she is a bit shy so she didn’t want to date anyone even though she had lots of guys after her when we were in college. When the marriage questions were asked by her parents, she told them to find a suitable match. So she was engaged last year and after a year of knowing the guy finally they got married in December.
With my cousin, he lives in US where he is super busy with his work. He never stays in one place for long enough (due to his work) that he gets to meet girls let alone fall in love. So when the family started asking him to get married, he handed down the responsibility to his parents who found a really nice girl and they got married last week in a traditional Newari marriage ceremony. His parents are really happy with this marriage and both bride and groom had 100% say in the decision.
The point I want to make is that just because it is an arranged marriage does not meant that it is a bad thing. It may sound weird to a society where it doesn’t happen but please do have an open mind when you think about it.
Let me put it this way, the modern arrange marriage is like joining rspv.com in the western world. Even I considered having an arranged marriage at one stage (read here for more). So it is not silly or backward thing but just a tradition in most South Asian society.
These days when a girl or guy tells their family that they are OK with arranged marriage, first the family and relatives look for a prospective partner with qualities like
- Similar caste
- Similar family reputation
- Girls/guy’s qualification (study, job)
- Girl/guy’s qualities (look, hobbies, background)
- Cultural and/or religious understanding
It is like RSVP scanning anyone who wanted to join their site. The hard part is done by the family so the girl/guy only meets prospective partners who are suitable.
So as a first step, photos of the prospective partners (already filtered by the family) are shown and they can pick a few they like. Then they will be given either phone numbers or/and email id of the prospective partners so they can talk and chat. These days Skype and Facebook seems to be the way people choose to communicate.
At this stage both guy/girl has time to evaluate the person and if they want, the next step will be dating. They normally meet a few times and stay in touch before they tell their family if they are happy with their prospective partners or not. I found out that at this stage most of the prospective partners fall in love. (I think it is similar in dating world as well anyway.)
If both parties have positive response then the family will get together and have an engagement function. These days I see couples engaged for one or more years before they finally get married. In some cases, marriage happens after only a few weeks after the engagement as well.
So both the boy and girl have full say in who they are going to marry even if it is an arranged marriage. Parents don’t treat their kids like a commodity to negotiate and scrutinize and make them marry just anyone without asking them. Family and society have changed according to time in Nepal so they understand that it is important to get the children involved on making decisions of their life.
Here are some advantages of arrange marriage
- Financial security
You can call me materialistic but money does matter in real life. It is only in fairy tales that people can live happily ever after in a swamp or jungle. No parents wants their kids to suffer so they make sure when they are looking for prospective partners that they are secure and well off financially and is in the same level as their family.
- Caste, cultural and/or religious understanding
Family make sure prospective partner belongs to a similar caste and culture so they can easily adjust into their new life. It is same as RSVP asking what religion or ethnic group you belong to, in their form.
- Family approval and support
As you know, eastern society live in a close-knit environment, it helps a lot when your in laws approve the prospective partner. This way the couple will get help from their parents physically, emotionally and in most cases financially as well. I think it is not a bad thing to have two sets of families in your life.
- Avoidance of (more) pre-marriage relationships/courtship
They say you have to kiss many frogs before you meet your prince charming. We all see and experience that and we have actually gone through a few relationships before we settle with Mr. Right. With arrange marriage, it eliminates the years many waste dating multiple persons, and allow a person to find a good spouse if you choose to follow this path from the beginning. In other cases, you have been there and done that and didn’t not want to go through the heartaches again, this can be a way out to make your life bit easier.
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