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It is possible to arrange love

September 4, 2007

A half hour documentary which busts some myths about arranged marriages (Arranging Love) in the minds of westerners, has been written and directed by Indian Australian Sheila Jayadev. Its made a small splash, and has been invited to be screened at several important film festivals. The film tries to show that arranged marriages are not as bad as they have been projected by the western media. As the filmmaker points out, the idea of what arranged marriages are all about has been influenced by films like Bend it Like Beckham.

I remember when I saw Bend It I was quite intrigued. No family I knew was that conservative. It was as if the Bend It family had arrived from the hinterlands of India…or I had got into a time machine and gone back to a India of a fifty or a hundred years ago. It all seemed sheer melodrama and then I thought, maybe I was wrong, maybe I only knew the modern urban India, and maybe these things happened with the Indian diaspora. After all, when people leave their native land, they can lose touch with the changes that are happening in society back home and can cling on to imagined values.

Arranged marriages lead to as much love between couples as ‘love’ marriages
But coming back to arranged marriages: It is true that those from a different cultural background tend to equate arranged marriages with forced marriages or loveless marriages.

But even as a starry-eyed teenager it never occurred to me that love and arrangement didn’t go together. Being set-up was more like a ‘blind date.’ And I, like everyone else, knew that Bollywood films which told the story of girls and boys who were forced into marriage were few and far between. They were stories were fit for juicy melodramatic plots.

Real life was different. More than 95 (or is it 99?) percent of girls and boys in India get married the arranged way and they are not forced into it, and neither do they not love their spouses!

Finding the right person isn’t easy!
How else can they find a life partner? The society frowns upon free mixing and dating, although dating is rapidly catching on in cities today. And amongst the modern lot, it is not even as clandestine as it is for some. Unfortunately dating is not as widespread as it should be, and that is what compels youngsters to depend on their families to assist them with finding the right life partner.

Personally speaking, if I had not happened to fall in love at 18 and if it had not worked out, I would have accepted an ‘arranged’ match. I never doubted that I would love my future husband and he, me.

We have a large extended family on both sides (21 cousins on one side and more than a dozen on the other) and all but one have had an arranged marriage. And they all wanted it. And why not? An introduction by the parents is not such a bad thing…eligible bachelors from a similar background are short-listed and a meeting arranged. I am not saying there is no pressure to marry a particular person…what I am saying is that the forcing that is shown in Bollywood movies is uncommon in urban India. I firmly believe that forced marriages were uncommon even a hundred years ago and I believe they are uncommon even in rural India! That is because this was and is the only method of getting married for those who don’t date. A hundred years ago, the concept of dating didn’t exist. Only a moron would refuse assistance from family. Generally parents looked for someone from a similar background, and someone who was ‘suited’ in looks to their son or daughter. My mom ‘rejected’ a suitor before she married. She said she fell in love with my dad (the second ‘boy’ she met) at first sight.

Inter-community marriages are discouraged, yes
A good friend of mine was discouraged from marrying a person of another religion…but finally when she did get married, she voluntarily opted for the arranged match. After discussing (with her parents, friends) the pros and cons of marrying someone from another religion, she, a mature 25 year old agreed (the boys’ parents had opposed the marriage as well) that the chances of her being happy with him were not too good. In India, families generally ‘interfere’ in a married couple’s life and if the parents of either party oppose the match, it can make the life of the couple quite miserable. A couple who marries against the wishes of their family usually moves away, and reduces contact with family. She also suffered from guilt because she would be driving the boy away from his family and she too was upset about hurting her parents, whom she believed had her best interests in mind. Even then I did not support my friend’s decision as I believed she should marry the man she already loved. But when she didn’t, I thought she did not love him enough. In urban India, a lot of couples do marry inspite of their parents’ disapproval.

But surely in western cultures as well, if friends and relatives think that a match is not suitable they try to persuade their friend not to take the plunge?

So does an arranged marriage mean marrying a stranger?
While some couples get time to know each other, others don’t. But more often than not, the chemistry exists. That is the important point. Doesn’t something similar happen in a love match too? Two people instantly hit it off and the chemistry between them encourages them to meet again. True, they don’t have marriage on their minds. But they can fall deeper in love, and that is because the chemistry exists in the first place. In an arranged match, the fact that background checks have been done by families protects the couple from the insecurity of being duped. The duping can still happen, but it can happen in a love match too.

And in India, an engagement is not as sacrosanct as marriage. Engagements do break.

The point I am trying to make is that generally it’s rare for people to be forced to marry anyone. The movie The Namesake is one of the more realistic movies about Indian life, and explains how love between a couple develops, and how inevitable it is. A reviewer of this movie wondered why the protagonist (played by Tabu) is shown agreeing to marry a man who is almost a stranger. I found this observation rather funny because the truth is that girls and boys in India are both quite amenable to being ‘set-up’ by their parents. This can happen in western cultures too, only it’s not the parents who set them up, it’s friends.

And the option to reject is a given, specially amongst urban families. I know friends who have ‘rejected’ as many as 20 boys and I know a boy who has ‘rejected’ 100 girls!! In our family it was the norm to meet a guy at least 2-3 times before agreeing to an engagement. The engagement itself could last for weeks or months…enough time to get to know each other. In more conservative families, the girls and boys accept their parents’ choice and they do not get much of an opportunity to get to know their future partner – but this is usually not out of coercion, but because they trust their parents’ judgment and/or are too shy to go out on their own unless they are married.

There is a lot of pressure to get married in India
The main difference is that western society will exert less pressure on a boy or girl to get married. Here, in India, there is a lot of pressure to get married…and have kids. Family is all-important and the relationship of the couple just one component of it. That is why an arranged match, where families try to ensure that the families of the couple also match, becomes all-important. Unfortunately it can become far too important…that is why a lot of youngsters today are seeking their own partners, by dating.

Earlier, the chances of boys and girls from the same community getting along well were very high. Today, girls and boys have developed a strong identity of their own, an identity very distinct from their parents and their community stereotype, and therefore they need a partner who understands this. And it doesn’t matter which community he or she belongs to.

Not that much of a difference between arranged love and just love
This may be anathema to all those who strongly believe in being deeply in love before marrying, but I feel that there isn’t that wide a gap between an arranged match and a love match. When two people marry in the throes of love, what is now called ‘romantic love’, it is not based on very deep feelings. It is also known that romantic love fades away and needs to be replaced by a deep love and this is what makes a marriage work. It is very rare, even in a love match, for this deep love to exist before marriage. If it did, then there would be few divorces!

So, whether a couples’ meeting is arranged by family or friends, or whether they meet on their own…the reality is that they meet and they love each other. Thats the important part.

(Pics copyrighted to me)

Related Reading: Divorce rates of the world
Causes of the increasing divorce rate in India
Can kids save a marriage?
Dating and pre-marital sex happens in secret
For Indian teens marraige and dating often go together
Internet marraige bureaus thriving in India

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41 Comments leave one →
  1. B Chopra permalink
    September 4, 2007 11:36 am

    Nita, that’s brilliant! It’s really a good input.

    Marriage (arranged or Love) – is more of commitment.. It takes lots of patience & responsibility & time. It’s one big decision changes whole rest life.

    One shouldn’t rush or make someone to rush into marriage for some xyz reasons. I feel, the most common xyz reasons found in india are: economic status, cultural continuity, the dowry thing, politics and progressivism, education (Doctor should marry Doctor) and trust on parents decision or on parent’s force ..

    To me, the biggest argument against arranged marriage is the attitude it brings to it. I feel it is saying that person involved cannot take one of the most important decision of life oneself. It is to disown responsibility of decision making with the fear of – what if it is wrong ? I guess no one can guarantee that, but at least you are in control of what you choose. Isn’t that the basis of independence and maturity?

  2. September 4, 2007 11:52 am

    Ofcourse Bharath, you are right. Taking these decisions, for better or for worse, is the sign of an independent and mature person. But we have to admit that we don’t have many such people in India. 🙂 In India boys and girls even if they are adults, feel it is a matter of right to take money from their parents, they feel they have a right to the house etc….this is not the case in western countries. They are independent in the true sense and probably that is why they do not accept any kind of interference from parents.
    The points you raised about what people go for when they opt for an arranged marriages is right…that’s how the shortlist is made. The person finally chosen is the one who the person is attracted to as well. In love marriages it is purely hormonal! In both cases, I think that the deep love which is the foundation of marriage does not exist before marriage.

  3. September 4, 2007 2:40 pm

    Nita, I wouldn’t agree that most people in India are liberal when it comes to sanctioning marriages. Even educated parents can be die-hard conservatives even in matters of matching horoscopes, veg v. non-veg, leave alone caste and religion.
    Of course, modern love in the sms and internet era seems like the South Indian winter: before you realise it, poof!

  4. B Chopra permalink
    September 4, 2007 2:43 pm

    //I think that the deep love which is the foundation of marriage does not exist before marriage.//

    Very true Nita, But one has to think positivaly & love more than a True Love.. I mean he/she truely care & help.. supports choices.. & become strength of partner.. or may to be to an extent of role model.

    Thank you for reply

  5. September 4, 2007 3:40 pm

    Rambodoc, did I say most people in India were liberal when it came to sanctioning marriages? No, I don’t think I did. Did I imply it? I don’t think so, but if I did, then it is miscommunication on my part. What I said was in an arranged marriage the short list is made by the parents (I have not gone into detail about the criteria but Bharath and you have which I thank you for) and I have said that Indian boys and girls generally accept these criteria as the proper ones. They themselves accept it! I am talking of the majority, not the 10-15 percent who rebel against their parents. The logic is that if one has to go for an arranged marriage, one might as well get all the criteria in place. Ofcourse vegetarians prefer vegetarians, etc. In an arranged marriage it is unlikely that parents will choose a family too different from themselves and their child who has agreed to have an arranged marriage will know that.

  6. B Chopra permalink
    September 4, 2007 5:45 pm

    This post is also on wordpress dashboard.. as usual. Good job. 🙂

  7. rachel permalink
    September 4, 2007 6:24 pm

    Hi Nita,
    I’m not impressed with the divorce rate here either. The kids that are shuttled from one family to another, shared custody or whatever, and its pretty awful for them. That at least, is one thing that can be good about Indian marriages, the need to stick it out for the sake of your children. But all these decisions have to be taken beforehand. I’ve had a successful arranged marriage but I believe luck played a very, very important part in it. I also come from a conservative family when it came to relationships, although they were very modern in thoughts about education and such. I still think arranged marriages are primitive, especially the ones that planned within the month or even six months because the boy/couple have to return to vilayat immediately at the expense of them getting to know each other. A couple of meetings, I believe, is not enough. An every day phone conversation until marriage, I mean…come on? A phone? You can say anything to a phone.
    Marriage is a big step and you’d probably have the same problems any married couple would living together, love or otherwise, but I personally believe it’s worked out well so far in our parents generation because it’s beneficial to one person and the other (guess which one) is kept in a state of inferiority, to the point which she becomes just another housewife lost in this cyclical every day drudgery. I’ve seen it happen in this day and age, and even if it is self-imposed (by self-imposed I mean accepted). As for the ones that have it good, idleness couldn’t be a good thing either, you’ll lose yourself either way.
    On the positive side however:- Your parents are allowed to snoop around as much as they want to find out about the potential husband and husband/wife’s family to make sure what they’re getting into through intricate web of contacts. However, I still don’t think its okay to go by everybody else’s opinion when you’re choosing a life partner. When you’re 25/30 you’d better be able to think for yourself, and if you’re going to marry someone who’s going to do whatever their parents tell them to there is the danger of them applying this attitude to every aspect of their life that may involve you as well.
    I agree with your premise that a marriage arranged or otherwise, needs patience, understanding and adjustment on both sides.

  8. September 4, 2007 7:22 pm

    Rachel, thanks for sharing your experience.
    However I think when you mentioned the aspect of one partner having a lesser role, or lesser status, I think this can happen in a love marriage too.
    Also if you ask me, I feel that barring extremes, it is possible for two balanced individuals to be happy together – if they make the effort and if they believe in the institution of marraige. After all, some say opposites get along, some say you have to have the same hobbies, some say do things together, some say give each other space…!
    The advice is endless and I think it boils down to chemistry. If you have that and a mature attitude you can get along and grow to love each other. Ofcourse getting to know each other better always helps, as that precludes surprises. But you know what, I dated by husband for 8 years before I married him, but even then there were some surprises. I guess he would say the same for me too! 🙂
    What matters is that when he walks into a room or when I hear his voice on the phone my heart beats faster…even after so many years. Its a love that has been built up over many years. I thought I was crazy about him when I married him, but when I look back at what I felt, its nothing to what I feel now. I can’t exactly explain it….!

  9. September 4, 2007 8:35 pm

    Rambodoc, I agree with you regarding horoscope etc. as being conservative, but I’ll disagree with you regarding veg/non-veg. I am a vegetarian and food is high on my list of priorities in life, so it is important that my partner share that interest and also be a vegetarian. Otherwise, we’ll be cooking separate meals. So, it comes down to what’s practical and our world-view of choosing to be a vegetarian, whether it is ethical, health or environmental reasons. Why would I choose a non-vegetarian to be my partner and makes both our lives complicated and unhappy? 🙂

  10. maliha11 permalink
    September 4, 2007 8:45 pm

    i think this is an amazing post!!!
    i think it depends on the family and how they bring up there kids and what there take on life is, and what experience they go through, for example you say a couple who had a love marriage and are having a good experience there kids would grow up with the idea that love marriage is the way to go and thats built in there heads, and some have bad experience and there kids go we will have an arranged marriage to be safe. and vice versa with the arranged marriages. but to be fair if paired with the right person arranged marriages are not that bad after all. but personally i think i will go with a love marriage. i posted this blog about love stories so, if you would like to add some thing on it please do 🙂

  11. September 4, 2007 8:47 pm

    I am reminded of a couple of things I have heard about arranged vs love marriage.

    1. Some Indian saying to a westerner “In the west, you marry the one you love. Here in the east, we love the one we marry”. Of course it isn’t always true but still has a nice ring to it 🙂

    2. I remember discussing with my (american) colleague about the difference in love vs. arranged marriage. We sort of arrived at this: In a love marriage, many people have very strong expectations that the “magic” they had during courtship would carry forward the same way. It is almost an unreliastic expectation. When that expectation isn’t met, and it is in a society which has ingrained “find what is the very best for you” idea in you, it will quickly (and in many cases prematurely) lead you to think “This isn’t working. I don’t have to deal with this. I know something better is there”. In fact, I think in many societies, there is nothing wrong with this thinking – the mantra “If it isn’t working – Get out man! Why bother with the headache” seems to be around. This perhaps leads to a higher percentage of “short marriages” and divorce rates. In the arranged marriage, the expectations are completely different. And many go in somewhat prepared for differences – there is no pre-existing “magic”. The chances of your expectation being “realistic” (i.e. that any two people are bound to have differences, that her/his tastes/vies may not always match mine) is perhaps higher. Of course some may still have unrealistic expectations of a different kind – my spouse should be this, shouldn’t do this etc.

    Of course this does not explain everything. It is too simplistic an explanation for a very complex phenomenon. But some of it seems to make sense to me. If you expectations are idealistic, unrealistic then changes of an “rocky” marriage is higher. Does a society where love marriages are the only way lead to more of this? Perhaps.

  12. September 4, 2007 10:23 pm

    If “love” is arranged, would it really be love? Having said that, I do believe that someone can learn to love someone.

    • lucky singh permalink
      April 26, 2009 12:52 pm

      hmm ya bro i agree with u 100% love cant be as sweet as love if its arrange,love cant be force it happpens own selfs,no 1 can force it,for me no matter arrange or not love is more important,if really was arrange more good then y would have people dies in love,dies just to get some one arms,die to get small happiness…truth or not,believe or not all hell with it but i know love is love n its great cant arrange sum1 lotssssssss…..

  13. Anon permalink
    September 4, 2007 10:25 pm

    I have seen many old people here hold hands and walking on the streets and I would be amazed. We do not see that in India since love and affection are usually not displayed in public or even in homes. But, I am very sure that most old couples would rather be complaining about each other than actually being still in love. I guess it is the difference in culture, upbringing etc. In India people still stick to their marriage maybe due to economic and social compulsions than anything else. Many people are just doomed to a loveless marriage. I would rather have my kids pick their own spouses. It is time Indian parents stopped controlling their adult children’s lives.

  14. B Chopra permalink
    September 4, 2007 10:50 pm

    Love develops gradually when chemistry is just right b/w two otherwise badluck… It can’t be arranged.

    Very nice comments here.. Some have touched my heart.. and with some comments I disagree too..

    Why should we tolerate soo much for sake of keeping marriage up (irrespective of it’s type aranged or Love or for sake of blind society rules).. sometimes divorce is good solution. Those who are sufferring would know!

  15. Anon permalink
    September 4, 2007 11:18 pm

    Another evil thing about arranged marriages is the concept of marrying to change or better a person. I have heard of instances where schizophrenic people are made to marry so they would probably change. I think such thinking is quite rampant in our culture! In my community atleast, it is taboo for the girl to interview future grooms or even reject grooms. At the same time, I have heard of divorces too and the news of such happenings spread like wildfire. The divorce is usually on grounds of the man having some medical/hormonal problem (gay?) or if the girl is not interested in cosummating the marriage.

  16. September 5, 2007 1:03 am

    As a North American who has been fed the pablum that arranged marriages are loveless I was so happy to see you blow this theory right out of the water.

    I have Canadian friends, Indians who have arranged marriages. They are in love. Their love grew slowly and blossomed beautifully. They have family on both sides to support them as they move now towards starting a family. IMO they benefited greatly from the lengthy process of introduction, courtship and marriage that my other Canadian friends lacked.

    I want to thank you for sharing your wonderful insights and opinions. Although I may never reach India I’m coming to know your country better and better every day by reading your blog.

  17. September 5, 2007 1:32 am

    I agree that there is no reason to put up with any kind of abuse and hardship just to keep the marriage up. I was only saying that in societies where “getting out” is easy, there may be premature exits – and I believe this is true. So some western societies may have this problem. Societies like in India are on the other end – where divorce is frowned up that people put up with “too much hardship” – that is a problem too.

    To say that “love cannot be arranged”: Don’t we love our kids no matter what? We didn’t exactly choose them :). I know, I know – it is completely different but still think about it. You don’t look out for the ideal kid with traits you admire like in a kid and pick one. They don’t exactly turn out the way you want or the way you think your mate should be (i.e. barring physical attributes). But you still love them to death. It is not exactly like you love your mate – but there are lot of common things.

  18. rachel permalink
    September 5, 2007 3:51 am

    “However I think when you mentioned the aspect of one partner having a lesser role, or lesser status, I think this can happen in a love marriage too.”
    It can but it’s rarer because there are lesser people involved putting pressure. Enough people and you’d do whatever you’re told for the sake of some peace. I’ve seen and experienced boy’s parents assess the girl like a hind end of a cow in a butcher shop. Sorry for ugly imagery. I hated serving tea to those idiots while they visually dissected you and assessed your worth. I think still think it’s a pile of nonsense. Out of a whole bunch of people I think, my husbands family were the only ones who I felt actually wanted to know me and wern’t intent on knowing how well I could cook, dance, how much I earned, how well I could keep a house. Still, it’s not like I wasn’t pressured into it. It worked, but if it hadn’t it would have done some permanent damage.
    As for you, eight years is long time to get to know a person. If everyone should be so lucky.

  19. September 5, 2007 7:41 am

    Amit, yes, it’s a natural thing in an arranged marriage for a vegetarian to prefer a vegetarian! And why just arranged. Look at the famous examples of Richard Gere and Tom Cruise. Both were particular about marrying people who were in their own faiths as well! They have been candid about this preference. And recently I read an article about vegans being unable to sleep with non-vegans! Also a deeply religious person expects his love to convert to his or her own religion after the marriage. This is quite common, at least in India.

    Maliha, that point you said about your own experience coloring one’s views is so right! As you can see, everyone’s comments are from their own experience…

    Arunk, I think what you said about people who are in romantic love, expecting to feel that feeling all the time, is definitely one of the reasons for a high rate of divorce.

    Anon, I cannot agree that most people are doomed to a loveless marriage here in India. True, here people are not demonstrative, but mostly I have seen a lot of older couples with deep bonds here in India. I would say the majority of the couples I have seen over the age of 70 in India are amazingly attached to each other! But I do agree that Indian boys and girls should start getting more independent…

    Bharath, what happens is that if a couple sticks together because of society, the kids, whatever even though they may be unhappy…after some time the problems fade away! In the later years they are very happy. That is my observation of about 2-3 couples here who have been on the verge of divorce in their younger days. One of them, had even gone to court, and now, 20 years later, they at the age of 70 go for honeymoons! In fact Arunk’s second comment is very relevant. An easy exit can be a bad thing. But ofcourse a good thing in extreme cases.

    Thanks Brightfeather for your sharing your experience! And I hope you can come to India one day…

    Rachel, the marriage market can be awfully cruel. This looking at a woman as if she is a piece of merchandise, but girls do it too. They evaluate a guy by his bank balance. When you said in a love marriage there is less pressure from in-laws, I cannot agree with you. It depends on the kind of family you marry into. I had a love marriage but I had severe in-law problems…in fact it was because it was a love marriage that they found it hard to accept me! I was the same age as my husband for example. I was also career oriented, which they did not like. And other things.
    In my opinion, when in-laws have a say in selecting their adult child’s partner, they are sweeter.

  20. September 5, 2007 8:42 am

    I have friends who had the traditional arranged marriage, and others who had love marriage. Both sets of friends are happily married, with the exception of a love marriage ending in divorce. Obviously, both approaches have pros and cons, and I think what works for you would depend on your personality and expectations.

  21. rachel permalink
    September 5, 2007 9:25 am

    “In my opinion, when in-laws have a say in selecting their adult child’s partner, they are sweeter.”

    Well, obviously, because they made the decision, right? Plus, I think there is a difference between ‘approval’ and ‘blessing’. Also, once you are married, your partner comes first. It’s time Indian parents stop smothering their children. Then at least, the kids can take responsibilty for their own marriages. Advice is one thing, pressure is another.

    “They evaluate a guy by his bank balance.”
    That works both ways in a country where dowry is both illegal and an existing problem. There were plenty of idiots who voluntarily gave that sort of information without my parents having to ask for it. If they want to be judged on the basis of how much they earn, then it’s their problem. It’s the same as a girl who has been taught to base her self worth purely on her looks. There are some guys looking for trophy wives. They work very well for each other.
    Besides I don’t think you can compare that to a bunch of creeps checking you out to see whther you are worthy enough for their precious son, acting like they are entitled to it. It should rest with the boy, and if he can’t think for himself then he deserves the partner he gets. I can’t tell you what a relief it was every time someone said ‘no’, because it wasn’t my problem anymore after a while.

    Sorry if I sound cutting but this arranged-marriage business is a pain in the butt 🙂 Again, I’m lucky it worked out for me. If that BS would have continued for another year I would have left home and bye-bye parents.

  22. September 5, 2007 10:33 am

    I do understand what you are saying Rachel. True, the marriage market can be more humiliating for women than for men. I guess it can be traumatic as well, if the match doesn’t work out after ‘seeing’ 2-3 boys.
    Ideally speaking, boys and girls should make their own decisions, but that isn’t happening. I find that many are tied to their parents pursestrings and yes, apronstrings! Its a very complex issue, why this is so, and it has a cultural and financial component. This closeness of family works both ways. They can make your life miserable if you don’t conform, and if you do, you get everything, their love, support, and money!

  23. rachel permalink
    September 5, 2007 7:22 pm

    ” This closeness of family works both ways. They can make your life miserable if you don’t conform, and if you do, you get everything, their love, support, and money!”

    I’ve seen some very content North Indian joint families, everything was arranged and I must say the men and women are quite passive or even happy with the arrangement. To them it’s the bigger picture of family, honour, harmony, money involved. It does work for some but not all.
    I think it’s sweet that your ‘heart beats faster’ when you hear your husband’s voice!

  24. September 7, 2007 3:53 pm

    The difference in western and asian/indian culture can by and large be summed up by two words = Independence Vs Dependence.

    I lived first 23 years of my life in India and next 12 in US. Having gotten to live on both sides, it is easy to see the difference. On the subject of marriage, In US, most guys and girls live independently from their parents since the age of 18. They earn their own income, live separately, go on dates without parental permission and know that they will leave separately from their parents for their life. Hence the focus of marriage is on aspects like looks, interests & sex. While in India, even after marriage most folks live with their parents. Even those who separate, do so after getting married and due to requirement such as lack of housing space in growing family. Most in India don’t leave house at age 18, and even if they do for education, they either go back or call parents to live with them. Due to that in marriage, it becomes more important that bride can fulfill requirements of family and not only the husband. Arranged marriage meets this requirement well. Even if parents don’t know the bride, but knowing the family helps in keeping harmony. In fact, when we have Love marriages, often they fail due to lack of social support.

    On many other topics in life as well same is true. In India generally we are dependent on each other in family to get through every day, vs in US most people either don’t care about them or don’t want dependence. For e.g. most seniors here live separately, when I talk to them, they say they like it that way. They don’t want to live with their kids as it adds dependence. In India that would be un-imaginable for most part where parents say we don’t want to live with kids.

  25. Phantom permalink
    September 10, 2007 2:44 am

    Look, at the end of the day, how does it matter where one meets a future spouse – at university, through common friends, in a party, bar…..or through common family/friends. My parents got married in ’79, it was arranged, they had about 3 weeks from the time they met, to decide….and they had about 5 months of “dating” prior to the wedding. Their relationship has progressed and the love has definitely grown. There are thousands of cases like this where the love comes after marriage. However the considerations, attitudes and mindsets of my parents’ genaration is very different from that of contemporary youth. Folk in their 20’s and 30’s these days are far less willing, sub-consciously and consciously, to adjust, as much as their parents or grandparents would have. More so with woman, who are now more independent, emotionally, financially, professionally and socially….and thats a good thing.

    I have no problem with where or how a couple meet…but to blidnly expect love to just HAPPEN after marriage, in today’s context….is naive, for most cases. Sure, there are still many women who are raised to think with that cinderalla syndrome…where their entire choldhood and teens is a preparation for that perfect marriage, and their life is an endless devotion to being a good wife, mother etc. However for the majority of urban youth, I’d say that its very important for the couple to get to know each other to some extent, before they decide to committ to marriage. Going on initial chemistry is redundant, as that initial chemistry is nothign but infatuation, which is a surface emotion. Moreover, on intial meetings, both parties are only trying to impress, and therefore on best behaviour…so that intial chemistry may well be a red herring. Point is – i feel both boy and girl owe it to themselves, individually, and to the couple….to get to know each other as much as possible. Impossible to put a finite timelinne on this….as different ppl interact differently…for some 1 month of dating is snough…and for some 1 year isn’t enough. But i’d say that if a coupel are able to informally date say twice a week…then 4-6 months shud be enough to make a relatively informed decision.

  26. September 10, 2007 7:04 am

    I think you have summed it up very nicely Phantom. It really doesn’t matter how one meets, but once one meets, its best to get to know each other a little, to ensure that this isn’t the bigest mistake of one’s life!

  27. September 11, 2007 3:30 pm

    Hi Nita, excellent article I found in recent times..and a very healthy discussion on the topic….great…

  28. sumeetha permalink
    September 19, 2007 4:35 pm

    Nice article. Check out my experiences as a new daughter-in-law in a ultra conservative iyengar family –

  29. November 21, 2007 9:57 pm

    thanks for the GREAT post! Very useful…

  30. smile permalink
    June 14, 2008 11:58 am

    First, the ONLY reason why an american born INDIAN GUY would go to INDIA to look for a girl is because he’s desperate and most likely has no redeeming qualities. Think about it. If you’ve been in this country (USA) for almost 30 years, and haven’t met ANYONE that you could be romantically involved with, then something is wrong with you. Going to INDIA is the easy route. You don’t have to ‘get to know’ them, go on dates, or see if you’re really compatible. As long as you look good on paper (hey look, i have an engineering job, and an apartment, and a car! and i can get you a visa!)….it’s a done deal. And the INDIAN girls don’t have a lot of expectations because they’re just RELIEVED to be marrying someone who can get them to the states.

    The reason why an INDIAN girl would date and marry a WHITE guy is because after being born in the beautiful country (god bless america!) and experiencing life here, how the hell could they marry someone INDIAN? Indian guys (even the 2nd gen. ones like ourselves) are REPRESSIVE, have no sense of humor, smell, and are not creative…most of them are engineers, doctors, scientists, etc….They come from a family that’s soooo INDIAN….

    I play sports- soccer, lacrosse, tennis, golf, snowboarding.
    I love traveling…backpacking style (hostels and everything), VOLUNTEERING (they don’t do that in INDIA and most 2nd gen. indian guys are not fans of this or anything cool)….. going to concerts, museums, learning, growing, skiing, snowboarding, learning new languages, etc etc.

    My fiance is WHITE (australian actually) and he’s the best thing in my life….seriously. YES, we’re in love but we’re not getting divorced. We’re in this forever. It really pisses me off when people say ‘arranged marriages are better than love marriages because of a lower divorce rate.”

    First of all, not true. Second, if the divorce rate is the only measure of whether a marriage is successful, that’s a fairly low bar to clear….(someone posted that earlier).

    Lastly, our babies are going to be SO CUTE….and we’re going to teach them GERMAN & FRENCH (he’s fluent in both) and ITALIAN (i’m fluent in that)….seriously, it should NOT BE about marrying an INDIAN just because your parents want you to and you share a similar culture.
    As far as I’m concerned, if you’re in AMERICA, you’re AMERICAN and if you haven’t assimilated yet that sucks for you.
    BUT my culture is AMERICAN, not INDIAN (although I like the food and saris)- so i feel more comfortable with an AMERICAN MAN.

    INDIAN MEN can be soooo uncultured and UGLY and CLOSED MINDED…I dated an INDIAN guy once when I was in college- and it was the worst experience ever. After than I only dated white guys and it was awesome, until I met my fiance and now I’m in heaven.

  31. seeker permalink
    June 26, 2008 8:33 pm

    Smile: although I admit there is some truth in what you say, I think you generalize rather too much.

    [First, the ONLY reason why an american born INDIAN GUY would go to INDIA to look for a girl is because he’s desperate and most likely has no redeeming qualities. ]

    I know several second-generation Indian people in the USA (both in my family and otherwise) who chose to go the arranged-marriage route. Not because, as you say, they were desperate. But because they honestly thought it was a viable way to find a life partner, because they had seen it work for their parents, because they WANTED someone who was very INDIAN whom they could expect to be committed to the marriage whatever else they were or weren’t, also because they were tired of never getting anywhere with the dating scene in America (and tired of meeting commitment-phobic American men).

    [And the INDIAN girls don’t have a lot of expectations because they’re just RELIEVED to be marrying someone who can get them to the states.]

    This again is not the rule. I agree that there are many women in harsh economic/social situations in India (as there are everywhere, even in America) who are looking for any means to get out. But that has not been my experience of the middle class at least in India. In general, women in India have different ideas about marriage, and aren’t necessarily looking for the perfect soul-mate in a spouse, which is why they may appear to be somewhat easily satisfied with a prospective spouse.

    [it should NOT BE about marrying an INDIAN just because your parents want you to and you share a similar culture.]

    That is true, but it is up to each individual to decide for himself or herself. To some people, the shared culture and background and traditions are very important. And this is true of people all over the world!
    I am an Indian women myself living in America and I am dating a White American guy. Not because I have anything against Indian men :), but because of the values, outlook, and interests I share with this person. Who’s to say I wouldn’t have found the same in an Indian guy or for that matter a man of any other nationality?.

    I’ve met several second-generation Indian women in the USA who seem to have this deep prejudice against Indian men which includes dating or marrying them. It seems to come from seeing the unhappy marriages of their own parents or from their parents’ determination to make their children live their lives according to what society expected thirty years ago in India. They try to force their children to dress Indian, eat Indian, follow Indian traditions (that are probably not upheld so religiosly in India anymore) and try to convince them to shun any influence of American culture. In reaction, their kids develop a very negative view of most things Indian which is as close-minded as their parents’ view that all things Indian are good.

  32. vinod permalink
    July 24, 2008 3:53 pm

    I fully agree with the analysis. But in an age where the youth have developed unique identities distinct from their communities/parents, I’d like to see better communication between parents and children when arranging marriages. The generation gap is a huge bar. For eg – I prefer my parents to be involved in who I marry. But I do not want them to match horoscopes or conduct the traditional rituals of marriage. Instead, I’d like marriage to be of a form that is meaningful to me. But they would have nothing of that. Doing away with rituals is near a no-no while doing away with horoscope matching is a strict no-no. Unless they come to the same plane as I am in in these matters, it is difficult to see any sort of positive communication happen about my marriage with my parents.
    There are a number of obvious advantages in matching backgrounds in a marriage. That takes care of a number of adjustment factors in itself before marriage. I see no reason why I should not have the advantage of that. In romantic love, I think its success depends heavily on the maturity of the individuals to analyze their lives really well to see if there is a match. It can work too but there is a lot of prior analysis and upfront discussion required. Not that this is not the case in arranged marriages, but there is fewer items on the agenda (couldn’t think of a better way to put it) for the boy and girl. In both cases, love should be understood as something that grows with time and commitment. It is not something that is gifted to a couple on a plate. It requires WORK to sustain any marriage.

  33. July 28, 2008 11:21 am

    Your blog article though well written does not take in to view the sexual needs of a person. How can you marry someone who may look good but make you feel utterly miserable in bed? Some people would rather stay single than be paired up with someone that would make them feel miserable for the rest of their life. Your automatic assumption is that marriage exists to create a family. I must say it is both naive and cruel to the couple at the same time. Arranged marriage is nothing like a blind date, if you do not like the blind date you can walk out of it but unfortunately getting a divorce in India is not that simple legally, culturally and socially.

    I don’t think you understood what I wrote. Arranged marriage is not like a blind date. Meeting before the arranged marriage is like a blind date and nowadays it is possible to refuse to marry the person one ‘sees” in many modern families. It’s always better to quote the exact sentence I wrote so I can explain what I meant.This same applies to all your other points. I have not said anywhere that one should marry someone who looks good! 🙂 And where have I said that marriage exists simply to create a family? And in any case, a couple is a family too isn’t it? One needn’t have children to have a “family” unit, that is what I believe anyway. – Nita.

  34. alexashley2001 permalink
    August 29, 2008 8:09 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Everyone is different, have different ways of thinking, respecting the culture they are born and care for their parents. Being gay is always a challenge we have to live rest of our lives. My life has come to a phase where it is so hard for me to make decisions. I am Indian but came to UK three years ago. I had a four years relation with guy in India when I was in university. But as most of the Indian gay stories end, mine was no different. He got married. It really hurts when someone you love leaves you. But I managed to get over it. Took long still I get him in my dreams even though its been 8 years since we last met. Then after struggling a lot for my career in India dealing with my sexuality as well because no one would have understand the phase I was passing through I decided to come to UK and make a fresh start to my life. I met few gay men here and expressed my sexuality. I was quite relieved and happy that my life is taking me to the right way. I secured a good job here (UK). Found a nice guy with whom I lived for 2 years. My parents kept forcing me all the time to get married as I am the only child. Last year when I went to India for holiday, my parents already decided to bind me up in the arranged marriage. They forced me to choose one of the girls for marriage. I said “no” and wanted a free life. Then all of the family members gathered in the house about 14 of them and kept pestering me for marriage for 2 days. I reluctantly said “yes” and the happiness on my parents and my relatives’ faces were to die for. I have never seen anyone so happy in my life. It’s just because to see them happy I decided to get married. I rang my gay friends in India and UK and told them. None of them was happy with my decision. It was a hard decision to make as I was 30 and didnt want to get my parents tortured for rest of their lives by the relatives. My bf left me after that because he didnt want my parents’ life to affect by my decision to stay with him. I decided to suppress my sexuality and to straight way and I managed quite well. I didnt see any guys in UK after engagement and kept myself busy at work all the time. After few months I got married. Spent couple of weeks with my wife in India and came over to UK. I started falling in love with that girl and thought everything is gonna be fine with my life. She came over to UK after 4 months. I changed the house for her bought everything new told everyone as wife is coming over. I was quite excited. But the very first day she came over she started fighting with me without any reason. I realised a couple of times earlier that she is very short tempered. She tends to break things at house before marriage as well and blackmail her parents by shouting at them over silly things and to satisfy her demands. The second day I got a message from my friend ( girl ) it was just “hi and how things going?” My wife read the text and started assuming that I have an affair with a girl. She started shouting at me and crying and all the melodrama over silly thing. I told her that its not an affair she is just a good friend. But she didnt agree and became voilent throwing up everything in house. She started shouting so loud that neighbours came out of the house as well. To calm her down I cut my arm several times she even didnot stop me then after heavy bleeding in my arm eventually calmed down. Was she insane? Do normal people do that? Well I knew that things were not right with her. She used to look at each and everything in house as she was suspicious of something. I deleted all the pics with my ex and removed all the evidences about me being gay. But she found a memory stick with my pics with ex. That day was hell. She opened up the window and took off the blinds so that everyone can see whats going in the house and started shouting at me, broke my laptop, broke all the crockery in the kitchen. So I admitted that I am gay but I didnt cheat on her. She didnot calm down and I thought she is gonna kill me so I had to call in the police to calm her down. I told her that I am trying to become straight and I will keep her happy for rest of her life. Anyways that calmed her down especially when she saw the police. The respect I used to give her ended up the very day. I could not get aroused as I was feeling guilty all the time. She used to force me to make love everyday if I say no then again same threats of shouting in middle of night and gathering crowd in the neighbourhood. I started hating her so much. I bear all that for 2 months but when I could not take it anymore I flew to India and thought I will commit suicide or will never return to UK as I started hating her face so much. She lived with my friends here. She told everyone in India that I am gay. I rang her and told her to come to India and we will decide what to do? I booked her tickets and she came over to India. The day when she was flying to India I booked my return flight and went back to UK. I told my parents that I cant live with that girl and even after telling my and her parents that I am gay they are still forcing me to compromise because they want to be happy. Where is my happiness? They donot care about my happiness. Even my wife is ready to come back to me. I cant take this, being a educated young girl she is ready to live with a gay husband? And her parents are telling her that all men do these kind of things in life? I donot know if I am showing immaturity here or the grown ups like my and her parents? I already made a wrong decision in my life I donot want to make another by compromising? Can anyone help me what should be done in this case? My parents are blackmailing me of their health. She told neighbours about me. My straight friends have abandoned me. My job is at risk. I have decided to break all the contacts in India for sometime let them think about these issues. Am I making the right decision?

  35. August 29, 2008 8:23 pm

    Alex, more than this being a gay or straight issue I think it is a question of not getting along. This lady who is your wife seems to be a hysterical type and I doubt that it will change unless she gets psychiatric treatment. Clearly, she wants to blame everything on you. Now, according to me (but please don’t take my advise as very important as I am not a counsellor) you should live your life the way you want to. Marrying that girl to please your parents was a mistake. God has given you another chance. Take it.

  36. Pushkar permalink
    September 18, 2009 10:47 pm

    Hey thats a great blog and a good post…gave me some hope that love can happen in arrange marriage too. Dumped once and realised that i fell for a wrong and indecent girl.Lets hope the best now in arrange marriage…hope my destiny is bright lol coz if love doesnt reciprocate after my arranged marriage(most probably),life would be worthless and useless ! Hell would be better than life without love !
    Keep blogging…cheers!!

  37. October 28, 2010 6:19 pm

    I like this post, i have family related and friends (not from india) and they married by family arrangement…well i see them all happy and look not a big problem with their living…so i agree with u, arranged or not it is okay if both parties like it…but having love in teenager also good outcome…so it actually about choice and decision…back to the purpose of marriage, we all need to live happy, someone to understand and having normal family…if we meet this, we can live happy either married in arranged or not…and i just know that divorce case in india is low compared to marriage rating…wow.. I am not Indian but i think this article open many eyes to wide open:)

  38. asif permalink
    February 29, 2012 11:21 am

    The Post is simply too generalized and severely biased towards arranged marriage So biased that it reeks like a Justification for the Current State of ones Helplessness. Marriage is a social Institution , In India – It is a Holy Sacred Institution – on which several important things like, family prestige in society , status in caste groups depend upon.
    Arranged Marriages click in India because of these reasons –

    1. Guys/Girls – having no redeemable features don’t land a mate in their youth. Have no choice but to put them selves on Marriage Market or get picked up by the best buyer.
    2. Young Indians – are so Caste driven that they can enjoy flings for a while then get married as per their parents wishes.
    3. Dowry, Family prestige etc..
    4. A notion that family will provide after marriage support and repair, and yes they do – they can do whatever to safegaurd the Holy Sanctity of a Marriage – sacrificing ones self to it is no big deal.

    Divorce rate being low is such a horrible argument – Remove the societal pressures, start treating divorcees as normal – and just see the bad marriages spiking up the divorce rate.

    Like most things in India – Marriage is also a self denial and Illusion which turns into a holy thing.



  1. taking care of business « my little corner of anonymity
  2. From Friendship to asking Mama when looking for “the One” « Man of Roma

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