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Arranged marriages – old-fashioned and outdated?

During last night’s show (which you can download here or add to your iTunes here), we discussed a topic with which both Britt and I have very little personal experience: arranged marriage.

I consider arranged marriages to be antiquated and old-fashioned. I think that it’s already difficult to have a long, successful, happy marriage when both parties are independently deciding to marry. Being happy in a marriage when you barely have time to figure out if the person your parents chose is compatible has to be damn near impossible.

Proponents of arranged marriage point to the fact that the divorce rate for arranged marriage is much lower than for traditional marriages. I would like to point to the fact that divorce has such a heavy stigma with it, both culturally and familially (which is apparently a word I just invented), that many arranged marriages end up with people who dislike or maybe just tolerate each other for the rest of their sad, unfortunate lives.

Britt also mentioned that an arranged marriage isn’t necessarily a forced marriage – that the person is making the choice to marry. I don’t think it’s really a choice – walking away from your entire family and support structure is an impossible task for many people in this situation.

Here are some declarative statements that I have no problem making:

1. Arranging a marriage for someone by age 25 because otherwise they’re likely to be a disgrace if they’re older and single is wrong.

2. Arranging a marriage where inordinate pressure is put on the woman to bear children is wrong.

3. Spending the rest of your life with someone that you might “learn to love” is wrong.

4. It’s not a noble sacrifice to give up your entire life to marry a stranger so that you can support your family and their culture. It’s more like indentured servitude.

5. Making someone choose between a life of arrange marriage or a life without your family is wrong.

6. Marriage should be about two adults making the decision to spend the rest of their lives together. Whether it’s based on love or lust or coincidence, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the choice was theirs and theirs alone.

What do you think about arranged marriage?

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50 Replies to “Arranged marriages – old-fashioned and outdated?”

  1. ADW

    You are absolutely correct that marriage is difficult enough when two people go in “eyes wide open.” That said, I actually do know a couple who have an arranged marriage. It’s weird to me, but it works for them. They are both from India where arranged marriages are common, and he actually did not meet her until their wedding…..

    I can’t fathom that. But I am probably not the best person to speak on the subject since I am no good at it myself!!!

  2. Crys

    i think arranged marriages are unfortunate but i also don’t judge anybody for it. what was that book? (although i only watched the movie.) The Namesake? that was a beautiful story of an arranged marriage…i think love CAN happen within that context, it’s just harder, probably.

  3. NYCWD

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet… but am surprised that you took this stance.

    I don’t think arranged marriages, as a cultural institution, is wrong. I have a number of friends who have arranged marriages, and they’re pretty happy.

    What I do not agree with are the marriages that are forced upon people who are underage, opposed to it or the mate that was selected for them, as what happens with some arranged marriages specifically in some of the religious sects that are closed off to the rest of society.

  4. Grant

    I’m mostly anti-marriage, especially when religion gets involved and demands people maintain an obviously poisonous relationship, so I’m doubly opposed to a forced marriage – in theory. In reality it sounds like my only chance to actually go on a date some day, so sign me up as long as the bride is Asian (preferably Japanese) (preferaby female) (preferably still alive).

  5. Jay

    I’m pretty much opposed to arranged marriages. I’m also opposed to forced marriages like when the VP candidate’s 16 year old daughter gets knocked up and she and the 18 year old boyfriend are forced to get married to protect the girl’s mother’s political career.

    Also, for some reason this blog entry hasn’t shown up in my Google reader yet. Weird huh? Am I the only having this problem?

  6. Sheila (Charm School Reject)

    I don’t normally use my Reader but I went and checked and this wasn’t in my reader either.

    I am “on the fence” I guess because in some families the girl is perfectly okay with her parents choosing her husband – it’s normal in their religion and culture. What I don’t agree with are the forced marriages where a 14 y/o bride is being forced to marry an 80 y/o man simply to gain fortune for her family.

    My mom worked with several women who had arranged marriages and they said that they “grew into love” and were very happy with the partner that their parents chose for them.

    BUT I don’t know a whole lot about this subject and I’ve never personally met someone who was in an arranged marriage. So does what I think even matter?

    I seriously doubt any of this made sense but you are stuck with this jibberish comment anyway.

  7. Sybil Law

    This is also not in my reader. And it’s almost 1:00p.m!
    Anyway, I understand what you’re saying, completely, but I also know that some people are genuinely happy in their arranged marriages. I went to school with a lot of Indians (I am generalizing them that way) and one was an old friend. She got really upset any time we mentioned being older, because she was freaked out that she’d have to marry someone her parents chose for her or she’d be disowned.
    However, I’ve also read firsthand accounts of people in said marriages, and what they have to say makes sense as well. Especially since so many people, as well as myself, ended up in less than ideal marriages.
    So basically – what the hell do I know?!
    Also – can someone find Grant a friggin Asian chick already?! :lmao:

  8. B.E. Earl

    “Single is wrong?” Really?

    I don’t know, it seemed pretty right to me for quite a long time. Depends on the person. It was just stupid luck that I stumbled into Gia. I would have been okay with remaining single if I hadn’t. Let me stress that I’m very glad I’m not.

    Also, 1:00PM and this post still hasn’t shown up in my reader (Google) like so many others. And your site took forever (more than 2 seconds) to load. Hmmm.

  9. Blondefabulous

    I have seen in the news where a young Indian man attacked both of his parents because they had not arranged a marriage for him yet. He was dismayed that they would not arrange a marriage for him until he improved his station in life to where he could SUPPORT a wife and family. Hmmm….. maybe there is something redeeming here about parents not granting their childs every request when it is in that child’s own best interest!

  10. Faiqa

    Tell me, Adam, darling, what *does* it feel like to be so self righteous and arrogant?

    I listened to the podcast. And I have to say, *my* favorite part was when you diminished the love between my parents, grandparents, my own sister and her husband, my best friends and countless other people I admire and respect just because it challenges an Adam-specific specific world view.

    The women and men that I know in these marriages are no more oppressed than you or people from *your* culture might be in your marriages. The methods, of course, may vary.

    Arranged marriages become oppressive when the families themselves, or if either one of the individuals in the marriage are, themselves, oppressive. If the family is dysfunctional, that dysfunctionality manifests in EVERY aspect of their lives, not just the arrangement of a marriage. Which goes to say that if the families and individuals are good people that are respectful of each other’s rights and preferences, oppression is not an issue.

    Over half of my friends are in marriages that were arranged. These men AND women are extremely accomplished, independent and intelligent and would be highly offended at your suggestion that they are oppressed by their families because they *chose* to go the arranged route.

    And there is nothing wrong with a person prizing their family over themselves. This is the ethos of entire nations, and I respect that it’s not your point of view… but to say that it is *wrong* is… well, wrong.

    Just so you know, three of my very close friends ASKED their parents to arrange their marriages for them, and when it didn’t work out for all three of them, their parents were EXTREMELY supportive. Far more supportive than my parents would be for me and my brother who “arranged” our own marriages (heh). Those parents took a degree of responsibility for their children’s situations in those cases.

    Divorce is certainly allowed in “those countries” and your inferences that it is difficult to get divorced due to societal pressure in those countries were overblown.

    I concede that it is harder, but you used the phrase “impossible” which is completely inaccurate. I have more than a few relatives who are divorced in “those countries.” If you have heard about people being stoned or whatever because they got divorced, you heard about them because they were glaring exceptions. For example, did you know that the divorce rate in Saudi Arabia (notoriously an “arranged marriage” society) rivals that of the US? Yes, it does.

    So, my dear sweet Adam, who I love as much as late night PBJ sandwiches and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is a lot)…

    On behalf of the brown women of this world, I would kindly ask you to stop pretending that we need saving from the big bad brown men who oppress us.

    We can take care of each other just fine. We know what we’re doing, and we’re committed to helping those among us who might be victimized by oppressive laws, regimes or people *without* dismissing or diminishing their cultural identity.

    And, we *certainly* don’t need anyone telling us that our parents (or we, if the shoe fits) were *wrong* for placing a high value on our own culture. Or that we’re wrong because we place priority upon the unity, harmony and the reputations of our families over our own.

    All that said. I totally love you.

    Even if you are kind of a fucker, sometimes.

  11. Bonnie B.

    Oh Faiqa, how I wish Adam had a smiley that would adequately depict me standing here applauding you with an enormous smile on my face. This will just have to do (picture legs on this, would ya? :clap:

    Your rebuttal was beautifully stated.

  12. Finn

    I laughed when I heard you were doing this topic. I laughed because I had no idea this was still going on. I laughed because I wondered if you or Britt could possibly know anyone in this situation.

    I’m not laughing now. I need more information before I form an opinion. Dawg and Faiqa gave me some things to think about.

  13. maman

    I think that if both partners enter into an arranged marriage open and willingly without family coercion, then I have no right to complain.

    On the other hand, I don’t argue with people who promote marriages of convenience or gay marriage.

    Marriage requires work and cooperation. How you get there is not my business.

  14. hello haha narf

    i’m gonna stay single and let others do whatever the hell works for them. marriage sure as fuck ain’t my thing, i’ve walked away three times before exchanging vows. if someone else wants to arrange their own marriage or let their parents do it, it is all the same to me – CRAZY.


  15. Kingston

    Brand new to your site and love it already. Found you from Chicken Liver –> Margalit (Lord help her) –> you, in case you were curious.

    My thoughts on this subject: I have no idea what arranged marriages are like in other cultures, but in mine (Armenian), they usually tend to work because what people are looking for in a spouse is exactly what parents will find for them. There’s more of a sense of community, and making the larger groups of families happy is extremely important and in turn leads to a couple’s own happiness.

    Does this make sense? From my perspective anyway, the little day to day problems are so much more manageable because of an overall sense of contentment and well-being.

    Also, I am utterly unromantic and don’t think there’s Just One person out there for you (more like tens of thousands). So, keep that in mind I guess.

    Oh, but yes I do agree wholeheartedly with you that essentially selling your 12 year old daughter to an 80 year old man is Not okay. Something like this was in the news recently, wish I had the link.

  16. Mary

    Personally i dont see a issue with arranged marriages.

    However like one of the above commenters i DO have a problem with the religious wingnuts who do things like this:

    Recently was pregnant and HIS mother said we had better be married before the kid was born. I had since lost the child but between his and my parents had made it quite obvious they either wanted us married with a baptized child within a week of its birth or we would pretty much be disowned.

    If it works for them, so be it.

    Id like to buy my future husband for a chicken and a bag of rice. Mm chicken and rice. and a husband-slave for all time. Mwa ha ha.

  17. Dan

    My considered and extensive opinion on the matter:

    Arranged marriage – fine
    Forced marriage – not so fine.

    Actually I came across an interesting moral problem a couple of years ago. A Pakistani patient I was nursing on an acute psychiatric ward was taken out by his family so he could be taken to Pakistan to get married.

    I questioned his capacity to actually consent to this, as he was experiencing some quite significant negative symptoms of his chronic schizophrenia; but very little notice was taken of my concerns. If however he had been female I would imagine that the full weight of the psyciatric and legal system would have come to bear in order to prevent his family from taking him out of the country.

    I’m not sure where that story actually takes me, but I think my point is that it’s all culturally relative.

  18. Poppy

    Reading comments on this tiny monstrosity called a blackberry sucks ass. Did anyone say the correct word for familially is actually familiarly? Thanks to subway ads in Spanish for teaching me something!

  19. jGrrl

    I have to geek out and plead ‘The Prime Directive’ because some cultures have their ways and its not up to us to advance them or modify them to fit our beliefs.

    Personally – I think arranged marriages are wrong for any reason but I also cannot judge the cultures that practice it however I say ‘when in Rome’ and so it shouldn’t be allowed in countries like USA and Canada where it is NOT our standard culture.

  20. Faiqa

    “…not in our standard culture.”
    Hmmm. That’s an interesting perspective. Given that Asian Indian culture has been present in North America for over 100 years now… how long before it’s deemed “standard” enough for us to be “allowed” to practice it? Another 150 years?

  21. Stacey

    I know a woman in an arranged marriage. I used to ask her a bunch of questions about it because I couldn’t fathom someone picking the man I’d spend the rest of my life with for me. Apparently she tried to find love on her own for awhile (and did fall in love with a man who was too jealous of a partner), then decided she couldn’t pick any better than her parents and asked them to arrange a marriage. The man she married was a friend of hers, but she had never thought of him in a romantic way. She pretty much said her marriage isn’t the romance she dreamed of, but she’s not really unhappy.

    Since her experience is really all I know about arranged marriages, I don’t think I know enough to form an opinion either way.

  22. jGrrl

    @Faiqa : I didn’t mean to offend, I only meant (and perhaps I should have thought a bit longer about my wording) that it isn’t the standard as in ‘common place’ for the majority. In my personal opinion an arranged marriage takes away the basic fundamental rights of human beings and I don’t personally agree with it anywhere but I also don’t believe that other countries have the right to dictate to countries where it is practiced widely and as the norm.

  23. Faiqa

    @jGrrl: Oh, honey, I don’t find an opposing viewpoints offending!! But, I do thank you for clarifying that statement about culture. I wonder, though, if telling a whole group of people that they can’t define marriage in their own paradigm (whether that is in this nation or outside) isn’t also a taking away *their* basic fundamental human rights? And as long as a person who is of legal age *willingly* submits to an arranged marriage, I don’t understand what right is being taken away from them?

  24. jGrrl

    @Faiqa : if a person wants it then its entirely within their rights to do it but I find that in some cases they may have been conditioned to want it, ‘trained’ if you will.

    I knew a girl when I was growing up who was trained that it was perfectly ok for her uncles to abuse her and so she was confused when child protection services came to ‘save’ her.

    Its not anywhere near the same thing but I use that only as an example of how easy it really is to condition someone from birth that something is good or bad.

    I just don’t think its right to make such enormous life decisions for another person when they are the one that will have to live with the full consequences rather than the person who made said decision.

    I’m maybe either too old fashioned or perhaps too far ahead of my time, I’m not sure, but I could never take such a huge choice away from my own daughters or son, its not my right and in my personal opinion – it shouldn’t be.

  25. Captain Steve

    I actually know a girl who’s going back home in January to get married. I guess her family selects the applicants and she gets final say, but she’s not in favor of arranged marriages all the time, though she is really excited about her own.

  26. Stormi Leigh Paulk

    Hey Dude, I totally agree I spent almost 14 years in an unarranged marrige that was hell I can’t imagine spending anytime in one I didnt have any say in, fuck that noise. If you fuck up your life it should be of your own free will and choosing as to what and how you fuck your life.

  27. Alli

    I’m 30, married for the second time.

    Seeing as how my parents were right about both husband #1 (he’s a creep and would break my heart) and husband #2 (nice guy, seems reliable, doesn’t make enough money to support me) I think that maybe the arranged marriage thing might have something to it! Not saying it’s right or preferable, but I am saying that maybe my parents know a more than I thought they did when I was 18!

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