Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Arranged Marriage 101***

When I was 10 I heard about a girl in our community arranged to be married. On her wedding day she was asked by the officiator if she would take him as her husband and before a hall filled with red and gold colored shalwar kamized aunties leaning in with concentration to take in the scene of inevitable gossip: she said no. I knew this girl. Tall and gangly with thick rimmed glasses in her periwinkle blue shalwar kamiz and long thick dark hair all the way down her back, tied, always. The story of our very own runaway bride circulated for months amongst my friends. We admired her for fleeing a life she did not want. In retrospect I'm not sure how much the retold story deviated from the perhaps less dramatic truth but she did not marry that man.

Many people equate arranged marriage to "an eastern thing". In some ways its true- but not completely. Arranged marriages happened the world over even in England and other western countries. Often they were between royalty to secure alliances and expand empires but they happened among ordinary people as well. I thought I'd share what I know/think on it. If you you can add or correct please share.

Forced arranged marriage: This is what many think arranged marriage is. Girl (or guy) absolutely unequivocably doesn't want to get married but are forced. This is not the norm. I know of a girl brought to her grandmother, gravely ill, as she requested her to marry a man she didn't want as her final wish. ("miraculously" grandma made a complete recovery after the wedding) I know of men forced into a marriage and after informing his bride of his apathy went back to his girlfriend. Its wrong and I'm glad that girls like the one I heard of at age ten resisted such a life.

Traditional arranged marriage: This is how most of my parent's generation married. The girl's parents get a proposal from a guy's family. The parents discuss and consider and then agree and inform the child of the wedding. The couple is fine with this and no one is forced. There is a great deal of trust the child places in their parent. Many do not even meet their spouse until the wedding day though perhaps a picture might be shared. I think this is a dwindling phenomenen at least in the US though I know a few who went back to the motherland and married sight unseen. From those I know the majority were fine with it though some felt pressured to please their parents.

Arranged Introduction. These can take different forms. Parents or friends introduce the couple and let them talk a via phone or email and maybe meet once or twice and then ask for a decision. Some such introductions are much more relaxed simply introducing and then leaving the couple to talk and hang out as much until they make a decision. There is not much pressure to marry. If the couple says no its a no. However when parents are involved in the process there will inevitably be some pressure as parents can't help but give their opinion and advice on the situation. I personally think arranged introductions are great. Its like a blind date but your parents might have set you up. Fine that might be a little weird but at least there is an understanding of why you are talking. You can also ask questions to each other such as perspectives on children, or finances without it seeming like you're eager for a comittment, because you both are clearly interested in a possibe committment. To me its not even an arranged marriage which is why I call it an arranged introduction since the choice is solely between the couple involved. I see this as the natural evolution of where "arranged marriage" is headed.

The Rationale. Many argue that parents know better. They have wisdom and want the best for their children whom they love incredibly. Who better to pick a spouse than someone who wants the best for them. They will be objective. They will look at things that those eager in love will overlook. Some also say that marriage is more than just about the couple. It involves the families uniting. It's about raising good children. Particullary if the couple will be in a joint family where the girl will live with his entire family perhaps the parents really are better at judging the situation and if the parents are a good match for their daughter to live with.

The Cons. Parents want what is best for you but does that mean they know what's best for you? I know parents who unwittingly paired their children with cheaters, abusers or otherwise incompatible people. I mean, most don't really talk in depth to the guy, they talk to the parents. Plus, who says parents can't be subjective in picking the spouse? They can get swayed by proposals from wealthy or prominent families. Plus what if despite the right credentials the "click factor" isn't there between the couple? This may not matter in societies where its understood marriage is not about flowers and chocolate and romance but a more practical arrangement. But if you live in today's increasingly global community its going to be hard to not want what you see around you. Furthermore if parents really know best then why do some allow bad marriages? Parents paralyzed by what others will think. I know one girl engaged to a man who turned out to have another wife secretly back in Pakistan. But the parents refused to break the engagement because the wedding cards had been sent out and the hall was booked. I know another girl who found out three months before her wedding that the guy had lied about serious things such as being ten years older than he had claimed, but her parents said that they did not have the heart to call his parents and end it! The objectivity factor to me is arguable.

Phew, long enough for you? I get asked this question a lot so I thought I'd break it down in one post to reference others to my view on the matter. *** Update: Take my views and keep in mind that I am born and raised here and thus my perspectives reflect this***

28 comments:

Baji said...

Kid to teacher: "Thank you Ms. Aisha!" :-)

Mohammad A. AbulHasnaat said...

salaam,
i invite u to join and read and preferably write on this new website me and my friend launched.
http://www.beingdesi.com/?q=wiki/about

Sohnii said...

Aisha!

i dont like the idea of arranged marriages... the way i see it, too much is at risk... while parents may have their best intentions at heart, they dont always "know" how their well-laid plans will turn out to be in the end... too many horrible stories behind my point to validate it...

i think the best bet is getting to know someone urself and letting ur parents decide if that person is actually good for u... in that way u get to know whether ull actually have any chemistry with that person, and ur parents will be around to think rationally for u in case u are too oblivious to his/her faults...

doshar said...

I think the arranged type that is common here in Egypt (at least among the educated class,) is the arranged introduction. so and so wants to get married, he asks his family/friends etc of someone who would be suitable. they recommend this girl or that, and they ask if they can be introduced, here, the couple get to meet, and see if it would work out. parents' opinion is of course important... but the girl's decision and desires are of course the most important... it is more the girl's decision with the parents' consent rather than the other way around. yes, the parents sometimes can give a little pressure... but it is up to every girl to stand up for what she wants if she does not want to marry someone. never get into it out of being too timid or shy to say no... that is the most important thing.. and the only way to have a proper marriage later.

Linda said...

Thanks for sharing that not all arranged marriages are forced on the girl. I thought that is why it is called arranged, because it had no input from the girl and guy at all.

Sonia said...

Whether the 'forced' arranged marriage is the norm or not is debatable depending on the location where such a marriage takes place. Do you mean it is not the norm in American Desis? Or that forced arranged marriage is not the norm period? Anywhere. Also one can argue about what 'forced' means. Is creating a situation where the girl has only one option to 'choose' from considered forced?

My point is that in our hasty attempt to avoid double victimization of Desi women by pointing out that they do have agency to choose their own destinies, perhaps we sometimes ignore the true reality of the situation. Just a thought.

Amani said...

My marriage was of the arranged intro. variety. He actually met with my parents before meeting with me. I might blog about it when I get a chance...

Aisha said...

lol Baji! :)

MAH: I will check it out soon :)

Sohnii, well said, I agree with your take

Doshar, you are right its the girls responsibility to stand up as well.

Linda, welcome, and glad I could clear things up :)

Sonia, you always strike up great points but then you disappear! Anyhow, I guess I should add that I am talkin about people in the US I had hoped it was clear because I said it was "my take" and because my examples of arranged introductions, forced, and sight unseen marriages are mostly stories of people I know here. But you are right, I can only speak about what I know and I dont know much about how the state of things are in Pakistan. Maybe you could enlighten on that.

Chic Mommy said...

this is a great post. You're writing is really professional, have you considered submitting this to Divanee.com? They are looking for article submissions these days. They don't pay but it helps you build a resume online of published work.

Aisha said...

Aw thank chic. Maybe I should. I wa reading though that if you want a career in writing you should never give your work for free becaue it wont help you build the career. Even if the magazine only ends you 10 copie with your printed article it better than not getting paid. For ome reaon it doent impres publishers. I have been paid for my writing before so according to the Stephen King's snowball theory I have to look for same or a little more. But thank for the tip, I will have to check this site out!

mezba said...

Aisha, whose picture is that on the top corner of your post, just under the title?
(mezba)

Aisha said...

Mezba she is an old indian actress from the 40's or 50's. I am not sure her name though. She is a beauty isn't she?

Tee said...

I think your view on this is balanced and fair to both sides. It's a good clear explanation for people who don't know how it works. I think many people think they're informed on the issue but are not. They are firmly against arranged marriage because they think it's two individuals being forced together.

I have probably mentioned before I had a friend in high school and her parents were from India. I can remember how excited she was when her marriage was being arranged. She was thrilled with the guy her parents had picked out and he seemed pretty sweet on her. Wrote her nice long love letters and everything :)

Shabana said...

Great article, Aisha.
For the record, I dont think parents generally know what's better for us. But I'll let Raihana know who she's marrying (haha).

Chic Mommy said...

Good to know Aisha. Also, I wanted to tell you, if you can't find the original Winsor Pilates DVDs, you could try the Pilates for Dummies or Stott Pilates. Those are good too, I've tried those. Another one that's good is Lotte Berk Method Hip Hugger Abs, that routine is only 10 minutes. Amazon has these in stock.

You could also try seeing if Blockbuster.com or Netflix.com has pilates exercise videos in stock, that way you can try before you buy. (or just burn them for free if you have a DVD burner and Nero software). I actually rented all my Masala Bhangra Workouts (volume 1-4) and my husband burned copies for me before he sent them back. I saved alot of money this way, otherwise I would have had to pay almost $75-$80 to buy all four DVD's from Amazon.

Anonymous said...

it's not an old actress! its the chick from Monsoon Wedding, it came out like 5 years ago. Lol.

Aisha said...

Tee, i recall you sharing that before, do you know if she stayed happy?

Shabana, lol! I am sorry also that Btw- how far is Athens from Atl?

Chic, thanks for the tip on Pilates, and I really should just netflix it before I get it. My fear is I'll purchase it and then never use it. I HATE EXERCISE. I'll do it... but I treat it like medicine. Something you must do for the sake of your health.

Anon- lol thanks!!!! :)I found her picture on a website saying she was an olden time actress. Obviously mistaken. Can't belive everything you read I guess.

Tee said...

Aisha - Now THAT would be interesting to know! I lost contact and don't know her married name. She was going to move to Florida with her husband and he was cool with her continuing her education. (She was really smart.) That was the last info I had! I hope she's well.

Shabana said...

argh i hate exercise too.

Aisha said...

Interesting Tee, I hope she is well.

Shabana well luckily you dont need to wory about it :)

Cindi said...

Very good post! I still get baffled by the whole notion of an "arranged marriage" but then I started thinking of my daughter dating and *shudder* I completely get it! Although there are people who go through these arranged things and feel that they have to out of respect for their parents and what they want. I would hope that if one of the party doesn't want the marriage it wouldn't still be forced upon them. I know that my own rocky dating life was hell to go through and really this just seems much neater, a little less painful than the star-crossed lovers thing, lol. I think I like the arranged meeting but only if the people doing it truly know the person they are helping.

Enyur said...

Well written! I like how you name the term "Arranged Introductions"! Being born and raised in Canada, I've still had a pretty traditional upbringing. But my parents have always kept a balance. Never really cared about what 'others' would say as long as what they are doing is right. That being said, they've always cared about their kids, not what the world will say. When it comes to marriage it's the same thing. They feel that according to the religion things should be done a certain way (i.e. no 'informal' dating was allowed). However, they do believe that times have changed and two people need to know each other and be able to make up their own minds as to whether would like to get married or not. Knowing that, I feel comfortable with my parents 'introducing' me to whomever they think their daughter may get along with, however, the ball is always in my court. As long as the decision to get married is a mutual one (both guy and girl agree), I don't think there's anything wrong with arranged intro marriages. Ok those were my two cents.

tahin said...

Actually, According to ISLAM, There's no Forced arrange marriage option! One of the main preconditions is approval of "both" sides. Every girl has a right to say NO for any offer and candidate.

Who forces the girls or boys to marry with a person that they don't want to marry, causes a big cruelty!

Ashi said...

Great Post.
I'm always trying to convince other that there isn't anything wrong with an arranged marriage. Even other asians! Although, i'm lucky that i have a good relationship with my parents & i can see why some poeple have had bad experiences.

The Daily Rant said...

This post on arranged marriages was great and very informative. I'm reading a book now, where the families promised the woman and man to each other when they were just children - they had a contract drawn up between the two families that they should unite. Of course, it's a book and it had a happy ending, but it really made me wonder how these things actually work.

Sometimes, I think I would have liked to have that done for me, other times, think that my parents don't really know me as well as they think they do and how could they possibly make the best choice for me?

I sort of like the idea of the formality of it, the courtship, the having to make it work instead of fleeing at the first sign of discord....but who knows?

Anyway, thanks for the insight. Was a pleasure to read.

Ayesha said...

aisha salaams!
great post. who'd'a thunk i'd still enjoy reading stuff about arranged marriage even after having a kid :) but the whole process is not far enough back for me to have forgotten the agony. i ended up getting married through what you aptly call an "arranged introduction" and subsequent "islamic dates" haha... :) through the hindsight of age and new parenthood, i can see how my parents might have known what was best for me in certain situations.. . but i think for us first-generationers, whose parents came from another culture, there IS a lack of understanding of what is truly best for children living in america (i.e. being able to like each other). if i had settled for someone who could support me at the level i was raised in, but i didn't feel i could love... well, i'm educated and american, i could just divorce and support myself! i think the local "pakistani community" also put social expectations that were VERY difficult for my mom to see past. as sincere and clear-thinking as my parents have always been, when it came to marriage they suddenly turned uber-desi. argh. well, it's all forgotten now that they have a grandchild :) which is of course their ultimate goal!!

mAn[S]o0r said...

interesting take on arranged marriage, especially about parents being subjective! that totally ruins the whole *mood* of the arranged marriage concept!

the *click factor* is more important, after which comes the commitment. If a guy or girl lacks commitment, then no matter what the family or bank balance says.. its an exercise in disaster

Danette said...

Fabulous post! Very interesting and I loved your insight into the topic. I always enjoy reading about other cultures and I thank you for bringing this topic to me.

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