I’m a non-Indian lady & Indian guy friends tells me about their quest on arranged marriage. While I don’t know sufficient cases to draw correlations POV (<30), I do know enough to have idiosyncrasies in psychological and perceptions about marriage before & after which comes to me as cultural shock.
Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:
Hmm…that’s a good question. And quite relevant to the current generation.
I am from a Hindu family originally from the state of Kerala, India. And my answer is based on the customs and norms of my family.
Almost 98% of the marriages in my family have been arranged marriages. The 2% who have opted for love marriage are still held at a level slightly lower than those who went by the traditional way. Why? I don’t know for sure. Maybe we can arrive at an answer together by the time I’m done with my answer.
Our perception of marriage does not change at all after we get married. We know what we’re getting into right from the beginning. Nothing comes as a surprise. It is something that we have grown up seeing. So it’s really nothing new. The plus factors of arranged marriage has evolved over time, though. Back in the days, marriage was strictly between families that were societal equals and it was left to the choice of the family elders to choose the best possible match for a potential bride/groom, taking all the pros and cons into consideration. The boy and the girl were usually just ‘informed’ of the match and of the date of the wedding. Nobody questioned the decision of the family elders. And the belief was so strong that they would decide on something based only on the best interests of the entire family. And the beauty with which two complete strangers became an inseparable part of each others lives was something to be actually seen to be believed. Marriages were indeed forever.
Today, the scenario is much different. The reason why a lot of people opt for an arranged marriage is the familial security and support that it guarantees. Unlike in many other societies around the world, in India when two people get married, it’s is actually two families that are getting bonded with each other. There’s a reason why marriages are called ‘alliances’, you see 😀 So yeah, with the current crop of youngsters having little or no regard for the ‘sanctity of marriage’ like their more conservative ancestors, it is desirable to enter into a marriage with the complete consent of family elders, which is possible only if the match was arranged by them. If something goes wrong, both the families pitch in to help and set things straight.
I’ll tell you the way the people in my family (and I’m sure in many other families like mine) think.
- She found the match herself, no? If she’s facing any problems, let her handle it herself. It’s not our business. If she had asked us, we would have found out that the boy is a drunkard/a drug addict/financially weak/from a broken family/whatever. Now it’s too late.
- He went for a love marriage! How could he even think of hurting his family like that? What all dreams his parents would have had for him?! Oh, he cares only about his happiness. His parents will not be able to walk with their head held high in the community. What a selfish boy!
- Isn’t it obvious? He/she is a clear-cut gold-digger whose eyes have glazed over seeing our girl’s/boy’s social standing/educational qualification/financial status/family name/everything. Otherwise do you think we would have gone to them with a proposal for our son/daughter? How cheap!
In most cases, the family (especially the extended family) takes on an aloofness to the person who ‘strayed’. Tags like ‘selfish’, ‘self-centered’, ‘unfeeling’, etc. stick on to them for life. I know of people who talk about other people who were long dead and gone who had hurt their families by marrying somebody of their own choice.
The treatment meted out to others who have gone for a traditional arranged marriage is in stark contrast. They are celebrated and feted and practically fussed over by everyone. Both the bride and the groom gain immediate acceptance at their in-laws’ place. They don’t really have to put in any effort. And this goes a long way especially since Indian families seldom function as independent islands. Like I said earlier, a marriage is never between just two individuals alone. You marry each others families too. This is the harsh truth. The better accepted you are, the easier life gets.
The reality is quite contrary to what is often portrayed in the foreign media about arranged marriages in India where the bride and groom meet each other for the first time at the wedding. This is so not true…duh! We interact with each other quite a bit during the ‘engagement period’. In fact, we are encouraged to by the families, so that we know each other better and don’t feel awkward around each other post the wedding. Some families are quite broad-minded and even tell the engaged couple to go out on dates, etc. And it’s a no to the misconception that parents’ choices are forced upon us. We are given multiple choices to choose from(after the filtering process is done by the family based on education, family status, financial status, horoscope, character, etc.), and it is always with the full consent of the boy and the girl that the match is fixed.
It is also a surprising fact that when the families of both the boy and the girl are so closely linked, there is a need for both the man and the woman to behave properly with each other. The match was decided by the family and any serious problems that arise will be sorted out not just by the couple, but by the entire family as they consider it to be their moral responsibility to see to it that the relationship works and that their decision was right. This support is priceless. It’s like a hidden warranty for the relationship. We know of a family based in Kerala that sold their sprawling family mansion in Kerala to pay off debts incurred by their son-in-law (in the USA) due to his excessive gambling. Had it been an arranged marriage, I can say with conviction that the family would have calmly asked the daughter to return home and let the unwelcome son-in-law to mend his own issues. In an arranged marriage scenario, every problem becomes a problem of the entire family, and everyone pitches in to offer help and every possible assistance. Like I said, we don’t function as islands.
It is for this comfort zone that a lot of youngsters even today opt for an arranged marriage. In the spur of our youth, we might overlook many things in a person we have set our eyes and heart upon. It takes a critically analytical set of minds to find out if the match is truly ‘made in heaven’. I remember a family elder remarking once, ‘Love is not the ONLY thing that is needed in a marriage. When the stomach grumbles in hunger, love flies out the window. Marriage is a serious matter and to think that ‘love’ is all you need is one of the biggest lies you’re telling yourself.’
Marriage is not a cakewalk in any case. But it does get a lot easier with a little familial support. I don’t say that love marriages don’t work or that families don’t accept love marriages or the people their children choose as their life partners. But the attitude is slightly different where I come from. Parents feel a sense of elation when they realize that their children have chosen to accept their choice, knowing fully well that they would want only the best for them. And I think it’s perfectly okay to give them this pleasure 🙂