One rainy evening a while back, some friends and I stumbled upon a 20/20 episode about arranged marriages. Surprisingly, it's not only still alive and well, but it is thriving in the United States!
Fascinated at its rising popularity, I decided to do a little research. The connotation of arranged marriages in American culture (and probably most Western cultures) is that of a kind of curse certain to doom one’s life to eternal unhappiness-- beautiful young women trapped in relationships with gnarly old men and the like. But is that a fact or merely a cultural misconception?
As I dug deeper, I wanted to know how those cultures that embraced it explained it to those of marriageable age. Certainly, it must be a convincing argument since waves of young men and women are not fleeing to the U.S.
One man explained how marriage was compared to eating sugar cane: Western cultures marry for love. This is like eating sugar cane from the sugary sweet bottom part up to the bitter top. They begin head-over-heels in love, and (typically), it goes downhill from there. In their culture, however, arranged marriages are like eating the sugar cane top down. They believe that a relationship gets sweeter and deeper as the couple gets to know each other more. Is it just me, or does that make a lot of sense?
An astonishing 90% of marriages in India are arranged. In these cultures, it’s not uncommon to advertise for partners, including a clear “check list” of expectations. Marriage is looked at much more practically and as a family decision, which is why some say it works. Who knows you better than your family? In Jewish cultures, it is sometimes a family friend or wise woman in the community who is a matchmaker. And in the US, more and more singles are turning to matchmaking services.
While to most American women, the prospect of spending the rest of their lives with an (almost) complete stranger is horrifying-- But in a society where over ½ of unions end in divorce, arranged marriage is enough to make a single woman wonder…
Want to learn more about arranged marriages?
Arranged (a great movie we've reviewed on arranged marriages)