Marriage By Choice, Not By Obligation

As my husband and I celebrated sixteen years of marriage a week ago, I am surprised that arranged marriages still exist as I've read in publications recently.

While I came from a country that preferred arranged marriages years and years ago, some of the "benefits" from such a marriage are not as unwelcome as others might think nowadays. Tradition dictated that parents arrange the match for their sons or daughters and this arrangement was conditional to the right qualifications of the family in question. If the qualifications were met between two families, only then would the intended meet and get to know each other before the wedding. In some cultures, the intended couple would not meet until their wedding day and start their married life getting to know each other.

While arranged marriages have never been a Western tradition, there are aspects of it that have recently become attractive to some who think of it as a way to give back to the family. There have been arguments regarding the economic benefit of arranging a married for their child, ensuring that their daughter will be taken care of. Americans do not believe in being "arranged" or having "dowries", but if the idea of an arranged marriage sounds good, there is enormous pressure placed on prospective suitors who are expected to provide for their future family. 

It's true that the strereotype of men providing for their family still exists, but nowadays, women contribute to the economic well-being of their family as much if not more than their husbands or partners. In these economic times, the idea of choosing one's mate by parents is not being easily dismissed. The prospect of economic stability first before love is not the typical way for Western men and women in finding life-long partners, but can one be blamed for trying to think in these terms?

In India, arranged marriages are still prevalent and quite accepted. In my circle of friends, I know of two women whose marriages were arranged by their parents and are still married to the same men for more than ten years. When asked whether they would have preferred to have chosen their husbands instead of their parents doing so, they didn't think that it was an issue. For them, the idea of financial stability took precedence over love, as opposed to the other way around. For them, the idea of love was secondary to financial stability.

In the Philippines, arranged marriages used to be facilitated years ago by parents. Dating was allowed so long as there was a chaperone. To put in perspective, when my older sister got married and went to Canada for their honeymoon, so did we. Yes, my family went on the honeymoon as well. While we didn't share a room with them, we were with them throughout the entire honeymoon. Nowadays, dating and marriage in the Filipino culture are more Westernized and most people marry out of love, not by obligation. While there are those from an older generation who would prefer to go back to the tradition of arranged marriages for economic reasons, you would be hard pressed to find anyone from this generation to think that it's a good idea. 

As someone who is lucky to have married the man I chose and not have him chosen for me, I am grateful to have had that right. Arranged marriages may not be for everyone, but I understand the reasons behind it. I know that every culture has traditions I may not agree with but it's not my place to pass judgment, I can only learn from it. That's my take on this, what's yours?

Recent Posts by Tes Solomon Silverman

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