What Do You Think About Arranged Marriages?

What Do You Think About Arranged Marriages?  During the Christmas break I was touring Northern India visiting New and Old Delhi.  I brought in the 2016 New Year in Ranthambore after a lovely visit to Jaipur. I continued my journey to the Ganges River where I lit a candle in hopes for a prosperous new year.

Doing Couples work as a Marriage Counselor I come into contact with a diversified group of clientele which includes people of Indian descent.  Indians come from a society where arranged marriages live side by side with open marriages and dating applications.  India is a society in transition. Urban India is transitioning from community and family-focused to an individual-focused societal structures.

Indian girls

Author Ester Perel who also visited India states “the importance of love as a narrative of a chosen self is prevalent to modernity. Here, people are managing tremendous ambiguity. Individualism in India is the new attraction, bringing along an assortment of new freedoms: the ability to leave the family home for the big city, a mobile phone that enables a newfound privacy, and dating apps that rebel against arranged marriage. On the other end of the continuum is the “savage loneliness of the Isolated States of America.” Some of us are discovering the unparalleled joys of individual freedom, and others are longing for the lost fabric of connection and community.

In my work as a  Licensed Marriage Counselor Indian Couples from arranged marriages come in with problems not much different from their counterparts.  I work with Indians that marry by choice and those who marry with the combined efforts of their parents.  All in all they do not experience much difference when it comes to relationship problems.  As I work within a developmental model identifying individual growth and how differentiated that individual is from their family of origin and significant others, I assess what strengths and weakness they bring to the relationship.  As two people join their individual selves into a union the relationship then holds a combination of the two working through togetherness with what skills they bring to the union.  Arranged marriages, although not made by choice initially, can become a union that is functional with effective communication and acquired skills for conflict resolution.  I have found that arranged marriages tend to have the support of the parents as the parents made the initial introduction and used its decision making capabilities to form the match.  As with all newly formed relationships it is always good to talk about what the expectations are in the relationship for family harmony.  Culture may be a big part of incorporating the wants for the family’s future and both individuals forming the union should have equal say in what that is.  Even though your parents selected your partner it is ultimately up to you to decide how your life will be with that partner.  Often times the problems I run across in working with Couples, whether in arranged marriages or marriages that are chosen, are that Couples tend to live the life of what their parents want and not necessarily what they want.

For more information on how to manage your relationship please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Reminiscing about my recent trip here is some recommended reading materials to help you think critically about marriage and modern relationships.

We’re not meant to do this alone // Tarja Parssinen via Salon

A good read on American Individualism and the impact on our families.

Everything you thought you knew about love is wrong // Aziz Ansari via TIME

An essay elaborating on the ideas from Modern Romance, an unexpectedly serious book by the very funny Aziz Ansari and my friend Eric Klinenberg. If you haven’t read it yet, the book (and essay) are about the challenges, choices and pitfalls of looking for love in the Digital Age amid Match.com, OkCupid, Tinder, Twitter, Facebook. Mr. Ansari, himself the child of an arranged marriage, brings a keen cross cultural pulse to his analysis of the eternal mystery of falling in love.

“I asked my dad about this experience, and here’s how he described it: he told his parents he was ready to get married, so his family arranged meetings with three neighboring families. The first girl, he said, was “a little too tall,” and the second girl was “a little too short.” Then he met my mom. He quickly deduced that she was the appropriate height (finally!), and they talked for about 30 minutes. They decided it would work. A week later, they were married… And they still are, 35 years later… The stunning fact remained: it was quicker for my dad to find a wife than it is for me to decide where to eat dinner.”

Three Views of Marriage // David Brooks via NYTimes

Marriage is one of the more debated and puzzling institutions of all time. It is an endlessly fascinating topic, whether legally married, in committed relationship, or single.


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