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People all over the globe engage in mate selection through one of two ways: future spouses choose their partners themselves or parents or a even larger kinship group choose whom they going to marry. The first of these is often referred to as “love marriage” or at times “free‐choice marriage”. The second form, “arranged marriage,” is the prevalent form of marriage in about half of the world’s population. However, not all arranged marriages are ultimately the same. They range from the more traditional form where parents select partners based on factors likely to protect the interests of the family and larger society and without any input from the potential spouses, to a more contemporary form where the potential spouses have considerable influence. Forced marriage is sometimes a form of arranged marriage but should not be considered synonymous. Studies of marital quality have been inconclusive as to whether love marriages or arranged marriages result in greater marital satisfaction.
In America we are not accustomed to the idea of arranged marriages in fact it is still a very taboo subject. This is simply because we are privileged with the right to be able to choose our own spouse to marry. We grow up with the idea of finding true love drilled into our head since we could remember, making the concept of being able to choose our own life partner to be nothing out of the ordinary. But what about those individuals around the world who do not grow up believing that they can choose their own spouse? It is not even an option to the, how exactly do they go through these arranged marriages and what makes them work? Or do they work?
The idea of arranged marriages is very difficult and strange for western countered to understand. In western countries the idea of marrying a stranger is extremely odd and unusual. This practice is mostly common in countries like India, Pakistan, Japan, China and Israel, not practiced by everyone but it is still common. In Western countries the focus of attentions is more towards love, sex, and appearance which are normally the center of relationships. People tend to get married for such reasons and as a result get bored of one another easily in some cases. In Eastern countries they tend to look for more practicality in their partners, aspects like generosity, integrity, ambition, humility and others which will be listed shortly.
One of the biggest misunderstanding most of people have about arranged marriages is the fact that most mistake an arranged marriage for a forced marriage. When you talk to the average American about what an arranged marriage is, the result is usually negative and most get a bitter taste from it, stating it to be a completely unnecessary and a horrible thing. It is typical to envision an unfortunate younger female with an older objectionable man, and the girl is forced into marriage with him and is incredibly unsatisfied and unsettled with the entire situation, but that is exactly where we mistake an arranged marriage for a forced marriage. We tend to overlook the fact that arranged marriages have to have cooperation from both of the families involved and consent from both of the individuals whom will marry (Frances Nguyen, 2013), whereas a forced marriage is where the individual is, well, forced into the marriage. In a forced marriage, the parents do not allow the future newly-weds (in most cases underage children) to have any say in their choice of spouse. This form of arranged marriage is rare, but in some parts of the world, such as the Middle East, and parts of Africa and Asia, it does exist. If he or she refuses to marry their chosen person, they will be punished, or sometimes, even killed. In most cases, their objection is simply ignored, and the marriage takes place anyway which can cause harm to the individual being forced to marry. Although we cannot find many arranged marriages in America, there are plenty of other countries around the world that do practice it.
One place where you can still find a wide portion of the population continuing the tradition and rules of arranged marriage is in India. There, arranged marriages are mostly followed through to keep families from marrying/mixing into the incorrect social class. Parents will do anything they can in their power to keep their children from marrying anybody with less money than their own family so they won’t have to support the other family more than they should have to and to keep the image of the family. Originally, arranged marriages were practiced in India when the children were at a young age, sometimes even before they could reach puberty. They normally did this because, again, they did not want their children choosing someone out of their social status. Nowadays there’s more it to it than before, there’s now laws that make it illegal for the parents to stop the individual from marrying who they truly want to marry. Of course, this does not mean that the parents cannot threaten their child and exclude them from their will or current lifestyle if they do not do as the parents please. A lot families will consider it a shame to the entire family if the individual does not abide to the wishes of their parents and marry who they themselves choose. This mostly applies to more to the upscale families in India, the majority of the impoverished population usually does not care as much considering they do not have much money in the first place, so they do not really have much to lose.
Another country that used to take part in the arranged marriage tradition was China, they practiced it pretty much the same way India did. They would present a dowry and if they were found suitable for their son or daughter then the marriage would follow. Occurring was also forced marriages as well as marriages with young children, because of all of this, arranged marriages were made illegal in China since the 1950s. Like in India, although it is now illegal parents still stay involved heavily in marital decisions meeting with other parents and making agreements between the 2 sets of parents (Helen Roxburgh, 2017). If the child gives approval to the parent to set up an arranged marriage, there will not be any counterclaim therefore there will not be any objections or problems that would cause the law to get involved.
As negative and out of the ordinary as that all sounds, many people don’t mind the idea of partaking in an arranged marriage. This is mainly because they feel like they can then put more focus on the commitment aspect of the relationship, opposed to the feelings part like we do here in Western countries, “A relationship not bound by marriage is more easily broken for the smaller nuances in life. After marriage you tend to accept what you have rather than look for someone better as people often do while courting or dating” (Indiamarks). This may prove to actually be effective if we observe the divorce rates of people with arranged marriages versus people whom choose their spouse.
In India it is speculated that at least 60% of all marriages are arranged, a study done in 2012 showed that the divorce rate in arranged marriages was less than 4% whilst in the United States the divorce rate from individuals choosing their own spouse was roughly 40% (Danielle Page, 2017). However, when observing these numbers, the cultural aspect of the views on divorce should also be taken into consideration. In most Western countries choosing a significant other is mostly based on feelings and with time those feelings could change positively or negatively which can ultimately lead to divorce. In arranged marriages the couples are thrown into their relationship with the sole purpose of keeping a commitment and they view it as they “have a lifetime to learn to love them” (Indiamarks).
With that being said, the divorce rates can have a lot to do with the cultural views of the individuals involved (feelings versus commitment), making it quite difficult to decode whether or not we can call the divorce rate comparisons accurate. However, we can ultimately come to the conclusion that there are more individuals in arranged marriages that will stick together, opposed to couples in marriages where they themselves have chosen their partner.
It used to be that the soon-to-be wife would have to give the soon-to-be husband’s family something called a dowry, in other words a marriage settlement. If the dowry did not satisfy then the female would remain unmarried, if the said dowry was not presented to the male’s family before the date that they had agreed and wanted it by, the female would then be prosecuted in some way or another, it could either be by shunning her or having her go through some sort of “household accident” which is a “better” way of saying that they would have her vanished. Dowry’s are no longer fundamental, and are prohibited by law in India, although this does not stop some families from continuing the practice of it.
In modern day, there are a couple of ways that couples with arranged marriages come together. It is important to state that the marriages are always organized by a third party and mostly rely on factors outside of out the ordinary for most. They do not get to take into consideration the attraction factor, or the intimacy and love factor that most relationships do. Once the individual gives the approval to having their parents arrange them a marriage, the parents will usually search based on a variety of factors, anywhere from age, money and religion, to family, and pictures of what the prospected spouse will look like. It is important for these families to choose a partner that will keep them in good social standing. In some cultures, the parents will even let the two possible spouses meet a couple of times and decide whether or not they feel they are a good match to end up married to them for the rest of their life. The couples also have a financial advantage when they accept an offer from their parents. The parents of the couples will help them build or purchase a house and give some money as capital for them to start a new life. Furthermore, the parents of the couples also help them solve some troubles can occur during their marriage such as argument, tenseness and financial problems.
There are also such services parents use that provide a simple service to find the life long partner for the individual like a matchmaking agent or matrimonial sites. These services provide a modern spin to the choosing process. Instead of the parent picking their son or daughters future spouse, the family will meet with the agent or the matrimonial site to find them a perfect match for their personality based on the factors stated above, working in the same way for them as an online dating site would generally work for us. Therefore, arranged marriages are not always as restricting as we westerners make it out to be, they actually tend to be something that can work out much more in one’s favor given the right circumstances.
All in all, arranged marriages are sought and performed for the benefit of a person and their entire family. Parents are looking what is best for their child and family, if we agree with that or not that’s how people whom practice this tradition view it and some parents will stop at nothing to give their child that desired lifestyle whether their child likes it or not. Arranged marriages are usually seen with bad taste among many people but, for those that understand the purpose and tradition of arranged marriages their marriage turns out to go quiet pleasantly for the most part. Resulting in people desiring an arranged marriage for themselves even to this day. During, the Elizabethan era opposing an arranged marriage was a severe matter which shows that arranged marriages were viewed as something that every family profited from even if the person that was getting married couldn’t see or understand the benefits yet. This also shows that families during the Elizabethan era were very bothered about the way people perceived them in society. Today arranged marriages are important in some cultures and places like the Muslim culture in India because they are known to bring joy to a family and their child getting married. The arranged marriage is also set up for their child’s best interest. Overall, love is not an important factor when a parent is searching for their child’s partner but, that doesn’t mean their child won’t end up falling in love with the person their getting married to while married. Their only hope is to be optimistic when faced with a tradition like an arranged marriage.
- Nguyen, F. (2013, August 14). The Issue of Consent: Clarifying the Differences between Forced and Arranged Marriage. Retrieved from https://ilg2.org/2013/08/14/the-issue-of-consent-clarifying-the-misunderstandings-between-forced-marriage-and-arranged-marriage/
- Page, D. (2017, June 30). Struggling to find marriage material? Here’s what to look for. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/why-you-should-treat-marriage-more-business-ncna778551
- Roxburgh, H., & Team, E. (2017, February 14). Shanghai’s ‘marriage markets’ are exactly what they sound like. We checked one out. Retrieved from https://www.ecnmy.org/engage/shanghais-marriage-markets-are-exactly-what-they-sound-like-we-checked-one-out/
- The Culture of Arranged Marriages in India. (2015, June 02). Retrieved from http://www.indiamarks.com/the-culture-arranged-marriages-india/
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