Sunday, September 15, 2013

Arranged Marriage is Like (Fill in the Blank)

It is through open discussion that we are able to understand other belief systems and truly accept the differences between communities and cultures. When girls get together, the talk inevitably turns to relationships. When it comes to relationship talk, some girls like me find themselves declaring that their romantic relationship will come after marriage because either they or their families have a certain degree of faith in the arranged marriage system.

Most people who are not familiar with the arranged marriage system are at first shocked, believing that arranged marriage is synonymous with forced marriage. They express sympathy, apologizing to the other as if she has already been sentenced to a life in prison. 

If the conversation is amongst close friends, a concerned friend will offer words of empowerment, somewhat like this, "You're a smart, modern, independent girl, but when you say you're okay with having an arranged marriage, I get scared. I don't understand how you could be okay with the idea of someone else choosing your husband. Marriage is like buying a car, would you buy a car without test driving it first?"

If people don't believe in arranged marriage, I'm completely fine with that. But when they begin suggesting that it's like purchasing a car without a test drive, I have to disagree. 

First of all, a marriage--no matter how it happens--is not a financial transaction or investment. Even if we do choose to liken it to the purchase of a vehicle, we have to remember that a car will always be a depreciating asset. It's value decreases over time. If a comparison is an absolute requirement, how about comparing it to the purchase of a house instead? Living in California, I've witnessed the rocky real estate market with my own eyes. House values have a tendency to increase and when one purchases a house, they understand that he or she is aware of the long term commitment involved. 

My question now is, how many people test drive houses? Not many. We have permission to view the house, review inspection reports and legal records, and imagine the various benefits and drawbacks of the purchase. We do not get to live in the house for a few days to determine if we "feel it." It's simple: you view, you like, you think, you buy.

I have come to understand that Western cultures have become closed off to "foreign" and "exotic" ideas. Anything that requires compromise and adjustment is promoted as being poisonous to individuality. We have to understand that there are many communities and people who prefer to put their religion, culture, and family before their own needs. It's a choice they make and a choice that deserves respect no matter what someone's personal beliefs may be.

Let us not compare arranged marriage to a trade or agreement; especially if it's a practice that you do not understand. Ask questions, listen to others' experiences, and have an open mind. What may seem preposterous to one person may just be another person's dream. 

How do you feel about arranged or love marriages?

How would you fill in the blank in the title? "Arranged marriage is like ______________."