I have seen several articles on the web that advise people to marry (or date) women (or men) who read, travel, code, cook, or fit other criteria depending on the writer’s own expectation. It is clear that while many of these qualities can be very desirable, none of these, alone, can account for a happy and lasting marriage. Quite obviously, the ingredients of a successful marriage are many, varied and mysterious. The one piece of advice that I think would fit into this formula and still take care of as many of these factors as possible, would be to marry a girl chosen by your family. This is essentially the definition of an arranged marriage. The beauty of arranged marriage being increasingly overlooked by the present generation, it makes sense to explore in detail why arranged marriage works and how it improves the chances of a beautiful and fulfilling, lifelong relationship.
While it may seem ironical at first, an arranged marriage owes much of its robustness and resilience to the power of love! A typical process of falling in love involves getting to know a person gradually, and being attracted to some of their traits that stand out and are found desirable. Just by looking at recommendations that we considered at the beginning of this discussion, it becomes clear that many want to find their life partner based on very specific traits such as a shared hobby or a common interest. When two such people get married, it would be inaccurate to call it love marriage, because here the marriage is based on their (often subconsciously) perceived compatibility and love is more of an afterthought that veils the actual basis.
There is nothing inherently wrong in finding a compatible companion. But the catch is that you can never know a person well enough. So it is foolish to think you are marrying a person you know very well, because you might find them to be a totally different person after marriage. We can look at the moon from the earth for months or years, but will still get to know only the side of moon that faces us. If one’s love and acceptance is based on specific traits that were found attractive, it can also grow weak when new qualities come to light that are deemed undesirable or incompatible. If you choose for one quality, there will likely be another quality that can make you rethink that choice.
On the other hand, in an arranged marriage, love comes first. It comes, not from any attribute or quality in your spouse, but from a deep and unshakable sense of belongingness. When seen through the prism of this love, every quality, trait or action appears beautiful (or at least forgivable if it absolutely goes against your tastes). When you love someone because they’re yours, it is easier and natural to overlook and forgive their flaws much like we forgive our own mistakes. This is similar to how a vast majority have absolute love and devotion towards their motherland. I love India because I am an Indian. There may be many shortcomings in my country, but it is still MINE, and I love it.This is again how most people love their parents, siblings or children without having got to choose them in the first place. This is perhaps the closest that worldly love can get to being unconditional, and is the strongest bond that can exist between individuals.
The role of parents or family elders in decision-making adds an extra layer of security by considering diverse aspects such as caste, religion, culture, social status and education. These are more long term considerations that take into account not just the compatibility of individuals, but of the two families. While those who are in love often have their judgement clouded by it, involvement of these well-wishers who are not similarly blinded will greatly improve the quality of decision-making.
You may have noticed that I referred to love as a power that enables you to overlook or forgive flaws earlier and now talk of it as something that blinds and clouds judgement. While the choice of words reflect my personal preferences, I do not deny that it is the same effect that is in play in both cases. The reason to treat one as good and the other as bad follows from the quality and basis of the underlying love in each case. At the risk of being pedantic, I must reiterate that in case of an arranged marriage, the love is conditional only on the other person being considered an inseparable part of yourself and thus almost unaffected by traits or qualities that surface over time. In a love that is based on attraction to qualities, the love itself it at the risk of being affected by any change in these qualities, and so the negatives that were invisible at the beginning may become glaring later on.
My own preference for arrange marriage is also rooted in a firm belief that, in general, obeying parents will bring good results. When a person leaves such an important decision in their lives to their parents and other family members, I also take it as a sign of their commitment to family and traditional values – qualities that are important in a person you want to build your family and life around. Even from a very practical standpoint, couples who are married with the blessings of their families will get more help from them to iron out any issues where they need external support.
On a concluding note, this is not a judgement or indictment on those who do not follow their parents’ wishes or on those who find their own life partners. Further, this is mostly written in the context of Indian culture, (may be applied to others that enshrine similar values,) and may not be relevant in other societies and cultures. Considering human diversity, it is not difficult for me to appreciate that there may be many factors (related to individual, family and society among others) that demand a different type of marital union. My purpose in writing this article is to highlight the advantages of this ancient and beautiful tradition followed in India and to show that it is not a blind leap of faith, but a well-considered and sound option with the promise of a very high rate of success.