Arranged marriages in the 21st century--I must be joking, right? But there is a huge segment of the world population where arranged marriages are still the norm. Case in point, Farahad Zama's column in last Sunday's N.Y. Times Modern Love column.
Farahad is now a middle-aged man of Indian ancestry and over a decade ago, he happily submitted to his family's plan for an arranged marriage with a girl he'd never met. They married two months later after spending all of forty-five minutes together and by his account, are happily so. He believes there are benefits to falling in love after marriage.
Sounds heretical to American sensibilities where belief is that falling in love is a pre-requisite to a happy marriage--or is it? Farahad points to our country's divorce rate as a reason to be skeptical. He posits the notion that perhaps it is our high (read unrealistic) expectations, a result of having stars in our eyes when we marry, that may lead to the shock and disappointment of discovering that your romantic white knight is no longer the man who comes home tired at night or the adventurous imp you married has turned into a cranky mother of a toddler.
Do we expect too much from the men we fall in love with and vice versa?
Farahad writes: "I think that in arranged marriages one starts with lower expectations and realizes the need for compromise is essential in a successful bond, and that is probably its biggest benefit."
My critique partner, Shobhan Bantwal, who is also Indian and has a fabulous novel coming out in September from Kensington called The Sari Shop Widow, has been happily married for decades. Her marriage was arranged.
India's divorce rate is amongst the lowest in the world at 1.1% compared to the U.S. divorce rate of 50%. Still how much is due to cultural taboo and how many of those Indian marriages are actually happy ones is any one's guess. But it does give one pause and something to consider.
Farahad concludes: " What I am sure about is that our marriage, arranged with other considerations in mind, took us from acquaintance to love and kept us together until we realized that our differences are the yin and yang that make our relationship whole. Now we consider ourselves absolutely perfect for each other. Somewhere in that is a lesson, I am sure."
As a romance writer and reader I must say I've always loved the "marriage of convenience" plot, whether the mail-order bride of the West or the economic and titled alliances of the Regency, I enjoy reading about a hero and heroine who start out their marriage as strangers with little in common and yet must find a way to build trust and make it all work. Even today, you can find contemporary romances where the plot is about two dissimilar people forced into a marriage situation.
Maybe the reason I enjoy them so much is that you get to see the "married" side of romance and all the pitfalls inherent in trying to sustain a viable marriage, something I can relate to. Because even the best marriages take a lot of work and compromise, something those of us with decades long "happy marriages" know all too well.
So do we expect too much from those we fall in love with? Could there be some benefits to arranged matches with "other considerations" beyond love in mind? Do you enjoy the Marriage of Convenience plot line?