Friday, June 12, 2009

Great Expectations, Divorce and the Benefits of an Arranged Marriage

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?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Do Something Romantic....

The other day the President took his wife on a night out in NYC. Today the New York Times had an article suggesting (a little tongue-in-cheek) that the Commander in Chief may have made some men look bad because, hey, if he had time to take his wife out on a date, every man should have the time.

The article then went on to detail the lengths some men did not go to be romantic. Some poor women reported not having a night out as a couple in a very long time. But then, some couples found time for being romantic after decades of being together.

My hubby of twenty plus years and I have always tried to have a date night (except for the first few years after my daughter was born and neither of us wanted to let her out of our sight:). Even when money was tight, somehow once a month we scraped together enough for a babysitter (our families lived too far away to help much) and went to a movie. Eventually we could even afford dinner with the movie once in a while. Even with just those few hours, we'd be able to reconnect. For us that meant laughing at the absurdity of our busy lives or planning out home repairs or maybe a vacation or simply confiding in each other our respective work problems. Somehow, it felt intimate even though we were out in public places.

My daughter often chastises my husband for not being her version of romantic. No, he doesn't notice my hair when I get it done, or a new outfit, or anything I may do around the house. And, like many men, he isn't one to say the L-word often, in fact, he rarely shows his emotions.

But he is the type of guy who has tea waiting for me in the morning and makes it for me every night as we watch T.V. He's even been known to surprise me with a cup as I'm working away at the computer just because. I find that terribly romantic.

And, though he's not the most demonstrative soul, he won't leave the house in the morning without giving me a good-bye kiss, even tracking me down in the basement if need be. That always warms my heart.

Oh and he will bring me flowers for no reason--not often--but often enough to be memorable.

Perhaps most important, though, is that he's there for me, supporting me in anything I tackle. 24/7 I know I can depend upon him. To me, that's very romantic.

So while he may not whisk me off on a surprise vacation or take me to some place exotic on a date or text me that he loves me--he's romantic enough for me.

What does your husband or significant other do that you find romantic? Or what do you wish he'd do :) And do you do anything romantic for him?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When Your To-Do List Keeps Growing!

I used to be a pretty organized person. In my other life I ran a division of a major corporation for goodness sakes. Then I became a mom. Then I became a consultant. Then I became an author. Then I became a website founder. You get the picture.

I'm wearing a lot of hats--as most women are. Wife, mother, Chief Operating Officer of Our House, Inc., Business Owner, Website editor, Writer and chief promo person and my most important job--mother to a teenager (you think it will get easier as they get older but it just gets different.)

Lists used to be my saving grace. Write it down and it got done. Simple.

But it doesn't seem to work as well anymore. I have a white board in my office for a to-do list and one that gives me my week at a glance so I can't ignore it. But the problem is, my list is getting longer. I accomplish one task and two more take its place.

You'd think in this day and age of technology things would be easier. I look at those who scratched out a living on the ranches of the West and wonder what am I complaining about--and whether this farm girl would measure up. Life back then was hard. Work was from dawn to after dusk and no matter how hard you worked, the hand of fate could take it away in a storm or pestilence or financial collapse.

Wait a minute--that sounds an awful lot like life today!

I'm up at 6 a.m. to get my child off to school, work my day job and fit in housework, writing/promoting and being a mom in between and far into the evening as well as on weekends. The only difference is that my day job isn't physcial work (I have to work-out to get my exercise these days!) and my housework isn't the kind of drudgery that consumed the ranch wife of the 19th century.

And here's another, important difference--I'm doing things I enjoy--mostly! So I guess I'll count my blessings, make my list and keep trying to get it cut down! If anyone has any tips on getting organized and trimming that to-do list, please share. I'd sure appreciate the advice!