| August 28th, 2006

Arranged Marriages: Then and Now

[Note: This article has nothing against arranged marriage nor did I suggested a love marriage as a solution. I merely pointed out the fact that when finding a life partner, qualities of a human being should be given its due importance over the popular attributes (family status, look, job, degree). That is what I meant when I said know the person first.

Almost 70 years ago when my grandmother’s family received a matrimonial proposal from my grandfather’s family, her father invited the would be groom to stay in his (extended) house for a week or so to get acquainted with this young man before giving any consent. Though the bride’s father knew the groom’s family pretty well, he still wanted to have a closer look when he was going to decide on something so important, i.e. his daughter’s marriage.

photo © nafisa ferdous @ adhunikaTen years ago when we just finished undergrad, one day I got a call from my friend; she called me to invite me to her wedding. Curious me asked her, what factors helped her decide on this (neither her nor her family knew this guy before). She replied, “He works in a good company in the US, I spoke with him for an hour or so, I found him very honest …”. I was kind of puzzled, how could she decide on marrying someone knowing so little about the person! Two years after this, she came back to her parent’s house as she couldn’t live with her husband anymore.

Over time there has been so much changes in the way the marriages are arranged! In older days parents used to choose a boy (as a groom) or girls(as a bride) from the families they knew for years, therefore even though the boy or the girl apparently had no say in that, the degree of randomness was much less than in today’s arranged marriages. These days it has become merely a bio-data exchange (between complete strangers) and an evaluation on the basis of bride’s and groom’s parents’ social status and their (bride and groom’s) tangible characteristics (education qualifications, looks, job etc). In the most liberal cases the the would be bride and the groom “talk” once or twice in phone or face to face before giving their consent.

Even when we buy a house or any big item we do lots of research on its aspect but such a life changing event like marriages are performed (“arranged marriage”) on mostly guess work. People on average are amicable and have some skills for adjusting with situation. Perhaps that is one of the reason we are seeing most arranged marriages work pretty well. If we look around, we will find so many couples in a perfectly functional marriage. But that fact alone is not enough to justify the gambling part of the marriage process.

To determine the suitability of a potential bride or groom, we depend on the education qualifications, family status, money, job, look etc. No one really has any good understanding of the true personality of the girl or the boy; they just assume the person will be a good one. On what basis is the assumption made? The only fact that so-called matchmakers are concerned about is if the girl or boy had any prior relationship. The best compliment one can hope to get is “Never heard of anything bad about him”.

Think about our good friends. What is in them we like so much? How long did it take us to find all the nice/not-so-nice things about them? Would you want to make friend with someone when the only feedback you get is, “never heard anything bad about him”?

When we employ someone, we always give weight when someone from the team say I know him very well from his work, he will be a great addition to the team. But before we hire that new person, we want to make sure the person will be able to do the job required by that position, at the same time we want to see if the person will be a team fit, that is if he/she has the right attitude, if he/she is a team player, if he/she posses honesty and integrity, all such attributes has to be tested before a hiring decision is made.

A person can be a good doctor, good engineer, his/her father can be a respected person, but how do you know that the person you are going to spend rest of your life is a nice person and you two share same core values? How would someone know that these two individuals have personalities that complement each other?

Now-a-days, a boy comes from abroad, spends three weeks for ‘bride’ searching and couple of days before leaving he decides on one and gets married. The girl goes to a foreign country with a complete stranger and we call it a marriage what we expect to be a happy living together for next 30-50 years. What a “horridly frightening step” for this young woman to take, without the support of her loved ones, to be expected to leave her familiar surroundings, take a blind leap and live with a stranger. If not equal it is somewhat similar nerve wrecking situation for the newly wed young man as well to start a married life like this.

Is there any way we can think of to make it a better experience for both of them?


20 Responses to “Arranged Marriages: Then and Now”

  1. Samiha Esha says:

    Hello Sharmin Apu….:)

    Well Somehow I strongly opposite to your thoughts about arrange marriages….Well now adays things quite change….Boys and girls equally select their better half as their choice. And Its not like before that girls see their husband’s face on wedding night….Arrange marriage become so nice this days. Boys and girls meet with each other, Talk about their life, match their likings…and most importantly their parents blessing also with them….Its really important to be happy in your married life if your parents blessings with you….:)

    And Love marriage….what’s the difference about that….You love someone for years and years…and after marrying both of them changed…they start complaining about each other cause while they love they want to at any how be with them….But later when they see their beloving person not suppporting him/her then it hurts more and life gets worst…But you know All bangali girls and boys try to avoid separations because of society…But I m happy that now that scenario also changing….people didn’t sit idle at home if they found wrong witht heir Hubby/wife….:)

    And Arrange marriage so excellent because everything become new and special when they get marry with each other…everything so new …so special for the couple…..But Sorry to say…here’s NOw a days those who having love marriages staying together with each other as if they were husband and wife….And I really discourage it….:)

    I saw three generation…My Grandmother’s Marriage, My Mother’s Marriage and My Cousin’s Marriage….>trust me My Grandmother and MY Mom’s life like heaven but My cousins those who now had love marriage can’t be lively like them….:)But yepp exceptions also there…:)

    So I think you must re think about such sensitive issue….many girls go with ur blogs so please don’t misguide them about arrange marriage…..:)

    You have to have Lucky about Marriage and about Your life partner…..its not fault about Arrange or Love marriage…:) Anyways, If I anyone hurt anyone then I m sorry…please never mind 🙂

    Alright then…..take care…:) Adios 🙂


    Samiha Esha

  2. Sharmin says:

    Dear Samiha,

    Good observation. And yes its good to know that things are changing. Its ought to change. I never mentioned that “Love marriage” will be better option.

    I just said a person has many aspects rather than their look, parent’s social status and job/money/degree. Its not possible to judge a person with one or two sitting when you are no expert in human psychology. It is very important and wise to look at those other aspects when selecting a person as a bride or groom.

    There is nothing wrong when parents or other family members help you do that. In fact It would feel much more safer when a big sister, a good friend or your dad will say, I know this guy very well…, than just talking to that person for couple of hours.

    I also mentioned that in my grandma’s time they put more effort knowing the groom before the marriage.

    Love or arranged you need to work on your marriage to make it a good one. Isn’t it better to start with someone you know or someone you trust knows well?

    Note that I ended the original post with a question:).


  3. Oneza says:

    Good insight Sharmin! You have brought up a good question.
    Esha, I think the article points out more about the question of knowing the person well, rather than going for or against any kinds of marriages.

    How would you know a person just by talking to the person for several weeks? Is he or she selfish, self-centered, egotist, ill-tempered? Or is he or she compassionate, accommodating, liberal, good-hearted? Some of these you can’t know until you know the person really well, or somebody who knows the person really well tells you. Parent blessings don’t only exist for arranged marriages, they can exist in all marriages if parents’ thoughts are rational.

    You are right that in love marriages, there are more expectations. Not meeting the expectations can lead to frustration. But that expectation exists more in settled marriages.

    Therefore, both arranged marriage and love marriage can work as long as you do your home work.

  4. Samiha Esha says:

    Well, I m also not against any marriage too….But to me its not important to know a person before your marriage….because You can’t know a person properly untill u started your married life…To Be Happy in married life is totally different thing…You need to trust the person to keep a better relationship….We all maintain a cycle in our life….While you born you stay with ur parents….when you are a teen girl you introduce with your friends….( And I m sure You also can’t know your friends attitude in your whole life )…..and While you get married you step into another world….:)

    You all telling before marriage you should know about the guy’s attitude properly…But its really so funny for me….Because suppose you know a guy is very good and match with your life style….but later when u start your married life u seeing that he’s not behaving the way u thought …..SO what will be then ???????

    Marriage is a luck for you….If you are lucky you can be happy forver with ur better half…..its not mathematics so that you can calculate everything before your marriage just because U marry a guy whom u know you very well…..:)

    My Parents also didn’t know each other before their marriage…But they are happily married for long twenty five years….they are very loving couple and they always trust each other very much 🙂

    Marriage is a heavenly thing…You have to have blessing in your marriage….I do always support ….You should marry someone with whom u can adjust….And to adjust with a guy you needn’t to know him for long years and years…..Its my view….I believe in arrange marriage everything now adays seems crystal clear…At least that all I see in my family….I see in my family every couple speak out about their liking before marriage so they can start a very smiling new life…At least they never hide….But When you trying to know a person before your marriage for years and years then many fake things comes up there…:)

    Anyways I may be complexing it to much….Everything Actually Vary from person to person….So you can’t give any comments from your own point of view….May be in my family every arrange marriage are quite happy…But may be other face difficulties..:)

    So I better quit here……Wish every girl happily married with their Hubby and have a great married life…Good Luck and all the best 🙂

    Sharmin Apu…..Your Topic is really brilliant 🙂 Keep it up 🙂

    take care…Bye BYe 🙂


    Samiha Esha 🙂

  5. Zahir says:

    I think you should be more thoughtful and less poignant while addressing a issue like this. There are pros and cons in almost every ways of our life. A general reason why affair marriage cannot assure you success in marital life is, “When we fall in love, we don’t evaluate a person against realistic things. If we do, we don’t get success in love. On the other hand, if we don’t, then we may fall in love but probably not to the right person. ”
    Wish you a happy marraige, no matter whatever form it may come, arranged or a touchy love affair… 🙂

    Here is me and my friend’s discussion on your writing:
    Z A: hmm.. ami site ta te besh interesting akta article pailam? about marraige
    Z A: http://adhunika.org/blog/2006/08/28/arranged-marriage-a-tradition-or-gambling/#comments
    M A: i am visiting the site now
    Z A: lekha ta porcho?
    Z A: arranged marraige re dubanor chesta korchey…
    M A: portesi
    Z A: how funny… western world-e hazar katkhor puraiya era biye kore and over 60% biye vengey jay
    Z A: writer got no idea what she talkin about
    M A: boro bashi jotil lage bishoy gulo
    M A: ” Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow”
    M A: ki jani
    M A: eto kisu bujhi na
    M A: pichchi meye r ki bolbe?
    Z A: this in entirely issue with trust…
    M A: trust? kosto r kosto in whole life…
    Z A: i recon… it is a 2 way handshake… so both party has to dedicate their max
    M A: ya, i think the same
    Z A: and here comes trust
    M A: & sacrifice can make the life perfect
    M A: if we can
    Z A: well… one sided sacrifice will cause nightmare
    M A: yes u r right
    M A: Samiha Esha ke ki kisu bolba?
    M A: tomer opinion janate paro
    Z A: why not posting our discussion… she might know that she should be more careful before making a documented statement. after all it may help her along the way.
    M A: yes. Post this pls

  6. Suzana says:

    Hello Everyone!!
    I am really enjoying this topic. Thanks to Shahnaz for forwarding me this one. Well, I had an arranged marriage. Just because I wanted to make my parents happy.And doing so, I did make them happy but after marriage reality check. Me and my husband had nothing in common. We were two people with completely different view of life. He was a practical, more reserve person and I was a carefree, no touch of reality, basically a spoiled brat. But it took me 4-5 years to fully understand my husband’s wants and needs .I am now happily married for 12 years now with two beautiful childrens and looking forward for more happy years together.

    The reason for me to give you insight of my marriage is it was a challenge for me and I was determined to make it work, So I put my 100% to my marriage. Now I think it is good to know the person at least one or more years to marry him, but in case someone didn’t have that opportunity then try to get to know the person after marriage is the better solution.But again going out with someone and living with that person under a same roof are totally two different things.
    Marriage is like everything else in life needs “WORK”, as long as you WORK on it , it will be a successful one.I think of it as a mother needs to tend her babies, a wife need to tend to her husband as well and vice versa.
    In my opinion during my mom and my mother in laws’s time the term Marriage has changed a lot. I like the way my Mom takes care of my Dad and my Dad to my Mom, and the way my 70 years old In-laws go for a walk holding hand talking about their old times togather is heavenly. Nothing in the world can compare with the spouse’s love. He or she is the best friend one can have.
    Lastly, I like to conclude that knowing or not knowing the person does not matter as long as you put your heart to your marriage and want to make a good life together, everything else disappears.

  7. Farhana says:

    The article and the blog are very intriguing. Thanks to Shahnaz for introducing me to Adhunika. Here are my 2 cents about this post: Marriage is 30% luck and the rest is ‘communication’, ‘compromising’, and ‘trust’ from both parties, regardless the marriage is arranged or self selected. Best wishes to all who are successfully married and to those who are looking for ‘The one.’ 🙂

  8. Nazia says:

    This seems to be one of the most popular recent blogs at Adhunika.Without going into detail analysis of everyone’s comment, I’d only like to add smthing to the whole idea.Arrange marriages r still considered the better choice as far as our parents are concerned, while love marriages have become more prevalent than ever before.Since the time I was a teenager, I had decided that I would let my parents chose my groom rather than picking my partner myself.Now that I’m at that age when the society expects me to get married, I suddenly think that maybe I have made the wrong decision.Being aborad I have become a very independant person, with values and priorities that cannot be changed easily.At this point to get married to a man whom I know only through his bio-data is not just ironic but funny too.But seems like its the only way to go now!!Also the pressure the society strats giving a girl as soon as she is 20+ is also absurd!I think that is the reason we r often pushed to marry smone basing on their job, family or financial stability rather than actually knowing the person.
    I’m supportive of both the marriages, but it is the society’s support which we girls need to be able to make the right decision at the right time.

  9. RK says:

    I remember my naive and dependent days when the happiness of my family meant more to me than my own happiness. But as I grew older, dealt with more people and their individual personalities, observed friends and family members in often unhappy marriages, I started to question the whole idea of marriage and the way our society approaches it. I don’t know what’s worse: unhappily married women pressuring you to marry someone you don’t know just as they did, or you thinking that someone else will care more about your happiness more than you will.

    I think it starts early with the training of submission. Most women in our society are trained, from a very young age, to ask no questions and obey. The whole idea of someone marrying me based on how much I’ve achieved on a piece of paper puts a distaste in my mouth. My degrees don’t define my opinions in life. My degrees don’t define my lifestyle. How can any man look at a piece of paper and a picture and decide that I am the right one for him. More importantly, how can I look at a piece of paper and a picture and know he will make me happy?

    Marriage is not about luck. I am sorry, Samiha. I don’t believe that you are “born” with good or bad luck. I believe you choose your path and if you made a wise decision, then you’ll be happy with the outcome. I will agree that some people have it easier than others, be it due to circumstances around them or family dynamics. If you leave your fate up to someone else to choose your life for you, then when things go wrong, “luck” will be the easiest thing to blame. What’s next? Today they tell you whom you should marry. Tomorrow they will tell you how many children and when you should have them. The day after they will dictate how you should raise your children. Where do we draw the line? Where do we separate what falls under my right to choose and their right to make suggestions and no more?

    Remember, in the end, when things go wrong because of “bad luck”, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. Nobody will go through the mental and physical strain more than you yourself will. So my question to you is this, whether you believe in arranged or love marriage, if you are the one who is ultimately going through all the stress of the bad times, why on earth will you allow someone else to make the decision for you to be there? Is it because you’d rather blame someone else than yourself for the mistakes in your life? Or is it because you are too afraid and unsure of your own decision making capability and the consequences it may carry?

  10. Sharmin Islam says:

    It would be foolish to think that one type of marriage (whether “arranged” or “love”)is better or more successful than the other. The success of a marriage depends on the mindset of the individuals, and not necessarily on how they got married in the first place. If you fell head-over-heels in love with someone and married that person and then expect that same degree of love to last till death do you two apart, you are very naive, and will be very dissapointed when you face challenges, as all marriages do. If on the other hand, you had a traditional arranged marriage and don’t feel love instantly for your spouse, don’t be surprised either. It takes time to get to know someone and create that special bond. But both types of marriages can be successful if people go into the marriage with realistic expectations. For some, the traditional “arranged” marriage approach is the right choice for finding a life partner. For others, it’s simply not. Best of luck to everyone looking to find that special someone. However you get married, may it be a happy and blissful one.

  11. Sharmin says:

    Here is a relevent comment:

    Is there any suggestion on how this situation (the groom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder prior to the marriage) could have been avoided or worked on?

    Would knowing the person earlier have helped?


  12. Farhana says:

    It is a great article and has infused some great conversations. I have been married for six years now and I have one of those that you all may refer as “love marriage”. My parents were not at all happy about my marriage, but finally accepted everything. Life is going on…as much as I love my husband and plan to spend the rest of our lives together, there are many ways in which we are completely the opposites and face many conflict among ourselves….as someone mentioned above, it is all about understanding, commitment, sacrifices and mutual respect. No marriage can be happy or long- lasting, if there are no mutual respect for each other. Someone mentioned once that marriages are like gardening- you have to work on your garden to make it beautiful.

  13. MC says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I think they can both work, but arrange marriages are tricky, in the sense, my personal experience, is that you are forced to say yes the minute you meet the guy. I feel then in that case, unless you were instantly attracted to the guy, and if he fits your criteria, its much easier to say no. In a way, since we are given so little time to decide, it is important in arrange marriage to really judge the person by the cover before making any decisions. But ideally, it would be best to know someone and find someone who has similar values and wants similar things in life then you do. Because if even if it is arrange marriage, both are willing to work at it, it will work despite no mutual attraction, but if one felt trappped into it and does not put in the work, it wont work, so always know what you want and the other person wants before getting married or forcing others to get married. For me, I am still looking, weither is love and arrange and it has been a long and difficult process.


  14. Phantom says:

    Refyr#11,”Would knowing the person earlier have helped?
    Knowning the person definitely helps and it depends on how you go about it.IMO when a discussion for a relationship begins the family should be intelligent enough to find out extended relations and friends which might and often does help to find common friends who could be contacted to seek further information on individuals;definitely friends of the would be husband/wife helps more.
    A guy in US informed the parent of the girl ion Bangladesh that he was into petroleum business- sure he was honest-he sold gas and other items for cars at the filling station- was alcoholic and very divorced from American wife- all this information was provided by the friend of this reputed petroleum business guy 35 yrs old(mentioned to be 28yrs)for a 22 yrs girl– the parents made an intelligent excuse for not entering into marriage.
    Fradulance in CV made for marriage by expatriates is difficult to verify unless close relatives and younger generation friends help honestly.
    The marriage solemnized over telephone is extremely dangerous- there is lac of proper information and any party can claim that HE/SHE was not the one on the phone saying words of agreement- a case like this had happened to a girl married to a guy in the middle-east.
    Hats off to Nadia for forgiving the family and believeing that “Allah works in mysterious ways”-I am confident that Allah will try to comfort her by providing a good husband for her sometime soon in the future- in any case she has earned a plus point credit for paradise -May Allah keep her safe and Bless her.

  15. Phantom says:

    Though this is a joke it will help you all to understand the different characteristics of people though they may have good social status; read on:

    Lawyers should never ask a witness a question if
    they aren’t prepared for the answer. In a trial, a
    Southern small town prosecuting attorney called
    his first witness, a grand motherly,elderly woman
    to the stand. He approached her and asked, “Mrs.
    Jones, do you know me?”

    She responded, “Why, yes I do know you, Mr.
    Williams. I ‘ve known you since you were a young boy,
    and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me.
    You lie, you cheat on your wife, you manipulate people
    and talk about them behind their backs. You think
    you’re a big shot when you haven’t the brains to
    realize you never will amount to anything more than a
    two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.”

    The Lawyer was stunned! Not knowing what else to
    do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs.
    Jones, do you know the Defense attorney?”

    She again replied, “Why yes, I do.I’ve known
    Mr.Bradley since he was a youngster too. He’s lazy,
    bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can’t
    build a normal relationship with anyone and his law
    practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not
    to mention he cheated on his wife with three different
    women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.”The

    Defense attorney almost died.

    The judge asked both counsellors to approach the
    bench and in a very quiet voice, said, “If either of
    you bastards asks her if she knows me, I’ll jail you
    both for contempt.”

  16. santosh says:

    The subject what has been started can have a debate for years and there will be umpteen number in favour and equal number which do not favour arranged marriage.
    Even if you believe in love marriage, I know atleast a dozen of cases where love marriages have drastically failed. See, every person has two faces. one which you want to show to others and the original one, which is always hidden behind the what you show. When it comes to dating or love affairs, till you start your life affair, the original face of either of the party does not really come out. Unfortunately, till marriage it is only love and gradually love vanishes when it comes to bitterness of the life. Probably you must also have noticed that the love affairs after continuing for pretty long time, have broken may be because of some misunderstanding, or hot talks or some quarell on some issue or in most of the cases ego issues.
    Now take a situation, where all these appear after marriage and the result, the marriage gets broken or a vehicle of compromises.

    I would therefore say, that success of any marriage whether love marriage or arranged marriage, will basically depends on how much respect for each other you have and how long you carry such respect in your life. It is true that life is a vehicle and husband and wife are the two wheels of this vehicle. Unless both the wheels have a proper combination to move in the same direction, same speed and same acceleration, the vehicle will not move smoothly. This has been a culture of India and Indian marriages and that is why, in India, arranged marriages are more successful and we have a long trail of successful marriages in India.

    Now a days, when talk starts for arranged marriages the boy and girl have ample time to understand each other over phone or personal meetings. The internet chating provides them ample opportunity to understand each other. Orkut has become one such medium and even after such opportunities the marriages break, then there is certainly some ego problem. Such cases are rare and when compared to the percentage of successful marriages, are negligible and hence need not be given so importance.

  17. Kuaher says:

    I think one needs to consider that divorce is not as socially accepted as in countries where “love” marriages are the norm.

    Also, talking on the phone a few times and exchanging instant messages are not an ample opportunity for knowing someone fully. One doesn’t fully know anyone until they actually live with them.

  18. Phantom says:

    Refyr #16-“I would therefore say, that success of any marriage whether love marriage or arranged marriage, will basically depends on how much respect for each other you have and how long you carry such respect in your life.”- here is how I would put it: SUCCESS depends first on the Blessings of yr Creator,next the good intentions of both and how much effort each puts in to adjust,tolerate and lastly ofcourse RESPECT;Lastly because respect has to b earned not forced or instructed by parents-and surprisingly its the girls parentsa who always do that- no such attempt is from the boys side- we have done a survey n found this to b true.

    “This has been a culture of India and Indian marriages and that is why, in India, arranged marriages are more successful and we have a long trail of successful marriages in India.”- This happens in most Asian countries n its very difficult to be so accuarte in commenting though definitely we pray and hope that percentage of successful marriage does increase.

    Refyr#17-“I think one needs to consider that divorce is not as socially accepted as in countries where “love” marriages are the norm.”-This under present norma is not the case–in all contries even in those where Love related mariage is the norm-both hope and does expect their Marriage to last.I have drwan this conclusion after discussion with many foreign friends from different countries- the main reason for divorce in those countries is the INDEPENDENT style/opinions -however efforts are made through marriage counselling to reduce this characteristics.

    Finally we pray and hope for the best for Marriages.

  19. Sharmin Islam says:

    Thank you Sharmin for sharing Nadia’s story above in response #11. I just read it now for the first time and it brought tears to my eyes. My heart goes out to her for what she had to go through. I wish that no one ever had to go through an ordeal like that. Nadia, thank you for sharing your story. I admire you for your strengh and courage. I also want to wish you a beautiful and happy life.

  20. Samara says:

    This article is referred here

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