English Composition 103
Dr. Alina Gharabegian
In the world we live in, human beings rely on their socialization skills to survive. These social skills help them to develop interpersonal relationships with each other. One of the main intimate relationships that developed over time is the bond between a man and a woman. This union became sacred in society, and a term “marriage” developed. In their book, The Ties that Bind: Perspectives on Marriage and Cohabitation, Bachrach, Hindin, and Thomson define marriage “as a legally and socially recognized union, ideally lifelong, that entails sexual, economic, social rights and obligations for the partners” (3-16). Since the evolution of marriages, there have also been arranged marriages. This can be seen as the arrangement of a marriage by a third party, usually by the couple’s parents. Arranged marriages may lead to a longer lasting relationship than non-arranged marriages, because the success of the marriage is stronger with a support system, since the parents, community, religion, and cultural background are involved in making and sustaining the marriage bond.
Initially one might believe that arranged marriages are a distinct feature of the eastern societies but the western societies also have deep roots and seeds of arranged marriage customs and traditions. Arranged marriages have existed for centuries, and it traditions are still practiced today. Many might see an arranged marriage as forced or unwanted but studies done by Myers, Madathil, and Tingle “showed that differences in marital satisfaction between arranged and non-arranged couples are typically insignificant” (183-190). Even a study conducted by Schwartz, “found that ratings of passion, intimacy, and commitment were not significantly different between arranged and non-arranged marriages. Her study also study also noted a lower rate of divorce among arranged marriage couples than non-arranged couples” (68). Despite the number of non-arranged marriages over arranged marriages in today’s world, non-arranged marriages are as successful, if not more successful, than non-arranged marriages. Throughout this paper the success of arranged marriage will be discussed reflecting on the support system, of the parents, community, religion, and their cultural background.
The love of parents and their desire for their children’s happiness is the key when helping them choose a mate for their child, they ultimately want to choose a spouse who will seek out their child’s happiness. One can question, who else knows you better than you know yourself? Your parents, so therefore, most often the children of the arranged marriages, have confidence that their parent, of whom they trust, will choose an ideal spouse for them. Our parents are the first people we grow a love bond too; we spend the beginning of our life with our parents learning, living, and growing with them, therefore they know us the best. They know exactly what we like and dislike. It is this same type of love bond, but more intimate, we grow with our spouse over time, and thus, our parents are best at choosing a spouse for their child. The parents of the couple do this by filtering eligible persons for the characteristics they think will best suite their family and their child, such as ethnic values, cultural and socio-economic factors. For instance, in India where arrange marriages are common, the society believes that when a daughter gets married, her parents literally give her away to her new husband’s family; in a way she is the new daughter of her husband’s household. This is significant because the new daughter of the family, has the reputation of the family’s name in her hands; which she has the ability to build it up or break it down. Another reason why the parents want their child to be happy, and take it very seriously when choosing a spouse for their child, is because in a way they are determining the entire future for not only their son/daughter but for their own entire family’s name. As compared to non-arrange marriages, where the person themselves choose their spouse, they most often do not have any support system at all, but only rely upon each other. Not having a support system and choosing your spouse on your own, can be very misleading because in most instances we are blindsided by love that we do not focus on the key characteristics in the person that will sustain a healthy marriage. This might be seen as an advantage, to choose our own mate, but later on we will see how having a backbone of support is ideal in leading and sustaining a successful relationship.
The influence of the society is critical to the success of an arranged marriage, they help dictate the social norms and expectations of the married couple within their own household and the community as one whole unit. In an Indian society, for instance, which is noted for its caste system, is a key ingredient to arranged marriages. According to the Saha, the author of an article in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, describes “[t]he caste system in India [as] the foundation upon which all of Hindu society is built. This caste system is based upon hereditary and the social status of families” (1-76). Also an article in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Niranjan, goes further to state that “[i]t defines the type of job or profession one may pursue as well as who you may marry” (623-651). This system, filters out even more similarities between the couple, because in most instances, in arranged marriages in India, couples are married within the same caste system. The community and social caste system you belong to ultimately puts social pressures on the couple that affects their own marital relations. Cultures that perceive a marriage as a sacred bond usually do not socially accept divorce. The community, along with parents, if they see a marriage is failing, would intervene to try to help find a solution to the problem. Therefore, the feeling of not wanting to be alienated from the family and community as a whole, the couple would try even harder to resolve their personal differences and make the marriage last longer. Eventually, the hardships a couple goes through in life together makes there love bond stronger. As compared to non-arranged marriages, usually after a few years, when the passionate love subsides, if they are having problems, they do not have the support system to discuss their problems with. Also, since they do not feel that they have any obligation and responsibility toward their parents, community, and religion to keep the marriage, they may just decide to end it. This is why, in many cultures with arranged marriages, the children from a young age are taught the value of a marriage by God, and the duties of a husband and a wife. Therefore, when they are married they already know what is expected of them, from their spouse, parents and even the community.
The religion and cultural background, is another major factor in creating and sustaining a successful arranged marriage bond, because the religion itself outlines the laws of happiness and success in a marriage. The culture where arranged marriages are common, are highly involved in their religion. According to an article in the Journal of Comparative Studies, Mulatti shows by interviews, how religion practices encourage the unity of a couple to worship together, to receive the ultimate blessings of God. Even household duties and family services were considered sacred responsibilities, and had to be done together (11-26). This encourages a sacred and special bond to be created after an arranged marriage between the couple. As compared to non-arranged marriages, which often does not occur within persons of the same religious or cultural background, can eventually lead to disagreements and even divorce, because the common religious beliefs and duties toward God may not be present. For example, an article in the Journal of Family Psychology, Atkins, Baucom, and Jacobsen “showed religion being a protective factor against infidelity” (735-749). Even according to the book, [f]orsaking all Others: How Religious Involvement Promotes Maritial Fedlity in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim couples, Dollahite and Lambert, examined through a qualitative study, “how subjects of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths pulled from their religious beliefs and practices in order to stay faithful to their marital vows” (290-307). The marriage ceremony is the main religious event, it adds God into your marriage, which helps in solidifying the sacred marriage bond. The new couple has their personal obligation to God and each other, and the religious society now has the right and obligation to intervene in the marriage, if they see any disturbance. The marriage ceremony is significant in an arranged marriage because it is a display of the new couple to the community, and religion as a whole unit; the ceremony is the gateway to the ‘circle’ of married life. Once the couple is within this ‘circle’ of marriage, they are bound by the obligations and responsibilities of not only themselves but the entire religious community. For example, in Islam, marriage itself is a religious obligation and its main purpose is for procreation and it is the legal and spiritual foundation of the family.
Sharing the same cultural background in an arranged marriage leads to the success of a healthy marriage bond. Marital satisfaction can be increased when the couple shares the same cultural traditions such as their lifestyle, type of food and even the music they listen too. This ensures that the room for disagreements is at a minimal. Therefore, when parents are choosing a spouse for their child, they most often search for a person, with the same social and cultural beliefs. It not only unifies the couple but also the family and overall community with the person. Lamaanna and Riedmann stated that “[s]upportive interaction results in greater marital satisfaction. Greater marital satisfaction, in turn, results in the greater likelihood of marital stability” (143). Sharing the same cultural background would lead to a healthier and more successful marriage. Thus, the initial backbone of the couple’s marriage is their common culture. When they share the same culture, in an arranged marriage, it is one of the first connections you have with the person you are marrying; you both share a common ground of culture. The culture in which the arranged marriage takes place also embeds mental perceptions of what is expected of the couple. Without even realizing, the husband automatically adopts the “my wife” perception, and the bride accepts him as “my husband”, even though they may not fully know each other. Therefore having the same culture in an arranged marriage allows the new couple to feel more comfortable in relating to each other, which ultimately helps to create a healthy love bond.
The support system in an arranged marriage is the key to its success when incorporated with the parents, community, religion and cultural background, which is not present in non-arranged marriages. The importance of the support system ensures that whatever trial and tribulations a couple may go through in their marriage they will always have the love and support they need to make things work. Sometimes all a couple needs when having difficulties is to talk it through with a third party, in this way each person’s point of view can be recognized and the problem can be resolved. The support system of the parents, community, religion, and cultural background are not commonly present in non-arranged marriages. For instance, in most western societies such as the United States of America, where non-arranged marriages are common, there is a totally different culture present. The culture is more individualistic and is influenced by a person’s own selfish needs. Therefore when the person going into a marriage union, it becomes difficult to put their own individual needs aside, which may cause a conflict to arise. This can further escalate to frequent fighting, disputes, and unhappiness in the marriage. Since they don’t have the support system of parents, community, religion, and cultural background to turn to, it could result in a divorce. And since, the perception of a divorce is not seen as “bad”, it is a quick solution to their problem. Therefore we can see that the success of an arranged marriage lies in the support system, which on the basis of a common ground of religion, culture, a shared community, and acceptance of their parents ultimately, is the bond that holds them together. The love bond they create throughout their marriage is what strengthens their marriage bond, which leads to a longer-lasting successful relationship.
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