Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Getting Personal: “I’m in an Arranged Marriage… and Loving It”

Today’s essay is written by guest contributor, Gauri, an engineering graduate student in Los Angeles.

I decided I had nothing to lose. My family had known his for over two decades. He’d graduated from prestigious schools and was doing well career-wise. We both hailed from the same community, and had had a similar upbringing in the same hometown. And from the pictures I’d seen of him, he was tall and extremely attractive. The only apparent catch was that he lived over six hours away from the city I had just moved to for graduate school. He was given my email, and wrote to me after our parents had discussed setting us up with the intention of marriage.

I had always been open to the idea of an arranged marriage. People meet their partners in so many different ways – online, mutual friends etc. How could being set up on a blind date by one’s family be any different? I thought. And yet, as my mother brought it up, I felt misgivings creep into my mind. But when my serious relationship ended in heartbreak, I remained as open-minded as I could when my mother became determined to help me find a new one.

After my parents passed along my email to his family, we wrote to each other, had several phone conversations, and eventually visited each other. On our first meeting, I remember thinking to myself that he was even more attractive in person than in the pictures I’d seen of him. We connected almost right away, and spent nearly five hours in conversation over brunch and walking around the city. It was a first date not unlike other first dates; we told each other about ourselves, hobbies and interests. We did not touch upon the topic of marriage like our families were discussing.

I’d always wished to meet someone like him and I was certain that I wanted to see him again. Meanwhile, both our families began pressuring us to make a decision. We had barely known each other a couple of months and, although we liked each other, we were both uncomfortable broaching the topic of marriage. As much as we were aware of our parents’ intentions when they set us up, we both wanted our relationship to progress organically and to get to know each other to see if we really had anything between us.

At the end of our second meeting, at which point we’d been in touch for two months, we talked about moving to the next level by making our relationship official. We still didn’t talk about getting engaged or married in this conversation, and yet, when we told our families about this conversation we’d had, there was celebration and rejoicing all around. Members of my extended family called to congratulate me on getting engaged. His family visited mine in our home country to set a date for our wedding and discuss wedding arrangements.

I was overwhelmed and anxious about marrying a person I liked very much but didn’t know well as well as I’d like to before making a commitment of such magnitude. I was curious as to whether he was feeling as conflicted as I was, but was hesitant to talk about it lest I offend him or his family. My parents waved my concerns away saying, “This is how arranged marriages work.” With our families so closely involved in our relationship right from the start, it was important to tread carefully so as not to hurt, disappoint or disrespect either of them. I felt uncomfortable announcing to friends that I was to be married within the year. I wanted nothing more than to take some time to think it over and get to know each other better.

In the year leading up to our wedding, our relationship developed and our bond grew stronger, almost as if none of that frantic wedding planning our parents were so busy with was happening at all. It was as though he and I, and our families at home, were living in parallel universes. We were like any other couple in a new relationship — and as we grew closer, we visited each other more often, took off together for weekend trips, and introduced each other to our friends. Meanwhile, our parents were planning a wedding with hundreds of their family and friends invited. He and I had played nearly no part in the planning — living so far away from our country made it difficult — and I had to make peace with the fact that I had had very little control in such a significant milestone in my life.

Another difference between us and couples who get engaged in more conventional ways is that that there were several important discussions that he and I did not have before we committed to marrying each other, like when to buy a house, how to raise children, what are our values and beliefs are, finances, etc. Making a decision to marry, like any other important decision in life, must be made only when one has all the facts and is convinced that he or she is taking the right course of action. I couldn’t say this was true at the time our families began planning our wedding, and so I was anxious through most of the initial phase of our engagement. It took a while for us to be able to talk to each other freely, and we eventually did discuss these issues, though some were discussed after we married. The fact that we hadn’t had a lot of important conversations early on in our relationship sometimes resulted in misunderstanding, hurt, disagreement, and arguments.

A few times, initially, if our families were to hear of our disagreements, they would attempt to help us resolve them. We worked at reminding them that while we were grateful to them for bringing us together, we were responsible for our own happiness. Now that we are married, we face no pressure from our families regarding decisions about our life together; these are now solely our own. And even though our families were entirely responsible for arranging and planning our wedding, the role they play in our married life is no more than one of support and love.

We’re now almost a year into our marriage and we continue to live in our respective cities, six hours apart. I still have another three years to go before I finish graduate school, and he wants to wait to change jobs until his immigration papers for permanent residency have been processed. It will be another three, maybe four, years before we’ll be able to move in with each other and finally make a life together. In the meantime, we try to see each other almost every weekend, although traveling back and forth so often can get difficult.

Despite these challenges, I am so glad I met my husband early in my life, even if it was in a manner so many of my generation find unconventional. Our life together and the promise of our future together make every little adjustment in this process worth it. My initial anxieties and doubts have melted away, and now I wouldn’t trade the love and understanding we share for anything in the world. If I could do it all over again, I would, a thousand times over.

Gauri is an engineering graduate student in Los Angeles. When not working in her lab, she enjoys reading fiction, hanging out with her girlfriends, going hiking and exploring the beautiful outdoors in Southern California, watching TV shows on Hulu and playing table tennis.

83 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Rangerchic October 3, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Did I miss it or did she not ever say she loved him? She says their bond grew stronger and she really, really liked him and that he is attractive but never mentions she loves him. Also, I think she is lucky that they connected and seem to have similar values and such.
    I find her story fascinating and hope it works for her!

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      MsMisery October 3, 2012, 1:29 pm

      It is typical among arranged-marriage cultures to expect love to grow with the marriage. The old-schoolers think it is strange the way the rest of us fall in love with someone and t*hen* marry them. So if all goes well, Gauri will eventually love him, if she doesn’t already.

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster October 3, 2012, 1:13 pm

      Last paragraph:
      “My initial anxieties and doubts have melted away and now I wouldn’t trade the love and understanding we share for anything in the world.”

      There’s love in there. 🙂

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  • avatar

    Oldie October 3, 2012, 12:22 pm

    Sorry, but my reaction is Ugh! She actually married this guy without having any discussion about such key issues? This later caused problems? Duh! The parents wanted them married and she found him attractive? There are about a half billion age-appropriate males in the world. I’m sure she’d find several million of them physically attractive. I’m not saying arranged marriages can’t work, but with the freedom afforded a professional woman in this country, why in the world would she go this route, saying they were not yet sufficiently comfortable with each other to have the big discussions. Not comfortable enough to discuss = not ready for marriage.

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      CG October 3, 2012, 12:48 pm

      I agree, and I also don’t think it’s a good thing that they’ll be married for four or five years before they’ll be able to live together. At least they get to see each other fairly regularly, but spending a weekend together obvs isn’t the same thing as living together. And plus it seemed to me (and I don’t know anyone who’s ever been in an arranged marriage so maybe her experiences are totally normal and I’m just reading too much into it) like she’s kind of trying to convince herself that she’s happy with how things turned out. IDK but that’s just the impression I got.

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      • JK

        JK October 3, 2012, 12:50 pm

        I agree, but also I think maybe if you have nothing to compare it to, then you don´t know what you´re missing out on?
        Granted I couldn´t read the whole essay, it made my head hurt.

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      • avatar

        mf October 3, 2012, 12:54 pm

        This is the impression I got too. Her feelings seem sort of lukewarm, rather than “Yay! I’m so happy to be married!” But hey, maybe I’m projecting.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar October 3, 2012, 1:15 pm

        It’s important to remember that expectations about marriage and love have a cultural bias. Western culture’s approach to love and marriage isn’t the same one shared by the rest of the world. The LW the other day was willing to tear apart two families because she didn’t feel ‘in love’ with her husband anymore… because “in love” is something western culture expects with marriage – and for so many people is mandatory to the peril of all else. Other cultures don’t place a premium on that “in love” feeling. It can come with time and even if it comes it can still be second to respect, family or shared values. This type of marriage and courtship is what worked for the author, and quite frankly, for hundreds of millions of people around the world. It doesn’t need a western stamp of approval that the “in love” piece is there when you feel it should be.

        This type of marriage may not work for you personally – but then again – it doesn’t have to.

        What saddens me are the cases where women or girls are forced into relationships they want no part of for reasons unrelated to their own happiness or well being. But what is written here isn’t that… so to each their own.

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      • avatar

        bethany October 3, 2012, 1:22 pm

        I 100% agree with you… You said that much better than I could have.

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        *HmC* October 3, 2012, 1:29 pm

        Totally agree with everything you said here Firestar. I learned so much from the book “We” by Robert Johnson (linked in my below comment) and it was really eye opening to realize how powerful this romantic love notion is for us Westerners. And consequently, it can cause so much unnecessary pain, ie. but I loooooveee him!

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster October 3, 2012, 1:39 pm

        Oooo I wanna read it!

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        *HmC* October 3, 2012, 1:57 pm

        It’s a little scary to realize how ingrained our romantic views are and how much they color our lives! And it’s amazing how different other cultures view love. Highly recommended.

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      • avatar

        Riefer October 3, 2012, 3:01 pm

        This is also how western cultures worked not all that long ago. You married for stability, having children, and hopefully companionship and friendship. If you were lucky you at least liked each other for the whole marriage. If not, well, you hopefully found other things in your life to make you happy.

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        *HmC* October 3, 2012, 3:15 pm

        Great point!

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster October 3, 2012, 1:17 pm

        I actually didn’t get that impression. While her choice is not the choice I would make for myself, I felt that the tone of it was very even and reflected a cultural mindset that I just couldn’t completely grasp. It read a bit beyond my scope of understanding, not disingenuous, IMO.

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    • avatar

      *HmC* October 3, 2012, 1:21 pm

      I think that’s a very ethnocentric, Western view of marriage. Which is fine- I have a Western view of marriage also, for myself, and I can’t imagine not discussing those things before my own marriage. But undeniably, this method has worked and is working still for millions of people. Your statement that professional women in this country have more freedom and thus should utilize it by not going the arranged marriage route shows a lack of understanding of how and why it’s done, at least in the communities that I’m familiar with.

      I’m born and raised American, but I grew up very close family friends with several Hindu Indian families. The parents (my parents age) were all arranged marriages, and as far as the friends my age, it was about a 50/50 split in terms of who married in an arranged way. These friends were all highly educated, professional, progressive minded people. Essentially, some simply relied on their parents to introduce them to potential matches, and then they courted in a mostly Western way from that point. The only major difference I’ve really seen is that Indian culture doesn’t tend to seriously acknowledge dating relationships… you’re either engaged, married, or single. And honestly, maybe I’m kind of conservative, but in a way I respect that. They don’t hate boyfriends or girlfriends or anything, they just don’t take the commitment seriously until the partners have made a serious commitment to each other.

      I like articles like this because it shows how arranged marriages can work, in certain cultures, in a way that is very different than the common notion of parents forcing their kids to be with someone, or to marry someone they don’t know.

      I read a study a while back that examined the existence of love in arranged marriages in India. From what I understood, the study showed that couples weren’t just staying together because of custom and and obligation. Many of them had actually fallen in love also, by all measurable standards, over time. I truly believe that long term love is more than just a stomach flip- it’s a choice.

      So yeah, from everything I’ve seen and experienced, I really respect the way that a lot of cultures, particularly Indian though, practice arranged marriage. We have this view in the Western world of what romantic love is. We tend to put pressure on our romantic partners, I personally think it is often too much pressure, to fulfill every need we have as human beings. And I think that doing so causes much pain and loneliness for people who think that there is something wrong with them, or something wrong with the opposite sex, that they cannot find their “perfect” partner. We forget that romantic love can be *part* of the tapestry of a beautiful and fulfilling life, and start to believe it has to be the whole tapestry, to the detriment of familial love, self love and other pursuits. Sparks are nice, but how many jerks give us sparks and then turn out to be totally wrong for us? Attraction is vital, but this endless pursuit of never-ending stomach flips is, I think, very naive. The book “We” by Robert Johnson ) explains this concept more thoroughly than I’d be able to do here.

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster October 3, 2012, 2:05 pm

        “long term love is more than just a stomach flip- it’s a choice”

        love. that.

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      ele4phant October 3, 2012, 2:39 pm

      Meh, its not how I’d go about it but she sounds perfectly happy with her choice to me.

      And PLENTY of people get decide to get married without discussing the big issues first, so I don’t think this can be considered a problem exclusive to arranged marriages.

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      • avatar

        Riefer October 3, 2012, 3:04 pm

        I only know one person in an arranged marriage, and she said that the first thing they did is talk about all the big issues like kids and where to live, to make sure they were compatible. If they hadn’t been, they would have gone on to the next possible spouse. So obviously some arranged marriages take this into account.

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        Anon October 3, 2012, 4:01 pm

        Yeah, my husband and I made sure we were on the same page about family, finances, etc. before we decided to make that final commitment.

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      • avatar

        Matcha October 4, 2012, 12:49 pm

        Yeah, I have a friend in an arranged marriage and she and her fiance answered all those big questions-kids, homes, jobs, vacations, how to spend their money, etc before they got engaged

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    • Kate B.

      kate B. October 3, 2012, 2:53 pm

      While this is not something I could participate in, I try to be respectful of the way other cultures do things. While she does have all those advantages and choices as a professional woman, she doesn’t have to choose them. I find that in some ways, women who choose more traditional paths for themselves get criticized for it, like they’re “holding us back” or whatever. I’m all for the advancement of women, but if a woman chooses to be a stay-at-home wife or mom and that makes her happy, then I have no problem with it. In this case, she is following a cultural path that is different than ours. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.

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  • avatar

    ktfran October 3, 2012, 12:26 pm

    I actually kind of like this story. It is a different perspective to marriage and I appreciate that. Also, I like the unconventional. I hope it works out for you, Gauri!

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary October 3, 2012, 12:32 pm

    So interesting! I knew one person in college whose brother had an arranged marriage. They were both doctors and didn’t have time to date, so why not set them up? And I don’t think at any point the author HAD to marry this man like arranged marriage were in the past, she always had a choice.

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  • avatar

    Sarah October 3, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I’m really glad this worked out for this author. Her family seems to have taken a bit of a modern approach to arranged marriages, which I like. I guess I still struggle with the idea of arranged marriages in families that aren’t modern though. I mean, what if she had decided she didn’t want to marry him in the process of preparing for the ceremony? Or what if she hadn’t found him attractive in the first place? Judging from how supportive her family sounds, it sounds like they would be ok if she felt she needed to end the engagement or not go on a date with him in the first place. I guess I worry for the girls in so many families where that wouldn’t be ok.

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    • SarahKat

      SarahKat October 3, 2012, 1:01 pm

      Oh, I should say it can be hard for men as well. A friend in high school had an arranged marriage with a girl across the country. Luckily, before the marriage took place he found the strength to tell his fiance and his family that he was gay. I lost touch with him, but from what I can grok, his very modern family was disappointed but understanding.

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      • avatar

        Rachel October 3, 2012, 1:48 pm

        I like this talking to yourself thing that you’ve got going on.

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      • SarahKat

        SarahKat October 3, 2012, 2:16 pm

        Lol, this is the way I like to express myself now.

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      Riefer October 3, 2012, 3:07 pm

      Yeah, I don’t know if I would technically call this an arranged marriage, because even though their parents introduced them, they didn’t go “ok, you’re marrying this person now. conversation over”. In many arranged marriages the woman gets no choice at all, and in some cultures the man gets no choice either.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl October 3, 2012, 12:48 pm

    I had a very dear friend of Indian descent who got married in graduate school after her parents arranged a marriage. She told that that it was ultimately her decision and if she had not wanted to get married to the man, her parents would have respected her decision and looked elsewhere or allowed her to choose the partner of her choice. Of course in her case there were some factors which she stipulated to her family. She wanted a man who had been raised in America because she wanted an equal partnership type marriage rather than a traditional Indian one. She also insisted on meeting and dating the man before the marriage like this author. I asked her if she loved the man and she said that she truly liked him and respected him but that love would develop during the marriage rather than before it unlike Western marriages. She said her parents knew her and wanted what was best for her so they really worked to find someone that would be compatible. They have been happily married 7 years now and are expecting their first baby.

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  • avatar

    mf October 3, 2012, 12:51 pm

    This is a really interesting perspective. do find it really strange that she never says she loves him (or that she fell in love with him). I couldn’t marry someone (arranged or not) if I didn’t love him, but as long as this marriage fulfills her needs, then good for her. I do sort of wonder if things won’t be so peachy when they finally move in together. In some ways, an LDR can be a lot easier than a live-in relationship. You get to deal with the other person on your own terms and your daily life is a lot like when you were single. And since they only dated for a short time and haven’t lived together, what if it turns out they don’t know each other as well as they think? Seems like a huge risk to me, but I hope everything works out for them.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle October 3, 2012, 1:01 pm

    As outsiders, I think we need to view this marriage a little differently– it’s not about meeting someone, falling in love, & then marrying. Arranged marriages come with different expectations. Often, the couple doesn’t really “fall in love” until after years have passed. I know we kind of shudder at this idea, but in a modern arranged marriage, the couple is usually CHOOSING it & both are as prepared as they can be.

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  • avatar

    Lilybell October 3, 2012, 1:13 pm

    Fascinating, but this is NOT an arranged marriage. It was an arranged meeting to see if you were compatible. If you weren’t into him, you wouldn’t have married him. In a true arranged marriage, the woman doesn’t get to decide if she likes the guy. I have a ton of South Asian friends, and their parents are very, very involved in their dating lives. They have all ended up marrying guys their parents set them up with, but not one of them was obligated to if they didn’t like him. In my mind, these are very different situations. I know only one person that had a true arranged marriage – she was 14 years old from a poor village in Pakistan and her parents made her marry a guy 20 years older. She lives in my apartment building (NYC) now and we chat in the laundry room. Her husband expects her to be subservient to him and she walks a few steps behind him in public. He lets their son treat her like crap; she’s not “allowed’ to discipline him. She is not all that happy with her lot in life. Just thought I’d share another side…

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    • EscapeHatches

      EscapeHatches October 3, 2012, 1:33 pm

      Yeah, I explained in a comment below – my family calls what she experienced “pre-approved dating.”

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        Lilybell October 3, 2012, 1:39 pm

        Excellent phrase!

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      *HmC* October 3, 2012, 2:00 pm

      What you’re describing might be a more traditional arranged marriage, but I don’t think it’s quite right to say that what the author is describing isn’t “true arranged marriage” just because it incorporates some more progressive Western values. Ideas and cultures and values are in a constant state of flux, and in my experience, this arranged meeting/matchmaker type of marriage is not uncommon at all. Maybe this is the new “true arranged marriage”?

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle October 3, 2012, 2:14 pm

        This.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar October 3, 2012, 2:23 pm

        Yep. And I always have a problem with Party A telling Party B that they are defining something happening in their own life wrong. It’s like telling me I’m not pronouncing my own name correctly. This is what arranged marriage is to the author – and from my own limited knowledge – what arranged marriage looks like in today’s age for a lot of people.

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        ele4phant October 3, 2012, 2:43 pm

        Yeah, it borders a little bit on prejudiced or biased for someone from one culture to weigh on the practices of another and say “No, you’re wrong about defining your own cultural practices. Let me do it for you.”

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        Lilybell October 4, 2012, 12:44 pm

        Please don’t make assumptions about me. You don’t know my ethnic background. You’ve never met me and I don’t appreciate being called borderline prejudiced.

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        ele4phant October 4, 2012, 1:01 pm

        I apologize, this wasn’t supposed to be a personal attack.

        And you’re right, I don’t know you’re specific background, and because you didn’t specify yourself to be part of a tradition that practices arranged marriages, and I fully admit I could be wrong.

        From my own background (as a white anglo American) I’ve seen many of my peers make snap judgements or describe other cultures practices despite not fully understanding them. And these are all liberal, tolerant people, but I still don’t think its our place to define others cultures for them. Its not an individual or malicious prejudice, but an institutional one. And if you were my friend, I would’ve told you it made me uncomfortable, and why.

        But again, I apologize for making assumptions you were from the same background as me, and I apologize for insinuating that you personally were a prejudiced person.

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        *HmC* October 3, 2012, 3:14 pm

        To be fair, I think Lilybell was only commenting on her perception of what arranged marriage means based on the messages she’s gotten, and the image of the whole very traditional situation where the couple has no choices is a pretty entrenched one. And that is exactly why discussions like these and other sources that expose the true nature of these practices is so important.

        Also I feel like I definitely do have my judgmental views on polyamory, polygamy, swingers, and arranged marriages where women and/or men are treated like property… so I understand the apprehension and the judgment, at least to some extent.

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        Anon October 3, 2012, 4:14 pm

        the image of the whole very traditional situation where the couple has no choices is a pretty entrenched one

        I’ve received several comments along the lines of “So, were you betrothed as children?” or “Are your parents from the same village?” We met through a newspaper ad!

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        Lilybell October 4, 2012, 12:42 pm

        I am a linguistic purist. In my opinion, it’s not a true arranged marriage if you can get out of it.

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        ele4phant October 4, 2012, 12:51 pm

        But I think that’s the point. You have a specific vision of what arranged marriage is, and others are saying “Erm, that’s not exactly how our culture does, or maybe ever has, gone about it.” But if it doesn’t fit *your* vision, then you discount it.

        And what about “arranged” connotates “forced”? My understanding is that the word means “deliberately put into place” so that just as easily covers “Parents suggest a young man, and then once the couple agree to get married, they take care of the wedding logistics” as it does “Parents choose husband and force daughter to go through wedding.”

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        Lilybell October 4, 2012, 2:11 pm

        I AM from a culture that has arranged marriages. My family chooses not to participate in this tradition. In my world, many of these marriages are forced. We are not Hindi; they tend to do it differently than my culture.

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      Anon October 3, 2012, 4:11 pm

      I think you have a very limited definition of an “Arranged Marriage”. Most modern arranged marriages happen this way — you meet someone, engage in a period of courting (not dating), decide whether you like them, and your families take over with the wedding planning. You always have the option during the courting period of saying no.

      Caveat: THis is how it is among modern Hindus, I can’t speak for Muslims or other cultural/religious groups that have arranged marriages.

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      • avatar

        Matcha October 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

        I just realized I replied below you with pretty much the same thing but most of the friends I know who have arranged marriages are Muslims.

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      Matcha October 4, 2012, 12:54 pm

      I don’t know about ‘true’ arranged marriages. I have several Muslim friends who went through a marriage process very similar. Your parents set you up with a suitor, you guys talk for a couple weeks, go on chaperoned (or unchaperoned) dates, and then you’re like, “Okay, he’s the one.” And you have veto power because the family is concerned with having a successful match. A friend’s family in Pakistan arranges marriages similarly so I wouldn’t say just because it happened this way in America doesn’t mean that it doesn’t likewise happen in other parts of the world.

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  • avatar

    bethany October 3, 2012, 1:19 pm

    I have a friend who had an arranged marriage- More so than the author of this piece. They didn’t even meet until the week before the wedding, and there’s talk that my grandparents were arranged back in Italy, but I’m not so sure about that… But anyway, my point is that I don’t really see it as that big of a deal… I think only recently has marriage been more about love, and lets face it, when people make decisions based on emotions, it doesn’t always go well! As long as no one is being forced to do something they really don’t want to do, I don’t see why it would be a problem.

    I’m glad that it worked out for the author and she’s happy with the choice she made!

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  • AKchic_

    AKchic_ October 3, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is interesting to read about someone’s arranged marriage who lives in the US and did it in the US. I am glad that the first year of marriage has gone well and I hope that you two live very long lives together.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar October 3, 2012, 12:54 pm

      I actually have several friends who went this route – in Canada though. The parents in this essay seem more involved in the wedding planning than was the case for my friends but essentially it amounts to a blind date (or you are given a picture first) set up by your parents. The couple usually just takes it from there. I know of two marriages that seem horrific to me – but the women went into the relationships willingly even though there were red flags from jump – and to be honest if left to their own devices wouldn’t have found stellar men on their own either – but the majority of them are happy from all accounts.

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  • EscapeHatches

    EscapeHatches October 3, 2012, 1:31 pm

    In one half of my family (mom’s side is from Punjab, India) they practice what I refer to as ‘pre-approved dating.’ My family also practices Sikhism as a religion, so marrying into the community is fairly important.

    Basically when the kids are in “you know, I’d like to settle down soon” mode, the parents seek out other families with similar backgrounds and meet up with them over dinner. Assuming the parents and families get along, the kids are introduced and get an opportunity to get to know each other and decide if it’s a good fit. After about 6 months, they either start an engagement (another year) or move along.

    It’s definitely a step forward from meeting your new spouse AFTER the wedding, but it does have that flavor of antiquated ideals. My cousins are very progressive, but also live in India, and have found it a comfort to know that your families will get along before starting a relationship. A strained family relationship in a country with a culture like India’s would have a more pronounced negative impact on the couple than perhaps over here. It certainly doesn’t help that the physical country would fit into the US (East of the Mississippi) so you’re never too far from family.

    I, personally, did not go through this – I met my husband on Craigslist (NOT THAT SECTION, JEEZ) and am not sure if I’d be as comfortable as my extended family and cousins have been.

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      bethany October 3, 2012, 1:38 pm

      I, too met my husband on CL!! I’m glad I’m not the only one! 🙂

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      • EscapeHatches

        EscapeHatches October 9, 2012, 12:27 pm

        Yeah… You try and drum up some new people to have lunch with and you end up married… ;D

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      *HmC* October 3, 2012, 2:03 pm

      I’m so glad you mentioned the aspect of the strained family relationship. The way I see it, the arranged aspect of the couples meeting is a way to involve the families so that they feel included in the marriage as a coming together of two families, which is good for everyone involved, particularly any children that are born of the marriage. It’s a family-centric view that is good for children. At least, that is my outsider’s take on it, from what I have seen and shared with couples taking part in such arranged relationships.

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        Matcha October 4, 2012, 12:58 pm

        Actually, when I went to watch my friend’s marriage ceremony in a mosque, the imam specifically said that. He wanted to remind the crows that the marriage wasn’t just a marriage of two people, but a marriage of two families and a joining of a part of the community.

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    MsMisery October 3, 2012, 1:33 pm

    I also want to say to the author, good for you sister for going all the way in a STEM field!! 😉

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl October 3, 2012, 1:43 pm

      whoohoo stemies!

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    ktfran October 3, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Will someone please pick a person for me and pre-arrange the rest of my life? Some preferences, in no particular order, include:

    Close to family
    Respectful
    Not a serial killer
    Gets along with kids
    Well read
    Blue eyes
    No weird fetishes
    Didn’t breast feed until he was four
    Can speak pig latin

    Oh, and I would also prefer if he was ok with at least two evenings a week a part. One, where he goes out for guys night and I can watch stupid movies like Step Up with no judgement. And two, I get a girls night and he can stay in and spend the evening how he pleases.

    Thanks.

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      ele4phant October 3, 2012, 3:52 pm

      Not going to lie, there is something very appealing about having those who love you and know you best do your leg work and vet candidates. And how nice that everybody’s expectations are out there in the open, no suprises or need to hide what you’re ultimately after.

      Its been a couple years, but my recollection is that the process of dating sucks.

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        ktfran October 3, 2012, 4:26 pm

        It so does! I am only half joking with my post . . . .

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        Matcha October 4, 2012, 12:59 pm

        It doesn’t sound that bad to me, really. But only if it were someone else’s stable and sane family doing the vetting.

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  • SarahKat

    SarahKat October 3, 2012, 2:19 pm

    @ktfran Steve from Blues Clues?

    Also, I read “Didn’t breast feed until he was four” as in “he didn’t start breastfeeding until he was four”. KINKY.

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      ktfran October 3, 2012, 2:24 pm

      Oh crap. I meant it as stopped breast feeding by age one. I really dated a guy and I found out his mom breast fed him until he was four. It kind of grossed me out. I know it shouldn’t. But it did.

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      • SarahKat

        SarahKat October 3, 2012, 2:41 pm

        Oh man, the woman who used to babysit me when I was young breastfed her son til he was FIVE. I never wanted to see it, but she would just be in the same room and suddenly unbutton and he would run over RUN OVER and then I was stuck there watching her nipple like it was the eye of mordor. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the cold stares that kid used to give me while he was latched on to her boob.

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        Taylor October 3, 2012, 5:48 pm

        Ah!

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        painted_lady October 4, 2012, 12:26 am

        Eye of Mordor made me snort in the middle of the teacher workroom while I was in line to make copies behind three other people earlier today. I had to shut the screen on my phone off so I wouldn’t melt into a giggling puddle.

        Also, you pretty much perfectly described my feeling as a 9-year-old watching my mother breastfeed. I know, beautiful, natural, but considering my mom wouldn’t leave her bedroom without a bra on once my brother hit age 9 lest he be traumatized by the outline of her clothed nipples, I sort of resent that I had to endure a year of being stared down by her naked ones.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar October 3, 2012, 3:33 pm

      Sarah – you are now officially not allowed to arrange anything for ktfran.

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    Samantha October 3, 2012, 1:28 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve always been fascinated by arranged marriages, and it’s so cool to read about yours since you are independent, intelligent, and, it seems, open to an adventure with a person who, if not someone you’re head over heels for, is at least someone you view as a good partner.
    Love doesn’t have to be a beginning – it can develop when two people make the choice to allow it, and it sounds like you and your husband are on the right track. I wish you both the best in building your life together!

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  • the_optimist

    the_optimist October 3, 2012, 1:31 pm

    I’m of Indian descent, and while I couldn’t go this route myself, I totally understand the appeal of arranged marriages. My parents’ marriage was arranged and, to be honest, they’re getting close to 40 [mostly] happy years together. And arranged marriages aren’t “forced” marriages, in that both of them had the option to politely decline the other (and my mom did, in fact, turn a few guys down before meeting my father, and once she met him said she just knew she wanted to be with him). It’s really interesting to have heard from someone who actually first did date on her own and then explored the option of having her parents arrange a match for her. Thanks for this!

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      Anon October 3, 2012, 4:16 pm

      I lost count of the number of guys I rejected before I met my husband! In fact, I strung him along for several weeks while I juggled three possible matches at once! (He won out over the painfully shy guy and the Republican).

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    Anon October 3, 2012, 3:58 pm

    Apparently, she’s been married for only a year. This about how I felt a year into my arranged marriage. We had had a few discussion about money, kids, education, etc., before getting married, but one major thing we had forgotten to discuss was the role of religion in our lives — which is something we still struggle with to this day.

    I think there were more conflicts during the firsts year of our marriage than there have been since (we’ll be married 9 years this February). When you’re dating, you have time to adjust to your artner’s personality, figure out how to communicate, and decide “Do I want to be with this person for the rest of my life”. Arranged marriages, because of the family pressure, don’t allow the time to adjust that way. My husband and I met each other in person four or five times (we lived on opposite sides of the country), and talked on the phone almost every day, but it wasn’t quite the same as spending time getting to know someone over years. We had to figure all that out AFTER we got married.

    The advantage is that once you’re married, you HAVE to figure all that stuff out. You don’t have a choice! SO the level of commitment to making the marriage work is greater, and I think (in my case) we’re stronger because we hashed out all our differences in that really intense first year.

    OK, now to read all the comments (I should probably have a bingo card out 🙂

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      ele4phant October 3, 2012, 4:07 pm

      I’m not married, so maybe I shouldn’t comment, but this kind of sounds like everybody’s first year of marriage. My understanding is that even for people who’ve dated a long time, who’ve lived together, the first year can be a major adjustment for everybody.

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        Anon October 3, 2012, 4:50 pm

        Oh, definitely. I think in arranged marriages, the struggles get magnified, because in addition to the usual adjustment, you’re also trying to get to know the person.

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      Temperance October 3, 2012, 6:43 pm

      Your comment is interesting to me because I kind of assumed that almost all arranged marriages had a shared religion/cultural background. Hmmm.

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    Laura Hope October 3, 2012, 5:15 pm

    In my community (orthodox Jewish), girls and boys do not engage in premarital sex so when they’re about 20 years old, they start “dating”.It’s not our idea of dating (I was not brought up this way; I lived in the secular world). They’re fixed up and if they like each other they date a few more times and get engaged. Then they marry within a matter of months. At first I was shocked. How much can you know about a person in 3 dates? But you do know that you have similar values because that’s a given. And everyone has the same lifestyle and goals.You also know if there’s a spark between you. And if you at least like each other. And you know a great deal about each other’s families.
    These kids who have now been married for 3,4,5 years have a few kids and seem pretty happy to me. Would I want my kids to marry this way? Probably not but there is pretty much no divorce in the community.

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      Brigitte October 4, 2012, 10:09 am

      I think when you are dating with the intention to meet a life partner, the types of questions and discussions you have will be very different from dating “to just have fun, see where it goes”. I think you can sense a spark quickly, and you can know enough about a person in a short period of time to know if the broad lines of their personality and morality could match your own. I also think people who enter into arranged marriages don’t expect their partner to complete them and all the tralala that gets attached to relationships in our culture. I think that’s partly why these relationships tend to last longer as well- if you’re not expecting someone to be your end-all-and-be-all, you’re not gonna bail when the going gets tough. They’re not madly in love (but maybe they are), but since contentment and a partner to raise kids is what you’re looking for, they are getting what they want, so not wonder they are happy.

      Of course, I did want passionate love and more than just a co-parent, and since I’m not from such a culture, this totally didn’t apply to my choosing a husband. I’m not sure I would have married a man my parents had found for me… but I might have given him a shot!

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    anonymous October 3, 2012, 5:19 pm

    One thing I find really positive about the modern arranged marriage is that the commitment is there before the emotion. What this means is that — even during the tough times — each partner KNOWS that the commitment is there.

    In the “love-based” matches, there can be those horrid fights where one or other has that feeling — oh my gosh, I HATE him — and NOW what is there as a foundation for our relationship? In the commitment based, it seems as though — while you can be annoyed and possibly dislike that person at the moment — you know that the marriage is based on commitment and mutual goals, not a “feeling” that is subject to change.

    And, yes, the most permanent love (in my book) is based on repetitive actions of love, combined with personal boundaries (I’m not into doormatism).

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      Taylor October 3, 2012, 5:50 pm

      Love the last sentence 🙂

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  • katie

    katie October 3, 2012, 10:58 pm

    very interesting.

    i would, as others said, call this “modern arranged marriages” or “assisted dating” or whatever… calling this good situation a legit arranged marriage is a little dangerous in my opinion. there are millions of girls all over the world who are forced into arranged marriages and who do not need anyone saying that their situations are good.

    i dont know how to draw a distinction between the two, but there doesnt need to be any positive press for “real” arranged marriages.

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      ele4phant October 4, 2012, 12:06 pm

      Eh, I really don’t think we as outsiders get to tell people the proper way to define their own practices because some of us aren’t fully informed on their cultures and make wrong assumptions.

      If this woman (and several other commenters who have had similar marriages) are calling their marriages arranged-marriages, well, they get to define their culture, not us.

      I understand your point about *some* women and girls being forced into arranged marriages is a problem, but they fact that Westerners can be persuaded to lump the explotative kind in with the “good” kind, is a problem with our own ignorance, not a problem with labels cultures choose to ascribe to themselves.

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    BreezyAM February 13, 2013, 1:08 am

    I can’t believe NO ONE mentions these people are married on paper only! they still live hours apart and have never lived together. Get back to me after you’ve lived together at least three years and dealt with at least one newborn. My marriage would be fabulous too if we had separate residences several hours apart, and saw one another sporadically for sex and conversation.

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