Arranged marriages were very popular in the traditional societies across the world. Arranged marriage was considered the best way through which a man or woman of right age can get the right life partner for the continuity of a given lineage. However, modernization and westernization has changed this mindset about arranged marriages not only in the Western countries, but also in various parts of the world.
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Inasmuch as arranged marriages are still common all over the world, many people now prefer selecting their life partners through unarranged processes. The debate about the relevance of arranged marriages is still raging in various societies across the world.
The practice is still common among the Muslim communities, but the current generation is very keen on selecting their life partners based on love other than through arranged processes. This does not mean that arranged marriages are non-existence in the modern society. According to Tseng (127), arranged marriages are still common in the current society. The researcher seeks to determine the benefits and shortcomings of having arranged marriages.
Arranged married were very common in the past societies. Many factors made arranged marriages to be very important in the traditional societies. Entezar (52) gives an example of a typical Muslim society in Saudi Arabia where arranged marriages were very common in the past.
Among this society, morality was highly valued. As children grew up, they had to understand and appreciate their identity. Boys had to grow up knowing that they will be heads of their families and had to work hard towards making their future life as good as, they would desire. On the other side, girls had to grow up knowing that they were responsible for household chores. They had to know how to prepare their homes and take care of their children.
At adolescent stage, there were strict rules concerning the manner in which adolescent boys and girls were expected to interact. At this delicate stage of development, boys were not expected to mingle freely with girls (Lamanna and Riedmann 33). This was important because the elders knew that if this happened, then these teenagers might find themselves engaging in irresponsible behavior that may ruin the future of the girls. The society highly cherished virginity of a woman at marriage, and this was one of the ways of protecting it.
In this kind of social setting, it was very difficult for young adults planning to marry to mingle with the members of the opposite sex so that they could understand each other and determine whether they were in love and could live together. This made it necessary for the parents or the society to arrange the marriages for their children.
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With all the experience, they had and knowledge about other families, parents could determine the appropriate life partner for their children. In most of the cases, they would conduct an investigation on the family and the man or woman who is planned to be the life partner of their children.
When they were satisfied, they would inform their children about the intended union. According to Roberts (78), although the two who were to be unionized were given a liberty to give their verdict over the issue, especially the man, they were expected to respect their parents’ opinion. However, rejecting a partner that had been approved by the parents was considered rude and unethical. For this reason, the decision of the parents would prevail and the marriage would proceed with the blessings of parents from both sides.
Arranged Marriages in the Modern Society
The social structure of many communities around the world is changing very first due to the changes brought about by science and technology. It is common for an Emirati girl to travel to the United Kingdom or the United States at a tender age for further studies. Similarly, people from other parts of the world are flocking into the United Arab Emirates for various reasons, from tourism to trade. For instance, Dubai is currently one of the most diversified cities on earth because of its relevance as a strategic business hub.
As Tseng (43) puts it, the current society is a global village. The emergence of modern technologies and the relevance of western education system have redefined the social structure of the society not only in the Middle East but also in the entire world. A child does not need to leave Abu Dhabi to the United States in order to be westernized. The movies they watch and the music they listen to make them question some of the established systems in their traditional setting.
In the current society, it is not possible to prevent close interactions between the adolescent girls and boys among the Muslim communities. Parents have realized that the best gift they can give to their children is formal education irrespective of their gender. For this reason, boys and girls will mingle freely at school.
They share classrooms and sometimes they are assigned tasks together. According to Lamanna and Riedmann (33), teachers have been forced to bear the pressure from the human right activists who insist on giving both boys and girls equal opportunities at school. This involves treating them equally in every activity, especially at higher levels of learning.
In this highly integrated setting, young adults can get to understand each other. A young man planning to marry should know that different women behave differently. The same case will apply to a woman. She will know the kind of man she would want as a life partner. Entezar (39) calls this liberation. The education system liberates the mind of the younger generation from tight control from their parents.
They can look at the world from their own perspective to determine what they want in life. The main question that many people have been asking is the relevance of arranged marriages in the current liberated society. In the past, young adults would not mingle easily, and this made it difficult to choose the right life partner. In the current society, this has changed as the education system makes it possible for these people to interact very closely.
In the past, knowledge and wisdom was believed to rest with the elders, and their views were almost considered a sacred command that was not to be questioned, even if it was apparent that they were in error. In the current society, the younger populations have been liberated and they have the capacity to advise the elders about the future.
Despite these facts, a number of people still find arranged marriages very important for the well-being of the couple and the community at large. At this stage, it will be important to analyze the benefits and shortcomings of arranged marriages.
Advantages of Arranged Marriages
Arranged marriages remain popular not only among the Muslims, but also in other societies around the world. According to Tseng (81), even in the West, it is common to see parents trying to influence the choice of life partners for their children.
This is an indication that even with all the education that their children may have and the westernizations- having been born and brought up in the west, the parents always have the feeling that their children could make a mistake when choosing their life partners. This creates a feeling that they should play a role in making this important choice. This is a strong suggestion that arranged marriages have benefits that should not be ignored.
One of the biggest advantages of the arranged marriages is that the partners will have a perfect match when it comes to culture, religion, social status, lifestyle, and many other factors that always affected the compatibility of couples. As Browne (83) notes, basing marriage on love is great, but sometimes when love defines everything, then one would be blinded to some of the social incompatibilities that may make life difficult for the couple after marriage.
It will force the partners to make compromises, some of which may go against one’s own beliefs and customs. At early stages of life, making such compromises may be simple because of the infatuation brought about by the feeling of love.
However, as the couple settles down in marriage, these realities starts setting in, and it may cause serious strains in the relationship. Unless the couple are strong willed and determined to make everything work to their favor, the marriage can be brought to its end after a short while. The following figure shows the rising cases of divorce in UAE from 1960 to 2008
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Figure 1: Rates of Divorce from 1960 to 2008
Source (Browne 67)
This problem can easily be solved when the marriages are arranged. The people arranging the marriage will ensure that the couple is perfectly compatible before they can be allowed to marry.
It is a fact that in arranged marriages, the couple gets to benefit from the support they get from their parents and family members. When parents and members of the community are allowed to play part in arranging the marriage, they will feel honored. They will take all the responsibilities in the entire marriage process. The parties who are getting into this union will be relieved of the financial burden that is involved in organizing the marriage.
Members of the community will ensure that all the expenses are addressed because it is their responsibility. All the tasks will be addressed from the communal level, meaning that the couple will get maximum support when organizing the wedding. The feeling that family members are happy with the marriage also has a positive psychological impact on the partners.
They will start life knowing that they have the full support of members of their communities. In such weddings, people will come and celebrate together as they witness the union. Given the fact that they were the organizers, make feel responsible. They will bring many gifts to help the couple start life without struggling much.
Marriages are designed to last forever, whether it is in the traditional setting or in the modern westernized society. When two people come together in marriage through the support of the parents and community members, they get a wide base of moral support whenever they have problems in their families.
Given the fact that members of the society organized their marriage, they have the moral authority to go back to them in case they are experiencing problems. Parents from both sides can be called to help solve the problem, and they will feel obliged to extend their help. The two will realize that their union is not limited to their family. Such unions bring together the entire community, and this minimizes chances of divorce.
Every member of the community will try to help the couple work out their way in life even in the face of the challenges. The partners from both sides will also find themselves with a moral obligation to the community. They will know that their families and the society cherish their marriage. This will make them be determined to find solutions to the problems that may affect their marriage as a way of respecting their family members. In such unions, even children group up knowing the importance of love and family ties.
Disadvantages of Arranged Marriages
According to a survey conducted by Roberts (2), arranged marriages are becoming less common in the modern society. This is so because people have come to realize that arranged marriages have a number of flaws that make them undesirable. Below is the results obtained from the survey in four countries about the attitude of members of the society towards arranged marriages.
Figure 2: Attitude towards Arranged Marriages
Source (Roberts 18)
From the statistics shown above, it is clear that most of the participants in this survey noted that they do not have favorable attitudes towards arranged marriages. They noted a number of factors that make them feel that arranged marriages are a practice that should not be encouraged in the modern society. The following are some of the specific disadvantages of arranged marriages. According to Browne (73), in arranged marriages, the decision to choose one’s partner is taken away from one’s hands.
The elders have the sole discretion of choosing a life partner for an individual who plans to marry. Marriage is a complex process that involves bringing together two completely different individuals into a lifetime union. The personality of the life partner will define the quality of life one would have.
Given the sensitivity of this issue, one should be allowed to take time to understand the other person who is supposed to be the life partner. This would require a long time of interaction, trying to understand the personality of the person to determine if a life together can be a personality. The opportunity that is denied to people who engage in arranged marriages.
According to Lamanna and Riedmann (33), in most of the cases, couples in arranged marriages find themselves in union with people who have contrasting personalities. It is important to appreciate that sharing religious belief, cultural practices, or social status may not necessarily make them compatible. The personalities of an individual may not be rigidly defined using demographical factors. Sometimes people of a completely different caste may find themselves more compatible than those that share their caste.
What makes the whole system very complex is the attachment that members of the family will have on that marriage. The two couple may be forced to stay together even if they find fundamental contrasts in their personalities simply because their parents and community members arranged their marriage. Such people will stay in their marriages because of the wish of their parents. As Entezar (67) notes, the marriage will cease to be blissful, and it will turn into a prison, as demonstrated in the figure below.
Figure 3: The Feeling of Imprisonment in Arranged Marriages
Source (Entezar 56)
As demonstrated in the above figure, the partners will have more questions than answers in their union. Happiness will be gone, and in most of the cases, they will be regretting why they accepted the union in the first place. According to Lamanna and Riedmann (33), love in arranged marriages takes a secondary position. The partners are not given time to bond and develop love towards each other before their marriage.
Those who are involved in arranging the marriage always assume that the two will develop an attraction and love towards each other once they are in marriage. However, this fallacy should be avoided. Chances are high that if the two entered into a marriage without love, then they may spend their entire lives without loving each other.
Entezar (56) describes such unions as marriages of convenience. The parties involved in the marriage will not be doing it for their own sake and for the sake of love. They will be doing it for the sake of their parents. They will be trying to please people around them, disregarding the importance of a strong bond that is always created by love. This weakens the foundation of their marriage.
The research by Browne (47) shows that arranged marriages are vulnerable to interferences from the external forces. When family members participate in bringing the couple together, they will develop a feeling that they have the right to define the way the family is run. Each of the family members will make an effort to define the way the couple will be leading their lives. In some cases, these family members may find themselves positions in the newly created family.
They will want to visit the new family at wish, and whenever they have a personal problem, they will demand help from the couple simply because they participated in bringing them together. As Tseng (112) says, such environments are not good for the growth of the new family. Sometimes the demands from these family members may be unrealistic. Such negative forces are uncommon when the couple makes their own decisions when marrying.
Arranged marriages are still commonly practiced in the modern society. It is clear from the above discussion that this form of marriage was more common in the traditional societies than it is in the current society. However, even in the current society, it is clear that one cannot dismiss the relevance of arranged marriages.
These marriages help in bringing family members together when choosing a life partner. This research reveals that despite these advantages, arranged marriages also have shortcomings that should be considered before a family can subject one of their own to it. Based on this discussion, using a blend of arranged and unarranged marriages may be of great benefit to the members of the family and most importantly to the couple.
Browne, Ken. An Introduction to Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011. Print.
Entezar, Eshan. Afghanistan 101: Understanding Afghan Culture. New Jersey: Xlibris Corporation, 2008. Print.
Lamanna, Mary, and Agnes. Riedmann. Marriages & Families: Making Choices and Facing Change. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2006. Print.
Roberts, Kathleen. Communication Ethics: Between Cosmopolitanism and Provinciality. New York: Lang, 2008. Print.
Tseng, Wen-Shing. Handbook of Cultural Psychiatry. San Diego: Academic Press, 2001. Print.