An arranged marriage occurs when a couple embraces the legal bonds of matrimony because of the planning and agreement of their guardians or families. The bride and groom may have little say in the matter because their parents and extended relatives negotiate the relationship as if it were a business arrangement.
Although some people see this idea as a forced betrothal, many of the couples who come together in this way grew up together. They were childhood friends, or their families met often, and the relationship between the bride and groom could grow because there was more than blind emotion fueling the pairing.
It is imperative to remember that an arranged marriage is not a forced partnership. Different communities around the world force people together into a relationship they do not want for the betterment of the family or the culture. Couples who eventually get married through an arrangement usually meet each other and agree to a courtship facilitated by their family.
There are certainly some advantages to consider when a partner is chosen for you with an arranged marriage, but some disadvantages persist with this pairing even in the cultures that continue to practice it. These are the key points to review.
List of the Advantages of Arranged Marriage
1. You already know what the goal of the relationship is when you first start dating.
There are many people who want the element of surprise in their romantic relationships, much like you can see on the silver screen. Having someone unexpectedly propose seems like it would be a magical moment. For those who have gone through an arranged marriage, there is an advantage to consider when skipping this perspective. When you have an idea that matrimony is the intent of the relationship, then everyone can be clear about their expectations from the start.
“Clear intentions are a fast track to intimate and deep conversation,” writes Huda Al-Marashi for Self, who has been in an arranged marriage for over 20 years, “and right away, we were able to talk openly about the issues that really matter in a relationship – compatibility, values, and goals.”
2. Sharing values and traditions means there is one less obstacle.
When there is an arranged marriage, then there are fewer cultural differences to navigate as you progress toward being a long-term couple. If you meet someone independently, there could be religious, educational, and occupational barriers in the way. Something as simple as being Catholic vs. Protestant in the United States can create conflict in families based on where the ceremony will be held or how the children are raised.
“Not only were we raised with the same religion and traditions,” writes Al-Marashi, “but we both embraced them and wanted to carry them on… I have already lost so many of my family’s culture and traditions, and I appreciated having a spouse that can help me pass down as much of my heritage to my children as possible.
3. You can know what you want in a partner without the pain of past relationships.
The Western dating scene means that you are under constant pressure to date numerous people to see what type of person you’d like to settle in with for a serious relationship. People constantly ask if that boyfriend or girlfriend is “the one.” It is not unusual for well-meaning friends to ask how someone can know that they’ll get married if they haven’t dated several others in the past. Men average six serious relationships, and women average five if they choose marriage independently.
“I do not doubt that the life experience gained from past relationships can teach us something about ourselves,” says Al-Marashi, “but that does not mean that there is less opportunity for self-discovery and growth from within a committed relationship.” She says that being with one partner doesn’t limit one’s path to self-knowledge – it’s just a different way to walk.
4. It eliminates the ambiguity of a relationship.
Marriages in the West are often based on ambiguous feelings of which the average person is not under full control – especially at the beginning of a relationship. People will research reviews on restaurants, get advice about a vehicle, and solicit help when trying to pick a college or university, but fly by instinct when choosing the person with whom they might want to have children one day. An arranged marriage doesn’t rely on chemistry, sparks, or butterflies. Its foundation is pragmaticism.
5. There are many different kinds of love stories.
It is not unusual for someone in an arranged marriage to wonder if they had been in love with their spouse before they tied the knot. There are so many different love stories that involve falling for a person at first sight. The reality of life is that everyone, in any culture, can choose to love and embrace their own story, even if their families help to write it. Some people might chase down their lover, but it may be far easier to have your closest allies help you locate the individual who might be right for you.
6. Your parents can offer supportive advice about the relationship.
Our entertainment options today support the idea that having parents or guardians involved in the selection of a lifetime partner is a backwards idea that has outlived its usefulness. Matchmaking is not a process where someone needs to stand up to their culture in rebellion to marry the person they love. That is not the norm.
“Thankfully,” says Al-Marashi, “the most difficult thing about my mother’s role in choosing my partner was explaining it to my American friends.” Instead of looking for that perfect someone who shares all of your interests, an arranged marriage allows your family to discover that person who completes you.
7. Arranged marriages have less conflict in the home.
Although this advantage of an arranged marriage is somewhat cultural, it is essential to point out that over half (55%) of the couples who enter into matrimony do so through this process. In the APAC region, some countries see rates of more than 90%. The global divorce rate from the relationships that form in this way is about five times lower than what it is in the West when individuals choose their life partner.
8. It creates a sense of unity when creating a home.
Couples feel like they have someone who understands them at home in an arranged marriage because there is a sharing of culture and idealism at the foundation of their relationship. That means it doesn’t need to be an “us vs. them” world where each person must find their own path to walk while still trying to maintain their happiness with a partner. There is more unity at home because there is a lot more than an emotional reaction on the line if failure occurs. The families who bring their children together cannot afford to endure divisions that could last for several years.
Even if it can be uncomfortable at times, the advice from parents, grandparents, and siblings can create a more robust foundation for a couple during their first days of marriage. That means there is more stability available to them at home.
9. There is an effort at cooperation instead of meddling.
Couples who find themselves independently often struggle with their family structures because someone disagrees with their selection of a partner. In-laws will offer advice that might be well-meaning in its intent, but it doesn’t take the entire relationship into account. There is a one-sidedness to the support where the person from “their” family receives the top priority.
In an arranged marriage, families work together more often. There is a shared sense of social responsibility and financial security. This work goes beyond the desire to maintain the family culture or embrace tradition. Instead of worrying about compatibility, a couple can work toward their best interests.
List of the Disadvantages of Arranged Marriage
1. Decisions are sometimes made using contradictions.
A shared story on TheTalko recounts the tale of parents who were trying to partner their daughter with a man who worked in the United States. Although the initial contacts between the families went well, the relationship fell through because she didn’t wear glasses when video chatting with her potential husband’s family. By not wearing them during the initial contact, they felt like she was being deceptive because poor eyesight is seen as a weakness. If she were to wear contacts, then that would make her pretentious.
No one is perfect, yet there can be an expectation of perfection when partnering with someone in an arranged marriage. These relationships struggle to work because of that perspective.
2. There can be a lack of trust in the eventual relationship.
This disadvantage occurs most often when the couple in question does not have time to meet with one another before the ceremony. Both individuals can enter into matrimony willingly so that it isn’t a forced marriage, but that doesn’t change the fact that there can be a lack of trust. Some people in this situation are forced into a place of intimacy with someone who is a complete stranger, yet they are also a spouse. That fact can make it a challenge to get the marriage started off on the right foot.
3. It gives men more of an opportunity to control the relationship.
Many of the cultures that embrace the idea of an arranged marriage support the concept that the male is the leader of the household. This patriarchal viewpoint trickles down into every decision that the couple might make in the future. Women are given the role of providing children, making meals, and keeping the house clean according to the desires of their spouse. Because of this relationship structure, dependencies form where a woman cannot get away from an abusive partner because she is separated from any support systems.
Even her family might encourage staying in the marriage instead of leaving in an abusive situation because of the cultural implications a divorce would have on them.
4. This relationship eliminates the decision-making process for a courtship.
Although an arranged marriage can help couples go beyond the get-to-know-you stage faster when establishing a courtship, this process is sometimes a step that creates an unwillingness. It may seem like there is a choice to participate, but the individual might be more fearful of the consequences they face if they choose to go their own way.
“I had to either be a good Afghan girl, who accepted whatever decision was made for me, or be a bad girl and leave,” Zarghuna Kargar told The Guardian. “Breaking an engagement was a big thing and I got scared. So, I decided, I’m a good Afghan girl, I’m going to do it the Afghan way, and we got married. The whole time it was a horrible feeling.”
5. It forces intimacy to be the cornerstone of relationship-building.
When two people come together in an intimate moment, then it draws them closer because of the shared physical contact – when the experience is positive. If it is a forced, negative, or undesired moment, then it pushes people away from one another. Some cultures expect certain events to occur during this moment as well, such as bleeding to indicate that the bride is a virgin. If that expectation is not met, then the male distrusts the circumstances of their coupling, and can sometimes become abusive because of it.
6. The concept of love is set aside for the betterment of the family.
Haritha Khandabattu had no desire to get married after she graduated from college. Her ambitions were to focus on her career, but the family had a different priority. It got to the point where her father would barely speak with her, so Khandabattu said that she relented. “I ended up marrying a man that I barely knew and didn’t love,” she told Humans of Amsterdam. “Honestly, I can’t remember my wedding day. From the start, we had no connection and it was very obvious that we both weren’t in love.
Khandabattu’s situation involved her in-laws wanting money. She was forced to give her salary to them. They even demanded that her father pay a dowry. After 18 months of trying, she just gave up, accepted a job in Amsterdam, and finalize the divorce against the wishes of her family.
7. It can be a relationship that involves children.
Some cultures embrace the concept of an arranged marriage at an early age. This disadvantage can occur for kids as young as 12. Although this family structure may have been necessary in past human civilizations because of the shorter lifespans that people had, it is poverty and desperation that cause it today. Parents can talk their child into accepting a marriage because it helps their financial situation.
The United Nations defines any child marriage as one that is forced, but it is not always seen that way in the different cultures. If there is consent, even if it is manipulated by family circumstances, then this disadvantage applies. That is why you see numerous outreach efforts attempting to help relieve hunger and poverty around the world.
8. Women bear the responsibility of self-care from an early age.
Men are seen as the moneymakers in many of the cultures where arranged marriages are a way of life. Women are seen as the caretakers. That means a daughter can become an expensive proposition, especially if a dowry becomes necessary to create a relationship. It is one of many reasons why some families skip the costs of education so that they can try to get paid through a family pairing. This money can then help the family pay for additional resources that can help them to survive.
This disadvantage means that the average woman is asked to carry the burden of self-responsibility from an early age. If she wants to learn how to read, then it may be up to her to determine how she can make that happen.
9. This action limits the personal choices that both parties can make.
Arranged marriages often restrict the decisions that a couple has when choosing a partner. The only means to improve your living conditions is to discover a family who is amenable to let you “marry up.” Some families even use this arrangement as a way to curb the outside forces of “undesired” genetics, habits, or conventions from joining their family structure.
Imagine Christian parents creating a marriage to prevent their son from marrying someone who practices Islam. You could have Jewish parents arranging a partnership to stop a potential relationship with someone who is agnostic. Parents often pick companions because they worry that societal discrimination won’t sanction individualism.
10. It can take away courtship opportunities.
Some relationships, such as the one that Al-Marashi describes, benefit from the arranged marriage process because there is time built into the schedule so that a meaningful courtship can occur. That opportunity does not present itself to every couple. Some brides and grooms know for years that their parents plan to match them with a specific individual. It forces each person to figure out how they can proceed with society’s desire to see them together.
There are specific learning experiences that the dating process can provide individuals even if some relationships end in heartache. You have fewer opportunities to form emotional connections, which can make it challenging to know if you have identified love. Instead of exploring at a pace that suits your needs, an arranged marriage forces you to form a specific partnership based on the desires of others.
11. This relationship can make spouses feel alienated in their own home.
During the concluding stages of an arranged marriage, it is not unusual for everyone in the family to influence the relationship in specific ways for their personal needs. This disadvantage can feel like a hurricane because of an expectation for the couple to please everyone else. Some families may not even permit the bride or groom to have a say in what happens during the ceremony.
This disadvantage can apply to their honeymoon (if they get one), or even the first official days of the marriage. In this situation, the only job that each person has for the marriage is to show up to share their vows. It is a process that can make you feel like you’re going along on a ride that is out of control.
Verdict on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Arranged Marriages
There are many couples who are still writing their love story today because of an arranged marriage. When their families work together to create a matchmaking experience where the courtship process involves getting to know each other and laying ground rules for future expectations, then it can be a healthy experience for all parties. That’s one of the reasons why over half of all marital relationships come through this process.
Families can also use the arrangement process for their own financial wellbeing, sacrificing the needs of their children to create better living conditions for themselves.
That is why the advantages and disadvantages of arranged marriages must receive careful consideration at the individual level. If someone feels forced into this relationship, then the negatives of such a pairing are more likely to come out one day. If both parties feel like there is a way to make things work on multiple levels, then their partnership can be a rewarding experience.
Crystal Lombardo has been a staff writer for Future of Working for five years. She is a proud veteran and mother. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.