What side of the fence you’re in affects your point of view regarding the advantages and disadvantages of arranged marriages. Perhaps there are only advantages. Or no advantage at all. Your cultural upbringing and religious convictions are strong determinants of where you stand on this issue.
But for argument’s sake, why don’t we take a look at both sides of the coin? But before we do, we need to make it clear that arranged marriages may or may not be forced. In fact these days, more and more arranged marriages are premised on mutually consenting adults. Even people who pledge allegiance to the Islamic faith know that marrying an individual is possible only if they both like each other. Contrary to popular belief, Muslims believe that the happiness of both spouses is of paramount importance.
Advantages of Arranged Marriages
If we leave the west for a few days and transplant ourselves into any culture that promotes arranged marriages, we will, in time, realize the logic behind this practice and appreciate the reasons why they work. Some of those reasons can be attributed to the wisdom of elders. Because they raised and cared for their children, they instinctively know what’s best for their children, which includes the decision to select a life partner.
1. Risk of incompatability is diminished
Arranged marriages presuppose that two people are perfectly matched because they belong to the same culture, share the same religious upbringing, speak the same language, and raised in more or less the same socio-economic class. These identical backgrounds make it easier for the couple to communicate with each other and understand where each “is coming from.” Decisions in the upbringing of future children and their education leave little room for disparities in their thinking because of this “likeness.”
2. Idea of divorcing is unthinkable
This is another acknowledged advantage of arranged marriages. Given that the man and woman come from a similar background and therefore share the same views of marriage and family, the chance of divorcing due to irreconcilable differences is not as strong as in western cultures.
Note that it is not so much the arranged marriage per se that reduces the likelihood of divorce. As we discussed in another article, most arranged marriages no longer trigger a negative reaction because a good number of them are not forced. Parents who arrange marriages are fully aware that their children can always refuse a selected partner, in which case they simply look for another suitable partner. The input from the future groom and bride carries weight. The combination, therefore, of the parents’ wisdom and consent of the child would lead to a happier union so divorce would be unlikely.
India is the perfect example of a society where arranged marriages are still the norm and where the divorce rate is very low.
3. Extended family support has its benefits
In traditional societies, spouses sometimes live with the parents or live in the same housing compound. In times of difficulty, the couple can count on the help of their parents and in-laws for physical, emotional and financial support. When the children are born and both spouses work, finding adequate babysitters is a non-issue because the grandparents pitch in the care and nurturing of the children. The children are therefore supervised by close family members instead of by complete strangers, making them comfortable because they live in an atmosphere that they know well. Needless to add, when the couple has arguments, well-meaning elders can step in and offer advice and “arbitration” sessions.
Disadvantages of Arranged Marriages
For those who learn that arranged marriages are not necessarily forced, they adopt a more tolerant attitude towards this practice. One reason for this tolerance is that arranged marriages are a cultural trademark and should not be judged using western standards. If those who marry believe it’s “no big deal” to have their marriages arranged because it is a way of life they are accustomed to, then why should outsiders try to convince them otherwise? It’s not as if they’re being dragged into the marriage against their will or being groomed as slaves.
Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, here are some disadvantages of arranged marriages:
1. Inability to make up one’s own mind
When marriages are arranged by elders or parents, this does not encourage spouses to make up their own mind about who to marry. Instead of dating and meeting people and comparing them against one’s ideals, they leave that part of the work to someone else. Should either spouse end up unhappy after being married a few years, it can be very tempting to blame one’s parents for making an unsuitable choice.
2. Love takes second priority
“Decide with your head and not with your heart” is what parents tell their children. This philosophy tends to put love in the back burner. For people who live in societies where arranged marriages are the practice, they are convinced that if they don’t feel any passionate love when the marriage takes place, love will bloom eventually. It is more important to consider the social and economic viability of the marriage rather than put romantic love at the forefront – which will fade anyway because romantic love is at best a superficial feeling.
3. Interference from extended family
While there are benefits to having one’s extended family close by who can offer support when needed, this proximity has pitfalls. For some Muslims and others who have, in particular, been living in the west for a long time, may find this closeness a little awkward and uncomfortable. Some marital arguments and conflicts are settled better when only the spouses are involved. When the in-laws interfere and impose their views, this can cause stress to the marriage.