Back in college the subject of arranged marriage came up in discussion during one of my small workshop classes. I don’t remember how. Perhaps someone had written it in a story we were talking about. What I do remember is the very negative reaction that everyone in the room had.
There was shock and anger and talking about it like it was a barbaric practice from ancient times and not something that people are still doing. I sat quietly, embarassed, and not wanting to admit that I tried to have an arranged marriage myself.
I was taught (not by my parents, but by SES) that marriage is a part of spiritual discipline. It’s not there for your happiness. All people are the Self, and so you just need a good man who is trying to perfect his soul the same as you are and love will grow. You love what you serve. Marriage is about working together and having a partnership, not about lust and passion. Arranged marriage makes a whole lot of sense from that perspective.
Imagine my surprise when, fourteen years after that college class, I came across a girl’s essay about her potential arranged marriage and the comments, which are mostly from non-desi westerners, were extremely positive!
I suspect that two things are at play here:
1) When people are able to set aside their stereotyped ideas about what arranged marriage is, they are able to learn that it no longer means marrying someone you’ve never met before. The vast majority of arranged marriages now involve meeting your potential spouse a few times before deciding that marriage is right for you.
It’s heartening for me to see people being more open minded about it. I think love marriages can be wonderful and I think arranged marriages can also be wonderful. It really depends a lot on you, your situation, and your family.
And, though it may have been common for grandparents to have met their spouses on their wedding day, that’s really no longer the norm. There’s a nice hybrid happening now where parents may set up the date and both people know that they are dating in order to see if they are compatible for marriage, but they do have some time to see if they are a good fit.
There’s even a book on modern women and arranged marriage: Hitched.