“Our matriarchs had an interesting advantage over today’s western women. Matriarchs didn’t begin their marriage with love. Instead, they were taught how to love. They entered marriage with an earnest determination to grow a love that would sustain their marriage for a lifetime.”
― Michael Ben Zehabe, Song of Songs the book for daughters
When an invitation came from a friend of mine to attend his nephew’s wedding in Calcutta, I jumped at the chance. My flight took me from Spokane to Seattle, to Dubai and to Calcutta. What I didn’t know was how much I didn’t know about Hindu weddings.
My friend’s sister, the groom’s mother, picked us up after sunset to take us shopping in preparation for the ceremonies. While my friend sat upfront with the driver, I sat in the back of the relatively new car with his sister. Driver or taxi, it didn’t matter. The streets were full of a cacophony of honking and shouting as we maneuvered around other cars, taxis, motorized rickshaws and cycle rickshaws. Narrowly making it through the pedestrians, motorcycles, bikes and street dogs, I carefully listened to her as she shared it all.
She said that her son was marrying and it was an arranged marriage. She explained that what happens in an arranged marriage is the family signs up on a marriage portal to find a suitable partner for their daughter or son. This is the process she went through for her son, although it may be different in other arranged marriages. Questionnaires were completed online to make the correct match and then profiles of several choices for a possible mate were delivered. In this case, the groom was able to see the profiles and make some choices. The groom’s parents also ordered astrological charts so the astrologer could find who would be harmonious with their son. The parents then met with the young woman. Afterward, they invited the family and the young woman to meet their son. If there was a harmonious connection, the young couple met a few more times to test the compatibility. The next step was planning the marriage.
Some would scoff at this process and have many reasons to argue against it, saying it wouldn’t work; but statistics say different. According to UNICEF http://www.statisticbrain.com/arranged-marriage-statistics/ (August 16, 2012) the Divorce Rate for Arranged Marriages in India is 1.1 %. The Global Divorce rate for Arranged Marriages is 4 %.
So, could it be that arranged marriage is a more sensible way to pair up for life? What about falling in love? As I listened to the way the couples were paired, it sounded a lot like dating sites to me. Some of the largest dating sites in the US are match.com and eharmony.com. There is a difference though between dating sites and marriage portals. Many people I have talked with and my own experience is that many profiles on the dating sites are either false or exaggerated. In the US, there is even a TV show about this called Catfish. http://www.mtv.com/shows/catfish/
The screening process for marriage portals is much more complex and those who put up their profile are looking for marriage, not someone to date or with whom to create a sexual relationship. Although I’m not privy to any, there may be dating sites that are reliable and you can trust that the profile is accurate and meeting the person is safe. Agencies that are set up to match couples may be a better choice.
There are many ways of dividing relationships into stages. Here I will use the stages I use when counseling couples. They are the honeymoon phase, the working phase and the commitment phase.
With the “falling in love” process, there are stages that may differ from an arranged marriage. This is of course a simplified process, but falling in love begins with the honeymoon phase. You meet someone and you are immediately infatuated with them. You cannot stop thinking about them, love everything about them and find yourself smiling out loud and then embarrassed because you realize you are in public and think others can read your mind. During this stage, your energy increases and you become aroused, and even obsessed with the person to the point your friends get tired of listening to your ravings about him or her.
The next stage of the relationship is the working stage. You begin to notice some things you never observed before or what you did see begins to bother you. Previously, the fact he leaves his clothes all around the room was cute and showed his carefree attitude. Now, it’s irritating that you have to pick up after him. When she used to leave the sink full of toothpaste, it was childlike and playful. Now it is sticky and messy when you are in a hurry to shave and get to work.
This stage is when couples either learn to communicate and work together at being harmonious, or issues begin to tear at the thread of the relationship. The fun, playful guy begins to look like a slob and you wonder what you ever saw in him. The woman you felt proud to share with your friends, all of the sudden becomes controlling and whiny and you can’t wait to get away from her and do something with the guys.
These changes give you the opportunity to either end the relationship or learn to communicate, accept each other and go onto the next stage.
The next stage of relationship is a deepening process and you enter into the commitment stage. For many years I have said that when you enter into relationship, it brings up in your personality, all that needs healing and gives you the opportunity for personal growth. This is the gift of relationship. It is also a reason to do your personal development work before you get into relationship. You will attract a person at a similar level or vibrational frequency as you.
At this stage, you begin to understand how to communicate, be compassionate, compromise and stay connected. Even when you feel like responding with “fight or flight,” you stay and work through the problems. This is not to say that you won’t argue, but you will learn to “fight fair.” You also may move away from your partner for an hour or so, but you do this after communicating that you need to think things through and let your partner know when you will return. Most of the time when there is conflict in a relationship, it has to do with a misunderstanding or a resistance you have that is based on ego. Having accepting, loving partners that “hold the space” for each other to process feelings and thoughts, is how the relationship deepens and you grow into the couple you want to be.
Beyond the scope of this article is the question “what are the stages of an arranged marriage?” Having talked to a few men who are in arranged marriages, I found out that after the marriage, they did, in fact, fall in love with their wife and the couples are happy, committed and secure.
This article was previously published in Live Encounters Magazine. http://liveencounters.net/?page_id=6790