Why the romanticization of Arranged Marriages needs to stop

I just happened to come across this video, which is apparently a video made by students of University of Berkeley as a part of their Campus MovieFest.


The video description reads:

The movie is a light-hearted take on the custom of arranged marriages in India. Although widely practiced, the young generation is uncomfortable with the concept and feel compelled to show that it was love that brought them together.

I wouldn’t have honestly minded this, and I did find some parts of the video funny in a cheesy way. But it ends with this ‘message’:

Most Marriages in India are arranged…  amazingly enough this bonding lasts forever!

This really made me angry. There is nothing romantic about arranged marriages. marriage

The main part that disturbs me is the concept of spending a lifetime together with a partner you barely know. If it has worked out well for some people, I am happy for them, but I just don’t see it how we are supposed to marry a random stranger you barely know, whom you would have to decide if he or she is a good enough match for you looking at the photograph? Oh, and how are these photographs chosen? Either through online marriage services, or some agents who would do the same offline. And potential ‘grooms’ and ‘brides’ are handpicked by families based on factors like religion, caste, class and even color. Yep, because that is what is very important for the stable marriage, being of the right classcaste or religion. And this is what you are romanticizing, instead of criticizing. 

And what makes it all the worse, people who break this ‘tradition‘ of arranged marriage would face serious pressures from many families. Many just don’t bother resisting, but those who do, are disowned from their families. And many who resist are disowned by their families, which has happened in my family itself (although they later made amends, but in many cases they don’t). And that is me ignoring the common problem of forced marriages, which deserves a whole separate post – and this outrages me even more as one my friends now is living under the fear of getting married by force herself.


And as for the, the ‘bonding‘ lasting forever is mostly because there is still really bad stigma associated with divorce, and families would still ask them to ‘compromise‘, even when it comes to domestic abuse – because as  ‘well mannered woman’, you have to make compromises. That is how it rolls. Because it is all the inevitable part of a family life, apparently. This is why I hate it when people bring up divorce rates in the ‘west‘ and compare it to that of India to show how ‘stable‘ our relationships are. 

Now remember, I am not talking about those who have a good healthy, relationship that happened to be a result of arranged married, but rather the process itself, as it is widely practiced in India. It’s an utterly despicable and hardly talked about practice in my view – and the last thing you need is a propaganda telling us ‘young generation’ who are ‘uncomfortable with the concept’ how great this absurd practice is.

12 responses to “Why the romanticization of Arranged Marriages needs to stop

  1. I am one of those who resisted an arranged marriage a decade back, abandoned by family, only to be forgiven later for my ‘mistake’. Many still make it a point to insult me at public functions. What hurts me more is the fact that till date, it remains that it was my ‘fault’ and mine alone. Hamara beta to shareef tha. In my opinion, neither arranged nor love, it’s just the understanding between the two people that makes the marriage successful. Yes, in India, there are infinite marriages which are successful on the face if it, just because of the compromise slogan and the ‘what will people say?’ attitude. Wish people thought more about the welfare of the lives under question.

    • Exactly Rekha. I can fully relate to this mentality – and women are mostly at the receiving end of this. I mean how dare they make an independent decision about their lives, right?

      In my opinion, neither arranged nor love, it’s just the understanding between the two people that makes the marriage successful.

      I don’t disagree that it’s the understanding what matters, but the system itself is wrong. Doesn’t matter whether it turned out to be okay in the end IMO. Because the arranged marriages are still done by filtering potential brides and grooms through caste, class and religion even today, and this breeds discrimination.
      I have no problems the sort of ‘arranged marriage’ where parents just agree with their children’s choices and go ahead with it though.

  2. I absolutely agree with everything you said. You can’t determine a good life partner by their job, financial standing, looks or education. It is severely limiting and it leads to unfulfillment on all fronts. Also I find problematic when elders say that you’re ready for marriage just because they completed college or got a job, and is not a reflection of their personal maturity or ability to compromise.
    I don’t know…I’m a big believer in love, chemistry and making decisions and you and only you.

  3. Here’s what i remember posting earlier:

    I understand that quite a few of the elders ‘care’ for our well being (or the family status) and since they are older and ‘wiser’ they short list and/or choose spouses for us.

    While all that is nice, they don’t understand that marriage is first a personal thing between the two spouses and then a family thing. Since my life as an adult is my responsibility, I will choose whom to marry. Besides, the shortlisting the family does is on basis on what they think and know of us.. There are many things people don’t tell their family, and some of which are major aspects.

    What is even more interesting is that as an adult, we can choose whom we want to be in the government but can’t choose our own spouse.

    My idea is that if I am capable of making a choice, I will make it..and then live with consequences (good or bad)

  4. Agree with this post completely! My view is if an individual wants an arranged marriage then they should go for but for those who don’t want it they should not be made to feel like the devil reincarnated!
    Love the picture, that’s exactly what I think!

    • Ah that’s the problem. Because they choose because they wouldn’t really want to go against the pressure of family and society. Unless you are really rebellious and are ready to face the consequences, and even then we have the issue of forced marriage.

      I mean seriously, who would, without any social pressures, choose to marry a random stranger who they barely know, filtered by the criteria of color, class, religion, and caste? The practice itself is despicable – and the last thing we want to do is endorse or romanticize this despicable concept. It has become a part of our culture, sadly and many just go along with it. Which is depressing when you think about it.

      • I definitely won’t choose this route in my own life, but I have many friends who are more than happy to let their parents and family choose. The strange thing is some of these families are more than willing to let their children pick for themselves but the individual in question trusts their families judgement in finding them someone.

        However, that being said there is social pressure for many to follow this route. However, especially with our people it has become a sort of dating service. I’m not sure about how things are done in your community, but being a Bengali there aren’t as many terms and conditions out on us when it comes to marriage. We don’t really take any of that seriously. Religion is important to us as Muslims, but as a Muslim the fundamental teaching is that all people are equal. There is no caste system to follow, no religious person to consult. If the family like each other they get to know each other. Terms and conditions for us: good job, good family and good education, that is it.

        My close friend is going through an arranged marriage. She has met the guy with her family. Her family then encouraged her to go to dinner with him (with me present of course, I did leave them to have some privacy). They are texting every night, emailing, talking on the phone. Really getting to know each other. They still have not told their families that they want to get married and that’s fine the families are letting them take their time. A few of my family members have also had arranged marriages, went through the same process. Not all arranged marriages are bad. I depends entirely on the family you come from.

        You say in this day and age you cannot imagine people wanting to have an arranged marriage. But speaking from a Bengali perspective, arranged marriages have also got with the times and I assume that’s why a lot of people I know are willing to go through arranged marriages if they do not have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Of course there are social pressures but fighting it is not as bad as it used to be. I now have Pakistani, Gujarati, Moroccan and Ethiopian cousins through love marriages! It’s all about perspective, the country you come from, family and community and how much they have evolved. Technically Muslims can marry anyone, no matter the country, race or ethnicity as long as the other person is Muslim also, but unfortunately for the majority of South Asians culture gets in the way of that. Introducing my Yemeni boyfriend will be a struggle but I’m hoping it won’t be that much of a struggle.

        But being forced to marry someone or having to endure an arranged marriage if it is not what you want is utterly despicable yes.

  5. I am going through arranged marriage and the only thing that comes to my mind is its unnatural. Just imagine your throat is about to get slit, you desperately want to escape this horror but you can’t. You are going to meet your tragic end. You are helpless. No one understands you, no one wants to help you, not even your family. That is exactly how I feel a month before my arranged marriage. Also while I was writing these lines I realized why does every one here in India say “bakra halal hua” for marriage.

    Coming back to the first thing yes arranged marriages are unnatural. We humans (and even animals for that matter) know very well what’s best for us and our body. This is true for everything. We choose friends who we know are going to be the best people for us to socialize with. There has been some research going on about how pheromones and body smell tells us a lot the other sex. Even mosquitoes have no trouble finding blood. Apparently in our case , our best mate is a forced mate.
    I am not married yet,but I feel if you stay in an arranged marriage for a long time you loose your sense of rational thinking. All your married life you try to find explanations as to why arranged marriages are not bad and how one day you will start liking your partner. And the day you feel a smallest connection with your partner, you feel wow: My parents were so smart they made a good decision for my life. All this wisdom that has been passed down for generations doesn’t make sense but works. In your head you start to explain yourself how everything that has been going on for ages is right. And how caste system is right.

    How else do you think the abhorrent practice of Sati was possible for almost 15 centuries. First you need a brain that has stopped rational thinking , that feels something is right because it has been going on for ages. Second it needs a society in which everyone is conditioned to think the same way.

    I feel its perfectly normal for anyone who has been married forcefully to stop thinking rationally. Their mind did what was best for them. It tried to find something positive in their otherwise woeful married life. And how awesome our society is and how our lucky we are to have this ancient wisdom getting passed to us.They would have gone into clinical depression if every single day they lamented over how their parents forcefully married them off to someone they didn’t like. The same parents whom they trusted all their lives since the day they were born.

  6. Pls help,

    I’m a very independent guy have been living away from home since I was 17 (31 at the moment). I have had few girl friends in the past but it didn’t reach to the marrying stage as I was constantly on the move making education and career preferred choices. Now I’m living away from home (India) since the past 10 years and don’t have much connection back home other than my parents and Bollywood movies.. I Always listen to my parents but still have few quirks here and there.

    Now my parents have found a girl for me in India and they love her so much and her family too. I somehow got into communicating w her via Facebook and viber and on FaceTime sometimes. She’s a great girl but I’ve never met her in person and I don’t want to marry her as I don’t prefer arranged marriages.

    I’m not under pressure but feel both families think very highly of me and I’m under EXPECTATIONS. they all expect a lot from me and want that we get married. The girl is probably in love w me w out even meeting me. But she knows re my work via Internet(I’m in a creative profession )

    How do I stop this from going ahead WITHOUT hurting anyone’s feelings???

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