Most marriages in India are still arranged today. In fact, I was talking to someone today who arranged his own marriage. He asked some friends, they recommended her, the two met twice and decided to marry. He believes arranged marriages last longer than ‘love’ marriages. By stats, I think he is right. However, I always thought it was because it is such a taboo to divorce in India. My host told me that in her time if a woman divorced she was disowned. If she remarried her family could not go to the house of her new husband, even if they wanted to. However, the gentleman in my example told me, he believes they last longer because you take the time to get to know the other person during the marriage. He says they constantly want to please each other. He also states that when you know each other already expectations change when you get married and sometimes when you can’t reach those expectations people get disappointed. In this case, since you have no expectations you aren’t disappointed. Hmm..I instantly thought, isn’t this what married couples complain of, no ‘romance’; after marriage your bored already since everything about that person has already been explored. I was intrigued.
“He might be on to something”, I thought.
He continued, in arranged marriages love isn’t the first thing. First comes the understanding that you are responsible for someone else and respect for that other person, then love develops. I have heard this concept before from people who have arranged marriages. The trifecta: respect, appreciation, love concept. First, there is respect for them as a person, at this point that is all you know. Then you grow as husband and wife you begin to appreciate the unique role they play in your life that no one else can. Finally, love develops. He also mentioned that compatibility is mandatory when you do not have support and have to rely on this person to be your support system no matter what. In India, they have the support of their whole family and community. Thus reliance on the partner to be your ‘everything’ and check every box to ensure they possess the traits to facilitate your happiness for the rest of your life, isn’t as pertinent. This made a lot of sense to me.
For example, I never understood why Indian marriages were so extravagant. I personally want a small ceremony if at all. The reason I could not understand the extravagance is because I figure they don’t even know each other. What love is there to celebrate? I think I get it now. They are celebrating the union of not only these two people, but their families and communities as well. In an Indian marriage once someone joins their family they are a part of it for life. This community is so excited to celebrate not only the birth of a new family unit but an addition to the extended family and community at large. It is not about their love, the marriage isn’t about the couple like it is in The States. It’s about the establishment of a new family, who will become assets to society. He actually said that, he said the best Ashram in the world is developing a family unit. Ashram essentially means the gathering of people for the purpose of peace. The biggest yoga is a family. Yoga actually means addition, union or to join. Any positive addition to your life is a yoga. He said the goal is to become an asset to society as a family. In The States this holds true for marriages as well, but with way more emphasis on love than community.
Contrast this to my idea of a wedding: small, just immediate family on both sides and best friends. People who actually care about you and would be there for you in a heartbeat, those who are really proud and genuinely happy to see these two particular individuals celebrate the rest of their life together. Rather than (In America) a huge party, that as little to do with the couple, to satisfy the social needs of other people. My idea of marriage is based on the love two people share. Neither is wrong. They are simply different. I think they are both great concepts. I certainly have a better understanding of arranged marriages. In fact, it doesn’t look bad at all. If I was matched appropriately, I might consider it.
Here is the caveat though. In India, they are under the impression that no matter what, we are staying together. They have an understanding that any disagreements they will work out together. In America, I think most enter the marriage knowing that there is an option to leave if they so please. In fact in India, the concept of marriage is dare I say appropriate, they believe that marriage is a journey. Why spend time getting to know your spouse before hand and take all the fun out of it, when you have a lifetime to figure it out together. In theory, it seems like the love once it comes would even be deeper. In America, you choose to marry the person because….they understand you, you have kids, they have money, they look good, they share your religion, your Mom likes them, you’ve been with them this long, they make you laugh, they share your core values…. and what happens when they don’t. All the things you ‘fell in love with’, what happens when they are not there anymore? Divorce? In India, there are no conditions and they love regardless. Agape love. That can be powerful.
Anyway, this is too long! I am glad to finally understand something I have been confused about for years. I didn’t expect this topic was take so long, ok eventually I will explain what I learned about Tikuli (the dot on Indians forehead), Holi (one of the 4 biggest festivals in India) happening on Friday. I also still need to share what I learned about the Indian Healthcare and social structure. Ah, so much to talk about so little time. I am going to where the Dalai Lama lives this weekend. I also hope to visit a Buddhist temple while here as well. I will keep you posted.