I was reading an article written by an Indian author on this topic when I realized that the idea of arranged marriages completely freaks me out. I mean, seriously, marriage is such an intimate deal; we’re talking about a life-time commitment here. We’re talking about sharing a life, having children together, and the huge possibility of growing old together. How can someone make such an important decision without knowing the person they’re getting married to?
Yeah, sure, one would say that her parents know her well enough to make an adequate choice on her behalf. Yet, the parents will always base the choice on economic stability and family reputation, and neither of these two factors is enough to present the level of compatibility.
In Jordan, we base most of our marriages on “love-at-first-sight”, which if you ask me, is even worse than an arranged marriage. Typical scenario: a man notices a woman at a wedding, he likes the way she looks and acts, asks around to find out who she is(bent meen or whatever), and then proposes to her family. The woman’s family then asks around to find out more about this man, and the decision is based on what they find out from other people. If the family accepted, what follows is a long engagement period, which usually allows the couple to find out whether they’re compatible or not. A wedding occurs if neither of them decides to terminate the engagement. Other scenarios include “The Sister of the Best Friend”, “Daughter of a Dear Family Friend”, or “My Relative’s Relative”.
My mother, if she read this, would probably argue that this way works the best. She met my father at her best friend’s wedding, and they hit off immediately, although they come from very different backgrounds. She would also point out that the rates of divorce in the Arab world are very small compared to the rates of divorce occurring in the West, where marriage is based on love. She’s right of course, but I think that has more to do with the way Arab’s are bred. Among lower social classes, in small towns, and in very conservative families, children are raised to accept gender roles (which I condemn), thus averting many arguments.
Yet, my cynical view towards arranged marriages and the typical Jordanian marriage doesn’t mean that I commend the relatively new “Boyfriend/Girlfriend” trend that you see in the Arab world these days. I am actually horrified to see kids in their early teens claiming that they are in “love” with the boy they met once at the mall and who they now talk to on the phone quite often. To me, such an episode is offensive to love and most importantly, offensive to our Arab culture. My views might be a little uptight for a lot of people, but I really believe that the “Boyfriend/Girlfriend” trend results in less respect towards the other gender and less appreciation towards love. It also usually results in pain, and takes neither person anywhere.
I personally feel that a romantic relationship should only be commended if the prospect of marriage is in mind, if the relationship is not kept private, and if the two people are actually old enough to be in a mature relationship.
There goes my two cents. I usually never feel like rambling, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and decided to share. Never mind my deficient and incoherent writing style :) I haven’t really tried to write something other than emails since high school.