For most of my adult life, I viewed arranged marriages as nothing more than a crude violation of a man’s sovereign rights. Why should a man marry a woman that his parents chose? What if she’s not his type and he wants someone else? What if he already has a serious Western girlfriend? For a Westerner like me, these kinds of arrangements always seemed strange and bizarre.
Lately, however, I’ve been gradually realizing that any blessing can quickly become a curse. Even the so-called “abundance mentality” is slowly beginning to rear its ugly head.
After I quit my job and moved to Latin America, I lost touch with all my former coworkers and acquaintances, except for a few close friends. A couple of weeks ago, after more than seven years of being out of touch, I finally logged into my old account and the first picture that popped up on my feed was my friend standing next to a woman and two children. He was a bachelor no more.
Here was someone whom I thought would be a bachelor forever. I could never picture him ever abandoning his carefree lifestyle and ever settling down. But I guess I was wrong. Now he was a family man. A wife. Two kids. Even a home. And lots of responsibilities that went along with it. He was no longer some kid who got drunk on weekends; he was now a grown up man.
Like the rest of my former Indian co-workers, he met his wife via an arranged marriage; he took a trip to India and was introduced to several women, chose one he liked best and then flew back to marry and bring his new bride to live with him in America.
The Perils of Too Much Freedom
When you’re living in a society without any restrictions on how relationships are formed, where people are eternally “independent,” it’s too tempting to keep going; it’s too tempting to keep approaching; it’s too tempting to sleep with a new girl every day.
After all, why stop? Approaching feels good. Seducing a feels good. Sex feels great. Why stop doing things that feel so good? Why put much effort into the relationship itself? Why try to develop something long-lasting with anyone? If things don’t work out with one girl, there’s always another one around the corner. Thanks to the “abundance mindset,” there’s little motivation to build anything substantial with a specific person.
No one is forcing me to settle down with a certain woman. No one is telling me to build a family (my mom hints this from time to time, but I don’t really listen to her). No one is telling me to sacrifice my short term gratification for my long term success. I’m living my life like there’s no tomorrow and loving every minute of it. And no one is rebuking me for it.
And sometimes I wish someone did.
While I previously viewed arranged marriages as a societal control that violate a man’s sovereign right to live his life on his own terms, I’m slowly beginning to see the positive side of such control. These types of control didn’t arise out of nowhere: their purpose was to protect a man from himself.
When something as important as a marriage is meticulously arranged, it facilitates the proper environment for a man to find a wife, build a family, and focus on working and providing for that family instead of trying to find a mate himself; we all perfectly know what a treacherous and nightmarish—almost futile—process that is in the West. It’s really a necessary evil to enforce some structure into otherwise loose and disconnected culture.
Having your mate preselected by your family comes with numerous key benefits. Your future wife is prescreened to have good economic status. Not only that, but she’s also prescreened to be healthy, both physically and psychologically. All this goes a long way to ensure that the future couple will stay together and raise a healthy family.
While formal arranged marriages are mainly limited to South Asia, other cultures tackle this problem on an “informal level.” In more traditional Southern European and Jewish cultures, it’s common for the parents to select a viable partner for their children by consulting with other families who are in a similar position. I believe Arabic countries do this well.
A couple of my good “traditional” Eastern European friends (“traditional” because they were born in Eastern Europe and moved there after the age of 15 and still have the Eastern European mentality) met their future wives via family connections. One good friend in particular is a ruthless businessman who’s doing exceptionally well. His wife also comes from a very good family. Her father and mother are still together. They’re both doing very well financially. Come to think of it, I really wouldn’t expect anything less from my friend.
Marriage is serious business and being merely infatuated with a woman just isn’t enough. Love isn’t enough. There needs to be genuine compatibility on many levels. That’s where a woman’s background, personality, interests and even socioeconomic status come into play. Just having the woman come from a complete household where the mother and father have good relationship goes a long way to facilitate that.
All of this is changing. As countries are becoming more Westernized, these types of marriage arrangements—both formal and informal—are gradually being phased out in favor of “doing it yourself.” Indians who are born and grow up in the West are behaving just like any other Westerner; they’re choosing to date and marry women they want instead of letting their parents choose for them.
The Antidote To The Western Society
Western society is very unique in a sense that it’s very mobile, but that’s also what gives it a “disconnected” feel. The family unit gets broken up very early when children leave their homes at 18 to go to college. While growing up, they choose to focus on their careers and satisfy their sexual urges with short-term flings, deferring marriage for later years or not marrying at all.
And, if they do marry—that’s a huge “if”—there’s a very high chance that the marriage will end up as a divorce; divorce rate is close to 50%. Families break down and their children suffer for it. Future generations of men end up being raised by their mothers and, therefore, lack a strong male role model. This ensures the cycle repeating itself in the next generation.
When you break down the family unit, you no longer have a proper role model that can serve as a guide on what you should do. You no longer have a healthy authority. And without a healthy authority, all you’re left is with media and your raging emotions. Advertising companies understand this perfectly which is why billions and billions of dollars are spent on manipulating us into doing or buying something because it’ll make us feel good and not provide us with tangible benefit.
We think we’re conscious individuals who make rational decisions, but in reality we’re closer to atoms floating in space, eternally chasing the next great thing that makes us feel good. Perhaps on some subconscious level, men understand this and that’s why they’re running away from the West in search for something new and meaningful.
We are so free to do pretty much anything: to travel, to build online businesses, to make new acquaintances and to have one-night stands. If we screw up, we can do it again; we can start a business, fail, declare bankruptcy and start fresh tomorrow. We can always reinvent ourselves and become someone new tomorrow.
While that has many benefits, it also absolves us of key responsibilities. There’s little permanency. There’s little structure. Depending on how you look it, it’s both a blessing and a curse.
An arranged marriage is a type of societal control. Like religion, it’s a way to manage society’s irrational impulses, sexual drives and urges. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. These forms of control are responsible for keeping whole civilizations intact by preventing people from savagely killing each other. People are mainly driven by their subconscious—they do what feels good and then rationalize it using logic later. After all, someone has to do it. It can either be done via religion or tradition, or by multinational corporations (via advertising).
I’m not claiming that a Western man would necessarily be better off if a marriage was arranged for him; there’s a lot of freedom in being able to choose your destiny and decide how you want to structure your life without anyone else getting in the way.
But if there’s one thing that history taught us is that societies only survive and thrive when there’s a good balance of freedom and control. Too much control and society descends into totalitarianism, stifling freedoms of expression and speech; too much freedom and we become increasingly selfish and ego-driven, always eager to satisfy our primitive reptilian urges instead of being part of and building something greater and more meaningful than ourselves.
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