Direct Link to Latest News


Arranged Marriages Can Work

October 5, 2010

marriage2.jpgby David Richards

Reading in a cafe, I feel a tug on my jacket. I look up. A little Indian girl with pigtails and a flowery dress stares at me. She waits for my reaction, bursts into laughter and runs away.

The Mum nearly faints with embarrassment and scolds her daughter. I'm fine, I tell her. I'll recover. We start talking and she tells me her name is Fashiya.

During the conversation, she mentions her Muslim faith and I ask if she had an arranged marriage. Not quite she says, it was a 'modern arranged marriage.'

It is an important distinction. Unlike agreements where girls can be sold off to the highest bidder, a modern arranged marriage gives the child a selection of people to date and the final say over whom they marry.

Fashiya told me she had no boyfriends as a teenager and would lie in her bedroom and daydream of the perfect romance. Then, in her early twenties her parents presented her with photos and files of men they thought were suitable. After studying them she chose a handsome man with a job in law.

They met for dinner and the chemistry between them was intense. She felt warm and tingly all over: it was surreal to be living the dream. It only took three dates to decide he was the one. Soon, they were standing hand-in-hand in the eye of an enormous marriage ceremony with hundreds of family and friends all with beaming smiles and enjoying a great feast.

He has proven to be a wonderful husband and fantastic with their two children.

This took place here in England. Fashiya feels sorry for her English friends whose romantic endeavors seem lifted from soap operas. Everything has been made so easy for her. 

I had assumed arranged marriages to be barbaric and cruel affairs. They are practised by Muslim and Hindu minorities in Britain and have a famously low divorce rate, which I took as a sign of oppression. But the modern twist was new to me, and this coupled with Fashiya's positive experience made me wonder if they contained any lessons for us.


What a contrast to the lifestyle of my generation. I remember parties when I was 15. Some girls would be drunk, combining bouts of vomiting with petting and fondling with different guys through the night. How can they be viewed afterwards other than tramps?

Getting drunk and fumbling in the dark is the start of many English relationships. This understandably confuses those from more functional cultures. Arranged marriage advocate Mrs. Rahman says, 'You wouldn't buy a car or house drunk, so why would you expect to find a life partner like that?'

For me and my friends, the innocence of young romance was quickly replaced by cynicism and distrust. It is shocking to hear the wholesome intentions of traditional Indian girls.

Here an Indian woman called Anjali Mansukhani describes her pre-marriage rituals;

   "The wedding was preceded by six days of partying, each one centering on a small religious ceremony, plus a social gathering featuring fireworks, feasting, music, and Bollywood-style dancing. Each day required a different outfit, jewelry, hairdo, and makeup... I partook in a henna hand-painting ritual to beautify me for my future husband.

   After the Henna ceremony, two of my cousins took me aside and gave me a talk on the birds and bees. Despite blushing profusely and begging them to stop, I completed the crash course, and we all laughed."

Many young Indian girls in the west succumb to our hedonistic culture.

Anita Jain is an Indian woman who grew up in America and turned her back on the traditions of her parents. She writes, 'after a decade of emotionally bankrupt boyfriends and short-lived affairs with married men and, oddly, the most painful of all, the guys who just never call, [an arranged marriage] no longer seems like the most outlandish possibility.'

 I perceive her reaching her mid-thirties, single, with her body quickly degenerating. In the mirror she sees herself as an 80-year-old woman, spending the last years of her unfulfilled life alone.

 She may now be changing her mind, but with her promiscuous past will anyone want her?

I am reminded of two friends of mine who were in a relationship for three years. Before they got together she had played around and he knew about it. Even though he loved her, it would eat away at him and he would sometimes insult her in public. It tore them apart.

He could never accept her slutty past, and I can sympathize; why should he work for something she had given away in the past for free?

As I mature, it seems reckless that many parents don't guide their children. The men seem devoid of self-respect; they work all their lives providing for their family only to let their daughters become sluts! And if they don't have any personal pride, don't they feel protective?

The modern arranged marriage seems like an effective way to maintain the social fabric of society. It ensures young couples have a shared cultural and religious background, a shared understanding of gender roles and strong social disapproval against divorce. Most importantly, it offers constant support and involvement of two large and resourceful families, asAnjali Mansukhani found:

'I firmly believe that our marriage works because it is blessed and supported by our families. The strength we get from their advice (solicited and unsolicited) helps us overcome difficult times. Had I found my own mate, I'm sure my parents would have come around, but I'd have to live knowing that they wouldn't be truly emotionally invested in the success of the marriage.

At one percent, India has the lowest divorce rate in the world because of arranged marriages. In UK 42% of marriages end in divorce. In the US,  it is 54%

I have come to the conclusion that a reason so many British marriages break up is because they play out in the context of an atomized society. Ideally, couples should love each other and procreate within the context of wider family and community networks to support them.

Comments for "Arranged Marriages Can Work"

Corey said (October 8, 2010):

I am a white American male, and I am marrying one indian village girl, and I can tell you that the girls coming from the village are about as opposite as you can get from the typical feminist American woman. They are humble, submissive, chaste, affectionate, unlike the immaturity, selfishness, arrogance, instability, and narcissism of the typical American or western woman.

Anyway, the statistics speak for themselves. 50 percent of American women are single, without a boyfriend or husband. Therefore, it seems that no one wants them anymore. In the age of globalization, why buy lower quality merchandise when higher quality products are available? Maybe that is why you see so many white guys today with Asian or Spanish wives/girlfriends?

Anonymous said (October 6, 2010):

Before they got together she had played around and he knew about it. Even though he loved her, it would eat away at him and he would sometimes insult her in public. It tore them apart.
He could never accept her slutty past, and I can sympathize; why should he work for something she had given away in the past for free?

Another great article Henry!

Why don't women understand this basic rule. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free! I run across so many women like this in there 30's like the editor stated who want to "settle" down, sadly life does not work like that.

Karen said (October 6, 2010):

Excellent article! I loved what Fashiya's parents did for her. She now has a great partner in her life, and a great father for her children, and no doubt her husband appreciates a good woman who can take care of things when he's out working. Because of the love and concern Fashiya's parents had for her future, she's avoided the many pitfalls that too many of the Western young women create for themselves.

It's too bad that we can't instill this in today's Western society. Unfortunately, most of today's women have no idea what constitutes a good marriage partnership, let alone listen to the "hard-learned" advice from their parents, or other women (such as myself) who have been completely disenchanted with the lies spewing out of main-stream media.

Thanks again for this enlightening article.

Keep up the good work!

Kevin said (October 6, 2010):

I spoke to one man who had such a marriage and asked him how he felt.. His reply was "Who better to pick a wife for me than my mother"

As a younger man I basically dated whomever I could, usually based on looks. After a couple months they always ended...I do not have much in common with girls who have divorced parents, or alcoholic parents, or druggies, and I could never respect women that slept around etc..And of course, in our culture most men meet women at bars. The internet is even worse..

I always felt that the most important part of a relationship is that 2 people have a similar culture, background, idea of family, and expectations. The one in a million soul mate idea is quite silly to me. 2 random people with the formerly mentioned qualities in common can easily fall in love.

Irish Dan said (October 6, 2010):

I did my MA on The History Of the Family and I did it as a mature student when I had to retire for medical reasons. I was at that stage, married, widowed, the father of four children and I am a grandfather. I am post sixty years and as a practicing paralegal with over a decade and a half of experience in the Irish Superior Courts prior to cardiac problems and forced retirement, oh boy, do I have experience of family law problems !

I was born in Southern Ireland into a traditional three generation five child, farming family where ' matchmaking' i.e. arranged marriages were the norm in my parents generation. Those marrying were generally in their late twenties and the woman or man had to bring a dowery equal to half the value of the farm. A 'decent' standard of behavior prior to marriage was required in the lives of both parties.

Every area had part time 'matchmakers' who found a suitable match for either the man or woman concerned who made the first approach. They took things such as personalities and physical attributes ( ability to work the land rather than bed) into account. Once the paring was agreed in principle, both families negotiated terms and if agreed the marriage took place within weeks. Bear in mind also all of this took place within the strictures of well observed Roman Catholic Religious culture.

Yes, arranged marriages can work! Most did and love most times developed over a period. However there were a significant number of marriages, in low double digit figures where it did not. I will leave aside compelled marriages, most loveless ones still produced children while since there was no divorce or separation, about ten percent of individuals lived lives of torment fear and abuse and violence at the hands of the dominant partner. Men constituted about a third of the victims. Children's feelings were the 'collateral damage' of such dysfunctional households.

The 'arranged marriages' are now a thing of the past. Yes in general there was a stable, comfortable, caring society but at the price inescapable misery for the other 10 to 15% of the population. The children of these households suffered a brutalizing and traumatized childhood.

We are where we are with Western Society : we are in transition, I do not know what the stabilized model will be. Ireland is no different ; even the most remote rural village have a drug dealer who is of a local family. Most Irish couples now marrying, thanks to our tax laws have lived together for four or five years and have two or more children. There is divorce and separation but in my personal view stability for 85% of the community at a cost of misery for 15% was too high a price to pay!

Peta said (October 6, 2010):

In regards to arranged marriages, most of them were arranged in the O.T in the Bible too and most of them worked as well....

You make a choice either you are going to make it work, or your are not, it's all about what YOU decide..... your choice.

You even decide whether you are going to hate or like some one or you are not....If you want to dislike some one intensely, just think like that for a week ar two, and the dislike will be there, same with decide to love some one and think only good things about that person and will grow to love!

MO said (October 6, 2010):

As a muslim growing up in England i can relate alot to your article. Sadly the only incidences of arranged marriages that the public in general are aware of are those forced ones and i do end having to spend alot of time dispersing of the misinformation spread by the mainstream controlled media (mainly the daily Mail in the UK). 99% of arranged marriages now work on the 'modern style' system.

I am 28 yrs old and spent most of my adult life chasing romance and the hedonistic lifestyle, along with the majority of pakistani muslims who, like myself attended University. I for one rejected the idea of arranged marriage early in my life as well as many of my friends and one by one we are naturally gravitating towards the idea. I myself think its time to look at a few profiles myself!

Excellent article, please keep up the good work !

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at