Monday, September 03, 2012

Marriage Type Fit

Watched this TED talk on arranged and non-arranged marriages in India. The author cites the statistics gathered during the course of her research to make her case and draws some interesting conclusions.

Unfortunately, I do not have the vantage point of witnessing the social changes in India first hand during the last ten years - but I do see the what happens when the Indian marriage comes abroad. 

The couple in an arranged marriage tends to be a little awkward together when they are starting out. The party that has been abroad longer, guides the new arrival around until they get more sure-footed. The families tend to play a big part in their lives, where the support system would have been more physical and logistical back home, it turns into an emotional prop while abroad. Without having full knowledge or understanding of the dynamic between the couple, the respective families arrive at their version of the truth and often advocate that passionately to the detriment of the new marriage. The couple having met through the families, may feel like they do not fully "own" their relationship. But every once in a while, the counsel of the family elders does help the new couple.

When the marriage comes about without the involvement of the families, the couple is a lot more comfortable with each other - having history together, they have the ability to make independent decisions and are less in need of approval or validation from their families. If estranged from their families due to their decision to marry, chances are that the couple is forced to nurture inter-dependence which serves the marriage very well. They have a vested interest in making the marriage work to earn the respect of their families.

In a  good marriage the couple is able to thrive irrespective of the role their families play in it. When things are not going so well, the outcomes end up being quite different. A couple from an arranged marriage is quite likely to find their families fighting a proxy war on their behalf and even when they are well intentioned, the results may end up being very unpleasant. For a couple who married for love, difficulties in marriage are problems they are required to solve on their own. - they sink or swim based on the strength of their relationship and decisions only they were involved in making. A functional adult takes this kind of responsibility in every other aspect of their life so marriage should not be the lone exception.In the end, the fate of a trouble marriage hinges on the determination and maturity of the couple - the role (or the lack of one) of their families being the additional challenge they have to contend with.

The crisis with the traditional Indian way of marrying is the lack of compatibility of that framework with the world that the couple is required to inhabit after marriage. The premise of the arranged marriage is a good one and works very well where the infrastructure and the personalities involved supports it. For the tradition minded, who wish to live around extended family and actively seek their guidance and support, an arranged marriage could work quite well. They would find comfort in the cocoon of familiarity and not seek to create an identity separate (and different) from the larger family unit they come from. 

If the couple is hungry to experience life outside the dictates of tradition, such a marriage could set them up for failure. They would find the expectations of the extended family too irksome to fulfill and limiting of their personal freedom. Instead of being a source of sustenance the family becomes dead-weight their marriage has to lug around. Being a a society in transition, we want to hold on to the old and familiar ways - just a little bit -  even as we experience pre-marital sex, dating, living in before marriage and such. We wish to have our training wheels on so we can explore safely. In the process, we mix things that just do not belong together and the results are volatile and unpredictable. 

Both kinds of marriages can work or not - based on who we are and what our relationship aspirations are. Being desi, we have the unique opportunity to pick one of two ways to go about marriage - that is a benefit and not a problem. The alignment of goals and mentality is very important - pairing a traditionalist with a freedom seeker would never work well. Neither way of marriage can guarantee this does not happen. When in love, a couple's judgement can get clouded and the obvious red flags could be missed. In an arranged situation, a couple's view may be biased by those of other family members involved in the process. 

I don't agree with the Trivedi's thesis on the subject - it might have been more apropos to segment the population and arrive at insights on marriage-type fit for the modern day desi couple. That is help they are really in need of.

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