Which is happier — arranged or love marriages?

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Sam George is the executive director of Parivar International, a non-profit initiative to address the needs of youth and families of Asian Indian origin in North America.  Sam is the author of the book “Understanding the Coconut Generation” (www.CoconutGeneration.com). He can be reached at sam@coconutgeneration.com 

By Sam George
Today we begin a new series on arranged marriages. One question I often get asked as a speaker at our community family seminars is, “Which is more successful, arranged marriages or love marriages?” Soon I understand the intent behind the question. Which marriage is likely to last or which will make a couple happier?

Whenever we talk of weddings in the Indian community, we tend to associate the age-old custom of arranged marriages. It is only in the recent few decades that love marriages have become more prevalent. However, the percentage of love marriages are miniscule as compared to arranged marriages in the whole country.

Then again, arranged marriages today are not what they used to be. Young people have a lot more say in the choice of their mate than their grandparents did. Some even fall in love and later arrange the marriages through their parents and other relatives. Call it the rearranged marriages!
Due to the social structure, the concept of arranged marriage is prevalent in the Indian wedding scenario. On the other hand, love marriages are considered as a taboo among many, who do not have a modern outlook of life. For them, two people should tie the wedding knot only with the consent of their parents and the blessings of their relatives.

In traditional societies like that of India, marrying across the lines of caste or religion is almost unthinkable. It might happen in big cities and large metropolises. Love across economic lines and caste still continues to be a popular Bolly-wood masala, which become the inspiration for some love stricken young people.

People, who believe in solemnizing the wedding with the permission of parents and relatives, think that arranged marriages are long lasting. Extended relatives and the whole community celebrate the joy of the marital union. The couple might have interacted very little or might not “know” much about each other. They are bound to the extended family and community to make the marriage work.

Love marriages seem to be more centered on the couple and their happiness. Some-time even parents are not involved in such marriages. They go through a quick ritual in a temple or church and others sign some papers at the courtroom. Some don’t even bother to go through all this at all and simply live together. Not all love marriages have happy endings. Sometimes discord arises, even in love marriages, and they part ways after years of ‘knowing’ each other.

In the case of arranged marriage, the couple could resort to their parents or acquaintance at the time of financial crises or other problems. In addition, if the marriage proves to be a failure, they have a number of people around them to seek support or to assign the blame. Parents would come forward to solve the problems between the couple, if they have married with the elder’s consent.

Coming back to the questions with which we started. Which marriage is more successful? I am yet to come across any scientific study comparing long-term happiness and longevity based on the mode of mate selection. My rough estimate is that both arranged marriage and love marriage have an equal amount of fatality. How you found your mate does not guarantee lifelong marital bliss. More in the weeks to come.

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