Opinion / Blog

Marriage, love and personal happiness

By MichaelM ( Updated: 2015-03-10 17:22

It really doesn't matter what culture you come from, arranged marriages are against the nature of human beings. The vast majority, if not all women, deeply desire to live the ultimate romance. They want to marry for love, not for social status or money. There are a few who will marry for cash but, when their mate is chosen for them and they are threatened or forced to wed someone chosen by their parents and family, it usually ends in a life of unhappiness, misery and sometimes even worse.

Yesterday, I read the story of an Indian man who married a woman he'd only met once before. Shortly after the ceremony they became separated while shopping in a large market. He said: "I really got scared because I couldn't remember what she looked like having only met once before." Funny yes. But really quite sad. She eventually found him. She had seen him in the community several times and could recognize him. That revealed another aspect of the marriage. She had seen him before, yet he never remembered seeing her. She didn't exactly “catch his eye” in the past.

It would be quite rare to find this practice in the West. Outside of India, some places in China, the Middle East, perhaps Indonesia and remote parts of tribal Africa, the practice hasn't survived. Why? People are waking up to the basic human need of personal happiness. Arranged marriages sometimes work out and the couple does achieve some semblance of love, but more often than not they result in a life of misery, especially for women.

A professor of sociology in China told me that the traditional view of marriage is that a man has the same rights over his wife that he does over buying a horse or mule. He said that that the attitude is: “he can ride her or beat her anytime he wants.” Such uncivilized thought and behavior still exists, he said. A woman is treated as no more than an animal. It is not to say that arranged marriages always result in this kind of relationship. However, he said: “The two ideas are certainly conducive to one another. The same archaic thinking of an arranged marriage looks down upon women".

Parents assume that they know what is best for their child. They don't allow their children to grow up and mature until they are in their mid 30s or older. The decision to force them into marriage is often based on money and social status – “face”. There is generally little or no consideration regarding love. Starting a marriage this way creates the opportunity for future misery and lack of fulfillment for the man and woman. I often hear the criticism of Westerners from people who say how “open” we are. They are suggesting that we don't live by the same strict moral standards by which they live. However, what I've discovered in China is that girlfriends, mistresses and adultery are every bit as common here as in the West.

With divorce laws often favoring women in the West, men are less likely to cheat, not because they are more moral, but, because they have more to lose. If a man believes he can lose at least half money and income in a divorce, he is less likely to cheat on his wife. When women are empowered with such laws of gender equality, they have massive leverage over a man. It is common that especially wealthy men will need to divide their fortune with wives who divorce them. This is motivation enough for them not to get caught cheating.

When I first came to China, I quickly realized that many Chinese were quick to criticize people in the West regarding a presumed lack of morals. However, after talking to hundreds of students in the schools I've taught in, I soon realized that a very high percentage of fathers don't live with their families. This was told to me by a middle school pupil in a class. When others heard him admit that his father lived with his “beauty”, several others said their fathers did the same. I was shocked at how many did. One of China's “open secrets”.

Again let me state that arranged marriages do not guarantee that a man will cheat on his wife any more than the freedoms experienced in the West will. But, it certainly falls into the same vein of thinking that women are inferior to men and that men have the right over a woman.

I'm interested in knowing what you think. Should couples marry to satisfy their need for money and/or “face” for the parents and family? Should people marry for love and make their own choices? 

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