Do Arranged Marriages Work?
Wed, April 14, 2021

Do Arranged Marriages Work?

Arranged marriages may not seem like something you see in fairytales or on TV, but the global divorce rate for arranged marriages is only 6%, according to a 2012 study done by research institute Statistic Brain, explained Rebecca Strong in Elite Daily, an American online news website.

In the US, 40 to 50% of marriages end in divorce, which are mostly not arranged. We have this idea that love comes first before marriage, but what if it’s the other way around? Do arranged marriages even work?   

Arranged Marriages In India (2016)

Keera Allendorf and Roshan K. Pandian of life sciences and biomedical journal portal PMC drew data from the Indian Human Development Survey-I (IHDS) and IHDS-II, which were both collected in 2004-2005 and in 2011-2012, respectively. They found that 42% of women who chose their spouses on their own met their spouses over a year before marriage. Only 13% chose jointly with their parents and 5% of women whose parents chose their spouses met their husbands more than a year prior to marriage.  

17% of self-chosen marriages were intercaste, while less than 5% of marriages in which parents were involved were intercaste. When selecting husbands, parents were more likely than their daughters to adhere to the custom of caste endogamy. However, consanguineous marriages were not as common, much to the surprise of Allendorf and Pandian. Women who chose their husbands along with their parents were most likely to be related to their spouses (13%). Only 5% of those whose parents chose their partners and 11% of women who chose their spouses by themselves were related to their husbands by blood.

The percent of marriages in which parents solely chose their husbands for their daughters fell from half in the 1970s to one-third in the 2000s, said the authors after analyzing the national trends in marital behaviors. Self-choice marriage rose from 3% in the 1970s to 6% in the 2000s, though it remained in absolute terms. The percent of marriages in which women met their spouses on their wedding day decreased by 10% from 74% in the 1970s to 64% in the 2000s.

Regarding meeting the women’s husbands less than a month before marriage, the percentage rose from 5% in the 1970s to 14% in the 2000s. Meanwhile, consanguineous marriage decreased from 12% in the 1970s to 9% in the 2000s. However, intercaste marriage rose from 4% in the 1970s to 6% in the 2000s.  Allendorf and Pandian concluded that arranged marriages is shifting, rather than declining. The findings showed that arranged marriage is not going to be obsolete any time soon.

Chinese Youths Oppose Arranged Marriage (2019)

In a survey done by the China Youth Daily Thursday, in which it involved 1,952 unmarried young people, the most unacceptable parental interference among Chinese youth was parents attending a blind date in place of their kids (45%), cited Liangyu of Xinhua Net, a Chinese news source.

Another unacceptable interference was when their parents joined them on a blind date (25.1%). About 57% said they hope that their parents should learn about what their children want rather than imposing their ideas. The survey found that 61% of respondents oppose arranged marriage, as they expect their parents to give suggestions when finding a spouse.

“It shows the distrust of the parents, and transfers their anxiety to their children," said marriage consultant Ling Zi.

Arranged Marriages: A Business Transaction

There is information sharing during arranged marriages, but this method varies depending on the religion, social and societal customs, and individual norms, stated Dr. Joseph Cilona, PsyD, who served as the psychologist for the show “Married at First Sight” for three seasons. This was mentioned by Danielle Page of NBC News Better, a provider of tips in heath and wellness. 

Oftentimes, elder family members play a primary or pivotal role in countries that practice arranged marriage. For example, arranged marriages in Japan are usually facilitated by matchmakers who initiate matches of individuals for marriage or acting as a “communication link” between individuals and families.  

Dr. Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, Ph.D. explained that questions about how much each person earns and whether they were divorced before, and providing bank statements that show the assets and property each individual is claiming is normal. Dr. Bais said elders take into account ethnicity, race, caste, and religion to ensure the future success and viability of the marriage.  

“If you approach arranged marriage, then you concede to looking at marriage as a business, financial and pragmatic solution,” she added. Initially, the love and romance that makes sparks fly are missing in arranged marriages.

Authenticity and Shared Values Aid In the Success of Arranged Marriages

Like any marriage, arranged marriages do work out in the end. Dr. Baise noted, “Those seeking the best aspects of arranged marriages on their own would do well to push the transparency and compatibility aspects.”

However, there are cases of people lying about their health history, sexual history, and financial assets. Whether a marriage is arranged or based on love, it is important for couples to foster authenticity and gauging it in other people. Dr. Cilona observed that many people use their emotions when it comes to romance. However, it is important to remember that there are many variables involved that influence compatibility and complementarity in romance and marriage. This means feelings are only part of a bigger picture.

Slisha Kankariya, a New York City-based entrepreneur, emphasized that evaluating shared values is important for a successful arranged marriage. She stated, “The most important things to assess are the person's values, integrity and traits like their willingness to work hard, how much they care about family etc.”  

David and Elizabeth Weinlink also emphasized the importance of shared values in helping their marriage become successful. The couple met when Steve Fletcher, David’s friend, helped him publish a press release about how he wanted to get married on a particular date. The couple has been married for 10 years and bore three children. "We love each other more every day,” Weinlink said.

Each Marriage Has Its Own Challenges and Circumstances

Dr. Cilona believes that the success of arranged marriages is rooted in prioritizing commitment to the relationship and marriage above everything else. This means making the marriage work is the couple’s main priority over their personal needs and feelings.

However, the “right” kind of marriage does not exist as all relationships entail hard work, mutual respect, and patience. Melanie Shapiro, a licensed clinical social worker, said, “And like individuals, each marriage has different strengths and challenges.”

Arranged marriages do work out in the end, but children should not be forced to marry someone they don’t like. Marriages still involve hard work and commitment, whether it’s arranged or not. If both parties are willing to work out the issues, then success is just at the end of a dark tunnel.