Until the 18th century, arranged marriages were considered normal, with family members (usually grandparents or parents) setting up the arrangement. Some exceptions occurred in various cultures, such as the Gandharva marriages, but otherwise, it was an expectation to follow.
Even through the 1950s, arranged marriages were still prevalent in the United States. Within the Japanese-American culture, they were sometimes called “pictured-bride” weddings because the two parties involved would only exchange pictures until they met on their wedding day.
When countries increase their economic value, there is a trend of increasing individualism which rises too. Added social mobility combines with these factors to reduce the need for an arranged or placed marriage. Even so, some cultures still follow this practice, including family groups in North America and Europe.
Here are the pros and cons of having an arranged marriage.
List of the Pros of Arranged Marriage
1. It eliminates the stress of trying to find a life partner.
Although choice is limited when an arranged marriage occurs, the individuals involved are left with fewer questions. They’re not forced into a dating scene or mandated to defend their values to someone. People with this type of relationship often come from similar backgrounds, ethnicities, or cultures, which gives them common ground. With the certainty included with this arrangement, each person is free to pursue other personal interests instead of spending time search for that special someone.
2. It keeps parents involved in the relationship.
When society encourages individualism in the selection of a marriage partner, the family unit becomes secondary to the intimate relationship. Cultural norms, such as asking a father for permission to marry, become unwritten rules that encourage inclusion. There is no requirement to follow them, however, and that can leave parents, grandparents, and other family members get to remain involved.
3. It creates harmony within both families.
Marriages are classified into four basic types: forced arranged marriages, consensual arranged marriages, self-selected marriages, and autonomous marriages. Wealthy nations promote the latter option, which means the parents or guardians of both individuals are not consulted and have no say in the final arrangement. This process forces two families together which may not be compatible with one another. Arranged marriages are based on the principle that each family receives a benefit from the relationship formation.
4. It keeps people rooted in their family, culture, and ethics.
People change as they age. Our experiences, ideas, and relationships all form the foundation of who we are. After an autonomous marriage, husbands show an increase in conscientiousness, while wives show a decrease in openness. Husbands become introverted, and both partners reduce their social networks. You also become less agreeable in marriage, while wives show higher levels of emotional stability. With an arranged marriage, the negative aspects of being together are tempered because there is advance preparation involved. You stay rooted in who you are as a culture because there are more similarities than differences involved.
5. It reduces conflict when children are involved.
Families often separate when children come into the picture because of the differences each person (and family) has in how they should be raised. Differences in religion, spirituality, education, and discipline enforcement lead to conflicting ideas that negatively impact the child. With an arranged marriage being the foundation of the relationship, any children produced from the union have a higher chance of having parents who agree on these aspects of life, which eliminates much of the harmful conflict that children sometimes see as being their fault.
6. It is possible to find that special someone.
Many people in an arranged marriage go into the first days of their relationship as if it were a business partnership. They have contracts to fulfill, so that’s what they do. Their relationship becomes the fulfillment of needs which both families have. Although there is always an element of risk to any relationship, most people can find their own niche to enjoy within an arranged marriage which allows them to find happiness in life. Love at first sight is even possible, though unlikely.
7. It places the emphasis of the relationship outside of emotion.
For non-arranged marriages, the emphasis of the relationship is based on the emotional reactions each person has to the other. The formation of an arranged relationship is a little different. Romantic love is still a priority for many, but it is not the primary element being pursued. Couples in this situation place their first emphasis on creating a successful partnership, which allows both of them to commit to a long-term process. That effort creates more stability for both people to enjoy.
List of the Cons of Arranged Marriage
1. It increases the risk of child marriage.
When children are married, especially younger than the age of 12, then they are not prepared for the idea of free choice. Although not practiced in Europe or North America, the poverty in Eastern Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa force families into a choice between school or a merging of their families for pure survival. The arranged marriage ensures the financial security of their child, even if it puts them into a place of physical harm.
2. It places the burden of financial responsibility on the daughter.
When communities are impoverished, every mouth to feed becomes a continuing liability. Most cultures that struggle with poverty have societal structures which make it difficult for women to find gainful employment. That means a daughter becomes the greatest financial burden a family can bear. By arranging a marriage as quickly as possible, the monetary obligations are reduced, which creates less food insecurity for everyone in the household.
3. It limits the choice of a life partner.
This negative component of arranged marriages applies to migrant minority ethnic populations. If the majority population of the nation where they live avoids them, stereotypes them, or follows segregation or apartheid policies, then arranged marriages become the only way to continue family traditions. Up until 1980, the Sikh families of Canada practiced arranged marriages for this very reason. You still see them in Hasidic Jew populations. Up until the 1960s, Japanese immigrants to the U.S. also engaged in this practice. Although it guarantees a marriage, it reduces the choices available for life partnerships.
4. It eliminates the dating phase of life.
There is something to be said of putting yourself out there for someone to see if you and they are compatible with one another. Although breakups are emotionally challenging, the process of courtship creates more possibilities that a good match will be found. You get to explore partnership and personality types to see what you prefer and what you do not. Although the divorce rate for arranged marriages is widely reported as 6% (compared to 55% of all marriages in existence right now), your relationship is not treated as a business partnership.
5. It makes couples feel alienated from their families.
When there is a rush to start a new union, everyone in the family wants to be involved in the relationship in some way. For the couple getting married, it can feel like your wedding isn’t really yours at all. In an arranged marriage, some families may not allow the bride, the groom, or both parties to have any say in what happens. Everything about the day may come at you in surprise, which creates an unsettling experience for those involved.
6. It avoids the issue of personal accountability.
In self-selection and autonomous wedding structures, the couple bears a majority of the responsibility for the quality of their relationship. They’re forced to work together to make things work. With an arranged marriage, there is no responsibility required by either party. If the marriage doesn’t work, it’s the parents or grandparents to blame instead of the married couple. Many families will interfere in the marriage at multiple levels as a proactive way to prevent the blaming process from starting in the first place.
7. It eliminates love from the equation.
Although there are numerous arranged marriages which involve love, emotions are not a priority when this relationship is first arranged. No one cares if you can or will fall in love with the other person. As long as the families get along, and there is a mutual benefit to the relationship, then that becomes the definition of success. That means one partner can find themselves trapped in great misery because they don’t like their partner and don’t want to disappoint their family.
The divorce rates for arranged marriages are much lower than other types, but it may be due to a sense of obligation or responsibility more than a lack of overall compatibility.
8. It forces you to live with a stranger.
Some arranged marriages allow the prospective partners to meet before their wedding day. Many of these relationships do not. That means each person steps blindly to the altar, wondering who it is they are going to meet. Instead of marrying your best friend, you’re getting involved in a contract with a complete stranger. The amount of time it takes someone to develop feelings through traditional courtship in the wealthier nations is similar to the time required for an arranged couple to get to know one another.
9. It increases the risks of mental health issues.
With an arranged marriage, there is the possibility that individual preferences will be sacrificed for the greater good of everyone else involved. A decision to ignore oneself for the good of others creates a higher risk for psychological damage over time. If meaningful coping mechanisms are not introduced, unhappy people can suffer from anxiety, stress, and depression at higher rates. If their partner is cold, uncaring, or abusive, their risks of mental health concerns rise even higher.
10. It allows men to have more control than women typically.
In the cultures where arranged marriages are considered standard, the men in the relationship have more control over the women. That occurs because the man is seen as being the leader of the family and household. And the issue is even worse for people who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, as they may be forced into a relationship with someone that they’re not attracted to at all. In these situations, the affected parties may be entering a relationship that lacks independence.
11. It takes time to establish trust.
Most couples who go through an arranged marriage don’t have the time necessary to get to know one another before exchanging vows. For the first weeks, months, or even years of the relationship in some cases, severe trust issues make it difficult for the relationship to work. There may not be any intimacy, physical contact, or conversations involved. Even when each partner knows what is expected of them, there is a higher risk of experiencing an unfulfilling life.
These arranged marriage pros and cons are just key points to consider. It is up to each person and family to decide what is the best course of action they should take. The only exception to that statement would involve forced child marriages, which are exceptionally condemned by the international community. More cultures than not practice consensual arrangements like this, so exploring how to improve that relationship with these observations will become a top priority.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.