Arranged marriages were considered the standard way to organize a relationship for families until deep into the 18th century. These arrangements were usually created by a couple’s parents or grandparents to create a mutually beneficial coupling so that both families could maintain or improve their status in society. Unless there were specific exceptions permitted to avoid this tradition, many children knew before the age of 13 who it was that they were going to marry one day.
The United States was not immune to the process of creating arranged marriages. There were families creating these relationships well into the golden age of the 1950s, especially in the Japanese culture pockets found in the country. Some couples would only exchange pictures of one another until the day that they met, which will happen to be their wedding day.
We see a lot of individualism in today’s marriages because there is a higher standard of living typically available in the developed world. Some Orthodox families in the U.S. still practice this tradition today. For Fraidy Reiss and others like her living in Brooklyn, it would become a fight between her culture and the need to be safe since her husband was violent and abusive. She would eventually leave and never go back.
The advantages and disadvantages of arranged marriages typically involve what occurs to the extended family more than the actual couple. Some people believe that love can come from any relationship, while others feel like destiny is going to bring them a soulmate one day. The truth for each person typically lies somewhere between these two extremes.
List of the Advantages of Arranged Marriages
1. It allows a couple to form a relationship on more than just emotion.
Arranged marriages can sometimes have a foundation of emotion, but it isn’t just love that is the emphasis when a couple comes together. The formation of this relationship becomes more like a business partnership then a personal one. That’s not to say romantic love is not a priority for the individuals taking advantage of the structure. What many couples do in this situation is placed a priority on the actual partnership, and that they make the rest of the relationship work afterward.
This design won’t work out in instances like Reiss’s marriage when domestic abuse or violence in the home takes place. When both parties make a commitment to support one another, arranged marriages tend to have more stability for everyone to enjoy.
2. You can still find someone that you love with an arranged marriage.
The idea that you cannot find love because our relationship is being created on your behalf is a perspective that comes from individualism. Societies which have high levels of wealth no longer have a need for this structure because a person can be successful without having someone by their side thanks to modern economic circumstances. Many people fall in love and have long marriages even though their parents or grandparents arranged them. Even when the final relationship feels more like a good friendship instead of intimate love, most people can fall into a niche that allows them to have a happy and fulfilling life.
3. Arranged marriages can reduce the levels of conflict in the home.
55% of the marriages that happen each year around the world are arranged in some way. That figure can be as high as 90% in some countries like India. Although there are concerns about underage girls being forced to marry men much older, the global divorce rate from these relationships is about five times lower than it is for couples to have a priority on their individualism.
This level of stability makes it much easier for the children produced by such a relationship to find themselves and pursue their dreams. Most arranged marriages create similarities in spirituality, education priorities, discipline, and home structure. Because the parents have already agreed on the structures through the arrangements made by their families, the home life tends to be happier for everyone.
4. It maintains the traditions of a family’s culture, ethnicity, ethics, and identity.
When you look back at the person you were just five years ago, how many things in your life have changed? The reality of the modern world is that a person can change on a daily basis because of the amount of information we can access through the Internet. The amount of data that you receive in your email inbox every day is equal to what someone in the 19th century would consume on a weekly basis. That is why staying in touch with our heritage is becoming such a priority for Millennials and future generations.
Our ideas of a perfect relationship can change just as quickly. When an arranged marriage is what forms the foundation of the union, the partnership qualities of this coupling make it easier for families to adjust to one another. This structure helps everyone to stay routed to who they are and what they become when they are together as a family unit.
5. You create harmony within the structure of multiple family units.
Brittany Wong wrote a piece in 2016 entitled, “9 Ways to Deal with a Mother-in-Law Who Feels more Like a Monster-in-Law.” She starts the piece by saying this: “Meddling in-laws can wreak absolute havoc on an otherwise healthy relationship – even if they mean well.” Deferring to this outside interference from a perspective of individualism can place a significant amount of stress on the relationship.
Because both families are involved in the selection process of an arranged marriage, this issue is rarely present. Instead of each generation being seen as its own entity, the young couple, their parents, and any married siblings are seen together as a single family unit.
6. Arranged marriages create a sense of togetherness.
Family estrangement occurs frequently from the perspective of individualism because each person is looking to carve out their own success in the world. It is a problem that can result from direct interactions between those were affected that can include traumatic experiences, or it can be due to logistics like living far away and not having enough money to call home. Arranged marriages work hard to create a sense of togetherness because there is more than just love on the line if it fails. This business partnership is a reflection of both families. Everyone stays invested throughout the entire process when the approach is correct since there is so much on the line.
These families cannot afford to see a rift form that could last for years – if not generations. By keeping the parents involved (or the grandparents) with each step of the marriage, this structure can work to foster high levels of community success.
7. You eliminate the stress and expense of finding a life partner by yourself.
The number of tools which are available today to help you find a life partner are almost countless. From dating websites to connection apps to the traditional methods of meeting someone at a bar, church, or a school function, there are plenty of ways to let destiny help you find your soulmate. The amount of stress that occurs during this process, especially if you need to break up with someone, can be enormous. Arranged marriages help to take this problem away entirely.
Families often work with one another when they come from a similar financial and social background. There is a desire to maintain the family culture and embrace the traditions of their ethnicity while still providing some freedoms for the couple to explore who they can become once the union is created. Because there is certainty with most of these arrangements, couples have more time to get to know each other while pursuing interests that are personally important without the stress of wondering who might really be the right one for them.
List of the Disadvantages of Arranged Marriages
1. Arranged marriages create relationships that often lack trust.
Some arranged marriages occur while the children are still in primary school, allowing them to discover a friendship as they grow up. Although some of these relationships are formed legally way too early, many cultures are shifting their traditions to allow for their children to get married once they become an adult. Times have changed, so the need to have children immediately is no longer present in many societies.
That set of circumstances is the perfect scenario. The reality of arranged marriages is that they tend to happen quickly, and without any input from at least the woman involved in the future relationship. When there is only a handful of days or a few weeks to get to know someone, then there is a pervasive lack of trust that exists in the marriage for an indefinite period.
2. It allows men to maintain control over the women in that society.
The societies and cultures who still support arranged marriages typically take what we would consider to be a conservative or traditional view on family structures. Men are usually responsible for bringing home an income, while women are expected to maintain the home and raise the children according to the traditions and values that their father wants. This structure makes it challenging for a woman to leave if her husband is abusive because she has no support system. Unless her family is willing to step in to help, men typically receive more control in this partnership structure than women do.
3. There is an increased risk of mental health issues for people in an arranged marriage.
Although there is a lower divorce rate and more stability found in the average arranged marriage compared to couples who “found” each other, these benefits come with extensive disadvantages. Many people find themselves trying to make a relationship work when they feel no attraction to the other person. There are circumstances where an individual might decide to stay quiet instead of speaking their mind because they want to protect themselves or their children.
When a person feels trapped in a relationship, whether it is arranged or not, then the amount of stress that they encounter every day is damaging to their health. Unless there are coping skills available, this disadvantage can increase the risk of depression and other mental health issues.
4. Arranged marriages can force someone to live with an individual they don’t know.
Some arranged marriages encourage the couple to get to know each other in the days and weeks that lead up to the wedding. Then there are the cultures which do not permit any interaction until that special day. When a relationship falls into the latter category, then you are marrying someone that you don’t really know. Even in the best-case scenario, you have an idea of their physical appearance, but you have no way to judge how that person will be when there’s no one around but you to watch them.
From the perspective of an individualistic society, people want to find someone who will be the best friend. That is what the definition of a soulmate typically is without the structure of an arranged marriage. The alternative is that you are marrying a stranger who could become your best friend… Or they could become your worst enemy.
5. It makes love a secondary reason to get married.
There are countless arranged marriages throughout history which have found success because the couple was able to discover a love for one another. It is ignorant to suggest that there is no emotion present in this situation. This disadvantage applies because love isn’t the top priority. Marriages are arranged for a purpose that benefits everyone else in the family instead of the couple.
If you find yourself in the situation, then your parents and grandparents care less about the idea of falling in love than they do about what the outcome will be with a successful marriage. When the families are getting along well and the relationship is mutually beneficial, then love becomes a third tier of importance. If one person falls in love and the other does not, then there can be an exceptional amount of misery in this relationship.
6. There are lower levels of personal accountability in an arranged marriage.
When a couple gets married through the perspective of individualism, that each party is personally responsible for the success or failure of the arrangement. You choose to make things work with that person every day because there is no safety net. In an arranged marriage, there is a lack of accountability because the relationship is based on the family contract instead of a mutual love and respect for one another.
Neither party in an arranged marriage is responsible to the other. If the marriage doesn’t work out for some reason, then the couple can blame whomever created it in the first place. That is why you will often see large family groups together when this structure is the primary way to form relationships in a culture or society. When the blame rolls downhill, the families do their best to limit whatever damage could occur.
7. Arranged marriages can create feelings of alienation.
During the final phases of an arranged marriage, it is not unusual for everyone in the family to want to leave a mark on the new relationship. For the couple who gets placed together, it can feel like this whirlwind is about everyone else except for them. Some families may not allow the bride or groom to have any say in what happens during the ceremony, the honeymoon, or even the initial days of the marriage. In this situation, the only job that each person has for the marriage is to show up to share their vows. It is a process that can make you feel like you’re going along on a ride that is out of control.
8. It takes away the process of courtship.
This disadvantage does not always apply because some couples know well in advance that their families want them to get married. When there is enough notice for a bride and groom to get together before the wedding, then the process of courtship can occur. It is still not the same as what you would experience through the lens of individualism where every step of the process is under the control of the couple.
You don’t get to experience the ups and downs of love. There is no realization about the importance of an emotional connection or trying to get to know someone because that’s what you want to do. There are no opportunities to explore different personalities, preferences, or looks. You just need to do what you’re told to do with this form of a relationship.
9. This process limits personal choices.
Arranged marriages often limit the choices that a couple has one selecting a life partner. The only way to change your life circumstances is to locate a family who is willing to let you “marry up.” Sometimes families even use the structure as a way to limit the outside influences of “undesired” genetics, cultures, or stereotypes from entering into their family structure. Imagine Christian parents creating a marriage to prevent their son from marrying someone who practices Islam or Sikh parents choosing a partner because they fear that societal discrimination won’t permit individualism and you’ve got an idea of how severe this disadvantage can be.
10. Arranged marriages place the burden on the woman in the relationship.
Families in the developing world rarely have enough money to set aside anything for savings. The meager amount that they bring in from whatever employment they can find goes directly to the food that they need for survival. All of the sons in these traditional structures will often work because that means there is an additional income source for the family. When a daughter is born instead, then she becomes another mouth to feed – just like her mother. Because women are not given the same priority for education or employment, there are few ways to help everyone lift themselves out of poverty.
The only way to do so in many circumstances is to arrange a marriage so that the family can receive a stipend for the relationship. It becomes a transaction that is akin to sexual slavery or exploitation since intimacy is expected. When children are traded in such a way, the harm that they encounter can be indescribable.
11. It can increase the rates of child marriage in some countries.
Children who are forced to get married under the age of 12 are unprepared for the choices that lie ahead for them. This practice is outlawed through much of the world, but poverty and desperation can cause it to be actively permitted in many global cultures. For many families, the arrangement of a child marriage is a choice between having food on the table for everyone or not having enough to stave off hunger. There are no good choices here. That is why it is up to the developed world to reach out to these communities, provide solutions, and offer a path out of poverty.
Conclusion of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Arranged Marriages
Arranged marriages are seen as being beneficial or not based on the lens of society. People who come from a culture that emphasizes individualism will see this relationship structure in a very different light when compared to those who do not experience this freedom. With more than half of today’s marriages using this structure to expand the family, it is an issue that is not going to go away anytime soon.
The advantages and disadvantages of arranged marriages show us that it is up to each family, and each individual, to decide what they want to have in life. Forced marriages may technically fall into an arranged category for some statistics, but anything that falls into the categories of exploitation, violence, or other forms of harm must be stopped. If the relationship is consensual, then who are we to judge how someone decides to find their definition of happiness?
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.