But if there is so much of hesitation in spending time to know a person… aren’t the marriage hopefuls playing with fire?

Sharing an email from ‘a “not so young” (by marriageable age standards in my community), below average looking, well-educated male with a well-paying job in a metro city.’ 

“But if there is so much of hesitation in spending time to know a person and so little focus on understanding and exploring compatibility, attitudes, values and character, aren’t the marriage hopefuls playing with fire?”

Dear IHM,

I stumbled upon your blog while surfing online in the context of a particular unhappy incident in my life. And since then, I have been hooked – going through posts after posts, and reading all comments therein. It has actually been shocking. I never imagined that even women in the upper echelons of the society – educated, upper middle class, career women were also victims of patriarchy in marriages. And in not even a subtle manner – from being dictated on what not to wear, to restricting their interaction with their families, to controlling their careers and their earnings, to occasional beatings – it was all blatant harassment happening to seemingly modern, educated women (writing emails to IHM in impeccable English itself was an indicator that these weren’t oppressed females from, small towns/villages). Perhaps, it is because I am surrounded by mostly happy marriages (or seemingly happy – who knows what’s the reality?) and hence this blog has been a revelation. And am glad I came across it now – I am not yet married but when (and if) I do, I would now be very conscious about any of my and my family’s behavior which may tantamount to abuse towards the wife.

Reading of all the stories here, I feel sad for the women who are suffering in the marriage system. It must feel pathetic when one realises that such a major decision in life has turned out to be a dud. But my personal experience of trying to get married through the “arranged” route over the last one year has made me feel that a lot of people are approaching marriages in such a manner that disasters may be inevitable.

As a background, I am a “not so young” (by marriageable age standards in my community), below average looking, well-educated male with a well-paying job in a metro city. To me, marriage is perhaps the single biggest decision which will tremendously impact the course my life takes from here on. The way I see it – I do love my parents but they are my past and will most likely not be around for too long now. I would love my kids but in a couple of decades they will grow independent, find their mates and fly away. The spouse is the one person who would be my closest companion, and with whom I will share all small and big things of life, till one of us meets the Creator. It will be the most important relationship of my life. And so, when I started my search, I was looking for compatibility, mutual attraction as well as somewhat of a similarity in interests and a broad agreement on long term goals and expectations from life. I had no other checkbox to be ticked, other than a certain minimum level of education. There was no magic wand to figure these things out and so I thought communication and instincts would be the key. But some of my experiences, with well educated women, have left me flabbergasted. I have summarized a few of them below:

– Prospect 1 (Dental surgeon)
After a day of brief WhatsApping on where we work, who else is in the family, what do we prefer to read, hobbies, general chit chat etc., on the second day I get asked “What car do you drive”. My response “XYZ” (a small car). Lady “But you said in your profile you earn “ABC” lakhs. Why do you drive a small car? You can certainly afford a better car”. I didn’t hear back from her thereafter.

– Prospect 2 (Entrepreneur)
After speaking on phone once and whatsapping for a few days, we meet for a coffee. After a few general conversations about each other’s work, Lady: “Do you drink?”. Me: “Yes. Occasionally”. Lady: “Oops. I wanted a teetotaler as no one in my home drinks but I wanted someone who was non-vegetarian so that I could continue with my non-veg diet. So I don’t think we can take this forward”. (FYI – my community is generally vegetarian and teetotaler. I am a vegetarian but an occasional drinker. She was from my community too. And no, I have no dietary expectations for my future wife – her life, she chooses what to eat.)

– Prospect 3 (Chartered Accountant)
Father: “We came across your profile. Only interesting thing therein was your salary. So is it the correct salary?” Me: “Your daughter is in a similar industry as me. She should know”. Needless to say I wasn’t interested thereafter.

– Prospect 4 (Journalist educated abroad)
Lady: “I am an independent woman. I have led life on my own terms so far. But I will marry the guy my parents choose for me. I owe it to them for all that they have done for me.”

– Prospect 5 (pursuing PhD)
Lady: “My parents don’t want to take this discussion ahead. We visited your place and there was no dining table. And our astrologer tells us that you will have such a high level of “conjugal” needs that it will affect my health adversely.”

Further, invariably, every call from a parent of a girl would, after the initial pleasantries, ask for the time, date and place of birth. I was amused at the deep belief even the educated generation has in the unproven, archaic concept of horoscope.

To be fair, there were a few women who were focused on interaction, communication, knowing long term plans for life and would meet for a coffee, talk and would make a genuine attempt to figure out mutual compatibility. But the majority weren’t like that.

I must note that all of these prospects either contacted me or I contacted them through the matrimony portals. There was no common family/friend reference. And of course, my experiences are from a man’s perspective but I have no reason to doubt that a woman in my position is likely to have similar experiences from guys she may be meeting in such a context.

After a year of such and a few more incidents, it seems to me that to a large section of the population, especially those who are on these online matrimonial portals, marriage is approached as a transaction. There is very little focus on the person and a huge interest in the outwardly parameters – horoscope, salary, car, size of the house, looks, brands worn on the meeting day etc. When a certain set of criteria are met, the deal is sealed. Seeing this coming from highly educated women and their families has been even more disturbing. I do understand the difficulties in evaluating a total stranger as a potential spouse and hence people relying on some “indicators” and that people are generally wary of fakes/liars/impostors when they have come across the person through an online source. But if there is so much of hesitation in spending time to know a person and so little focus on understanding and exploring compatibility, attitudes, values and character, aren’t the marriage hopefuls playing with fire? If at least the educated generation is less reliant on parents to find a match for them, and is more open to an “exploratory” approach rather than a “transactional” approach to marriages, could it be that we would have fewer unhealthy marriages? Could we then have fewer women becoming victims of chauvinism and patriarchy in their husband’s family? Could we then have more equal man-woman relationships? Could we then have fewer young people with regrets?

I, for one, have now chosen to withdraw from this matrimony process and would rather look for love through dating someone interesting. I would rather stay single than marry someone with a hope that love, connect and compatibility would develop later on. This transactional approach to the most important decision of my life isn’t meant for me. I am looking for companionship and a shared life, not a coexistence for the sake of family, kids and society.

Perhaps, this email is out of context for your blog. But I still felt like writing in because if what I experienced is actually a broader trend – if a considerable number of marriages are actually being decided largely on the basis of focus areas such as those I was scrutinized for, then I believe there is a cause for worry.

Thank you.

Anon

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Are these the eight reasons you would give in support of Arranged Marriages?

An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

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Are these the eight reasons you would give in support of Arranged Marriages?

Link and email shared by Swarup Biswas.

Hi IHM,
The reason I’m writing you is that all my life I’ve noticed what epic failures (among other things) most arranged marriages are but how little the mainstream media does to discourage this generally bigoted practice.

I just read this picture article at iDiva which is referenced by TOI’s main page and cannot believe what they were thinking when they painted such a utopian image of arranged marriages.

Judging by their articles and choice of topics I believe most iDiva readers are impressionable young women who might be misguided by this miscarriage of journalistic ethics with disastrous consequences. It contains statements such as ‘In most arranged marriages, the in-laws become a support system for the new bride and help her get accustomed with her new life’ amongst many other such unsubstantiated claims. Personally I detest the propagation of this outdated and archaic system that treats women like some commodity. I just thought I’d bring it to your notice.

Link: http://idiva.com/photogallery-relationships/8-reasons-to-have-an-arranged-marriage/12492/1

The eight reasons that the article above gives for having an arranged marriage are,

1. …And in a negotiated marriage, family support is a given.

2. If the marriage demands the girl to stay with her in-laws, it is more likely that they will make her feel comfortable as they have already ‘approved’ of her.

3. The process … involves understanding each other’s cultural interests apart from individual views and opinions about life in general.

4. Financial Security: Unlike a love marriage where financial security of the groom is not always a priority, in an arranged marriage, it is imperative that the bride’s family ensure that their would-be son-in-law is career-oriented and has a steady flow of income.

5. Mystery element: Each day is a surprise wherein the couple learn about the nitty gritty of the relationship and also take an effort to nurture it.

6. Dating opportunity: Once the alliance is arranged, the boy and girl are officially allowed to meet and know more about each other.

7. Spoilt for choice:  Ever heard of Swayamvar, an ancient Indian practice of choosing a husband from among a list of suitors?

8. In-laws syndrome: Since both the parties are way too involved in finding the right match and also the actual activity of marriage, it takes the load off the bride-to-be and gives her time to get comfortable in her new surroundings.

Edited to add: Kiran Manral shared this link on twitter, a ninth reason given, very commonly, to have an arranged marriage.
Divorce rate high in love marriages: HC

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