July 30, 2011

Arranged Marriages

I came across this story earlier today about arranged marriages. I know a lot of Americans have a negative attitude toward arranged marriages, which I attribute largely to culture shock, having the idea that the only way one can marry is through love and any other reason is largely anathema. However, as the article points out, even Western cultures practiced arranged marriages up through about 200 years ago:

Worldwide, families of many religions have arranged marriages throughout history as a way to strengthen the community or join families for economic, political or social positioning.

Even in Western European society, arranged marriages were the norm until the late 1700s, when "personal choice of partners had replaced arranged marriages as a social ideal, and individuals were encouraged to marry for love," according to Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage, a History."

Personally, I don't have a problem with arranged marriages although I will admit that Milady and I didn't have our marriage arranged. Without getting into the details of how we met or why we married, I will say that it did take us some time to adjust to living with each other, which is an important key to the success of any marriage. Part of our problem, of course, was that we came from two very different cultures and lifestyles. It took us some time to work through our differences, but we have managed to make our marriage a happy one. Like the couple mentioned in the article (two children in 12 years of marriage), we have been married for over eight years now and have our wonderful daughter. (I will also add that what really helped our relationship is that we both have similar goals and values; for example, we both wanted to have children, and we both believed very strongly in living by and raising our child with Islamic values.)

One point the article made that I wasn't aware of is that Orthodox Jews also have similar attitudes with Muslims toward dating:

In Jewish Orthodox practice, dating in the Western sense is prohibited. Young couples are discouraged from being left alone before marriage.

"You don't go out to private places," said Rabbi Avi Finegold, a Chicago educator who describes himself as Orthodox but also acknowledges being skeptical about the success of arranged marriages.

The Orthodox community favors using hotel lobbies and New York's Times Square for public meetings between the sexes, he said. "You will see the guy dressed in his finest and the girl all prim and proper and they are not touching each other, and are in a public place," Finegold said.

The next time someone complains that Muslims don't date, we should point out to that person that Orthodox Jews follow the same practice.

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