Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Mom and Dad, I think I want an arranged marriage. Here's why."

What's the most important thing in a relationship?

I would argue the capacity for "growth."

This encompasses both you and your partner's ability to apologize and do better.  It further includes you working on YOU.  You growing as a person and evolving in such a way that you stay engaged with life.  There's nothing worse than being joined at the hip to someone who's bored or stagnating.

But "growth" is hard and can be threatening.  Most of us don't want to change.  Some people would rather just break up and move on to the next relationship.  New relationship, refuse to grow, break up.  Repeat.

How to break the cycle?

There needs to be a standard that both people respect.  An independent "third party" that dictates what's appropriate and what's not.  While some people might go so far as to make that "third party" God or religion, what most every couple ultimately settles on at least is marriage.

It's true that you *can* get divorced but it isn't ideal.  Marriage provides a powerful incentive for people to go to counseling and try to work things out.

Enter the concept of arranged marriage, as experienced by my Muslim friend who married a Pakistani.  She and her husband spent next to no time "courting."  They were engaged for a year, but for almost all of that time, she was in the States and he was in Pakistan.  All she knew is that she thought he was a good, handsome guy--which is why she gave her family the "go-ahead"--when it came time for them to line her up.

What followed was a thorough "vetting" process.  Both families interviewed each other extensively: "My child has these strengths, these needs.  You should know this, etc."  Custom dictates that families be honest with each other: the happiness of two young people are on their line.  It was decided that it was a good match.  My friend and the young man agreed.

So they got married.

My friend described how she got to know and love her husband over time, after tying the knot.  She considers herself lucky to have gotten lined up with such a great guy.  She is very happily married, and her husband was her first boyfriend and lover.  No time wasted on guys who didn't care about her.  No broken heart.  Just a relationship that worked.

It worked of course, because both parties entered into it with the intent of marrying.  No fooling around.  No, "oh maybe we'll get married someday."  Instead, just commitment and asking the tough questions on the front end and getting involved on the premise that with involvement comes responsibility and the obligation to work things out.  Work things out or go to a divorce court.

I really see the beauty in that, now that I'm 27 years old.  I've had enough life experience to see for myself that relationships are really tough.  But also that they don't have to be provided that both parties are willing to grow up, take responsibilities for the lives, and improve.

I've said it to my friends before and I'll say it again:

I believe that any two people with physical chemistry and "love," whatever that is, provided that they have the right values, can work things out and be happily married for the rest of their lives.

But there's a big IF.

IF both people are unselfish and willing to put work into it.

So now we live in a society where marriage is sort of optional.

A lot of people choose to live together first and sometimes that ends in a marriage, but sometimes it doesn't.

I've seen my share of couples part ways when love existed, but the values were missing.  Either one or both parties just wasn't willing to make the effort and own up to something that needed improvement.  There are so many broken hearts.

I'm starting to look at my friend with her arranged marriage and think that maybe her culture is really on to something.

Or perhaps even traditional Christian culture, too.  I have Mormon friends who dated and married so young that they didn't have time to discover all their partner's flaws.

Honestly, you could find a "good reason" to break up with anyone.

Perhaps it is better not to know?

Of course, "ignorance" will only prove benign if both people have good values and are willing to improve.

One thing's for sure, relationships require that we be better people.  They are a refiner's fire.  We can't expect anyone to just take us for who we are, that would be selfish.  Is any person perfect?

But the "work" element is also what makes relationships great.  Relationships give us the chance to be better people and grow in ways that we'd never have to if we could be solo and selfish all the time.

So . . .

Arranged marriage, Mom ad Dad . . . maybe?  Please?