It goes without say that almost any documentary depicting arranged marriages, features the token Indian and Jew alongside one another. The way we meet our spouse is for the most part depicted in an interesting Hollywood-esque light, but i'm sure outsiders watching can't help but view the system as outdated.
A recent opinion piece published in the Boston Globe, sees a young Indian woman shedding a refreshing light on the matter.
With the popularity of dating Apps on the rise, Palak Patel points out having people who know you well do the selection, seems equally, if not more promising, than giving an algorithm the honor.
We can find out a lot about someone via their social media accounts. But surely what people eat for breakfast, how they work out, or where they’re heading for their next vacation, aren’t the best indicators for a long term partner.
Is this person kind? Are they willing to work on themselves to be a better person? Will they compromise occasionally, but not give in all the time? Will they let you sleep in after you’ve both been up all night? Will you in turn be happy to do the same for them? Will they put you and the kids first, and realize making a living is a means to an end and not an end in itself? Do they share your values? Do you want your kids to be brought up the same way? Do you balance out emotionally? Will they give the kids high fructose corn syrup candy when you’re not looking? (If yes, that’s OK).
These questions can definitely be answered with time, dating and lots of online chatting. But how many steps ahead would you be with some research beforehand? Who better to provide insight than a close friend, a teacher, an employer, a classmate?
It would obviously be ignorant to turn a blind eye to the happy marriages that have come about via dating apps. Just as drinks at the bar could equally be a venue for the start of a potential matrimony. Love is love, and we all end up under that same chuppah (Hopefully!). What i will argue is that a little foresight prior to the start of a relationship can help bring on the emotions at a steady pace.
The idea behind an arranged marriage, at least in the Jewish tradition (aka a shidduch), is that before the heart is consulted, matters of the mind are settled first.
That is, before you fall madly in love with the guy who wants to live on a farm, removed from society, growing cannabis (legally) and making YouTube videos about the “Organic Life,” you should first make sure you have the same values, and then allow the heart to do its thang.
Palak writes about “Indian millennials who believe there’s value in having their elders find someone of a compatible financial, religious, and social background.” She speaks of the “cultural connection” that many Indians are drawn to, and the appeal of finding someone with the same language, background and ideals. A concept Jewish people living anywhere can surely relate to.
It's not easy to think with a clear head when it comes to love. Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, a psychologist based in New York and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, studies arranged marriages. Her findings show that parents and family members generally have an objectivity that is valuable. “They can see blind spots and understand and perceive you in a way that is not accessible to yourself.”
If we all just ran away with the person that made us giddy i'm not sure how productive of a society we would be. Whilst we're happy or infatuated, other things don't seem as important, which is why objective guidance is invaluable on the rocky road to settling down. Being open to hearing it is another thing.
I am the product of an arranged marriage as are many of my friends (ironically both observant and not observant). Before I met my husband, we researched each other’s whole life stories. Whilst we did the customary “how many kids in your family” and “where have you been the past few years” introduction, I pretty much knew the answers to all those questions beforehand.
I knew where he had worked, studied, what languages he spoke and even where he held religiously. I knew what kind of family he grew up in, and what kind of values they upheld. All that was left was figuring out if we wanted the same things going forward, which didn’t take long. And then of course, most importantly, whether our emotions lined up with the rationale.
This may sound cold, or systematic, however it was anything but. Complications aside, letting your heart run free within a safe space is comforting at a really deep level. I’m not saying hearts aren’t broken in the shidduch system, but I do think the damage is kept to a minimum, and the potential outcome is worth the risk. No system is perfect.
Arranged marriages in India have a lower divorce rate than American marriages, as do those that come about via the Shidduch system. Whilst this could be partly because divorce is generally frowned upon in more traditional cultures, ruling out the fact that these couples may be genuinely happy would not be statistically just.
The final decision comes down to the young couple and no one else gets the final say. Whether you’ve been dating for 3 weeks or 3 years there will always be some cases where people have doubts, get scared, or on the flip side, have complete confidence in their decision. Whatever the case, a marriage needs to be entered on the common ground that both parties are going to do whatever they can to make it work, and starting off on a level playing field is always a huge bonus.