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4 Common misconceptions of Arranged Marriages

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Cover from Indian Matchmaking on Netflix. Depicts the matchmaker Sima Taparia smiling in yellow clothing with a woman and a man over each shoulder.

Since its release on July 16, the reality show, Indian Matchmaking has become a  household name. It has reached Netflix’s top 10 list in the United States.

As the name suggests, the show revolves around the business of Mumbai-based matchmaker, Sima Taparia.

Taparia focuses on seven couples ranging between their mid-twenties and late thirties, each with a variety of different professions. The show revolves around the age-old concept of arranged marriages. 

However, after watching the show, many viewers have had a negative idea of what the arranged marriage process is like. There are still many viewers, who do not quite understand how the process works.

BLENDtw has gathered first-hand experiences from couples who are products of arranged marriages. This is a list of four common misconceptions people have about arranged marriages. (All names have been changed due to privacy reasons).

1. It’s forced onto couples

Historically, arranged marriages were organized between families as an alliance to bring the two families together. It was not something that was limited to India, but also to other Asian and European countries.

Often in these circumstances, the bride and groom would have never met in person. They would have simply met on the day of the marriage. Arranged marriages have evolved over the years.

The arranged marriage process is similar to that of an online dating service. However, arranged marriages work on a spectrum. 

No two arranged marriages are alike. Each couple meets in a different way. Samir, the son of an arranged couple, described how his parents were matched in a more traditional way. He described how his two grandparents were neighbors in Lahore pre-Indian and Pakistan partition.

In 1947, they moved to New Delhi, where they were once again neighbors. “My paternal grandmother asked my father if we should approach my mother if he had any interest,” said Samir. “He was interested in another woman, but they rejected him because she was in the police force.”

In 1951, the couple married, when Samir’s mother was around nineteen years old and his father was around twenty-five.

Samir said that prior to their marriage the couple barely knew each other, but after, they were happily married for 65 years until the passing of his mother. 

Ronit and Rena, a couple married for 25 years, had a very different experience meeting. “It’s like going on a first date and seeing whether or not you liked the person,” said Ronit.

He described how the only defining difference between meeting someone through an arranged marriage was that they knew of each other’s family background.

“Although we didn’t know each other before, we both had similar experiences. Both our families celebrated the same festivals and took long train journeys to see our grandparents in South India.”

2. Women must compromise more

Throughout the show, Sima Taparia emphasized the importance of compromising and adjusting, while looking for matches. However, many viewers felt that the women were often asked to compromise more on their expectations for an eligible partner.

This lead to the spark of many internet memes, Tiktoks, and other criticisms of the arrangement process. 

While this might be the case for certain situations, it is not a set standard for everyone. Not every woman is forced to compromise their personal beliefs, lifestyle, and values for the sake of the groom’s family.

If a family demands this from the woman, the woman has every right to say no to the match. Taparia described how she rejected many matches, who did not respect her as a woman. 

Gauri, who has recently completed 25 years of marriage with her husband, also cared about her place in the marriage. “I do not want to be a doormat, I want to be able to work, I want to be able to make my own decisions. I needed a kind of person, who would let me be myself,” said Gauri.

She mentioned how she turned down many matches until she met her husband. “Even though it’s an arranged marriage we need to stand our ground. Even in marriage, it’s like colleges, you have to write down your pros and cons. If pros exceed the cons, then I will go for it. If not, I won’t,” said Gauri.

Compromise in marriage is not something that is limited towards marriages. It is a multi-faceted concept that applies to friendships and parent-child relationships.

If an individual cares for someone, then they are willing to deal with certain things they may not like. “Take the show King of Queens,” said Ronit. “Doug’s father-in-law lives with him. He doesn’t really like it, but he puts up with it for his wife’s sake.”

3. There is no true love in the Marriage

A common misconception about arranged marriages is that there is no love present in the marriage. However, this is not the case. The purpose of arranged marriage is to meet someone, who has a common goal: marriage.

The idea is that your shared experiences and common backgrounds and pave the way for the two individuals to grow to love each other.

“You’ve got to understand and like the person before you love them, so the love comes after everything else. I would say that’s the difference,” stated Gauri.

While it may not be the typical boy meets girl story, both individuals love and care for each other in the same way. “The main observation I have is that they get to learn to love each other. They were very devoted to each other. My mother was the stronger personality in the marriage.

My dad was more easy-going.” said Samir. “Their key was that they mutually respected each other.  The respect and love were what kept them together.” The love might happen a little later, but because of your common goals, experiences, and background, you grow to love the individual. 

4. It’s regressive 

Throughout the course of the show, Taparia emphasized that marriage is not only between the couple, but also between the two families. This idea was seen as regressive by many viewers of the show.

Many viewers believed that if the two individuals cared for each other, then what does the relationship between the two families matter?

While the first priority is that the couple gets along, there is a practical reason as to why it’s important for the two families to get along as well. 

For Gauri, the family background matching was a huge benefit to her. “Even though I didn’t have time to meet with him frequently, I knew he was a product of a good family, and that we would get along,” said Gauri.

She described how nowadays, she often speaks to her sister-in-law on the phone if there are any difficulties at home. Having this common family background and respect for the other person’s family, in fact, strengthens the relationship of the couple.

“I’m not only accepting my husband’s family, but I’m accepting my husband’s mother, father, and brother.” explained Rena. “Even though people may see it as a fault, I think that’s where our marriages are much stronger. We care for the extended family as opposed to just the individual.” 

The arranged marriage process is not perfect. There are many flaws in the system such as casteism, colorism (“fair, tall, slim, and trim”), and the exclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

There have been arranged marriage couples, who’s marriages have not worked out, leading to toxic environments. However, it is a system that has worked for may marriages and continues to evolve day by day. As society continues to change, so do the standards of arranged marriages.

“Understand that there are real gradations to it,” said Ronit. “There are still marriages that take place in India, where the people who are getting married in villages have not seen the faces of their matches.” 

“My gut tells me that after a couple of years, it doesn’t matter if it’s an arranged marriage or a marriage based solely on love,” said Gauri. “You discover each other in a year or two, and grow to love and understand each other no matter how you met.”

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