Wed 23 May 2012
A new piece in USA Today focuses on arranged marriages and some rather deranged opinions that arranged marriages lead to longer lasting love and happiness than love, over-the-top head-over-heels style.
The article first focuses on marriages among member’s of Moon’s Unification Church. It got my attention because the focal couple includes a 23-year-old engineering student. (My home includes a 21-year-old engineering student). The young man asked his parents to find him a wife. They checked with church friends and found a young 17-year-old girl. The couple spent a single day together before their parents demanded a decision about whether they would marry. I’ve spent longer than that picking out a purse.
The Unification Church claims that 70% of its member couples whose marriages were arranged are still together and it points out that 50% of non-arranged marriages end in divorce. The article notes that arranged marriages are also common among Hindu and Jewish couples. Okay, religious ceremonies and rituals tend to be lifelong beliefs, taught in infancy and followed as adults. I may not “get” why anyone would want such a fundamental life decision to be taken out of their hands, but I can respect it as a part of another culture. (I also don’t understand the worship of cows or trees, but I have no problem with people who believe those things)
The author of the article tracked down a psychologist, Robert Epstein, who argues that arranged marriages work because couples start out with low expectations, their families lend support, and love grows slowly. Stephanie Coontz, a research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, notes that arranged marriages are often products of societies where young people have few choices and can be quite repressive for women.
My curiosity over how Unificationists sell arranged marriage to modern children was answered later in the story with a comment that the Church frowns on dating. I bet if you grew up in a town where everyone rode horses, the first car anyone drove into town would look mighty enticing – even if it was a beat up 2002 PT Cruiser like the one I drive.
My take on arranging love and marriage? I agree that an arranged marriage would be an organized, sensible and wholly reasonable way to find a spouse. But I think it’s as likely to lead to love as latching onto the person in line ahead of you at the post office. Love is disorganized and chaotic. It will turn you inside out and your world upside down. Love is an utterly unreasonable emotion — and there’s no better guarantee for a happy marriage or a happy life than spending it with someone who still makes your pulse pound after more than 20 years of marriage.
Love is an unreasonable expectation of a mundane world – and wouldn’t life be a mighty poor experience if we abandoned our quest for it?