Sunday, June 12, 2011

Arranged marriages: The title of the piece says it all

The National's opinion section had a great column today by Taryam al Subaihi, a freelance writer from Abu Dhabi, about arranged marriages called Hard to Explain? Arranged marriages really can lead to love

I love this piece because it makes me realise how much I've changed (for the better, I believe) since moving here. I would have huffed and puffed my way through a piece like this three years ago, thinking wrong, wrong wrong.

Now, as with most things, even if I don't live it, I can see that it's as true and real for others as anything I accept in my own life.

I loved how she described the mothers as being the instrumental figures in arranging marriages for their children. Only after they have settled on a mate are the patriarchs brought in. She also argues that "the decisio falls, in the end, to the bride".

I loved this perspective too, if it is quite utopian-sounding:

"Once the initial period is passed, the magic of arranged marriages begins. Since the union began in complexity, every moment of harmony proves to be more rewarding than the one before it. What began as a complicated task becomes an effortless pleasure. The couple begins to work together to mould their personalities to complement each other's wants, needs and dreams.
Unlike many love marriages, which begin with a roaring bonfire that dies down over time, arranged marriages ignite a small flame of love and understanding that is fuelled over time with the respect and admiration the couple learn to have for one another. As years pass, the flame grows with the understanding and acceptance they each have for each other."


Anonymous said...

Er... sorry, but... no. Honestly, I can´t understand why so many people pretend this kind of things are OK, only due to political correctness. There is always somebody saying: "It is unfortunate that arranged marriages are taken in a negative light by Western societies".

Excuse me? I am European. Don´t tell me I cannot understand this because it was the same in Europe some centuries ago, especially among the upper classes. And we don´t tolerate it anymore. Because it wasn´t working.

Women also used to cover their bodies and hair, because of modesty. The female traditional folk costume in my homeland is a 17th-century outfit and also covers each part of a woman´s body, except from hands, face and feet. Ehem... does this sound familiar to you? We already experienced most of these situations. My grandmother belonged to a rich family and 80 years ago she got married to a man she didn´t know. This is what lies behind arranged marriages: control and power. Oh, yes, she got to love my grandfather. But she was never "in love" with him. This love was more a habit mingled with respect and dependance. One time she told me that if she had been older and strong enough, she would have never accepted it. She didn´t have the courage to fight against her whole family or defy the social norms. And this is the truth, whether we like it or not.

Anonymous said...

One woman writing that "it's wonderful, really" is evidence of nothing at all.

Ann Marie said...

Hey, all I am saying is that instead of viewing people who believe in arranged marriages as idiots who don't know any better – a pretty simplistic way of thinking about a lot of the world, when you think about it – maybe just try to respect and understand that's how they roll right now. And that, as she argues and we in the West have a hard time understanding, the result is not always a hollow or even unpleasant experience for the parties involved.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don´t think they´re "idiots". This would be cruel and unfair. But according to my family experience and knowledge, I think those who still accept these social customs are just entangled or even trapped in an unfair, uneven society. Although I understand them, it doesn´t mean that I approve these social norms. I don´t.

Maybe love marriages often fail and lead to divorce and sorrow. But, as an adult, I have the right to choose my own way in life. It´s my right to make my own mistakes and learn from them. It´s my right to seek happiness on my own, even if I´m wrong. And other people, even if they´re my family, don´t have the right to take this from me. It´s my life.

Besides, most arranged marriages, especially in the UAE, happen between close relatives. I know a case of marriage between stepsiblings (same mother, different father) performed to keep the inheritance in the family! This can lead to genetic disorders in their children (thalassaemia, for example). It´s a matter of public health.

taryam said...

Hello, this Taryam Al Subaihi, the writer of the piece that is being discussed. Let me first off say its great to see a dialogue going on the subject. It a sensitive topic and tends to spark many emotions, from frustration to confusion at times.

Anonymus had some valid points and in truth, is the exact reader that i had in mind when i was writing the column. Since it was summarized, i believe a few points may have gone unexplained so i will take this opportunity to address them here, if i may.

Firstly, i do not usually comment on subjects as personal as family but i believe it is necessary in this situation. I, like many of my people - both men and women- have chosen to take this route of arranged marriage as a path of love and partnership with their spouses.

Arranged marriages in our culture differ from 17th or 18th century Europe. Our marriages consist of many stages that allow both man and women to call it off, ask for more time or simply refuse. There is no obligation in the matter. Without a doubt, there are cultures in other countries that may practice the old school of arranged marriages but in the Emirati culture, the core decision behind arranged marriages is to put together two people who believe in the same ideals, goals and wishes and who know that love is evident in their relationship. These are all agreed upon before a decision is taken by both parties to be married.

As for the covering of the face and body, this another long topic that i better let one of the majority of Muslim women who chose to wear the clothing of their religion and culture. Again, a common misunderstanding is that these decisions are forced upon women by men. That would be oppression and something that was practised in most cultures long ago including our own.
In the end, it all comes down to how a person learns of another culture. The media, for one, can portray the most useless but influential image of muslims and the Arab world. Bad experiences sometimes stay with people for a lifetime.

Enough of my rambiling on, it would be nice to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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