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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:A Case for Arranged Marriage

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Well... not quite, but I bet that title got your attention. Perhaps a more descriptive, but also more cumbersome title might have been something like, "Carefully Evaluating an Alternative by Figuring out What It Might Really Mean."

Some time back, when I first encountered the Captain Awkward advice blog, I ran into a letter-and-answer concerning a young man whose cultural background included the practice of arranged marriage. He didn't quite ask the right question, but he got the right answer. His question was, "[H]ow to go about being okay with an arranged marriage...?"

Captain Awkward's advice was brilliant, both defusing the social pressure attached to such a tradition and outlining the best way to avail oneself of it. All of this she accomplishes in the following set of bullet points, after first establishing that the writer must be clear in his mind (and to others) about what he hopes to accomplish by "giv[ing] it a shot:"
  • It's 100% okay to say, to everyone, "I'm not ready to look, I'm not ready to do this, I need to think more about this before I even start." You do not have to marry anyone, ever, if you do not want to. Yes, it's the cultural norm and you'll receive a lot of pressure from your family and peers. No, you won't die from not being married, and the people who love you will deal with it eventually.
  • You can decide to be introduced to people you family suggests and promise to meet anyone they suggest with an open mind, but you will not marry anyone without a genuine connection of friendship, affection, and attraction between you.
  • You're open to trying out the process without any guarantees. Phrase it that way to your parents. "I am happy to have you introduce me. The right woman and I will have to take it from there."
  • Don't ever believe anybody when they say that "your prospects are thin" and that you have to hurry to lock in this low interest rate/this hot sale price/this limited edition/hard-sell metaphor of your choice or it will never be available again. In your letter, you come across as intelligent, hard-working, thoughtful, kind, sensitive, and as someone who wants to be and do good things. You deserve someone wonderful, someone who values herself and who takes her time to make good decisions the way you do. People like that exist in the world and some of them are part of your cultural group and some of those are female and single and some of those will like you. Finding love and attraction is not about having the greatest possible access to every possible person, it's about connecting truly and deeply with the ones who are your same glorious brand of weirdo. [formatting in original]
It is this last bullet point that exemplifies one of the things I like best about this writer: She is very good at seeing how similar many situations that might not seem to have a connection are. This both makes her advice much easier to grasp right off the bat and can help one see how it could apply to other, similar situations. I'm happily married, and arranged marriage is not part of my culture, but I found this discussion worth reading, anyway.

Frankly, in the letter-writer's shoes, I'd have found find the whole idea preposterous prima facie, but that's in part because I would have assumed it involved getting stuck with whomever the family comes up with. But look at the thought process: Step One was considering what the institution really is, and considering the prospect of using it in a more flexible way. That's a great example to have tucked away for the future, should I face a difficult situation and be presented with a possible solution that has worked for others, but with which I am unfamiliar. The usual (or stereotypical) implementation may be highly flawed, but there might be elements that, evaluated thoughtfully, could possibly solve the problem.

-- CAV

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Miss Manners once had a column in which she said she opposed arranged marriages.  She considered marriages achieved by advertising for a partner to be arranged marriages. 

Points similar to those made by Captain Awkward apply to advertising for a partner.

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