‘Mom and Dad, Why Don’t You Pick?’: Thoughts on Arranged Marriages

Written by Kristin Clift on . Posted in Culture

As an aspiring anthropologist, I do not believe in the Western notion of sustainable romantic love. (Cynical much? Maybe, but that’s another story.)

Evolutionarily speaking, it would be advantageous to develop an attachment to a single mate to foster a stable environment in which to raise children. Unfortunately, anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University purported that this attachment only lasts about four years — or about enough time to raise a child.

According to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, our primordial ancestors would have selected towards those traits. And that is why we display those tendencies today. (I totally think Evolutionary Psychology is, more often than not, just an excuse for poor behavior, but more on that later.) The adaptive short-term monogamous theory accounts somewhat for the exorbitant rates of divorce in this country.

You know what works? Arranged marriages. Those marriages are based on something real — filial duty and money. Or you could abandon the entire institution of marriage as we know it and live like the Nayar of southern India, a matrifocal group where the women live together permanently but several men come and go. (I personally wouldn’t mind having as many partners as I choose, but alas I digress.)

I seriously doubt that any of us in this culture would let our parents pick our spouses and I just don’t think the Nayar set up would fly either. Is there no hope then for a happy marriage? You could ignore everything I just said and go by Dr. Spaceman’s (from 30 Rock) philosophy, “Science is whatever we want it to be.” Or you could change your paradigm.

Let’s look again at arranged marriages. The reason why they work is because there are no fairytale expectations upfront, just family respect and business. Many couples in these marriages state that they do, in fact, eventually love their partner — but it’s a much different kind of love than what we expect.

I’m not saying you should enter into a loveless marriage, rather the contrary. While considering a spouse don’t look for Edward Cullen (believe me, you don’t want to be in a relationship with a guy like him — hence, the bitterness), look for a friend. Someone who you can rely on, because when those euphoric neurotransmitters for dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin etc. (neurochemicals associated with love, lust and attraction) dwindle, you’re gonna want to be with someone you still like to be around.

All things considered, I guess I’m not exactly the expert on getting relationships to work so you’ll have to consult someone else. That said, good luck — I’m off to go find Prince Charming.

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