Thanks to the new TV show, Married at First Sight, I’ve been thinking a lot about arranged marriages lately.
Mostly, I think the average American single would be terrified by the notion of spending the rest of his or her life with a complete stranger.
Singles have so many decisions to make today as a result of all the options technology and modern day life presents. I'm confident many would enjoy being relieved of all the pressure in deciding how to select a life partner. The paradox of choice is, in part, a reason why a growing number of singles are outsourcing their love lives to matchmakers/coaches like yours truly. But, still, most singles want to be somewhat involved in the process of finding who they will spend the rest of their life with. They don’t want to meet their spouse on their wedding day and literally be married at first sight. Or do they?!
Surely, there are some out there who believe a strong and successful partnership could be the result of a marriage between two strangers. It is possible. For the record, I actually know a few non-American born couples who have been in an arranged marriage for decades. PS: They don’t appear to hate each other!
Considering all I know about relationships and marriage, I started wondering what type of person is most or least likely to be happy in an arranged marriage. Since I am a systemic thinker-largely because of the training in my Marriage & Family Therapy graduate program-my instinct was to look at this question through the lens of gender.
I pondered: Would men or women be worse off in an arranged marriage at first sight? Hmmmmm....
My vote: Sorry boys; it's the men who would be worse off.
How did I come to this conclusion?
I first considered the impact of physical attraction on marital happiness—which could never be guaranteed with an arranged marriage. Physical attraction isn’t as important for a woman, but it is crucial for a man's satisfaction in a relationship. A guy can grow on a woman--like a fungus, at times. Why hello there, ex-boyfriend. If he treats her right, she can grow to love his flaws. Even if a woman isn't initially attracted to the man she married at first sight, she can come to find him more attractive as the relationship progresses. A man's personality can make him sexy to a woman in a way that a woman’s personality can’t for a man. No matter how nice/smart/sweet/funny a woman is, if her husband is not sexually attracted to her, their relationship is over. They can stay married, but he will never be in love with her the way he would be if he chose to marry the woman he found super attractive. Of course, some couples could get lucky in terms of having that instant spark. Cortney and Jason on Married at First Sight, perhaps? With an arranged marriage at first sight, a guy is really just rolling the dice.
Next, I considered the dynamic that I believe is crucial to a relationship’s success: A man pursuing a woman who is a challenge. Call me a “Rules Girl” all you’d like, I shall wear that badge proudly. I wholeheartedly believe relationships are better when they are based on that old-fashioned courtship in which a man experiences the challenge of winning over a woman’s heart. Because men like that shit.
With an arranged marriage, a man does not have the chance to spot the woman he wants, muster up the courage to ask her out, work to win her over throughout the courtship process, and plan how he'll propose. Since I believe men value what they work for the most, I wonder if an arranged marriage makes a woman too “easy” in a guy’s mind. Is it just me or do happily married men beam when they talk about all the times their wife turned them down in the early stages of dating? No, I am not crazy: Men fall in love with women who initially don't give them the time of day. And they stay in love too. But if a man didn't have to work for a woman's affection, can he value the relationship in the same way as a man who did? He can come to value it, of course, if the couple are truly very compatible. If not, he may stay married, but he won't be in love. He'll just be....married.
That being said, most men probably shouldn't go around marrying strangers at first sight if they want a sustainable love. But for those up to the challenge: Mazel Tov! There will always be the man who is the exception to the rule.
What are your thoughts on arranged marriages? Do you think men or women would be worse off marrying at first sight? Leave your comments below.
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