Marrying the Traditional Way or for Love

The politics of marriage in our societies may come as a surprise to others in different parts of the world, as it might go under scrutiny but marriage and choosing a life partner can be a decision not taken individually but rather the bride’s family has a say in it.

In my freshman year as a Business Information Systems undergraduate student, I had a course called Decision Support System (DSS), during the course we had an assignment to design a system that will tell us who is our best choice for a partner, basically, we needed to figure out how to choose our life partner elaborating on the criteria, that mattered to us, when choosing our future husband or wife, we needed to examine the logic behind choosing our spouse in case you were already married. I remember making this pro’s and con’s rectangle, although at the time, ten years ago.

Decision making Diagram

Beside decision making, I didn’t know the Pros and Cons list is a common tool used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a kind of therapy that helps patients to identify the cause and pattern of negative thinking, to me it seemed a good way to evaluate how will my future husband will be.

We all watched romantic movies like “Friends with Benefits” or something a bit older like ”The Holiday” where couples end up being together, I realized the politics of marriage in our world is different than what’s in the movies and else where in reality.

Many families, especially mothers will start prepping their daughters for a suitable groom sometime after her graduation from university, it usually starts with a series of visits her daughter starts to receive from prospect husbands, where they meet at the bride’s parents house, and if they like one anothe they can agree to see each other more but still in the bride’s home, meanwhile the bride to be and her family start to evaluate the suitability of the prospect husband for marriage, evaluation criteria might include; whether he is capable of providing for a family, his family social standing in the community is also looked upon, this practice might come as a surprise to some but there is no shame in it in the Arab world, as it is not considered  to be a gold digging kind of family if they look into the financial capability of the groom, since, generally speaking, in the Middle Eastern society courtship between men and women is very much un-favored and kind of forbidden and restricted by many, sometimes if someone is known to have a boyfriend before marriage she will be criticized and looked upon as having bad manners and guys might not want to propose to her especially by the more conservative circles.

But what about the exceptions, men and women do meet, and separation between sexes in public do not exist in most Arab countries, where men and women get to know each other and perhaps fall in love and want to spend their lives together. Which way is better?

I have personally witnessed many success stories of arranged, or traditional marriages, as they are called, my observations might be inaccurate and based on what these people express, given in our society no one wants to say they are in a bad marriage, and even if they were, many often like to push it under the rug. Divorce is not an option.

Do you marry in order to enhance your social standing and life in general or do you marry because you fell in love despite everything else standing in your both way?

I have to say the best and difficult way is to achieve both, I went on to search how successful people did it, in an interview with Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, he started talking about how when he decided that its time for him to get married, he knew early on he wanted to be with someone that was, according to his words, a Resourceful person, which you can watch in his interview on Summit YouTube Channel (he talks about it in minute 14 in the video).

Resourcefulness was a prerequisite for a spouse, interestingly, he too had his friends set him up for blind dates, what you can see is that Bezos was looking for someone who is capable of facing life’s circumstances no matter how hard they are, he didn’t want a wife who would take the second seat, he wanted to be with someone if life hit her with lemons she can turn them into lemonade, sort to speak. Another aspect to consider is that he went through many life experiences so he knew the direction he wanted to go and wanted someone who will be on the same track as his throughout his journey. This is the point we miss the most in our societies, young women are not given the opportunity to explore what they want, more often a hidden pressure whether soft or rigorous it might be, starts to exert on a girl right after graduating from university, urging her that she should get married otherwise all evils of the world will plaque her, she happily gets married only to find after some years of marriage and after giving birth to couple of kids which she is happy to have that she still has this inner feeling of needing to self-actualize and achieve more in her life.

Questions of, what if I had a job and a career? and if she was a working woman she might wonder, what if I had waited a little?, although her life looks good, this feeling of unfulfillment remains and visits her every now and then, and if you ask her would you want your daughter to get married right after finishing her undergraduate study, she might say “No, I would like her to experience life more”.

Marrying someone because of love is not all sweet and roses either, it has its challenges too, Alexandra Redcay, an Assistant Professor at Millersville University, her interests include mental health and addiction, in a TEDx talk she discusses selecting the right relationship and noticing the red flags when we are in one, she also highlights how we tend to ignore these red flags because we’re so in love.

There is no right or wrong way, but before making this decision I think one should be the right person regardless of who the other person is, to have her own share of life experiences, knowing the kind of life she wants, even if vaguely, but you must know so as not to be thrown into circumstances without you having a say in them or worse not having the ability to mold your life into the shape you want.


Alexandra Redcay Talk on TEDx

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