In my freshman year as a Business Information Systems undergraduate student, I had a course called Decision Support Systems (DSS), in that course we had an assignment to design a system that will give us as an outcome the best choice for a partner in marriage, what we needed to do is set the basis for choosing our future husband or wife, or what was the logic behind choosing your spouse in case you were already married. I remember making this pro’s and con’s rectangle. Although at that time (ten years ago) 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.
I think we all watched romantic movies like “When Harry met Sally” or the musical and high spirited “Mamma Mia” which in both the main characters end up being together, however, I realized the politics of marriage in our world differs in so many ways from that in movies, many families, especially mothers will start prepping their daughters for a suitable groom sometime after graduating 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 home, and in case the couple like each other more visits can be arranged but still in the bride’s parent’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 and his family social standing in the community, this practice might come as a surprise to some but there is no shame in this practice in the Arab world, as it is not considered to be a gold digging kind of family if the family look into the financial capability of the groom, since, generally speaking, in the Middle Eastern society courtship between man and woman is very much un-favored and kind of forbidden and restricted by many, and sometimes if someone is known to have had 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, my observations might be inaccurate and based on what these people express, given in our society no one wants to say they have a bad marriage, and even if they are in one, many often suck it up and keep it going.
Do you marry in order to enhance your social standing and life or do you marry because you fell in love despite this person’s negative side?
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 to get married, he early on knew 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. (here is the part where he talks about marriage and his wife).
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 can be, he didn’t want a life partner who would take the second seat, he wanted someone if life hits her with lemons she can turn them into lemonade sort of speak. Another aspect to look at is that he as a person went through many life experiences so he knew the direction he wanted to go and wanted someone who will be on the same track in 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, many often a hidden pressure whether soft or rigorous it might be, starts to exert on girls right after graduating from university, urging her that she should get married otherwise all evils of the world will plague her, she happily gets married only to find after couple of years and after giving birth of her kids which she is happy to have but this inner feeling of needing to self-actualize and achieve lingers inside her, questions of what if I had a job and a career, and if she was a working woman she might wonder ‘what if I waited for a while’. Although her life looks good, this feeling of unfulfilled life 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 first”.
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, spoke about selecting the right relationship where she also discusses red flags when we are in a relationship and how we tend to ignore them because we’re so in love. Here is her full talk on TEDx
There is no right or wrong way, but before taking 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 and 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.