In many countries, such as India and Iran, arranged marriage – a marriage in which parents have chosen their son or daughter’s spouse – is still common practice. The divorce rate in these places is under 10%, a tiny fraction of the divorce rate in the United States, and I wonder why. Is it that Indian parents are so much better at choosing a husband for their daughter than an American woman is able to do for herself? I find that hard to believe; however, I have been a bride’s maid at three weddings, and two of the three couples are now divorced.
Even though my sample of marriages is too small to be statistically meaningful, it’s nonetheless a startling snapshot of where our society is – a place where people seem to fall in and out of marriage as quickly as they fall in and out of love. I don’t doubt that most individuals go into a marriage believing that it’s for life; nor do I doubt that the break up is devastating for everyone involved. But then I think of the wedding shows (“Bridezilla” and “Whose Wedding is it Anyway?”) that populate cable television, making a spectacle of the wedding process and trivializing what comes after the honeymoon; I think of my own parents, divorced before I reached junior high; and I think about my friends, divorcées before their twenty-eighth birthdays.
Something in our society is amiss, and while arranged marriage isn’t the answer – Americans want their freedom to marry and divorce whomever they choose – maybe we should consider some of the conditions that allow arranged marriages to succeed and even thrive. Trust, commitment, and familial support would be a good starting point.