Most people believe that love is the most essential ingredient to making a marriage work, but author Reva Seth says that's not always the case! She came by to the share the secrets and wisdom of arranged marriages!
What We Can Learn From Arranged Marriages:
Taking a focused, proactive and deliberate approach to dating and finding a long term partner
The problem is that most of us (and I know until I started doing these interviews I was certainly in this group!) just date the people we happen to meet and be attracted to
For most of us, its incredibly rare that our dating and relationship lives are the result of conscious thoughts or actions based on some real thinking about what we are looking for in a relationship and why
I know that before I did these interviews, I would put more thought and research into my car insurance or even a new pair of shoes than into the relationships that I drifted into
And the problem with this is that we it means we just take what comes our way
What I realised from my arranged marriage interviews is that the process of sitting down, often with family and really figuring out qualities and values you want in future spouse - actually treat marriage like the big decision that it is
Really for most of us, marriage is one of the biggest decisions we make but we have been culturally conditioned to think that there is something "manipulative" or "wrong" with stopping to logically thinking about what we want from a relationship and why
It goes against all our ideas of love and romance, since all our movies, stories and fantasies are based on the idea that "real love" just happens spontaneously and impetuously
And so the idea of really thinking about the values and characteristics that we want in partner - beyond maybe a really superficial discussion of "our type" is something that most of us really don't feel comfortable with - this was something I really noticed when I had friends who wanted to use online dating agencies but then felt really uncomfortable filling out the detailed questionnaires on what they were looking for
Really the way we are conditioned to approach relationships is like someone who can't wait to buy a house, keeps waiting to find the one they want and dreaming about what their life in that new house will be like- but couldn't tell their real estate agent what their budget it, or what neighbourhood they will live in or even how many rooms they want - but instead just keep saying, don't worry I will know it when I see it!
Do your list of "marriage musts"!
This means thinking about the core qualities that you want in a relationship, why you want them and who you have to be to attract someone like this
Actually writing out your list of marriage musts will help you recognise a person who fits what you are looking for and can help you figure out the best places to meet him
Husbands are life partners and not life savers - or learning to approach our relationships with realistic expectations
Women in arranged marriages have very realistic expectations from both their husbands and their relationships
In contrast, I think most of us don't even realise how much we expect from our partners and our relationships
We want our partners to be everything from our best friends, our gym buddies, to share our past times, to have a psychic connection to us, to save us from boredom that we might be feel in our careers or any emptiness that we feel in our lives, plus be good fathers - and a source of hot sex!
And while having high expectations are good - having unrealistic ones just means that we become frustrated when our relationships that don't live up to what we imagined or when the men we meet can't live up to the fantasy man in our heads
The reason for our incredibly high expectations is that as a society we really idolise the idea that somewhere out there is the "One" for us - the perfect mate - and if we can just find him, then we can have everything we've ever wanted - our own happy ending
And I really think that this idea of a soulmate is probably one of the most damaging beliefs when it comes to relationships
Because no one can ever live up to such high expectations - and really, they shouldn't have to! And it doesn't help that many of us just keep changing and adding to the list in our head, making it impossible for anyone to keep up with what we now looking for or expecting
The structure of modern life makes this situation worse - since many of us don't have family or extended family close by, we work longer and longer, and move a great deal - all of which means that we have less support, and less time to connect with our networks - and so place an even greater pressure on our partner to fufill all our emotional and companionship requirements in the time that we do have
In contrast, since women in arranged marriages enter into a relationship believing that their husbands will be a good match for them and strong life partners - but they don't expect that they are marrying their soulmates or Mr. Rights
And the result they have really reasonable expectations of both their husbands and their the relationship
This makes it easier from them to be happy -since their expectations can be met
An interesting impact of this that I noticed in my interviews is that since these women don't expect their husbands to be able to meet this unbelievable laundry list of needs - they also naturally become more open to the idea of having their needs bet by other friends or family - but without thinking that somehow this alternative option means that there is something wrong with their relationship or partner
Beyond the two of you: Putting Your Relationship in the Context of Something Bigger
I've only been married for five years, so really not that long, but already I can tell that this is one of the most important lessons that we can take from the arranged marriage model
Shifting the focus of the relationship to something more than just the happiness of the two of you
Because of the way couples in arranged marriages come together, they naturally have a very strong sense that their relationship is about more than just the two of them - its about families coming together, extended family and community
In contrast, even though a couple of generations ago our society also shared this we have not created a culture that really valorizes and emphasizes the idea of romance and relationships being about "just the two of us"
It's a very inward focused view of relationships that, after the initial infatuation wears off, actually just places a great deal of stress on the couple
Everything becomes magnified when it is about just the to you - and that becomes increasingly difficult to sustain, especially 5, 10 or 15 years into it
Regardless of how we meet, we can look to cultivate the sense that a relationship is about more than just two of us and instead that as a couple we are part of something bigger with a shared and unifying sense of purpose - this can come from a conscious effort to find a shared goal or purpose that helps set the context that the two of you together are about something more - than just the two of you together.
What these 300 interviews and five years of research really made me realise is that as a culture, we have now made it incredibly difficult for ourselves to find, create and sustain happy relationships - and these interviews show that it doesn't have to be that hard.
First Comes Marriage is not about suggesting we should all start having arranged marriage or even defending them, but what I really hope with this book is to prompt people to even slightly shift their thinking and expectations about how "love" or relationships are "supposed to be"
Reva's book is First Comes Marriage: Modern Relationship Advice from the wisdom of Arranged Marriages.