Love Marriage

 

or

 

ArrangedMarriage?

 

 (This  hot  topic  was  discussed  in  the  open  debate  session  of  Aroma  ’93,  agirlscamp.  The  views  presented  byboth  the  sides  are  analysed  here,  with  abalancedcounsel  forawider  audience.  Abiased  reader  fromSouth  India  willfind  theviewsliberal.Sopleasereadtheentirearticletogetafullunderstanding  ofthesubject.Donotmutilatethearticleandusebitsofittosupportoropposeyourview.Thankyou.)

 

In the panorama of India’s past, child marriage is at the receding end. Educated parents realised their folly. However many mothers still remained uneducated and parents didn’t have the courage to send their young girls to school. So when girls attained  puberty  they  got  them  married  so  that  their  daughters  would  be  safe under a husband.  However  times have changed  and parents have  come to see the need for their daughters to study, qualify for a job and even pursue a career. This demands letting their daughters take off into the open world.

 

Now, many parents who are confident their daughters can be IAS officers or even fly a plane,  are not yet confident  that  they can find  their  own partners.  A mother who had not chosen her partner herself tears to shreds her daughter  who attempts to choose her own. But we cannot deny that there are many understanding  parents who respect the views of their grown-up  daughters.

 

Leaving  the  issue  there,  let’s  see  the  pros  and  cons  of  arranged  marriages. First of all, a good percentage  of arranged  marriages  leaves  the central  person out of the scene  - the  girl herself!  She is not even included  in the discussion.  Parents just  fix  a boy  and  tell  her  to say yes.  Sometimes  this  tearful  crisis  occurs  on  the wedding day! Because parents cannot  see the heart of the girl, they choose to their liking.  This  liking  may  be  sincere  or  centered  around  cash,  caste,  colour,  career and the like. In some homes to fulfil the last desires of a granny or grandpa the girl is married  to some relative.  Often  to ensure  that the family property  is not lost  to an outsider,  girls are forced  to  marry their  relatives. When the  girl  has a  defect, disease,  disability  or  degrading  character,  arranged  marriage  is  very  convenient. They expect the  boy  to  be faithful  to  her  because  he  married  her.  Or,  when the parents feel the girl may decide a future that they don’ like - if she wants to remain unmarried,  or become  a missionary  or loves a boy of different  caste or community,

 

to cite  a few,  then  they  quickly  arrange  a marriage  and  finish  her off.  Sometimes the boy’s parents play the same game. After marriage  the boy discloses  that he was in love with someone  else but parents forced him. Or, parents confess that he was a drunkard  and an immoral  fellow and hoped a marriage  would tame him. The girl is heart-broken. Such things happen because boys and girls lack backbone. Some parents  give  their  girls  to  old  men,  widowers  or  as  second  wives  because  they cannot afford a fat dowry.

 

Parents  who  are  not  believers  compel  their  believing  girls  to  marry  unbelievers for  the  reasons  stated  above.  Sometimes  believing  parents  get  their  unbeliever daughter  married  to  a  believer  with  the  hope  of  transforming  her.  Or,  parents become jittery when a prophetess ‘foresees’ the groom and beg their daughter not to displease God!

 

It is  easy  to  say that without  question  arranged  marriage  is  the  best.  I  know what I face in this country if I shift my gear to neutral. But somebody has to put on the helmet and  speak  on behalf  of  the  broken hearts,  those  who  are beaten up, poisoned,  denounced,  driven to suicide,  condemned,  disowned,  tortured  or chased out of the house  for the crime  of love (which  is not found  in any of the sin lists in the Bible!). Think of the girls who continue unmarried because their parents cannot give dowry, yet they don’t want their testimony  to rot because of a love affair! Think of converts from other religions who are neither allowed to love a Christian boy nor allowed   to   marry   a   non-Christian   boy   their   parents   choose!   Think   of   the innumerable  orphans  whose  relatives  show  the least interest  in settling  them.  Oh that our culture were somewhat flexible!

 

When the sand in civilisation’s  hour glass is rapidly falling away, parents should not  expect  to  keep  their  daughters  under  their  thumb  anymore.  Girls  are  not imbeciles  now. They think. They can even lead an independent  life with the career they  have  acquired.  They are  exposed  to  the  free  world  through  the  media.  You can’t  keep  the  blinds  on  too  long.  More  and  more  girls  are  taking  their  marriage matter into their own hands. It is time parents plan what best can be done in this changing scene. Remember,  our conscience can become confused  or calloused even by cultural traditions or sinful desires.

 

New let’s come to the other side of the coin, which is lovemarriages.  To ask if it is  wrong  to  fall  in  love     is  like  asking  if  knife  is  dangerous.  The  knife  cuts beautifully,  it kills terribly. If the teaching is that knife is very dangerous and not to be touched, all your life you’ll crush vegetables and cook and suffer. If the surgeon refuses  to  use  the  scalpel,  precious  lives  will  be  lost.  At  the  same  time,  if  the teaching  is that knife  is harmless,  even  children  will start  to play with it and end up with morbid wounds.  The answer to the question  is to teach how to handle the knife and send with a note of warning.

 

It is difficult to foresee what will happen if there were no parental restriction. In cultures  and  countries  where  arranged  marriage  is a joke,  falling  in love  is often not  at  all  what  it  should  be.  A  girl  ends  up  in  a  head-on  collision  at  the  age  of twelve  with  the first  boy who  crosses  her  path.  When  that  doesn’t  come  through, she tries to fall in love  with another.  By the time  she   decides  her partner,  she is full of falls and bruises and sometimes fractures too. The sanctity of giving yourself, body, mind and soul, to one person is lost.

 

In such cultures,  mere children around the age of fifteen or sixteen are expected to fall in love.  They are freaks  if they don’t  go out with boys.  Though  our  country has not gone to that extent,  it is on the verge of slipping into it. As love marriages increase,  teenage  pregnancies  are  going  up.    In the  heat  of  love  self-control  often fails.

 

In a changing  society where love marriages  are not yet approved  by parents,  the girl  takes  a  formidable  risk  of  losing  her  parents  for  a  boy  who  she  thinks  she knows. She may face a rough road ahead. Then she is unable to come back home. Even if the couple decides to have a wedding ceremony, it is unostentatious, in the presence  of a few friends  or just the registrar  and witnesses.  This makes it all the more easy for them to break up as there is no social binding.

 

In a love marriage girls often tend to trust their friends’ wisdom rather than the mature counsel  of their parents.  In cities and co-ed schools and colleges girls have some  freedom  to  talk  to  boys.  But  in  general  our  society  looks  down  upon  a  girl who  talks  to  boys.  Parents  keep  chasing  their  daughters  to  the  inner  room.  So much  so girls get excited  at the very sight  of boys.  If one  turns  around  to  look at her,  she  faints.  If  he  writes  a letter,  she  feels  obliged  to  reply  him.  If  he  says  he cannot live without her, she feels sorry for him. She meets him secretly, sends and receives letters under the table. And one fine morning packs up her things to elope. How foolish!  It would  be equally foolish  to put down your feelings and confessions in writings.  Someone  can xerox and blackmail  you using them to defame  you;  not to talk about emails and facebook.

 

Many  girls fall  in love  with  their  own  cousins  or next-door  neighbours  because their freedom is restricted.  For many, love comes in school when they are too young to  know  the  bearing  that  status,  background,  culture,  qualification,  career,  etc, have,  on  a  marriage.  For  the  young,  marriage  means  love-making  and  running around  trees. But parents know it is more than that. The screaming  baby, unpaid bills, misunderstandings, sicknesses,  etc, will dance around like devils.

 

A girl commits  herself  to a boy in school  and to be true  to her promise  marries him after she finishes M.Phil. But he would not even have passed his school final! Sometimes both keep failing. Their parents are paying and they are playing. Love is blind. Marriage  is the eye-opener.  Parents consider  all this and find a boy who will suit  their  girl,  who  will  stand  with  her  through  thick  and  thin.  And  the marriage, what a grand  occasion  it is, with the blessings  of relatives,  friends and servants  of God!

 

Finally,  girls, if you are in a place where love affair is considered  a sin, whatever you may say or explain  from  the  Bible,  your  testimony  is at stake.  If you want  to hold your head up, walk with the Bible in hand, testify and serve God, you have got to  bow down  to  the  final  bang of  society  and  wait  for  your  parents to  find  your partner.  God  will  not  let  you  down.  He  will  bring  your  prince  riding  on  a  horse through your parents’ bedroom window. Let me tell you young girls, when you have a  teenage  daughter,  you’ll  be  as  peevish  as  your  mother  today.  I  accused  my parents for not letting me go free with boys. Today, next to God I am thankful to my parents for their strictness.  God did bring me the right person through my parents. I couldn’t have made a better choice.

 

This  does  not  mean  that  you  have  no  responsibility  if  parents  choose.  The ultimate  responsibility  is yours. You must give the final yes or no. You must talk to the boy, satisfy   yourself  that he is the person  for you.  Never  hesitate  to say no if you don’t develop a love or liking for him. You should not blame your parents later on.  If  you  are  confused,  you  may  even  ask  for  some  time to prayerfully  consider the matter.  After  engagement  if  something  undesirable   comes  up,  have  the  courage  to break up. This provision is what marks the difference between engagement and marriage. It is better to face it early than suffer for a lifetime!

 

I am glad the Biblecondemnsneitherlovemarriage  norarrangedmarriage. We  can take two  examples,  one for each.  The  marriage of  Rebekah to  Isaac was arranged by parents. But parents did not decide it. The final decision was left to the girl. In other words, Rebekah had total liberty to accept or reject the proposal  (Gen 24:57,58).

 

The  other  example  is  Jacob  and  Rachel  who  fell  in  love  with  each  other  and married.  Though  theirs  was an  arranged  marriage,  we  find  the  parents of  Jacob giving freedom to choose his own bride but only not a Canaanite  (Gen 27:46; 28:2). It was  not  a clandestine  affair,  rather  a love-cum-arranged   marriage.  Parents  did not try to stop Rachel loving Jacob, because he was a known godly boy. In the New Testament  words,  “She  was at liberty  to be married  ‘to whom  she wished,’  only in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39). The Old Testament principle was the same. “This is what the Lord commanded concerning the daughters of Zelophedad, saying: Let them marry whom ‘they’ think  best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe” (Num 36:6). Liberty with limits!

 

In other words both parents and daughter  have an active part to play. The Lord may bring  it  to  pass  either  this way  or  that.  Both  must be  open  to  each  other. Parents  should  be  flexible.  One  girl  may  choose  her    partner  and  for  another, parents may have to hunt. Merab’s was an arranged marriage but Michal’s was love marriage (1 Sam 18:19,20).

 

If a father  stamps  his feet and says my daughter  is marrying  my choice  and no one else,  sorry  sir,  your  daughter  may  have  other  plans.  If a daughter  says,  I am going  to run away with my boy, excuse  me  madam,  your optimism  may  be short- lived.

 

We  cannot  say  all  arranged  marriages  flourish  and  all  love  marriages  flop. Parents  have  chosen  excellently  and  daughters  have  done  the  same.  So  let’s commend  each  other  and  shake  hands.  Quit  acting  like  enemies.  Parents  are  not wise if they close their eyes to what’s happening around them and threaten their daughters.  Daughters  are not wise if they believe  the love  ‘stories’  they see on the screen. The ideal needs perfect  cooperation  between parents and daughters  from a very  young  age.  If  parents  are  loving  and  understanding  and  give  their  time  to children,  girls  wouldn’t  think  of  having  secret  affairs.  In  fact  harsh  and  cruel parents drive  their  girls  to  strangers  in  search of  love  and  solace,  and  often too early.

 

If  parents  allow  girls  to  mingle  with  boys  in  their  presence  (and  not  try  to eavesdrop  or supervise)  or in a  safe  atmosphere,  then  girls  won’t  go  crazy  at  the sight  of  boys.  You  cannot  let  teenagers  free.  But  you must  know  how  to tactfully relax your grip on them without letting them go. Parents should not give a negative approach  to sex. Daughters  must be made to understand  that it is something  nice and pure that you want  them  to enjoy,  only at the right time.  If parents  are open and  without  shyness  discuss  with  their  daughters  sex,  love  and  marriage,  and express their openness to consider their choice, girls wouldn’t think of eloping. The present   dismal    condition   is   due   to    failure   of   communication   within    the organisation.

 

Pray  with  her  for  her  future  and  for  her  guidance  and  your  guidance.  Parents think of arranged  marriages  as a prestige  to them but love marriage  a shame. This ego should go. If your daughters make a wrong choice, spare no pains to explain to them   the   consequences.   If   they   still   go   their   way,   then   they   shoulder   the responsibility.  It is time we stop pushing our daughters  and start trusting  them to put into practice what we have taught them all these years to choose between good and evil. That has a salutary  effect.  That way daughters  feel more responsible  and turn to us for her help and guidance.

 

Marriage  is a family affair.  So girls should  not do it entirely  on their own.  They should  involve  their  parents  and  invite  their  counsel.  This  does  not  mean  you should  blindly  go by their  rule.  You  must pray and  keep  on praying  for your life- partner. Tell your parents the kind of person you want to marry. God may bring the right person through your parents or to you. Then pray again to be sure he is God’s choice  for  you.  If  there  is any  confusion,  wait.  Use  your  common  sense.  Consult your  spiritual  guide.  If your  parents  are  happy,  very  good.  If  not,  try to  convince them.  Listen  to  their  argument  too.  Then  if  you  are  old  enough  to  decide  for yourself  (certainly  not  below  the  age  the  government  has  set  for  girls  as  the marriageable  age, i.e 21), decide.

 

It is not impossible  to bring together the passion and abandon of youth and the ripe wisdom of maturity that comes form long experience  of pain and pleasure. Parents need a daughter’s love in their old age. Daughters need their parents’ help in family life. So don’t lose each other. If you work hand in glove, the operation is sure to be successful.  In the hunt for the groom, the girl deciding alone is not safe. If father and mother decide for her, that’s not enough. Ek,dho,theenis best because the threefold cord is not easily broken when you rope in your prize catch. And all’s well that ends well!


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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