Monday, October 20, 2008

The Alternative to Arranged Marriage is Not Cohabitation

National Public Radio had an interesting series on arranged marriage among American Muslims. The main point was that even though American-raised, even American-born Muslims find themselves between American do-it-yourself mate selection and the arranged marriages of the Old Country, many American Muslims do find arranged marriages work out fine. Moreover, having your parents take an active role in mate selection takes out much of the anxiety of finding someone who is suitable without having to succumb utterly to American sexual norms.

Which leads me to what struck me most about this series. The final installment begins with this question to Shad Imam, who is now six years into his happy arranged marriage: "How do you marry someone you haven't lived with?" While cohabitation before marriage is common in the United States, and is the norm for college graduates, it is not really a good way to get to know a potential spouse. Cohabiters who marry have a higher divorce rate than people who do not live together before the wedding. The best-educated couples are starting to get this message, and their rate of pre-marital cohabitation is going down.

NPR is usually ahead of the curve on cultural trends. It is instructive to see that on this one they are still peddling the wisdom of a previous generation of mothers -- the antithesis of the moms who are arranging marriages -- to "give him a test drive first."


Anonymous said...

I think the subject of arranged marriage is coming up more and more as Westerners embrace Eastern thought. LATimes wrote a story on the subject and HBO is even planning a TV show on the concept:

website for the TV show:

brax4444 said...

My wife and I are always amazed at just how many people talk down about people who marry without living together first, as if they are stupid. They see them/us as kamikaze marriages. When I state the fact that it yields a higher divorce rate they get offended as if I meant to say they are guaranteed to divorce.