Outside Looking In: The Nature of Relationships



Saad Mansoor

My parents had an arranged marriage.

My dad told me he was at a point in his life where he was ready to get married. He was 28 and had been working for over seven years, so he felt economically prepared to start a family. He was ready to start the next chapter of his life. Most people in Pakistan get married before they’re 30 — if not earlier. He informed his parents that he wanted to get married.

My dad’s father and mother’s father had been business partners in the past. While my dad’s parents talked to a few other families, once my dad met my mom in person he could tell there was an instant connection. My mom’s sister tried to help my parents meet and exchange pictures and messages secretly during the time the two families were talking and nothing was confirmed.

Soon, my parents were engaged and about a year later they tied the knot. My dad jokes that he chose my mom because he knew she was the only person who could put up with him.

I know the concept of arranged marriages is foreign to the United States. However, arranged marriage is still the cultural norm in South Asia, the Middle East and certain parts of Africa. Throughout my childhood, I grew accustomed to the tradition of arranged marriages, but the concept fascinates me to this day.

As an indecisive person, I can’t imagine having to make such an important life choice with such little knowledge and time.

While I know I will never have my marriage arranged for me, I firmly believe most arranged marriages last longer and couples are generally happier compared to love marriages, especially those in the U.S.

My parents have been married for 22 years, and they are happy — probably more so than most couples in love marriages.

I understand that in cultures where divorce is considered unacceptable women at times feel forced into marriage, but generally when an arranged marriage takes place families have a mutual understanding that the purpose of the alliance is to ensure the economic stability of both families.

There is always a chance for love in arranged marriages — love grows. Falling in love can be much easier once your family has made sure your significant other is well-educated, has good values, is a genuine person and earns a decent income.

In societies around the world, people can enter relationships so blindly and with the optimism to make it work and succeed. This concept has made me think about the way relationships work and what it means to be in love. It seems as if the meaning of love is entirely different in the U.S. than any other part of the world.

In the U.S., love is found and dismissed very casually. The majority of people are either in relationships or are just casually dating few potential interests.

To me, it seems society in the U.S. has a constant trial and error to see who people can ultimately end up with. Everyone is looking for their soulmate, yet the multitude of options available to find love fueled by the multibillion-dollar online dating industry results in meaningless relationships and early breakups.

The countless people who are available to us are driving us insane.

On the other hand, in Pakistan dating is taken more seriously compared to dating in the U.S. I think this is because dating someone before marriage is still looked down upon by traditionalist and conservative Muslims.

People have to hide their relationships from their parents and other family members who come from more conservative generations. People in Pakistan run the risk of bringing shame upon the family name if they date someone without their parents’ knowledge. In severe cases, parents will even cut ties with their children should they have secret relationships.

Since there are more risks associated with getting into a relationship back home, they carry a different meaning. Compared to the U.S. where people are free to date whomever they would like, in Pakistan, the concept of online dating is still considered taboo.

Online dating provides people who are looking for a significant other with an endless supply of individuals in the same position. Using online dating apps gives people the ability to easily move from one romantic relationship to another. It seems as though people are always in search of their soulmates and because of the wide amount of options available, they are never satisfied with the relationships they are in.

This leads to the consequence of Americans inevitably waiting longer than ever to get married.

The whole process of finding our soulmate is flawed because of the approach we take.

Currently, U.S. marriage rates are at historic lows, as the rate of marriages per 1000 single women dropped almost 60 percent from 1970 to 2012.

Our approach to finding “the one” needs to change.

I’m not saying arranged marriages are the way to go, but we can all learn a lesson from what they represent going into future relationships.

What my parents’ marriage has taught me is real relationships are all about commitment and more commitment. Everything turns out to be alright if you are willing to put in the effort.

Saad Mansoor, ’20, is an assistant lifestyle editor and columnist for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]

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