February 14, 2008
First comes love, then comes marriage and when you take that vow, you're promising to spend the rest of your life with your spouse. But, the truth is, the United States has one of the highest divorce rates in the world: 45-to-50% of first marriages fail.
On the other hand, in India, only 1.1% of marriages end in divorce. But this disparity has little to do with the Indian culture's views of divorce. Rather, the low divorce rate can be attributed to arranged marriages, a long-standing tradition that some say Americans can learn from.
It's every little girls dream: the dress, the flowers and, of course, the handsome groom, which, naturally, is handpicked by the bride and is considered the love of her life. But, how realistic is this American fantasy? With half of first marriages ending in divorce, maybe we've gotten it all wrong.
University of Virginia Assistant Professor of Sociology, Brad Wilcox, says, "Too many Americans nowadays have unrealistically romantic aspirations for their marriage, and those aspirations are quickly dashed a month or two, or even a day after the wedding takes place."
Ok, maybe you don't need the designer gown. Having a successful marriage is about more than just the wedding fantasies. Kanubhai and Madhu Suthar have been happily married for 55 years and they say American traditions are backwards.
"The marriage comes first, and love starts later on," explains Kanubhai.
You, see Kanubhai and Madhu met on their wedding day.
"I saw her for the first time in my lifetime... first time," says Kanubhai.
It was a marriage arranged by their parents.
When asked, "What did you think when you first saw Mr. Suthar?" Madhu laughs and responds, "I was very young."
And his impression of her wasn't that romantic either.
"She was very healthy at the time, very healthy," teases Kanubhai.
Not exactly the scenario most people dream of for their wedding day. But, the difference is this marriage worked out.
"In an arranged marriage view, there really is the notion that marriage is more than a connection between two people. It's about establishing a new family, traditions, and sharing an economic life together," explains Professor Wilcox.
Compatibility, upbringing and value, it's precisely what parents look for when arranging a marriage. The Suthars know because they arranged three successful marriages for their three sons.
But, if arranged marriages are so successful, now begs the question, can our parents really pick better spouses for us?
"I think that oftentimes our parents can, you know, have some wisdom that we might not have in terms of some perspective," says Professor Wilcox.
And Madhu asserts, "Arranged marriage is much better than other!"
She thinks this way because there's a support system surrounding the arranged marriage at all times.
"There's a kind of buy-in where friends and family are in on the marriage right from the beginning."
Professor Wilcox adds that this level of support is crucial to marital success. So even though Madhu and Kanubhai had a rocky beginning.
"Oh, yeah, we had to get along, because it was an arranged marriage," says Khanubhai.
They eventually fell in love and it's turned out to be smooth sailing for half a century.