I'm In An Arranged Marriage — And It's Not At ALL What You Think

Arranged Marriage

The very concept of someone telling me who to marry used to seem totally illogical. Not anymore.

"What? Are you nuts?" is the phrase that pops into my mind when I remember the day I told my family and friends that I would be the bride in an arranged marriage.

"What if he’s a jerk?" 

"What if he smells like a goat?"

"You have no idea how different these people are from us."

A torrent of unsuccessful attempts to discourage me from "the biggest mistake of your life."   

Right along with most people, the very concept of someone telling another person who they would marry used to seem totally illogical to me. My concept of arranged marriage was completely wrong.

Traditionally arranged marriage from an 'outsiders' point of view, seems to trap the bride and or groom in an unloving, awkward relationship that is doomed to a life time of oppression and one-sided self sacrifice. I can happily tell you that in most cases, it’s the opposite.

I come from a typical white family. Most people just assume I am Arab or light-skinned Pakistani. At this point, I have absorbed (and have become absorbed) in "Desi" way of life — "Desi" is what Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakastina people call themselves — with the advantage of seeing it from both sides of the fence.

A year before the day I announced to everyone that I was betrothed to a man from the other side of the world, I was miserable and single.

All I wanted to do was settle down and have a family. Dating was such a relentless waist of time. I did not date when I was younger. I couldn’t see the point in it. It was some sick game of cat and mouse: trying to get the mouse without giving away the cat (*wink*).

At my job at the Farmer's Market there were many well-mannered, chivalrous brown-skinned from South East Asia, who I eventually got to know very well. Most were very polite to me, never cursed, always respectful. One day, one of them asked me why my boyfriend never picks me up from work.

"Are you a les…les…les", he said.

"No. I’m not a lesbian. I just gave up on trying to date and get married."

With a blushing face, totally apologetic, he said, "Really? That’s it? It’s so easy in my country. We just tell our parents or our sister-in-law that we want someone to start looking for us. When we find the girl that we like among the choices, we go to meet their family and set up the wedding."

At these words, most people would start thinking of green card marriages, enslavement, ransom, or trading a woman for a goat or something.

I wasn’t that stupid.

The man who was to eventually set up my wedding — yes, the same coworker — has been my brother-in-law for nearly twenty years now. At the time, he was getting ready to emigrate his wife and children to the United States. All of his personal information was held by our employer, who also thought I was crazy.

Before cementing his intent to look for my husband, my co-worker met with my mother. My mother was completely agreeable to my arrangement, as long as I was happy. He then told me that he would start with photos of potential suitors, which I chould choose from. Then I could talk to the prospective groom over the phone, and if things went well, recieve letters and more pictures.

I felt as if a 200-ton weight was lifted off of me. I could finally see myself settling down with a family.

One day my brother-in-law brought me an envelope with about twenty photos in it of a gorgeous, kind-faced man. He said, "What do you think? This guy is my wife’s brother."

I said, "This is too easy."

I sent my pictures to my groom-to-be. We had 5 or 6 phone conversations and exchanged many letters.

That kind-faced man was to be my husband.

Considering that there are people who have married from Internet introductions and that my parents married two weeks after a blind date, the process seemed relatively normal to me. I’m sure many people are screaming at their computers that I was a sucker or a green card bride but that’s okay, because I got him.

Three months later, my future brother-in-law told me it was time to get my paperwork ready. Were were leaving for a month long trip to Bangladesh. I met my very shy husband at the airport, in the ninety degree heat, weary from 24 hours in transit. All of my new relatives pushed us into the back of a car. 

We were married the next day.

It took me a year of fighting with immigration services to get him here. They just wouldn’t believe my story and looking back, I can see why.

Seventeen years later, my husband is my best friend and my lover. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes our three kids drive us out of our gourds. (Actually, they do that every day.) But we never disrespect each other and our marriage has outlasted many of my friend’s and relatives that used to taunt me for making the decision that I did.

I still look at him as the most beautifully handsome man I have ever seen. I admire him so much for the way he accepts me, the loud, outspoken American girl. Where I am boisterous, he is quiet. Where I fall, he catches me.

We know so many people from so many countries in the Middle East, and South East Asia that have all sorts of arranged marriages. They are all joking, loving, happy couples with the same kind of problems that everyone has. I know a few brides that knew their husbands prior to parents setting things up. Everyone I know had some kind of choice.

It's not what many people think.

There are no scenes with a crying girl marrying an old man. It's more like having a professional dating service and private investigator rolled into a person you know and trust. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, of course, but it worked for me and it works for many people.

After a surgery I once had, my doctor came to my bedside and confided in me, "I only wished my husband loved me the way your husband loves you."

"Why do you say that?" I said.

"I’ve never seen a man cry in the waiting room like that, waiting to hear how your procedure went," she said.

That, my friends, is true love — arranged or not.


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