Should We Be Arranging Our Kids Marriages?

Should we be arranging our kids’ marriages? I don’t know if you have wrestled with this.

So, this is a bizarre conversation, and we’re just going to tease this out a little bit. I want to talk about our verse of the week. Every week we try to talk through a passage of scripture, and I want to talk about Genesis 24. But first we need to talk about this question.

This is interesting. I don’t know if you guys have seen the cultural wrestle with this question lately. They keep on publishing these bizarre studies. They keep coming up with this result, which is that love, or free choice marriages, when they study them versus arranged marriages they keep finding that they are very similar in terms of satisfaction. Of course it blows Western people away, like, “That can’t possibly be true.” 

Because to us and to our ear it’s just total absurdity. Like the worst kind of thing you can imagine is to have somebody arrange a marriage for you. The reason why these studies keep coming back, partially it’s because Indian culture is really becoming more and more a part of American culture, and other Western countries. In Indian culture there’s a very strong, I’m talking about from India, a very strong culture of arranged marriages.

So this conversation keeps coming up, and people keep studying children from immigrant families from India that are in the west, and how their marriages are compared to an Indian family or Indian kids that are doing sort of the free choice, more Western version of marriage. They keep finding these results that are very similar, and that’s been really counterintuitive for Western people.

In terms of how to think about this question, I’m not going to say that it’s a good idea to arrange marriages, guys. I’m not there yet. But I love Genesis 24, and I meditate and think about this chapter a lot when it comes to this topic. We love talking about Abraham on this podcast, and him as a model father. We have the longest description in the bible, of a time when a father had to wrestle with this question. It’s a very long chapter, and it’s a beautiful story. There’s so many almost seemingly contradictory dynamics in it. I encourage you guys just to spend time really wrestling with what Abraham did when he decided, “Isaac’s getting too old.” I mean, Isaac was in his 40’s I think. This guy needs a wife.

It’s interesting that Abraham saw it as his responsibility to be a part of that process of solving that problem, and making sure that his son had a wife. He acted in incredible trust towards God. He thought a lot about what things he would compromise, and what things he would not compromise. This story’s one of the most interesting stories in the bible when it comes to balancing human choice and proactive strategy. Abraham had all kinds of strategies that he used in this chapter.

He used one of his servants. He decided where he would be looking. He decided at what point he would stop looking. And, at the same time with all this human strategy, there was all of this trust. He was constantly trusting God. His servant who went and looked for a spouse for Isaac demonstrated constant trust that God was leading him and guiding him every step of the way. 

As opposed to just answering this question, what I would say to you guys is that as your kids are getting older, and as you think about how you should interact with them with regards to their future spouse. Understand that it’s probably important for you to be an active participant in the dynamic process of how your children are going to find and choose their future mate. How that dynamic plays out is anyone’s guess. None of my kids are married. We have conversations about this a lot. I care a lot about this. They have a lot of freedom, but they’re also very much talking to me and April. We’re thinking about this, and praying about this, and interacting about this a lot as a family team.

Where does this actually fall out culturally? I’m not super excited about the way our culture does it. Which is don’t even get involved almost at all in your kids decision in this area. I’m not super excited about the way that Easter culture often times do this where there’s arranged marriages. I am really inspired by Genesis 24, and by Abraham’s thoughtfulness, his trust, and his strategic action in this area, and just trying to wrestle and think through that.

Jeff, anything that stirs up for you as you think about this topic?

Yeah, there’s not much more I would add, but I think two things. I think one, this is actually true, and this has been backed up by non-Christian sources. Like you said, it’s kind of them almost being, what’s the word? Surprised at the findings, and everyone getting multiple over and over again about satisfaction.

The first thing I would say is, let that indict us for what it is. That completely is an indictment on our view of love, and freedom, and romance, and pursuit of what’s going to make us happy. Let that indict us for what it is because it is a huge indictment. Our ideal or our view is just like it’s not what it’s cracked up to be, it doesn’t actually deliver on what it promises. The Nicholas Sparks, and The Notebook, and all these different things it doesn’t deliver. That’s clear because of the ways where none of that exists, but yet the satisfaction’s still the same.

I would say that. Then two, I think like you said. I think there’s actually problems with both, but what I do like about the more arranged side … Another thing I would say too is, I do think that sometimes we think that it’s only in the East, or that it’s more archaic. In reality, this was an American thing too, before. Dating is a new invention that goes back to maybe like, I don’t know, 1910-ish. It was like the turn of the century. It was weird for a guy to show up, take a daughter, have her hop in the car and then leave in isolation. The modern form of dating, that’s new, and that’s weird, and that’s not what it was like before.

Because there was not a ton of contact or hanging out, there was a lot more of parents helping and assisting alongside the path. That’s more what I think it is. I think sometimes the word “arranged marriage” has a lot of baggage. But there’s a softer version of it that a lot of times is what you said, is just parents actually coming alongside and helping, and assisting, and being more involved. That, I think, is something to think about and consider, that does very much go against our culture’s ideal. Clearly our ideal isn’t working very well. Something to think about for sure. Like me and Jeremy are saying, we’re not saying there’s one right or wrong, but I think it gives you some food for thought for sure.

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