real life

Should she marry a man she has never met?

I have never had to deal with anything like this before – not even close.  I dated my husband before I married him and I chose to date him.  It is now alway the way.  Mamamia reader Taff asks some interesting questions about arranged marriages – and what you should be looking for .  She writes


“My husband, La,  comes from another culture.

Last night his little brother rang us because the family had been approached by another family to marry their son to my husband’s middle sister.

The prospective bride and groom have never met.

La is the oldest son, has a university education and lives in a first world country. His father is dead. His mum is not educated and Cho Cho, who still lives over there… can be a bit… um, er… flighty. He’s a good person, but he’s not the most practical guy.

So after a quick conversation with La asking me what I think…”Derr! I think you should ask Tsomo (the sister) what she bloody well wants!”… we decided to call their mum. Mum has lots of questions…”What do you and Taff think? What should we do? ”  La, never one to avoid putting me on the spot, says loudly, without covering the phone, “What DO you think, Taff?”

And there you go. Suddenly the entire family is looking to this privileged, white chick with her sophisticated first world wisdom on arranged marriage.   This was not in my brief when I married outside my culture.

Naturally the first thing I think is “YUCK, tell her to run like the wind…. arranged marriages are terrible”… But I take a deep breath and think about it. It turns out that Tsomo is not against the idea. She’s 34 now and isn’t sure. She thinks she wants to have a family…. and La and I are very aware that her time is running out.

I know that arranged marriages have lower divorce rates than love marriages and after 5 years the happiness levels are considered to be about equal. So I bite my feminist tongue and start thinking about it pragmatically.

If you were to arrange a marriage… what would the deal-breakers/clinchers be? I asked about his education, thoughts on having children, ideas about her working/independent income, health, alcoholism in the close family and living/travel plans.

We didn’t get any answers last night. Nobody has met or spoken to the prospective groom. He’s 29, working and studying and lives with his family in a pretty big town in the Himalayas. BUT he wants to get married quickly and Tsomo will have to give up her job and move to his town and live with his family.

That’s the part that upsets La. He’s not happy about her giving up her job at the Institute where she works as a trained artisan…in another part of the Himalayas. I thought the same but then realised… if they marry, then someone is going to have to move. And that means giving up a job… and it’s pretty usual for this culture to have the new bride or groom move in with the in-laws.

So now we’re waiting for answers to these profound questions and the few extras I threw in… what are his teeth like, does he snore…  and does he do sock sock, shoe shoe…. or sock shoe, sock shoe?

I’m really struggling with this as a feminist… but as a mother, I understand the biological clock part… and good men from this culture are all usually married by now. … not unlike Australia, really!

What are some insightful and helpful questions for the family? And what are some chaste ways for them to get to know each other so they can decide for themselves? No chaperones are necessary but try-before-you-buy sex is likely off the cards… well, officially it is…