Growing up in American culture, our concept of relationships and marriage are bombarded with images of the perfect couple, the perfect love and the perfect life. We believe that love conquers all in a relationship. We look for love in ALL of the wrong places; in every man or woman that we meet. They are all possibly “The One”. Rarely have we actually looked at the factors that make or break a relationship as do cultures of arranged marriages. Looking at the divorce rate in American society, I think that it is worth looking at the matchmaking factors that are used in cultures such as those in Asia, Pakistan, Africa, to name a few.

Matchmakers may be parents, grandparents, a brother or a sister. And this matchmaker, due to firsthand knowledge and practical experience with the person, is thought to know best, who would be a good match for the perspective bachelor or bachelorette. This seems wise to me. But, what are they looking for in a mate? What factors are considered when looking for a match in traditional arranged marriages?

  1. Reputation – of the family and friends
  2. Vocation – any occupation rendering high income for men; the income of the woman is not as important, although education is important
  3. Wealth – Money married money; dowries are customary in countries like India and Africa. Dowries are things of value given to the family of the prospective wife, such as money, jewelry, clothing, live stock, etc.
  4. Religion
  5. Caste – Preference given to a higher or same caste. In other word, you marry up or the same, but never down
  6. Pre-existing medical conditions (this one, a friend of mine from Nigeria, told me it is a major factor) –  Conditions that could bring a bad name to the family or that could prevent the couple from having children is very important in some cultures
  7. Horoscopes (in India) are used to predict the success of the match
  8. Diet – Vegetarian vs. Omnivore
  9. Age – Man older than woman is the norm
  10. Language – First language should be the same
  11. Height – Man should be taller than the woman

I would add the following factors to the list:

  • Experience with managing money
  • Communication Style
  • Personality Compatibility
  • Family Values – family structure, raising children, male/female roles
  • Relationship expectations – expression of love, sex
  • What is your vision for your life? This is a major question that I would ask. You will get a lot out of the answer. If the person has no idea or hasn’t thought about it, I would pause that relationship. I might just walk away. You don’t have to have every detail, but I would want to know what your dreams are for your career and family.
  • Family history? This is extremely important, as you will be marrying that person’s family and upon doing so, will be instantly immersed into its dynamics. Could be good or extremely traumatic.

This is not to say that I agree that all of the factors listed are a requirement, such as age and height, that are not so relevant, within reason, and unless it is of importance to the bride or groom to be. I would uncover a bit of depth to many of the factors listed, just because at face value they may seem a little superficial. 

For example, marrying within or in a higher caste may seem superficial and a bit snooty, but think about the differences that various castes have between them, values, possibly.  This could be a problem, especially for a woman marrying a man in a lower caste. Is she willing to live in his life, letting go of her upper caste lifestyle? And can he live in hers and lose his self respect as the leader and provider for his family? The truth is that he won’t be the bread winner. How difficult will that marriage be?

How does a couple, equally yoked in the areas listed fair, versus a couple whose marriage is based upon feelings of some sort; whether it is infatuation, love or lust? I think if you share common values in these areas, you stand a darn good chance at surviving all of the highs and lows of the relationship. Think about going into a marriage where you don’t have all of these things in common.  Sounds like a disaster.  And it is.

America’s divorce rate shows that love does not conquer all!  While love is important, so is respect. And you gain the respect of the person when you live up to their expectations according to their values.  You must be equally yoked.  Love cannot be measured in terms of equality or yokedness, if that is a word. So, should it weigh so much in our society’s ideas of what kind of relationship should end in marriage? 

I am a proponent of love, but we must take ALL of these other factors into consideration, because after the highs of the beginning stages of a relationship; after you say you do; comes all of these factors, knocking on the door of your marriage. It’s the test of how equally yoked you really are. And there’s nothing worse than having the love choked out of relationship by the absence of a common ground on these other valuable factors.

Just something I was thinking about.

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