So, Arranged Marriages are more Successful?

As Dr. Robert Epstein, editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, commented in a 2003 Psychology Today article: “Research suggests… that many people in arranged marriages fall in love over time. A study by Gupta and Singh, for example, shows that love in romantic marriages declines steadily over a ten-year period , but that love in arranged marriages increases over the same period, surpassing that of romantic marriages after about five years. So the experience of people in arranged marriages shows that love can be learned.”

Seth, Reva. First Comes Marriage (p. 8). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

Philosopher Alain de Boton even asserts that low expectations are one of the major predictors of happiness —the lower your expectations, the more likely your life is to exceed them!

Seth, Reva. First Comes Marriage (p. 9). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

I mentioned in my last post that my wife and I have begun reading First Comes Marriage by Reva Seth. I continue to find my views about marriage and romance challenged on every front.  Seth cites a 2005 USA Today article that suggests that, even though divorce is down in the USA, it still hovers around 50%. She then cites research suggesting that the divorce rate for arranged marriages is around 5%-7%. This by no means proves that arranged marriages are happier, since there are many cultural factors that could explain the low divorce rate. But, 50% compared to 7%  cries out for a bit of thoughtful reflection!

The concept of LOW EXPECTATIONS seems especially important to me. When I look back on what I now know I expected my marriage to do for me, I’m flat out embarrassed. As wonderful of a young woman as Holly was, I can see now how she was the cheerleader, homecoming queen, and all around fox that I always wanted to date in high school. By gosh, she was going to prove to my ego that I was that cool guy after-all! And I’m only naming one of the many expectations I’ve realized I had of her. She never stood a chance! Add to that the conversations we’ve had about how her choice of me would hopefully “solve” a number of perceived problems she had… well… I’m more and more amazed that we’re still together!

Part of our survival over the years, we see now, has come from a letting go of expectations. However, this letting go has often been infused with a fair amount of resentment. I’ve long realized that “making peace” and “giving up” can feel very much alike. I discovered too often that my choices to let go of expectations became peppered with feelings of anger. So far Seth is helping me see the wisdom of starting with low expectations (which is not the same as no expectations).

I often ask my clients, “How much time are you going to spend being angry that your spouse has actually turned out to be… your spouse?”

What would it be like for you to take a fresh look at the expectations you’ve had of your partner that seem to keep stirring up pain? I’m not saying we should let go of all expectations, but how many are you holding on to that really don’t make that much of a difference?


An aside: It’s not been lost on me that Milton and I are making a similar argument when it comes to a relationship with God (See Whirlwind in the column to the right). We believe that a fair amount of our suffering comes from us having expectations of God that God never signed on for….


About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
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