A Multiple Choice Arranged Marriage

wedding-sign_lg.jpg I’ve been thinking about trying to convince my 19 year old son to go with an arranged marriage. I don’t want to tell him who to marry; I just want to narrow it down, say to 3 choices. From there I figure he’s pretty much on his own. My motivation might look to you like I’m trying to control his life. If so, you’d be pretty right. There are only a few questions as important as “who will I marry?”… questions like, “should I try the extra spicy curry?” or “are all these children yours?”

Back in my days at Christian College I got to know a girl who I can only describe as an uber-Christian. She was the sort of person who never burped, would die before passing gas and looked like the cover girl for Better Christian Woman’s Magazine. She ran with a couple other girls who were as “uber” as she was, it was almost a contest to see who could out Christian woman the others. One of her friends who was engaged to be married explained to all of us un-attached and thus inferior Christian types that she and her fiancé were so close that when they were driving in the car together and she noticed a little booger hanging from his nose that she picked his nose for him. God help me, I wish that was made up. But that was the kind of Proverbs 31 woman she was. Glory.

One day this friend of mine, and she was a friend, a person torn between expectations put on her and the warm heartedness in her, met a man who loved her. This was a big deal because she was in her last year of Christian College and despite the recruiting promises, she didn’t get the ring by spring semester and Bible College was not turning out to be ‘Bridal College’ for her. And what does an unmarried 22 year old woman do with a Bible College degree? Flees to the missions field where she can preach and teach or she takes her diploma and the same four years of education that her male counterparts took and she takes a volunteer position teaching 4s & 5s Sunday School class.

So they were in love. She felt treasured and adored. He was thrilled with her big heart and her beauty. But he didn’t go to our school, he wasn’t a Christian might not have even been able to spell transubstantiation. “I’ll take him to church with me,” she told us, “I’ll change him.”

Turned out, not so much. In fact my uber-Christian friend went from a flawlessly perfect attendance record to 3 out of 4 Sundays, to 2 out of 4 and then 1 out of 4 and finally 1 out of 52. Now I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I think church attendance is highly over-rated. The thing was, my friend stopped being who she was and traded one set of expectations for another set and still wasn’t who she really was. Eventually it all fell apart and ended in divorce because changing the other person is crappy ground to build a marriage on. About 2 years into the relationship they both dropped all the masks and realized they had no idea who they had married. Billy Joel’s stranger strikes again!

I can’t even fathom why we ever thought it would be best if a 19, 20 or 21 year old, left on their own or with the help of their friends, could find the person who was ‘right’ for them. It’s like asking a homeless person how to succeed at business or asking a drunk if they think you’ve had too much to drink.

How did we get here? Oh yeah, I want to give my 19 year old a multiple-choice arranged marriage. I’m a romantic even if I don’t sound like one, and I think the elusive Donna and I are much better equipped at this stage of life to pick a woman he will love and be loved by for the rest of his life than he is. Someone who will make him laugh, and who he’ll make laugh, a woman who is a good match for him but for whom he will be a great match. A woman who he can cherish and bring out the best of and a woman who’ll stand up to him when he needs it and comfort him when he gets burnt out there. This is really much too important to give him a fill in the blank option on. Multiple-choice where every answer is right. What could be better than that?

Now, if you’re smart you’ll ask me if I had an arranged marriage. Truth is, maybe, but mostly no. I saw the elusive Donna and couldn’t get her off my mind. I waited for her to walk by one evening to ask her out. While I was waiting an old girlfriend walked up and started chatting with me. I was panicking on the inside, sure Donna would walk by while I was in mid-conversation and my chances would go down hard like a butcher at a vegan convention. I was trying to be as Christian as possible about telling this girl to get lost when she finally got the point and walked away.

“Oh God, now I’m sweating…” I thought, as I wiped my hands off under arm pits. Bad choice. Now they were wet AND they smelled. Two seconds later Donna appeared, walking by, talking with another guy. I suddenly found a tree by the door fascinating and avoided eye contact as they walked by. I gave up that day, but I didn’t give up for good. After a few more embarrassing attempts I finally asked her out. For our first date I took her over the State line, which made her nervous. The place I took her to was the Spring River Inn, which made her think, “perve’s got a room?” and made her want to stay in the car. Once I convinced her there was a restaurant inside we went in and filled our plates at the buffet. My whole end of the conversation was, “So tell me about yourself…” and I started eating. I know, smooth, right? On the way home from our first date I drove back down the highway on the wrong side of the divide and nearly killed us both because I was so nervous.

Now, imagine if my Dad had just met Donna’s Dad and, I don’t know, worked something out involving some sheep, maybe a car, I don’t know, season tickets to the Reds, something, then a handshake and it was just done. Would I have been less happy than I am now because it had been arranged, wouldn’t we still be who we are? We would have had that same first date but no nervous sweats, no attempt to look cool only for her to find out years later I’m a nerd. (Though it’s possible it didn’t actually take her years to find that out – or even a year.) All I’m saying son is give me a chance; let me save you some troubles. I show you choices A, B or C and then it’s up to you to pursue one. But whichever one you pick, I’ll come up with a herd of some kind and whatever season tickets will work with her dad. Trust me son.

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Family, Life, love, Meaning, Rambling. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to A Multiple Choice Arranged Marriage

  1. Heidi says:

    Ah Brian, I would never have trusted my parents to pick my future husband, and I know darn sure my husband would have ended up with a real doozy if his parents had picked his spouse. In fact, I’m pretty sure his mom wishes he had chosen differently, but that’s another story. 😉

    My hubby and I met at the age of 20, got married at the age of 21, and he still looks at me like he met me last week and fell head over heels. I still think I got the best guy out there to be had. We ain’t perfect and sure we fight and argue once in awhile, but we’ve got a good thing going on 18 years later.

    Don’t give up!

  2. shelleyperry says:

    i would like in on the choosing of the girls please. I think you’re idea is good but you can’t be trusted to pick them on your own. OH!! we should for a committee!! Yes, a committee.

    I think you’ve raised Nathan really well and he won’t make any major decision without your input. You are already a part of the choosing. He’s got a good head on his shoulders (unlike MOST guys I know who are 19) and whomever he chooses will most definitely be great.

  3. shelleyperry says:

    o.k. i just reread that and many grammar errors…*your (not you’re) and *form* a committee (not “for”)

  4. brianmpei says:

    Heidi: the elusive Donna and I met at 19 and 20 and married at 20 and 21 respectively. For some reason 19 seems so young now and so old then.

    Shelley: hmmm. I would definitely consider submission from you but actually giving you a vote? I’ll think about it, grammar errors aside, you tend to encourage Nathan to do things I don’t know about and if you give me a future vote on those things I’ll put you on the committee.

  5. shellie says:

    I remember you coming to visit with Donna the first time… I liked her instantly. I don’t know if I told you out loud or if I just thought to myself: “Don’t blow this, Brian you goober! She’s a keeper!!” 😀 I had a great time getting to know her better when I drove her home to you from Ohio. The Lord brought a wonderful woman into your life to be your wife, and I’m sure He’ll do the same for your boys when the time is right.

    But now, for MY boys, I think I’m liking your multiple choice deal! 😉

  6. brianmpei says:

    Yeah, it mattered to me what you thought and it was good to get the two of you to meet up. I’m still a goober and she’s still a keeper.

  7. Brad says:

    I know your parents, what makes you think yours was not an arranged marriage? This is how I heard the arranging went. After meeting Donna, your parents went to Ohio, met her parents, a wedding/rehearsel dinner was arranged. Conditions; you were to pledge your life long love to each other, produce wonderful, beautiful children and live happily together. I think there may have been mention of a few goats. I’m sure I heard something like that took place,however that was more than a day or two ago and my long term memory does suffer, was it the marriage or the wedding that was arranged?

  8. shelleyperry says:

    B–it’s a deal.

  9. brianmpei says:

    Brad: I wouldn’t have sweat so much if it was the marriage, but that was pretty much the wedding deal. Once I convinced them I was old enough to get married.

    Shelley: o.k., let the submissions begin! But I’ll warn you, I’ve already got 3 picked out.

  10. What you described about yourself toward Donna, “I saw the elusive Donna and couldn’t get her off my mind,” is how I feel about someone. I’ve had many crushes and a few girl friends but those were more easy to forget about than my cup of coffee this morning. They were special but not “special.” I don’t know if you read my blog post about the thing I really want and can’t get it, but that is her…it really sucks! And it’s not that I’m afraid of women or her, rather its that I’ve become afraid of telling her how I actually feel out of fear that it could damper our friendship once again.

    I don’t know why I am sharing this, but I was looking for a place to rant about that…thanks!

  11. Brad says:

    Shame on me, this is not Brad. Dad and I are still at Brad and Jenn’s. I thought I would have a little fun at your expense. Arranged or not, Dad and I are glad you made the jump with Donna. But please explain, if it was not arranged, how could a young man from Central Illinois go to South west Missouri college and meet a young women from Ohio? There is a higher power that may prearrange these things.

  12. brianmpei says:

    Well, there’s another life from my mom. Wow. Yes, I’m sure there was a higher power at work.

    Andrew: I read that post. If you can get a ‘i don’t like you like that’ and still be friends I’d tell her today. If not, we’ll keep it our little secret. Glad you shared it though!

  13. Rene says:

    Since you are so “in touch” with your kids, I might agree. You and Donna seem to be such good, caring, attentive parents.

    However, if I had let my parents arrange a marriage for me, I would have been totally miserable. There was only one boy that I ever dated that they liked. They never knew the real him. To this day, they sometimes talk about how accomplished he became.

    They still don’t have a clue as to what would make me happy, or who I am as a person. I don’t want that to sound bad. I know they love me, but they only see what they want to see.

  14. brianmpei says:

    Rene: I agree, not every arranged marriage would be a good one. But I’m still hoping my son will trust me on this one!

  15. briand says:

    Speaking as someone who just participated in the marriage of my oldest daughter, I think you may be on to something here. Had Kristi come to me a year ago and said something like, “Dad, I think I’m ready to get married. Could you help me find someone?” I could have given her three choices and one of them would have been the guy she married anyway. It would have worked out well and she would have known I approved from the start. I think this is a great idea. I have another daughter. I’ll start thinking of who she might want to date, but don’t tell her.

    Nathan, trust your dad. He is a smart guy and may know you better than anyone else, and this really is an important decision. Wouldn’t you like some input from your “wise beyond his years” dad.

  16. brianmpei says:

    Thanks for the endorsement Brian (who’s not me) and congratulations to you and Kathy! and the Newlyweds!

  17. Andrew says:

    I love your personal history on getting the attention of your beloved. The whole story provoked some great thoughts.

    I’d like to read the research on arranged marriages in other cultures. There must be some good research about those who have been ‘arranged’ for say over 25 years, and compare those who have been married (by personal choice) for the same length of time. I wonder what the results would look like to questions around intimacy, fidelity, friendship, and community strength? Would those of us in ‘the west’ be interested in the results of this research? Do hormones pay attention to research?

    In a way, the marriages of our first two kids did have some ‘arrangement factor’ in that Shirley and I prayed for their future mates often. And I’d say the arrangement worked. In that sense, I’m thinking maybe you and Donna have been secretly arranging yourselves. Nathan, you don’t stand a chance!

  18. Amy says:

    Brian, this blog is right up my personal and professional alley! Although my kids are younger (oldest is 11 1/2), we’ve already had a few boy/girl discussions, and I know it will only be a matter of a few blinks of the eyes before we start dealing with this issue on a more regular and serious basis.

    Professionally, Andrew provided some good questions, questions that people in my field (marriage and family studies) have looked into. The overall greater STABILITY of arranged marriages often has more to do with extended family and community expectations and support, than the act of arrangement. Of course, there are variations. In some cultures, the married persons’ input and/or agreement is accepted, in others, not. In some cultures, the arrangements have more to do with the needs for strengthening family or clan ties than the long-term happiness and satisfaction of the couples. And STABILITY is not perfectly correlated with SATISFACTION, although they aren’t mutually exclusive, either. Where the couple’s input is considered, I think emotional/psychological intimacy is ore likely to grow than the other kind of arrangements.

    Another factor that comes out in whether marriages last or not is the age at marriage. Brian and Donna,and Heidi and her husband aside, statistically, people who marry between the ages of 25-35 have the best chances of having a successful marriage. They are more mature, have a better idea of the reality of life and relationships, usually have more experience handling money, etc. Also, physiological research has found that the frontal lobe (the part of the brain where impulse control and the ability to think clearly about future consequences) doesn’t fully mature until the mid-20s. That right there is enough to make my dad’s playful threats to me growing up (“You’re not going on your first date until you’re 25, and that’s only if I come along”) sound very wise. People older than 35 tend to be more set in their ways as older people tend to be, and one reason they might not yet be married is that their standards (expectations) are unrealistic.

    The “Christian Bridal College” mentality and the pressure felt by many to pair up during their college years has always made me a little nervous, especially because raging hormones and coincidences (such as the soon-to-be-bride’s grandmother’s dining room chairs she will inherit match the soon-to-be-groom’s grandmother’s dining room table…true example) may easily be mistaken for “God’s will for our lives.” And because a relationship is determined to be “God’s will for our lives,” there are often very unrealistic expectations for marriage. The first conflict or argument can send starry-eyed, unprepared young marrieds into a panic.

    So, from my professional perspective, the best things we can do as parents for our children is to encourage them to not rush into marriage at too young of an age, develop REALISTIC expectations of marriage (you’re marrying another HUMAN, not Mr./Miss Perfection; conflict is inevitable in all relationships, and the best thing to learn is HOW to work through conflict; love is “More than a feeling” and looks different as a relationship matures), and go through premarital (if not pre-engagement) classes.

  19. brianmpei says:

    Amy, that’s brilliant! I’m glad I’ve got smart friends! And I am sharing your reply with my daughter who I have been telling all along that she won’t be allowed to date until she’s 30. I can now show her that science is on my side!

    You have a very photogenic, if not pre-arranged, family by the way!

    Thanks for the input!

  20. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  21. brianmpei says:

    hey, no worries, I’m not sure I do either…

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