Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Arranged or rearranged

I was fascinated to see a report in the Times on Monday that Arrange Me a Marriage, a new primetime show for BBC Two, aims to discover whether arranged marriages would work for British singletons. The presenter, a Glasgow matchmaker called Anella Rahman, aims to explore whether the principles of Asian marriage (match couples through background and life goals, provide prior vetting by family, tally expectations of marriage) will work better than the love criteria that most young Brits work to when choosing a mate.

I'm fascinated by the report for two reasons. First, this programme began conceptual life aiming to use a team of experts - and I was one of the people initially approached. I'm glad to say the producers changed their vision - glad because I genuinely believe that fielding use of just one Asian matchmaker creates a stronger and more interesting focus than the original scenario. So go, Aneela Rahman, go!

I'm fascinated secondly because I agree with the programme's premise. Of course I recognise the dangers of people marrying sight unseen, and of course everyone - including the most fervid supporters of arranged unions - would condemn forced or unwilling marriages.

But I also know, from the sharp end, that the traditional Western route to marriage has major drawbacks. For a start, it allows lust to massively dictate partner choice - and we know from research that the lust component of a union lasts a few years at most. But more, research also shows that the criteria that make for a long lasting and happy marriage are not the ones that many Western couples use to make their choice - but are the ones that inform the best arranged marriages. Common values, common opinions, common relationship expectations, common life aims - these are the things that recent studies show matter in love, not looks, or being 'cool', and certainly not the emotional neediness and dependency that motivate so many unions today.

I shall be watching Arrange Me a Marriage avidly, not only through enjoyment but also in the hope that it will hold love lessons for us all - and particularly for those of my readers who are currently in the process of choosing their life partners.

No comments: