Does the idea of buying a home fill you with panic? Do you love dogs, but the idea of being solely responsible for one leaves you with a vague sense of dread? Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from a nightmare about being at a wedding you didn’t want to be at? Was that wedding your own?
If your answers to these were “Yes, yes, yes, oh my god, yes,” then the idea of being in an arranged marriage probably sends a chill down your spine. But for some people, an arranged marriage is a given because of cultural or religious expectations. For others, it’s a decision they come to after finding only disappointment in passion-driven relationships.
Despite its successes, arranged marriage has an obvious downfall—you’re legally bound to someone you know nothing about, even if you’re fundamentally incompatible. With so much room for error, some horror stories are inevitable. Read on for accounts of arranged marriages that will make you thank your lucky stars for singledom.
When Children Wed
In March 2017, The New York Times ran a piece shedding light on a New York law that has allowed child marriages to take place “by the thousands” for nearly 90 years. It’s probably not something widely known, since the idea of children marrying isn’t deeply embedded in modern American culture, but the majority of states allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry, and many have no statutory minimum age period.
In New York, that age goes down to just 14 years, provided that there’s judicial and parental approval. The Times tells the story of Fatima H., a New Jersey office manager who, at 15, had been forced by her strict Muslim parents to drop out of school and marry her 21-year-old first cousin arriving from Kuwait.
Though she did not want to go through with the marriage, the pressure to submit was too great. Fatima, now 45, told the Times in a phone interview:
“My dad said, ‘He’s your cousin, he’s going to take care of you, it’s great for the family…Your uncle wants it. They are going to treat you well, you’ll have money, you will live like a queen.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want this to happen, I don’t want to do it.'”
Fatima recalls lying to the judge about wanting to marry her cousin as her mother hit her on her knee. She married and remained locked in to the miserable, sexless union for the next four years.
“Finally, her grandmother threatened to disown her father and uncle if they did not let Fatima annul the marriage,” reports the Times. “They obliged, but her parents immediately arranged another marriage for her at age 19.”
Despite having progressive parents who had fled the Taliban and moved to the west to provide more opportunities for their five daughters, Zarghuna Kargar was still expected to have an arranged marriage.
She accepted this fate, becoming engaged at the age of 16 to a distant relative she had never met. The two married in London after her family claimed asylum in Britain.
“I did have a lot of arguments with my parents during the engagement but it was something I had to do,” the author of Dear Zari: Hidden Stories from Women of Afghanistan told The Guardian.
“I had to either be a good Afghan girl, who accepted whatever decision was made for me, or be a bad girl and leave. Breaking an engagement was a big thing and I got scared. So I decided, I’m a good Afghan girl, I’m going to do it the Afghan way. And we got married. The whole time it was a horrible feeling.”
In the end, Kargar could no longer bear being the good girl. “It was my destiny, but it wasn’t a good feeling,” she said. “He was about 25 – a young man – but when I met him it didn’t really work for me in a girl way, or a woman way. I just didn’t have any feelings and I think it was the same from his side. We were just put together by two families.”
Finally, she asked him to leave. He, along with her parents, tried to convince her to change her mind, but she didn’t, and he sent her the divorce papers.
Married At First Sight
In an interesting but not at all surprising twist, some folks with no religious or cultural reason for seeking an arranged marriage have reappropriated the practice—on a reality television show called Married At First Sight.
IMDb describes it as “[a] reality show that follows singles yearning for a life-long partnership as they agree to a provocative proposal: getting legally married to a stranger the moment they first meet.” Check out the trailer for the first season and especially enjoy the dude’s response at 0:10…
I only heard about the series after my older sister suggested that I try it (absolutely not), but it began in 2014. While this certainly wouldn’t be the first terrible marriage-related plot enabled by a reality television show, it is unique, and, if you’ve spent enough time dating in New York City, an idea you might entertain for at least 60 seconds.
Alas, the marriages-at-first-sight were not built to last. In 2016, the New York Post ran an article announcing that the final reality TV couple had called it quits. “For the second season in a row, all the ‘Married at First Sight’ couples are breaking up,” they reported, surprising no one. They then went on to quote the show’s marriage expert, appropriately named Dr. Pepper.
The final couple left standing had been Tres Russell and Vanessa Nelson, but even Dr. Pepper couldn’t fix them. The Post reported that, through tears, Vanessa said, “Things just fell apart. We stopped being physically intimate.”
For his part, Tres said, “Intimacy just died out for us, which is definitely a mistake when you’re married.” Definitely.
Arranged Marriage Fails
“In India, arranged marriages are common,” writes one Quora user. “What is the craziest experience you’ve had when a prospective groom/bride had come to see you for the first time (before the wedding)?”
Answers flooded in. One user, Purwa Rojindar, tells the story of her best friend, who was rejected by the guy’s family after their meeting. His dad’s reasoning? “Kruti is lefty, we don’t want a lefty progeny.” Yep—the hand she used to write made her unmarriageable.
Another user, Vidushi Rastogi, offered this one: “I got an interest on a matrimonial website (with a hidden name, to worsen the situation), the guy was of my age, but the face looked somewhat familiar. His place of ancestral origin was same as that of my mother’s so I got a bit curious.
“I liked the profile but chose not to reply (Thank God!) .
“I tried but could not remember the guy.
“Next day I asked my mother who all are settled in XYZ country.
“GOOD LORD! WE ARE SECOND COUSINS !!!
“& THANKS TO INSTAGRAM FILTERS I COULD NOT IDENTIFY HIM EVEN AFTER HAVING SEEN HIM IN NUMEROUS POSTS…”
Indraja Deshpande told the story of a Skype conversation of one potential suitor, who—thank goddess—she ended up not marrying. She writes:
“Me : hello
Me: how are you?
He: hey you look different
Me : how different
He : you look better in pictures”
Let’s stop this right here to fully understand the fact he told her she looks better in pictures. Aren’t you trying to get married, dude? Let’s go on.
“Me : what? Okay may be I am photogenic .
He: so what do you do?
Me : hey, I got to go I am a bit busy.”
That’s a bullet dodged if we’ve ever seen one. Bye!