I watched a fascinating 20/20 on Friday night. ABC spent the hour talking to an Indian couple (living in the U.S.) about their arranged marriage. This couple, both independently, asked their parents to find a suitable spouse for them. . .and were matched up by their parents. They then went out for about 3 weeks, got engaged, and subsequently, . . married. They now live in the U.S. and the show was comparing and contrasting dating/courting with a few couples in America who were on their first few dates.
It was interesting on so many levels. First of all, you should know that in India 5-7% of all marriages end in divorce (yes, you can get a divorce there). In the U.S. that number is, of course, 50%. When they interviewed the bride she said that she didn't notice physical attraction first, but saw a man she could respect, and agreed to marry him. She also said, when asked "how long to you plan to be married?" "Forever!", enthusiastically. (this little episode, in itself, was a huge indictment of our culture, 90 percent of our T.V., and 99.9 percent of our "dating" literature)
They talked to a relationship expert of Indian descent who now practices in America, and she said the biggest problem with the way we date and court in American was that we were looking for a "life saver" while Indian singles are looking for a "life partner". She brought up the famous scene from Jerry McGuire, (ridiculed at the top of this post :) ) as a terrible example of how to view your spouse. She's right, in a sense, that we don't need any human to "complete" us, even though we feel like it at times. The truth of the matter is, if we're matched right, the other person just brings their complete (growing) self to the table, as do we, and you start to help each other as your strengths compliment their weaknesses and vice versa. Only Christ "completes" us with his work in our hearts by the Spirit. We're not perfect, but we don't need "completing" by another human. . . perhaps that's a whole nother post. . . . alas, I press on. . . .
So, of course, as we look to another person to complete us, or to be perfect, (since we know we're not), we are disappointed, and in America, alot of us get divorced at that point.
I love the verbage , that in India, folks are looking for a"life partner" that they will fall in love with as they grow together. Most of this falling in love takes place after marriage. Risky, some in our culture would say,. . . but the numbers don't lie.
(actually, if we're being honest. . . most healthy couples in America do most of their "falling in love" after marriage too. . . but that doesn't make good movies, or sell books, or make us responsible for our feelings, . . ouch)
It's also huge, that they (the arranged marriage folks) are not looking at their spouse as a commodity (as some men, especially, in America do early on. . "my girl is so hot!!!"), but as someone that they're going to do life with and that they will grow to love. It also re-inforces a biblical point that love is an act of the will and something we must decide to do every morning with our spouse, whether we feel like it or not. Thus, your "partner" will become more and more attractive to you, because you're deciding to love them more and more.
This may sound hopelessly un-romantic, . . and maybe it is. But, if you've been married for a while (I have been for 10 years), you know the feeling of "I'm with this person, we're going to do life together, I so get them and where they're coming from" . . . is a much more joyful, and fulfilling feeling than "they're hot, let's go get it on".
Of course, there are problems with arranged marriages but maybe if we:
a) started to look at our significant other as someone we will do life with and partner with on all things. . . and not a commodity, or contest winner, . . . we'd have more clarity in our dating
b) started to consult our parents (if there's a healthy relationship there) on these matters as they know us best, . . even though we don't think so when we're 14. . .
c) as married people, made the decision to love more often (how about daily :)!!!) instead of waiting for our spouse to come around and act like we want before we love them.
d) take divorce out of our vocabulary (except for the biblical discussions and reasons) by viewing our spouse as our life partner with whom we'll figure things out with, grow with, be patient with, and love.