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Marrying A Stranger

Posted: December 1, 2012

On the threshold of an arranged marriage, one young Indian woman wonders if she is doing the right thing.

By Pooja Gupta*

I don’t know what I intend to do by sharing this portion of my life with the whole web of strangers. Maybe, I hope someone will empathize and show me the way. Maybe someone will just give silent solace. My thoughts need an outlet of fresh air. Going round and round inside my head has made them stale and weary.

I knew marrying someone I don’t love would be difficult which is why I avoided giving in to my parents’ expectations for a long time. I wanted to marry someone I was friends with or had some feelings for. One day, I gave in. I agreed to marry a guy I met through a matrimonial site. A part of me was hopeful; a part lost, not fully understanding what was happening. I skirted around the reality not acknowledging it till it stood in front of me and punched me in my face. Here I am. Face me, it said.

I floated along the unruly waves unable to control them. I fought a losing battle trying to manage factors outside my control. Foolish girl, trying to fight fate.

I conditioned myself to be happy. I pretended to be happy. Love will develop, I told myself. Your stars are good.

Well wishers taught me to be happy. I conditioned myself to be happy. I pretended to be happy. Love will develop, I told myself. Your stars are good. Good boy, good family, wonderful city, I thought every day. Change is good. Welcome the good changes, I preached. Of course! Love and attraction aren’t everything, I concluded. Understanding and patience go a long way. Life is good. Life is going to be better.

Then, I would push away those feelings of dread. I would catch my heart from sinking at the thought of marriage that is just a blink away. I would also look happy when people expressed their happiness towards the happy event. I would look at the stranger as a life partner. I would try to keep ‘I’ aside and think of ‘We’.

Then, one day, that steel armour would melt. It takes only a moment to breakdown. It takes something as little as a movie or a song to let loose that clogged up river of tears and fears. And I realize how much I miss love. How much I miss being in love. How important love is.

It is easy to fool the world but fooling oneself is next to impossible.

An arranged marriage: Is it right for me?

How ever much I cry in the dark I remind myself that there is no turning back. I secretly search for at least one strong reason to escape. Make others change their decision. But it doesn’t happen. Marrying strangers is no new thing in our country. Lakhs of people have gone through it and are ‘happily settled’. If they can do it, I should too.

Years ago, I had dreams about my wedding – the guy, the feeling, the ceremonies, the clothes. I thought how happy I would be sharing the good news with the whole world. How I would show off my husband-to-be to everyone. What is happening now is not what I had dreamt – that I would be running away from the drastic change, looking at it like a trauma and my would-be as an outside threat to my life, identity and individuality.

Marrying strangers is no new thing in our country. Lakhs of people have gone through it and are ‘happily settled’. If they can do it, I should too.

Elders have told me stories of how they married a stranger and adjusted to that concept, that person. I try to put myself there and the only thought is no, I can’t do it. That’s just not me.

But here I am. About to marry a stranger.

There is an environment of celebration all around. Relatives and friends call me to ask how the preparations are going, how much I interact with in-laws, what the plans with the guy are. These phone calls create panic within me. And dread. I am marrying a stranger. I am marrying a guy who doesn’t know the real me. I am marrying. Everyone is happy except me.

Is this feeling acceptable? Is this normal?

*Name changed to protect privacy.

*Photo credit: Amature Photographer (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

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  1. I went thru this entire gamut of emotions years back when I was about to marry a stranger. It is a norm in India, but then there is a risk in every kind of relationship – live in, love marriage or arranged marriage. I was lucky enough to have a 6 month gap between the engagement and the wedding dates, it was enough for me to realise that my would be was a wonderful, loving and caring individual. Beautifully written article 🙂 could absolutely relate to it.

  2. Rajni Bhagat Arora -

    Enjoy the moment, Pooja and imagine only the best and the best will happen for you. Think of all the reasons you will like this man and you will! Do not go into this relationship with anxiety and negative thoughts, embrace it with compassion and courage and the universe will support you. May you have the most loving relationship.

  3. Sigh! I’m just 20 and all this gives me goosebumps, already!

  4. i’ve been through this very recently…and even now after marrying i wonder …..i can’t give you any advice…i can only tell you that I KNOW how scary it is…how uncomfortable it is and its like living a stranger’s life.

  5. I got married 10 years back to a total stranger. His alliance came via a matrimonial ad and after the initial matching of horoscopes, he and his parents flew down to see me. It was a sunday and we barely spoke for 10 minutes. Even after much prodding by his folks and mine, I really didn’t know what to tell him or ask him. Neither did he. There were just shy glances and quick averting of faces. We got engaged the same day and within 2 months got married. Those were the days when the social media was just emerging and hence no active online contact. Infact I had just only once emailed him and spoke to him (very briefly) twice. Having grown up in a M&B soaked world, there were apprehensions and bewilderment that will I ever fall in love ? That was then and now after 10 years I am glad that I trusted my heart and instincts. I knew I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. There is a lot of learning and unlearning about him everyday and yes I am staying in love and enjoying it every minute. I can empathise with your anxieties but trust me this too shall pass. Please, lose all the negative vibes and embrace life. I am sure you will have a long lasting wedded bliss. Cheers

  6. Dear Pooja,

    I used to be a hopelessly romantic person. All the notions of romantic love in movies and literature, do that to us. But what I feel is, with the average Indian women’s kind of upbringing and socialisation, what such women take to be love, if and when it happens, is a heady mix of physical attraction and idealism that may not last.

    The reality of our lives, and lives of people in the larger, but quieter parts of the world, is that the web of relationships matter, the roles matter. It is never one relationship and one role that can take precedence over all others. Celebrate the social truth of intergenerational-care, cultural continuity, reciprocity, permanence, that is about in India and its logic of being arranged, therefore is.

    Enjoy your journey. Know that is also, or perhaps ultimately – whole and unconditional acceptance of another. Best foot forward and all the best!

  7. Dear Pooja,

    Like all others even I have been in that space for a long time. Somehow I am not a supporter of Arranged Marriages. Even I had a lot of pressure from my folks and yes, it was challenging, but I held on. I did meet a lot of prospects but since it lacked “Spark” I decided to let it all go. By spark I don’t just mean physical attraction, I mean that vibe, that connect which instantly touches your SOUL. I remember reading Oprah, which I would also like to share with you – “DOUBT MEANS DON’T”. This is the rule I live by totally. No matter for what, but if my gut gives me a sign of event 0.1% doubt, I leave the thing and take a step back. We all are made in a way where our instincts/gut actually guides us all through. All we need to do is listen to it carefully. And you will for yourself see that its guiding you and helping you go through. Having said that, if you sit and talk to yourself-in an HONEST manner- you will most definitely get the answer. Whether to take the leap or not. If yes, then go for it trusting all will be well, if no, you have all that it takes to step back, All you need is to DECIDE and stick by it. Everything else will fall in place 🙂 And all will still be well.
    All this is totally my view point 🙂 Wishing you peace, and more guidance from your soul… Cheers!!!

  8. Hi Pooja,

    I’ve been “in love” but due to some inevitable circumstances ended up having an arranged marriage myself. I don’t have anything against love marriages but I certainly feel that arranged marriages are not given their proper due today. Of course I don’t support forced marriages, but an arranged marriage with the consent of the parties involved is really not very different from a “love marriage”. Life is full of surprises and I’m sure that even love marriages have their own share of ups and downs. No matter how long you’ve known a person, one cannot claim to know anyone completely – we cannot even claim to know ourselves completely. We are often told that Love is a feeling – but feelings change over time; in reality Love is a choice you make. Whether arranged or not, marriage involves choosing to accept and love.

  9. Although not on the threshold of marriage, I’m 28 and wondering if ‘natural’ love is likely to come..well naturally. I’ve always pictured bumping into someone at a party or somewhere else through some common friends and feeling instant sparks fly. But I’m afraid when that doesn’t happen, you have to take destiny into your hands, sign up on matrimonial portals and let word out to everyone around you that you’re single and looking to not be single anymore. Thank you for this article – you mirror the feelings of thousands of modern, educated women in urban India. Having said this, don’t think of it as ‘giving in’, know that the only thing this goes to show is that you were courageous enough to take matters (read destiny) into your own hands. All the best.

  10. Please have sex with the guy before you get married. I cannot emphasize how important this is. It takes away a lot of the tension and the anxiety, and once you expose yourself to someone in this manner, you’ll be a lot less high strung and probably be able to communicate better. Plus, you’ll be able to gauge whether he really cares about your needs even in the throes of passion.

    Yeah, and learn to trust your gut. If it says no, it’s probably right.

  11. Dilnavaz Bamboat -

    Dear “Pooja”,
    I married for love. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. But this I do know: the words “love” and “arranged” don’t mean quite enough by themselves and are rife with thousands, if not more, of subtle nuances, based on each individual situation: from childhood best friends to rank strangers, colleagues with crackling chemistry to quiet companions. Very foolish people fall in what they believe is love, and some pretty smart ones partake in an alliance with someone their family chose for them, only to realize too late it isn’t a good fit.

    Your piece is heartbreaking because you appear to be struggling against something you’ve resolved you can’t change. But your choice is two-fold here: you can choose not to struggle, and/or you can choose to change the situation. It is unclear from your writing whether you have tried to establish a connection with your future spouse. If you haven’t, this is something I would urge you to do right away. Because at the end of the day, flowers, gifts, and fancy clothes will last mere days, but a modicum of certainty will give you peace of mind. While your certainty or his cannot guarantee the success of your relationship, it will at least give you the confidence to try to make it work. Spend time with him. Please.

    It is also a good idea to know yourself first. If you’re completely unsure about yourself, or realize you are very young and may grow into an entirely different person, it isn’t fair to the person you’re getting married to. Try to gauge his thoughts. You may find he is equally nervous, and that may prove to be a good starting point to exchange your feelings. If you are fairly confident about your negative feelings, then act on them. Don’t marry in haste and repent at leisure. Equally, try to pinpoint the source of your feelings—is this an aversion to the arranged route or this person in particular? Is there someone you can share these misgivings with?

    Your current cloud of negative emotions with only serve to drag you down. Pinpoint your concerns one by one and stare them in the eye. At the end of it, if you still feel this isn’t for you, trust your gut and run for your life.

    Good luck, and please let us know how you fare! Best wishes to you for the future.

  12. I have to agree with Dilnavaz on almost all she has said and the only thing i would add is that if you find through an ‘honest’ chat with yourself that you are withholding yourself because you think that since we are women of this generation, you have basically broken some code of conduct by getting married in an arranged fashion, then by all means throw that thought out. because these code of how a modern person should behave or feel are downright stupid. what you do need is communication. with the person you have decided to get married to. maybe postpone the marraige by a month or so if it is possible, in case you feel that you cannot, not get married to this guy. although there never is a No to anything. get to know him a bit more and also reveal yourself to him. who knows he may be the kind of guy you thought you would never find. or a nightmare. either way find that out now and let him come to the same decision about you. but yes, if you feel that this aspect of finding out more about each other does not sit well with the guy, then please introspect and decide whether this disinterest is just initial awkwardness or will this be a characteristic the guy comes with. It is probably a ramble, what i said. but there are no easy answers to this at all. good luck either way.

  13. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/05/big-questions-from-little-people/ – The two at the very end are about love.

    Two things I’ve learnt to believe in are stated in the article –
    Love can happen before or after marriage.
    Marriage should be with someone you don’t want to be without.

    Love or arranged marriage, both can go right or wrong. What should matter is the person you are to marry, spend time getting to know him. Listen to and trust your instinct. And remember, it is never too late.

  14. Pooja, who says that you can’t spend time, a few months, years even, getting to know the “stranger” you’re going to spend the rest of your life with? Why the hurry in getting married? Take your time, get to know him, let him get to know you, and then you can decide. We’re not living in the 18th century anymore when dating publicly was taboo.

  15. You say that you had dreams for your wedding. That shouldn’t be past tense. You can still work through your dreams. You gave yourself a chance- you didn’t find a guy you loved, you gave your parents a chance. They have found a guy for you. Know him, spend time with him, see if he can be ‘that’ guy- the guy of your dreams. No? Then, don’t marry him. You don’t have to rush into marriage. If you are writing this article just before marriage, you should reconsider. You should give the ‘we’ some time and see if it can work out. Then, marry him (or not).

  16. I am overwhelmed friends. I have got such great, rational advice that I see hope in everything. Maybe what is happening isn”t that bad! Thank you so much, friends..

  17. kanchana banerjee -

    Hi Pooja, I am no expert on relationships. But someone who has been married for 17 years…can probably say a few words. and yes, I had an arranged marriage. whether you are in love or not..is secondary. love can grow, develop…but you need to know the guy. do the two of you have few common interests? plz dont fall for the M&B cliche – opposites attract. opposites attract only for a while. when u r talking lifetime; they can irritate the hell out of you. so you must meet him a number of times. at least get to know him before u tie the knot.

    best of luck, woman. think positive, hope for the best, but dont be blind. think clear!!

  18. It has been a few months. I’m interested to know how things are working out. Could you give us an update? Did you follow any of this excellent advice?

  19. Hey,

    As insane as it may sound I went through exactly the same feelings as you did. I took the courage of calling off my wedding which was planned to happed this very day i.e. 4th Feb. Although there were a lot of resons involved.

    The unhappiness that you carry with yourself is not a normal thing. I have seen girls being all super excited, glowing, beaming with love but I was the opposite. It was more of a threat tha happiness to me.

    Even if it is an arrange marriage it doesn’t take you so long to get comfortable about the relationship. This happens only when something is going wrong somewhere. Don’t take a chance.

    Marriage is definitely not losing yourself. Its more of understanding yourself at deeper levels. Getting out the best in you.

    Hope you are wise enough to value your life.


    • Shreya Srivastava -

      Hello Neha,

      I came across this reply of yours. I hope you have gotten in life what you wanted to and haven’t settled for anything else. I read that you had called off your wedding. I may have to go through the same thing, and to some extent I am. I just wanted to talk to someone and know if I am feeling the right things.

  20. Pingback: A letter to Indian parents, from a teenager

  21. Please update! What has happened, is everything alright now? I hope so 🙂

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