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The Indian Woman’s Dilemma: Love Vs Arranged Marriage

Posted: July 1, 2013

Most Indian women of “marriageable age” find themselves facing a choice – love marriage vs arranged marriage? Which one works better?

As a well-qualified, working Indian woman in her mid-twenties in urban India, I inevitably face the question that haunts, irritates and many a times baffles many of my single friends and me, the ever-looming, “When will you get married?

Whether you utter a feeble ‘soon’ or you try to nip this topic in the bud by a mere shrug or a lame attempt at a joke, it is undoubtedly followed by a complimentary question, my personal favourite: “Do you want an arranged marriage or a love marriage?” – which translates to “Do you even have the common sense to know the right match for you or would you rather choose your Mr. Right and make a blunder for life in the name of love!”

Do all arranged marriages really work?

Many of my counterparts feel that marriage is unnecessary or terrifying as it leads to various issues which may end up in divorce, a fact that statistics testify to. So they would rather be checking boxes on forms labelled ‘single’ rather than ‘separated’ or ‘divorced’. Even so, stated below are certain facts and figures about marriage from UNICEF:

– Divorce rate in India = 1.1%
– Global divorce rate for arranged marriages = 6%
– Percentage of women in South Asia forced to marry before 18 = 48%

Does this automatically imply that arranged marriages are successful? Does it mean that two people who had an arranged marriage are completely accepting and comfortable with each other, enough to spend their entire lives together, happily? I highly doubt that.

With changing concepts of society, added stress and the changing role of Indian women, marriage in itself has become more of a challenge than ever.

While most couples in an arranged marriage have come to an understanding about acceptance towards the other, it is more an insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses and whether they wish to let an issue slide or face it head on. It is about weighing the pros and cons of getting into an argument or tussle with an individual to whom you are not sure of revealing your innermost thoughts and feelings; after all, it’s not as if the two individuals were great friends before entering into the matrimonial alliance.

Furthermore, there are several couples who live in the same house yet do not communicate at all; or couples who have been living in different cities or homes and have no relationship between them. The only reason why these people do not become a representative sample of the population during a survey on divorce, is that legally, they are not divorced by a court of law.

For the sake of society or simply not wishing to get tied up in financial or legal hassles, the couple decides to live in such a scenario. But does psychological separation or detachment not count for anything as long as one is bound by law? Does unhappiness, dissatisfaction or trauma even, not equate a ‘divorce’? When two people have decided to part, whether this includes geographical or spatial relocation, does it not have all the makings of a divorce?

Arranged marriages still popular but is there a change in the offing?

74 percent of Indians still prefer arranged marriages according to a recent survey by NDTV. This reflects that Indians are still conventional in thinking of marriage as a set-up in which a person should fit into the family. So does it mean that one needs to be a perfect match only for the family? What about a partner who sticks by you and sticks up for you and treats you as an equal and not as a relative in the house?

Indians are still conventional in thinking of marriage as a set-up in which a person should fit into the family.

Further, this preference is high in Rajasthan, Haryana and UP showing a statistic of 88 percent, while for West Bengal, New Delhi and Tamil Nadu this is 59 percent. This clearly shows a trend in the changing face of marital beliefs and highlights the fact that atleast a few states have begun to come out of the veil of traditions.

With changing concepts of society, added stress and the changing role of Indian women, marriage in itself has become more of a challenge than ever. It takes effort, time and patience by both partners invested in it to make it work well. As both have a voice and a level of independence, the desire and willingness to function as interdependent entities is crucial in every marriage.

Why I would like to arrange my marriage

As an Indian woman with an army background which instilled a sense of discipline and responsibility as well as parents who educated me of cultural and societal norms without expecting that I would conform blindly, I have acquired a liberal train of thought and personality. My personal belief, supported by scientific facts from psychology, is that a marriage must be arranged by two individuals, where they mutually come to a decision regarding the order of their life together; that it be based on love, trust, affection, respect and commitment.

My paternal grandparents who are in their late 80’s and residing in a small village in Punjab, come from a generation where the man was the only breadwinner and the woman the homemaker. The task of utmost importance to the woman was to tend to the husband and take care of the children.

New trends must be allowed to accommodate the old or even reform the old if the earlier patterns are on the way to becoming archaic.

Surprisingly, they have a fairly modern and optimistic view of life. My grandmother although less educated than her husband is in no way subservient or timid. Theirs is a marriage of equals where they may have entered into their marital alliance as per an arranged structure but have allowed contemporary views to build their relationship over the last 68 years, happily and respectfully.

While I harbour respect to both kinds of marriages, I choose to take the path where I may maintain my individuality and maturity. I believe that these traits will support me in finding a like-minded partner, who is interested in building our lives together, with a strong foundation of acceptance and love.

New trends must be allowed to accommodate the old or even reform the old if the earlier patterns are on the way to becoming archaic. Both styles of marriage have advantages and limitations. Regardless of which style one chooses it would be wise to learn from each and adopt the values and skills that each has to offer.

Photo credit: Pixabay


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  1. I wrote an article on my blog on the same topic. http://www.womanatics.com/2012/08/neither-love-nor-arranged-i-go-for.html

    I believe in the final success of marriage love or arranged hardly matters. Every marriage requires work, irrespective of whether it is a love or an arranged marriage. This article was well written.. Sonali.. I really enjoyed reading about your grand parents and you are right that it is always wise to adapt to each others ways.

    • Hi Surabhi, thank you so much for having taken the time to read my article and providing your feedback on the same.

      Would definitely read your take on this too !

  2. Happily an increasing number of women in India are standing up for themselves and thinking like you. Seeking a partner is a joyous process of discovery that must not be forsaken in favour of the dull business of ‘suitable alliances’.

  3. Love marriage or Arranged marriage?…… There are host of factors that will decide how a person will envisage a marriage and pursue for a final decision ….from the face and figure of the ‘would be’ spouse……etc. etc…to his professional background, life style, earning potential…. to cultural background etc… etc. . Under this process there must be certain element of compromise while one factor is favourable to offset another deficient factor. The overall evaluation, to some extent makes both persons to believe that each one is a beneficiary will alone lead to the marriage. If dowry and any other compulsory conditions involving money, property or costly gifts transfer are not involved even girls too become equally a beneficiary in such a situation, especially when she is equally or better educated and landed into a gainful employment and will have her own entity with own financial freedom.

    Thus the question of Love or Arranged Marriage will never put anyone in a predicament. Love is only favourable step for Marriage… it can also be called an Arranged Marriage. Similarly now a days an ideal family proposed marriage will differ from a conventional Arranged marriage provided both people finds comfortable when the majority of factors are synchronized prompting them to love each other prior to marriage! This is the present day reality.

    Prospective brides and grooms…. Please focus more into studies and carrier and be ready to commence the process of marriage….. Keep on identifying a spouse who is likely to identify you as his/her spouse! Let your family too be involved in their own search. They cannot thrust any marriage on you. You alone will decide your marriage. See all pros and cons of options available, but never waste too much time for this compliance. There is no best decision or worst decision. Once decide never try to do postmortum analysis. You have to carry forward and make a best family…….. You have to believe that you are in the right track for a long haul of life together…..

  4. Balanced arguments. My answer would be circumstantial.

    • Hi, thank you for taking the time to read the article and providing your opinion on the same.

  5. By Indian woman, you probably mean urban educated Indian woman. Majority of women in the rural-side who constitute probably over 80% of Indian women have simply no say in their marriage process. They are simply married off… Like cattle they are given away to whosoever the family wishes to, usually under compulsion. Love is a sin – they can never fall in love because marriage to a man belonging to same village (known as gotra) is a blasphemy -and these women are confined within their villages under the watchful eyes of the their ‘protectors’… I think feminists like you are just not talking for the real Indian woman. Instead of preaching against patriarchy and all its adverse consequences, you have to find ways to solve the issues for these hapless women WITHIN the existing system – you just can’t wish away patriarchy – it wont go away on it’s own -and you have to dare to get into the dirt to clean it up.

    • Hi, thank you for taking the time to read the article. In response to your comments I would like to mention that you seemed to have overlooked the very introduction to my article. I clearly specified where am coming from and the perspective based on the same i.e. “As a well-qualified, working Indian woman in her mid-twenties in urban India”.

      I have chosen to speak about an issue from my experience while in no way belittling other points of view or choosing to ignore women from other strata of society. I chose to speak about my own account – completely subjective ! The idea of ‘feminism’ is not one I wish to thrash about as it seems pointless to me that any woman’s take on anything under the sun suddenly becomes feminism – why not her perspective or opinion? Simply put. Voicing one’s opinion does not necessarily need to be stereotyped as feminism.

      As for ‘ daring to clean up the dirt’ – I completely agree with you that it does indeed need to be done, but as an individual I chose to speak about my perspective here and not overtly express my philanthropic deeds over the past many years and put myself in a light to gain accolades for the same. We as women all indulge in being part of a change whether it is verbal or action oriented. It all counts. I wholeheartedly appreciate your concern for women and their betterment and hope for more people to think like you and engage in the process of change like us.

      Thank you for your feedback.

    • I regret I overlooked “As a well-qualified, working…”
      And I consider stereotyping is a form of discrimination, I didn’t mean to. I think I was trying to draw attention on the serious mismatch that exists between the real issues Indian women face and what most feminist’s write about.

    • Thank you for your reply. Appreciate it.

  6. Love Marriage is only a bonding of two hearts, while Arrange Marriage is the bonding of two families.For me my parents are everything, they bring me into these world, nurtured me, fulfill all my needs.How could i ditch them when they are in need.I would prefer arrange marriage, which can be turned into a love marriage afterwards.

    • Really appreciate your thoughts ! Am unclear as to what you meant by ‘in need’ ?
      But lovely to read of your opinion 🙂

    • Hi Aditi,
      I read your thought on love and arrange marriage. Good to see your views but would like to comment on that and get your opinion and suggestion too.

      As you have mentioned that arrange marriage is a bonding of 2 families. Does it mean like love marriages do not bond 2 families. Its the family members who do not accept love marriages and that’s where two people who want to marry each other with the intention of getting 2 families together get failed.

      Family support is the biggest factor for making a marriage successful, irrespective of whether it is love marriage or arranged one.

      There are people who make efforts to go through the proper system of marriage, even they sometimes get failed due to fake customs and traditions. Off course there should be an issue of level of 2 families but if that level are same, family people should support love marriages. Then I definitely bet that there would be no problem on love marriages.

  7. It hardly matters when two have decided to live rest of the life and they understand each other. I too am in relationship, and feel about the after marriage life not about how would we be married. Her family is not in support, still we are putting efforts to convince them. I have not thought about any other option then my love.

    All I think is one has to believe on the after life of love marriage and have to be practical on that.

    I read the article and found very much closer to arrange marriage.

    Ms Sonali, how would you think about love marriages and how would you rate it against arranged one. I appreciate your thought a lot and also would love to read the views on love marriages.

    • Hi Amit,
      Really appreciate you posting your thoughts on my article and sharing about your life.

      Love is what binds us all, compassion and understanding are what help us get there, just as you mentioned that what matters most is that you and your partner understand each other.

      I love the fact that you are focused more on the marriage than the wedding. With belief in each other and respect that binds you two, I truly believe that by continuing on this path you two would definitely have your dreams come true. I hope and pray that your efforts in having both your families blessings pay off and that the path to happiness for you two stretches on forever 🙂

      I wouldn’t rate arranged marriages or love marriages as one higher than the other, as long as there is happiness underlying both sides to a story.

      Best Wishes 🙂

  8. Dear Sonali, thank you for your personal thoughts. I hope you don’t mind me leaving a comment on your blog, even though the reason it quite different from the previous commentators! I am currently writing a thesis in which I want to make an argument about the changing social fabric of India, which, as Mohan already argued, mostly takes place in the urban areas. To be honest, I am not an Indian, but as far as I can see, things are changing in the way people behave towards each other. Instead of working at home, wives are highly educated and have their own jobs outside the home; although for many young people arranged marriage is still not a question, I seem to hear more and more young people who fall in love and decide to go for that; there might even be more blending between people from different religious or social (or, caste) backgrounds. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I was curious about the survey done by NDTV you refer to. Could you possibly give me the link to the survey results? Again, thank you so much for your contribution and thank you for reading my comment.

    • Hi Esther,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Would appreciate if you may mention your email ID so I may continue correspondence with you to provide any information you may require from my end.

      I also wish to know what is your take while working on the thesis in order to have further clarity on the direction you are aiming at regarding research.

      Good luck !

  9. Hey! R u Sonali Dyal from Somerville?

  10. arrange marraige is far better than luv marraige.its doesnt mean i hav never luvd anyone.i realise the feelings

  11. hi… my schl frnd loves me soo much..and i know that she understood me very well.now we both are 20..i want to study IPS.we both are of different castes.. can any one suggest how many chances are there if i got IPS so that her family wouldnt oppose?

  12. hello
    i and my bf are in relationship for 5 yrs…. and now his family is matching our kundli… n one of the maharaj said him not to marry me just becaz if he gets marry me he will die in 5 yrs and loose his bussiness . can any maharj can predict our future…….please suggest

  13. Hi Sonal,
    I also wrote a comparison of the two types of marriage on my blog at http://www.imarriages.com/advice/arranged-marriage-vs-love-marriage

    I really enjoyed your piece as it was a different approach to the subject than mine. You are totally right in that the old ways ( arranged marriages ) must adapt to the new ways where for example, the man often is no longer the bread winner.

    Great article, I look forward to reading more from you.

  14. Hey Sonali, loved reading your piece! I’m an ABC journalist going to Mumbai to do a group discussion on this topic — would love to chat to you if you are also based in Mumbai? I’m keen to get a variety of perspectives on the issue… the family pressure, arranged vs. love marriages and then post marriage, managing a career & household. Can you please get in touch with me? Either via email or my twitter handle is @del_irani or find me on facebook at facebook.com/DelIraniABC — hope to hear from you.

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  16. I found your opinion about arrange marriage rather negative. You make it sound like it is a regressive thing, sometimes it is more of a choice, rather a smart choice! I used to echo the same opinion as you until I crossed the fence. I recommend a book called Modern women and arrange marriage by Nandini Krishnan to you, it might give you a comprehensive picture.

    • Well that’s exactly what I meant it to be. A choice, and as you said a smart choice for oneself. If I honestly believed arranged marriages as regressive, I wouldn’t be waxing poetic about my grandparents or planning weddings. Am all for marriage, arranged or otherwise, hence a section to my article is – ‘why I would like to arrange my marriage’.
      Thanks for the book recommendation ! Would give it a read.

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  18. hi frnds, main confuse hun because main ek bande se pyar karti hun and wo v karta hai..problem ye hai ki hum dono ka cast alag hai..jiske karan parents nai manege..,mai kya karu samjh nahi aata..parents ki marji k khilaf jana possible nahi aur us bande ko akele chor k nikal jaun ye v nahi kar paungi..man me aata hai k mar jaun..kuch samajh nai ata

    • Hi Priya,
      I understand that the situation you are in seems bleak and difficult but do not even consider devaluing and giving up on your life. The first step is to truly and unconditionally love and respect your own self !
      Have a conversation with your families and ask them to give you both the time to prove that you are truly meant to be together and can brave all the good and bad times together. Give it time and they would come around. But not for one second should you even consider the possibility of giving up on your life. That is just not a solution. Love yourself.

    • thanks sonali….aapne sahi baat kahi hai.but main kafi disturb rehti hun k kya karu..actally bat ye hai k mere jitne v relatives hain unme se koi v love marg nahi kiye hain…to meri condition kafi difficult hai es wakt..actually humdono ek seher k hain aur ek sath padhai karte the collge me ..uswakt meri mom ko pata v tha k wo frnd hai but jaise hi humne sadi ki bat bati to sab ulta hogaya…ek bat janti hain k main bhramin hun aur wo v brahmin hai but alag alag brahmin hai..aap hi batao k kya karu main ..parent k hisab se main arreged mrge kar lun…sabse jaruri bat to ye hai k wo ab job me v chala gaya hai ..bank me..bus meri ma ne usko dekha hai aur ma ka kehna hai k wo sunder nahi hai..main fas chuki hun..kya karun main

    • aur main hamesha se ye dekyi hun k ajkal k jamane me koi v single nahi hai..actually main iss se v pareshan hun k mere asapas k sab log love marg karne wale ko gandi najar se dekhte hain k kitni besarm haijo fasa li larka ko apne jaal me..but ye mere sath hua hai to janti hun k pyar ka matlab fasana nahi hota pyr khud hojata hai ….aaj itna ten humdono jhel rahe hain kyun k hum dono hi ye chahte hai k mere parents humlogo k sath rahen hume sajhen…aur wo log jo sadi kisi aur se pyar kisi aur se karte hain kaafi musti me rehte hain aur wahi log lov marg karne wale ko gandi najar se dekhte hain..main kafi depretion me rehti hun …aap ko bata k accha lag raha so bata rahi hun…aap hi batao mai kaha galat hun

    • main ye v bata dun k wo banda sundar nahi hai sayad ye v ek karan hai…main kafi depresd hun ye to aap jan hi gayi hogi…aap bato k mujhe actually me kya karna chahiye…..

    • hi frnds….plz reply na…..

    • Hi Priya,

      I would recommend speaking to someone in your family whom you trust to be able to figure out the best way to deal with your situation. Further if you feel you cannot speak to a family member I encourage you to speak to a professional – a psychologist / therapist who would be neutral and thus provide you the tools and options to deal with your depression and problems.

  19. The problem with us Indians is that once we graduate and find a job we believe that marriage is the next step. Whether it is arranged or not I think because everyone around us unknowingly forces us into this pattern, many of us are doomed from the outset. The film Coffee in Winter shows how you can think you’re happy but then someone else comes along (probably at the right time – we’re just in the wrong place mentally) and we then understand what marriage and love is about. Watch the film you’ll see what I mean – http://blackcountrycinema.com/coffee-in-winter/

  20. i think neither love nor arrange . . .
    love cum arrange marriages are best. .
    and even all marriages are an ARRANGEMENT between two people with a promise to LOVE. . (y) 🙂

  21. Hi I m Kashish
    Me ek ladke se shaadi krna chahti hu WO b mujhse bhaut pyaar krta h hum 2no ki caste alag2 h meri cast ladke ki cast se bhaut uchi h meri family me Aaj tak kisi ne love marriage nhi ki h upper se cast me b bhaut difference h isliye meri family hamari shaadi k liye agree nhi ho rhe h Maine bhaut convince krne ki koshish ki per meri family keh rhe h ki meri shaadi sirf unhe ki marzi se hamari he cast me hogi.me aur WO ladka ek dusre ko bhaut pyaar krte h aur hamesa k liye sath rehna chahte h.
    Me apni family ki Marzi k khilaf Jana nhi chahti aur apne pyaar ko chodna b nhi chahti meri family ko lagta h ki AGR Maine dusri cast me shaadi ki to unki izzat kharab ho jayegi aur meri family bhaut he purane khayal ki h meri family k liye izzat he sab kuch h meri khushiyo se b zyda unki izzat kimati h .meri family ko lagta h ki AGR Maine dusri cast me shaadi ki to mere relatives meri family se kbhi bat nhi krege aur na he unhe kisi function me bulayege.but me usi ladke se shaadi krna chahti hu qki WO mujhse bhaut pyaar krta h. plzzz suggest me ki me kya kru.koi solution ya kuch aisa ho Jo meri help kr sake.plzzz I m waiting for ur rply

    • Hi Kashish, I had replied to you previously but I don’t see that in the comment thread. I feel you need to speak to your family and take a call as to where you wish your life to end up. Do weigh the pros and cons of either case very carefully before taking a step towards such a major decision of your life. Good luck to you.

  22. Pingback: Arranged to marry a strange… | Tinder, loving, care


    Hi I am from Bihar and I am in love with a Manipuri girl . We have worked together for 3 years. We fall in love. As i felt that our thaughts arr same. She always give support to me.
    We are afraid by our parents our culture. In this confusition .
    My Girlfriend’s mother has fixed her marriage with a well settled, rich guy.
    Now I am not able to understand what happened suddenly. Even we are in relationship now and we both dont want to break this relationship.
    please help what I do as I am not accepting her with someone.
    I love her. Please guide accordingly as she will get married in December.
    please send your valuable reply at my email anantkrdas@gmail.com


    • Hi Anant, you mentioned due to confusion her mother has fixed her marriage. What I wish to delve into is the fact that have you spoken to your girlfriend or her mother regarding your intentions? Have you made it a point to understand what is that you can offer the girl and more so to calm her family into accepting and trusting you of being able to take up the responsibility of a partner? if not, I suggest you do that immediately. if you do love her and wish to spend your life with her, you need to think beyond the romantic concept of life and more so the realistic angle of being a partner and being a team.

      The fact that you cannot see her with someone is a fleeting statement that you have made and with all due respect I encourage you to introspect and think carefully about whether you would be able to make this work as a marriage and if you are prepared to do so. Do not rush into something due to fear and regret it later rather think and choose wisely as to your course in life regarding how it may be beneficial for her and you. Do remember that it is indeed a lifetime commitment and not a hasty move. Good luck

  24. Hi All,

    Just want to share my personal experience that pls pls pls go for arrange marriage..as i have done love marriage in intercaste and after 2 months problems started between us. Dating for 2 hours is very different from being for 24 hours together.
    I was about to break up but she cried a lot and being a loyal person i accepted her. both families got involved in marriage to make it arrange but after 6 months she started insulting my parents and my elder brother.
    She broke all her promises about accepting my family. Now she wants to dominate me all the time. speaks in harsh language. Do not do all work as other housewives do. Always sleeps so much in morning day time. do not take care of my kid who is now 2 years old.
    I don’t know what to do our families have stand up their hands by saying that we can’t do anything it was your choice. Pls anyone suggest me what should i do. I’m not able to concentrate on my job as well.

    • Hi brother, I understand your problem but looks like you married a rude person who did not reveal her true self to you before marriage (this is in context to you mentioning that she disrespects your brother and parents with no rhyme or reason). But if your parents and brother too are rude with her than you really can’t blame her as she needs to stand up for herself. Anyway, coming to your second and third points that she doesn’t do housework and sleeps late; I can understand that too. I’m a guy and I like sleeping late too which my girlfriend doesn’t like because it eats up valuable morning time (according to her). So here’s a solution, hope it helps you: divide the chores such that all work which has to be completed by the time she wakes up , you can do them and she can do other half after she wakes up. That’s the only reasonable solution I can think of. Next I don’t know what housewife chores are you talking about?! I’m pretty clueless. Please explain clearly as she is a mother she doesn’t really have much time on her hand as looking after a kid is a big task in itself. Next you can’t expect her to look after your kid by herself. She carried that kid for 9 months, to be honest she has done her part and whatever you do for your kid now will never be equivalent to what she did. Think of your mother! Your dad must have done so much for you but it comes nowhere close to what your mom did. I think it’s a golden opportunity for you, create a strong bond with your kid. He/she is 2 which is like the perfect age. I have tried to be objective while suggesting you a resolution. You seem very sad so I’ve tried my best to help you.
      P.S. If you are confused after reading this just want to let you know that while writing what I wrote I just considered you and your wife as two equals. Good luck brother.

    • Hi Deep, I would recommend that you speak to a professional, for example a counselor or therapist who would be able to provide you an unbiased and clearheaded opinion on the same. You have obviously invested a lot in the relationship both mentally and emotionally and seem to drained with recent circumstances. it is advisable to have a conversation with your wife regarding her change in behavior and whether she is troubled by something which is causing such reactions. Do take the time to introspect and speak to a counselor who would help you bring back peace and happiness into your life. Good luck.

  25. Hi Karan, what a wonderful perspective that you have provided. Really appreciate your thoughts on the matter and your attempt to help him out with this present problem. It is indeed required that we think of where the other person is coming from and not just the fact that we seem to be troubled by something that they do or did. It is pertinent to question – what may be bothering my partner?
    Thanks for your reply.

  26. hai..
    I would like to prefer love marriage. But i don’t know falling in love will be regarded as a crime.I don’t know i should comment this or not.
    But mostly some parents are doing marriages on the base of kunduli matching.they are not looking into the love of each persons but only believing in some spiritual beliefs.
    no one is ready to care about their children feelings. just they wanted their children to be secured.
    i suffered a lot with this when i faced personally.

    pardon me if any flaws raised under my conversation.

    • Hi Sri, totally agree with what you said. May God grant you the power to live life to your fullest and to find happiness always !

  27. Love is very important in life

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  29. I love this post thanks for it.

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  31. Thanks for sharing this information

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