I've Spent 17 Years in an Arranged Marriage
'To arrange a life is to control it ... but also to protect it,' writes Debie Thomas
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2013 2:28 PM CDT
"Arranged marriage, as I’ve come to experience it, is far more complicated than either its champions or its critics understand."   (©)

(Newser) – Debie Thomas acknowledges that most Americans won't be able to grasp her compliance with her family's wishes, but saying no to her Indian parents was just "not an option." And though she prayed for a miracle, 17 years ago, Thomas—"a product of New England suburbia, evangelical Christianity, Wellesley College, and When Harry Met Sally"—entered into an arranged marriage, wedding a man chosen from a stack of photos and resumes and brief meetings: Alex. After just 3 months, their differences—"the kinds of differences we couldn’t have discovered in each other's CVs—started to baffle us," she writes for Slate. She was serious and loved routine; he struck her as shallow.

"Though it took years to parse these differences, it didn't take long at all to recoil from them." Thomas goes on to thoughtfully dissect those years: "Conventional Indian wisdom" instructed her to compromise and accommodate, telling her that affinity fades but "practical everyday love" endures. So did it, and does it, for Thomas? What she does have: a committed partner and provider, a "good man." "But the losses are significant," and Thomas and her husband "still grieve them"—together, and for each other. (The kinds of things they utter: "I wish you had married a best friend.") She sums up the complexity of their situation thusly: "To arrange a life, after all, is to control it. To write its script so exhaustively that there’s little room left for improvisation. And a lot of good stuff happens when you are improvising. But something always pulls us back. To arrange a life is also to love and protect it, to put every bit of scaffolding in place to prevent collapse and chaos." Click to read her moving piece, which describes her first meeting with Alex.

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Showing 3 of 8 comments
Aug 18, 2013 6:01 PM CDT
I have always thought arranged marriages are degrading. But I kind of admire Debie and husband for staying together and trying to work things out. It is a real illustration about how powerful culture and family ties are. It also frightened me to learn that arranged (coerced) marriages are still practiced in our society now, even among people of Western European ancestry.
Aug 18, 2013 7:58 AM CDT
"I've spent 17 years in an arranged marriage" that's an opinion?
Aug 17, 2013 10:39 PM CDT
My grandmother was forced into an arranged marriage, but she was in love with a childhood sweetheart. When the sweetheart realized all hope was lost, he also married. Grandmother had two children in her arranged marriage, and grandfather had a son. Their love for one another remained, and in an era when it was unheard of, they divorced their spouses and married each other. They had two children of their own, and were madly in loved until the day my grandfather died. Grandma never stopped missing him.