Would you let your parents choose a spouse for you?

What you need to know:

  • Parties did everything to make a marriage work. Arranged marriages protected the couple from the vagaries of marriage. Today people struggle with weddings preparations. This responsibility rested with the parents.

My family likes to watch the reality TV show Married by Mum and Dad. I read somewhere that it run for two seasons and 20 episodes from 2015 to 2017 before it folded. 
Because I am passionate about marriage and family, I watched with interest because I wanted to see how arranged marriages play out in the modern world, especially in a society that is known to be independent, individualistic, with the highest divorce rates in the world. 

Had they failed to get marriage so they sought the involvement of parents? Or is it the attraction of the thrill in the unknown, risking headlong into the deep end, when you barely know how to manoeuvre? Was it a combination of both? I wondered to myself.    
Some of the peculiarities of the show are that parents vet potential spouses for their children and finally zero in on one. Also, the couple getting married meets for the first time at the altar in a very short time. 

This sounds surreal and some, if not most, of the family members of the people intending to get married always complain about how bizarre the whole arrangement is. Of course, it comes with a lot of drama, akin to most reality shows.  Some people pull out of the show after failing to find the partner they expected. Others fail to turn up at the last minute because they feel rushed and not ready to commit to a stranger. Some divorce months or a few years later. It is a spell-binding, heart-gripping show that left me wondering if this thing actually works.  
Some of the reasons this show’s stars give to ask their parents to choose for them partners are; “my parents know me better so they will choose a better partner for me,’’ “I have tried before and failed and may be my parents can help. But how was marriage arranged in the African traditional context? Are arranged marriages still relevant today? 

Arranged marriages in Africa
In traditional rural African context, parents determined when the boy came of age. They then started off a process to look for a suitable wife for him. This was usually done with the knowledge, but without the consent of the boy or girl. Research would be carried out about the girl’s family and if one ticked all the boxes, contact would then be made with the parents of the girl. Marriage discussions would ensue and after reaching a compromise, the boy’s family would carry gifts and bride price to the girl’s family in a joyous celebration, marking the beginning of marriage for the couple. 
Marriage was between families and not just individuals who were getting married. There was no dating because the decision to get married was predetermined by the parents. 

Few divorce cases 
Forget beauty, physical passion, attractiveness or giddy love between the couple in an arranged marriage. Character attributes such as honesty, humility and productiveness stood out.  
There were few divorce cases arising out of arranged marriages. The commonality in culture, religion and social status smoothened many rough edges between the couple. Some people have pointed out rather that the absence of divorce was due to the cultural unacceptability of the prospect. Failure was unacceptable, so parties did everything to make a marriage work.  
Arranged marriages protected the couple from the vagaries of marriage ceremonies. Unlike today, where men and women struggle to work through their weddings preparations, this responsibility was transferred and rested squarely with the parents on both sides. 

Is the idea still relevant? 
Arranged marriages are still common among Muslim and royal families.  Is arranged marriage still relevant today? I run to the Bible to find out Bible characters that chose wives for their sons: First it was God choosing a wife for Adam. Then the patriarch,  Abraham sent a servant to find a wife, Rebekah for his son Isaac, Jacob and Rachel/Leah and Joseph and Asenath and the God-arranged marriage between Christ and the church.
In Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.” God left the responsibility to choosing a wife to the man and he would bless the union. 
God gave us free will that comes with choices. This may mean that God will guide you to the right person (He already knows and prepares them) if you let Him, but will never shove the person down your heart. 

Choose your own partner
Would you allow your parents to choose for you?  For most parents who have been asked to choose for their child a spouse on that TV show, almost all have expressed shock and apprehension, but probably wanting to do their children’s bidding, they have undertaken the task.   
I asked two single friends of mine if they would involve their parents in the process of choosing a life partner.
Francis, who is in his late 30s, thinks his parents have his best interests at heart. Rhona, on the other hand, says  her parents do not know her well enough to choose a spouse for her.  “You are the one to live with this person and bear all their flaws forever, so the choice should be entirely yours.” 
Their benefits notwithstanding, God and parents should not have to choose for you a partner. I would not choose for my son either.  But I would lovingly guide him through the process and not infringing on his right and role.