Even Arranged Marriage Is Better Than Dating

Jack LaValley, a relationship coach featured in the publicity blitz, said, ” You don’t have to do it exactly like I did, but I have things to show you about how I made a successful marriage, and I wasn’t even in love with my wife when I married her.”1

Some people are probably baffled that I’m actually going to make an argument for arranged marriage. But thanks to my friendly commenter, Wynd, who gave me the idea, I am doing just that. 

Courtship can be difficult and complicated. There are a lot of boundaries you have to follow, and it can sometimes be risky (though certainly far less risky than dating). I’ve joked to my parents a couple times that it would be so much easier if they just picked a wife for me. Although that is not what I really want, it would be a lot simpler and easier. 
I’m not going to argue that you should adopt the practice of arranged marriage, but I think there is a lot we can learn from those who do practice arranged marriage. Who knows, maybe when I’m done writing this, I’ll have convinced myself that arranged marriage is better than courtship. All I know for certain is that even arranged marriage is better than dating. 
“Really? You’re going to say that an arranged marriage is better than dating? A business deal is better than true love?”  
Yes, arranged marriage is better than dating when it comes to finding the right spouse, and it’s not even close. However, done correctly, arranged marriage is far from a business deal, and dating certainly doesn’t have a clue as to what “true love” is.  

According to the American Psychological Association, “about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” Dating is essentially the sole method people use to get married today, and it hasn’t given us very good results. Essentially, your odds of having a lasting marriage through dating are the same as flipping a coin. Dating doesn’t have much to stand on.

There is no formula that can guarantee a perfect marriage. No method is perfect, and this is because people aren’t perfect. However, because there is no formula and people are flawed, I don’t believe this means we should just throw our hands up in the air say, “Well, who cares. We’ll just make it up as we go along.” That is very unwise because you could end up going in a direction you don’t want to go if you haven’t given the issue of finding a spouse some forethought.
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While details will change depending on unique circumstances and the individuals involved, there are some things we can know for sure, and we know this from Biblical principles. What makes Christian arranged marriage better than dating is that can better hold to these principles than dating. What are these principles?
Principles every relationship should follow:
The principles a relationship should follow can easily be summed up with Matthew 22:37-40:
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“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

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How do we love God? Well, Jesus said in John 14:15 that, “”If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Therefore, our heart, soul, and mind should all follow God’s commandments.
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And one of His commands is that we love our neighbor as ourselves—meaning—do good for others. In our relationships with others, we should therefore wish to do what is good for them, rather than what we want, or even what they want. Often times what we want is not good for us.
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In an exclusive dating/courtship relationship, even if both want to be emotionally or physically romantic, it would be unloving to do so, because such forms of affection are meant only for marriage, and can do harm or lead to baggage if experienced outside of marriage.
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Dating is unloving:
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Dating violates these principles, since dating generally places the focus on ourselves, and what we want. In dating we are putting our best foot forward, but not for the sake of the other, but for our own benefit.We want the other person to like us. We are focusing on ourselves. We are subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) trying to manipulate others. The internet abounds with videos and articles about how to get girls or guys to “like” you. I even wrote one myself!   
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Additionally, dating often involves activities which should be reserved for marriage, thus, dating isn’t loving the other person and respecting their future spouse, nor are we loving our own future spouses.
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Since dating often involves romantic experiences, and you often have to date many people before marriage, then have to be intimate and romantic with many people besides your spouse. I think that’s very unfortunate and not very loving to the people you date, or your future spouse. 
Plus, I just find that very unattractive, don’t you? Very unromantic too, I might add. Why would you want to be emotionally or physically intimate with someone you don’t marry? That’s just gross, in my opinion. But, I’m probably just weird like that. 
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Whether you call it dating, courtship, betrothal, arranged marriage, or Wiggly Widdershins, whatever you do, it should follow the principles of loving God and your neighbor. However, since dating, by definition, involves going on romantic dates, by definition, dating is unloving.   
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Why arranged marriage works:
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“According to research, those in arranged marriages – or who have had their partner chosen for them by a parent or matchmaker – tend to feel more in love as time grows, whereas those in regular marriages feel less in love over time. Relationship experts claim this is because arranged matches are carefully considered, with thought going into whether potential partners’ families, interests and life goals are compatible.”2
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This means that those who are married through an arranged marriage are more likely to commit for life and stick it out when things get tough. They didn’t marry because of passion, so they won’t be deterred when circumstances become difficult, and the passion dissipates for a time. What is more, couples actually grow closer though these difficult circumstances.
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Dating, on the other hand, usually leads to a marriage founded on emotions, but the problem with emotions is that they come and go. What happens when your foundation suddenly isn’t there? Well, today, it often leads to the collapse of the marriage.
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Dating is like the man who builds his house on the sand–his marriage will be swept away–whereas a marriage built on the solid rock of God’s love will last. Certainly, there are exceptions. I know people who have great marriages who dated, but they are the happy survivors of a flawed system.  
The problem is today we confuse passion for love. We think lust is love, but love is doing what is best for someone, not seeking to satisfy your own romantic desires.  
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Deciding who you are going to spend the rest of your life with is a big decision, to put it mildly. So why then do we leave it up to chance? Why do we blindly let our emotions lead us?   Dr Robert Epstein, a Psychologist who studies arranged marriages said,
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“The idea is we must not leave our love lives to chance. We plan our education, our careers and our finances but we’re still uncomfortable with the idea that we should plan our love lives. I do not advocate arranged marriages but I think a lot can be learned from them.”

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The careful planning and search for compatibility that prefaces arranged marriages typically leads to a marriage with strong commitment. Whereas marriages today are easy to get out of because dating has ingrained in us the idea of following our lust, arranged marriages often promote the idea of unconditional love. Therefore, rather than tearing marriages apart, the hard times actually draw a couple closer together.
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Certainly, arranged marriage can be and is abused. All methods can and are abused. This is why I said at the beginning that no method is flawless. All methods have a spectrum as well. There are also certain types of dating that are better than others, and what makes them better or worse is how closely they follow the Biblical principles of loving God and our neighbor.
What about falling in love?
I’m sure many people will object to the idea of arranged marriage because they cannot fathom marrying someone they aren’t “in love” with as Jack LaValley described. This is because in our culture, we have a very limited and narrow understanding of love and marriage. 
Many people think falling in love is like magic. It just happens. We think love is like being shot by a heart-tipped arrow fired by a chubby Roman minor god whose name rhymes with “stupid.” Or we think that love is being cast under a spell, as America describes in their song, “You Can Do Magic.” (Yes, I will make references to songs I like as often as I can). 
You can do magic
You can have anything that you desire
Magic, and you know
You’re the one who can put out the fire
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You know darn well
When you cast your spell you will get your way
When you hypnotize with your eyes
A heart of stone can turn to clay
Doo, doo, doo … 
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I hate to burst your bubble, but “falling in love” really isn’t so mysterious. In fact, in my experience, it happens quite easily. I’ve seen people fall in love in a matter of weeks even though they have never met. I’ve seen people “fall in love” over and over. They get a new boyfriend or girlfriend every few months or so. It’s really not that hard to do. It can happen on accident, even to people who don’t want to fall in love.


Perhaps “being in love” is mysterious, as the book of Proverbs describes, “There are three things that amaze me–no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.” But if we really want to “fall in love,” we can do it. It’s very natural, and for most people, quite easy. 

All arranged marriage is proposing (no pun intended) is that you find the right person first, and then fall in love with them. It’s not a difficult concept, and people have been doing it for centuries. 

This is why we should strive to have boundaries with our friendships with members of the opposite gender. Once you get that emotional connection, and you find you have a lot in common, and you enjoy the other person’s company, for many, it would be very easy to “fall in love” if they chose to. 

Still concerned? There are many exercises couples can do to increase the sensation of “being in love.” In fact, just staring deep into each other’s eyes for a couple of minutes has been shown to increase how much a couple romantically loves each other. 

If you find a godly spouse whom you are attracted to, and whom you share a lot in common with, and are compatible when it comes to beliefs and personalities, you don’t have to worry about whether or not the feelings will come.

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Why don’t I prefer arranged marriage?  
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After providing several reasons for why I think arranged marriage can be a good model, why do I myself not prefer arranged marriage?

Ultimately, my reason for writing this post is to show that there is quite a wide spectrum along which a god-honoring and loving courtship can take place. I also wanted to try and point out how many of our preconceptions about what a dating/courtship relationship should look like are products of our western culture, rather than Biblical principles.

It is very unbiblical that we should be led by our feelings and desires when choosing a spouse. Instead, the Bible instructs us to practice self-control, and to do what is best for others, rather seeking to fulfill our own desires. Yes, it is more than possible to choose to love your spouse even when you don’t have a bunch of warm fuzzy feelings for them. Hey, I’m told this loss of passion is supposed to happen at times during marriage. Why not get some practice loving your spouse without passion right out of the gate? Personally, I wouldn’t prefer marrying without the feeling of “being in love” if for the mere reason that it doesn’t sound as enjoyable, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

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While I am not completely opposed to the method of arranged marriage for myself, I’m not certain it is the wisest method in most situations. I don’t think parents should be the sole opinions consulted. My opinion on the role of parents in a courtship can be summed up by Doug Wilson:
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“Our situation would not be very much improved if it were to go from a system based upon a young girl ‘liking’ a guy–from the system of ‘recreational dating’ to a pattern of courtship based upon parental prejudice and whim. Such decisions are very important, and cannot be left to anyone’s current whims.” – Her Hand In Marriage

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The Bible tells us often not to rely on our own understanding, or attraction and feelings for that matter, as dating proponents suggest. (Proverbs 3:5, Jeremiah 17:5-9, Psalm 118:8)
Of course, arranged marriage today often does involve the input of the children, so it’s not at all a forced marriage. This would probably fit closer with my definition of “betrothal” though, which I actually like very much as a system. I would even prefer betrothal over courtship myself. 
Everything depends on the unique circumstances and the individuals involved. I think courtship, betrothal, and even arranged marriage can all be good and healthy ways of getting married. Everyone has different circumstances. For example, someone might have very hands off parents who don’t want to play any part in courtship. Pretty much every method I’ve described would be off the table, and something or someone would have to be found to replace the role the parents were supposed to play. However, what would not be Biblical, loving, or God-honoring would be resorting to dating, which is virtually never a healthy method. 
Well, what do you know? I’m giving you THREE different ways to get married! The culture only gives you one. Who is advocating a formulaic approach to marriage now?!?!
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Arranged marriage has been around for a long time, and has had a lot of success. Dating, on the other hand, is pretty new, and has led to a lot of destruction and pain. Single motherhood has exploded, more and more children are being born out of wedlock (if they’re not aborted first) and divorce is rampant. It’s pretty obvious that even arranged marriage is a better form of finding a spouse than dating.
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I do want to clarify, all the terms and labels don’t matter. They’re all confusing and overlapping and misunderstood anyway. Terms for courtship/dating are generally not very helpful because a person could say, “Oh, we’re courting,” but be doing something more similar to what I would call dating, and vice versa. 
The terms remain because they’re shorthand, and easier to say than, “Oh, we are currently evaluating whether or not we would make a good match for a marriage, and we are following Biblical principles to arrive at a conclusion. (Courtship)” Or, “We’ve been friends for a long time and know we are compatible and want to get married one day, so we have committed to marriage at some point in the future as soon as we are able and in the meantime are following Biblical principles, and not engaging in activities that only married people should do. (Betrothal).”
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Arranged marriage would be something like, “I am following the wisdom of my parents in choosing a godly (husband/wife) for me and I am choosing to love them unconditionally as is Biblical.”
I know a lot of people like to say, “Oh, we’re not using labels.” Well…okay…but that’s not very helpful either, and usually just means they have given up on methods, and are just going to try hard and make things up as they go. This is unwise.   
We are flawed people, and therefore don’t always love God and our neighbor in the ways we should. This why I do advocate having a method or boundaries put in place to better help-out our weak flesh. What that method will look like will change from person to person, family to family, situation to situation, but whatever you want to call your method, be sure to love God and your neighbor.
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1http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-05-23/does-arranged-marriage-last-longer/55174520/1
 

13 Comments

  1. Hallelujah! Thank you for posting this. Your blag is always providing a perspective that is sorely lacking in our culture.

    A comment with regard to arranged marriages: It is essential that parents themselves have a strong marriage and are followers of Christ. My parents had/are neither and most likely would have chosen a spouse for me based on their broken values rather than the factors that build strong marriages. A strong healthy marriage selection process is dependent on our ability to follow God's commandments.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Yes, I definitely agree, which is why I say that the circumstances and individuals involved are very important. If someone doesn't have godly parents, then an arranged marriage would not be a good idea. This post was merely to illustrate that arranged marriages aren't /always/ crazy. Haha!

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. I've become a lot more in favor of the idea of arranged marriages since having children!

  4. Great post Reagan! You even addressed some of the concerns I had with arranged marriage. And thanks for not taking a judgmental point of view as regards to dating, but showing us the dangers of it. I've read posts where the writers were like “This is the only way! All other ways are wrong!” and I think that can very be hurtful.

  5. Well said, Reagan. As always. We should catch up soon.

  6. What an evil controlling parent you must be. How do you live with yourself? Haha!

    Hey, if more parents raised godly children, then I think betrothal could become a more common and viable option.

  7. I'm glad you liked it! Thank you so much for stating your concerns with civility, and for having the humility to consider the merits of opposing viewpoints! That is very rare these days.

  8. Thanks! And I agree, we should catch up sometime soon.

  9. My husband, who did date other before we got married, did tell me at one point that he thought an arranged marriage would be a very good thing. At the time we were already planning our wedding so obviously we went with a marriage that wasn't arranged by our parents. I'm not opposed to arranged marriage–actually, my Mom came across a guy that she was very interested in arranging a marriage to me with shortly before my husband and I started courting, and I know she keeps an eye out for good young men for her daughters.
    But obviously arranged marriage isn't ideal in every circumstance. Parents do not always make the wisest choices simply because they are parents. Still, it's not an inherently bad system.

  10. Ah, yes. I have read that article before. While the author does make some good points, like the fact we got rid of dating but never came up with anything to replace it, I think he also gets a lot of things very wrong.

    Basically, he has personally witnessed some difficulties with courtship, and his conclusion was to go back to dating. Not only that, but an archaic form of dating which is arguably even stranger and less accepted than courtship.

    Are there problems and difficulties with courtship? Yes. But I think courtship just needs some refinement. Running all the way back to the other extreme and going back to dating is gross over compensation in my opinion.

    I have some other critiques as well, but I think Doug Wilson sums them up well for me.

    http://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/why-courtship-is-fundamentally-awed.html

  11. I completely agree. Arranged marriage won't work in ever circumstance (courtships will be different depending on the circumstances too.) But arrange marriages certainly CAN work in some situations.

  12. You bring up a very interesting point.. and while I am thankful I met my hubby the old fashioned way.. I do think too many people get married for the wrong reasons. Great post… thanks for sharing this week on the #SHINEbloghop!

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