The Arabian Gulf and American Marriage Arrangements
Family has always been a basis of all societies where marriage is an inevitable part of the family”s well-being. Due to religious traditions and views various countries may have radically different rituals and expectations when it comes to marriage. In most cultures religion plays an important role in the marriage institution. The difference between marriage traditions of the Arab Gulf countries and America are obvious as these cultures have different values and understanding of love, relationships and family.Although American marriage is based on love and freedom of choice, arranged marriages in the Arabian Gulf states are more likely to be successful. According to Divakaruni, in her book one amazing thing, these marriages are based on strong shared religious, cultural, and family beliefs and values which help create long lasting stable relationships between the parties. One Amazing Thing clearly collapses the walls dividing various characters and cultures when it comes to marriage, romance, political upheaval, family, and self-discovery.
In the Arabian society marriage is considered the main social system of security, and a turning point that shows recognition, approval in society, prestige and the right form of sexual relationship which is culturally, socially and legally acceptable. For example, in Kuwait, my home country, it is only marriages between Muslim, Jewish and Christians that are recognized by state. Despite religion, a groom must be not younger than 17 and a bride should be at least 15 to marry. However, most families nowadays advocate for marriages where the groom has a bachelor”s degree or about to graduate. Most of marriages in Kuwait are arranged by the family heads according to the religious values and traditions. Every Muslim woman needs a family member who is a male, mostly the father to consent to her marriage. In the absence of the father, the older brother or an uncle plays the role. According to traditions, marriages between cousins, social classes and between clan members are allowed. Although marriages are arranged, one can reject a given choice of a partner which means to some extent, there is a freedom of choice. In some liberal communities, those who want to marry are only given recommendations and left to make their own choice. According to Divakaruni, when young ones make their choice as to whom to get married to, parents and the society should “agree to the marriage” (Divakaruni 163-164).
Dowry has to be paid as a matter of tradition. It consists of jewelry and a ring which symbolizes the engagement. After the marriage agreement has been reached, the signed contract fixes an amount of dowry which should be paid by the man. The marriage is the made public followed by separate wedding receptions. The wedding ceremonies are expensive but most families don”t care. They only want the best for their children. They also want to have a ceremony that they will live to remember.
In American society, when people fall in love they may marry. Marriage partners are chosen according to one”s likes and dislikes, which are often based on how strong their relationship is. However, not all people marry for love in the Arabian countries as the majority of marriages are arranged, whereas Americans build their families on the basement of love, at least at the very beginning of the family building. In the US, a woman has a variety of rights and choices, including what to put on, where to go, whom to meet and when to have a baby. Whereas women in Arabian countries have almost no rights to do these things: she only waits to get married. It is for such a reason asks Divakaruni “…Is it fair to ask me to remain in a relationship that”s killing me?” (Divakaruni).
The Americans have a tendency to marry after the fulfillment of their education, career and financial needs. According to statistics American women marry at an average not earlier than 25, whereas men not earlier than 26(Yau). Lots of couples marry much later as they prefer living together and before marriage. The marriage is usually preceded by dating which helps the parties to get acquainted with each other and to become sure that they are compatible.But dating does not always lead to marriage. When both parties agree to marry they become engaged. A man gives to a woman an engagement ring which symbolizes a marriage agreement. The wedding ceremonies depend on the couple”s religious and cultural background. However, such ceremonies usually include a religious ceremony which is followed by a reception held at their parent”s home.
The divorce rate in America is constantly increasing. Now it stands at almost 50% in cases of first marriages while in cases of second and third marriages it reaches 60-70% (Current Divorce and Marriage Rates). It is evident that there are obvious disparities in divorce rate based on the age of married couples. Couples who marry between the ages of 20 and 24 are more likely to divorce (Current Divorce and Marriage Rates). Marriage is the backbone of the society and so a huge part of America and Arab Gulf countries. Arranged marriages are the best. Arranged marriages are based on strong beliefs, respect and family values, and are long-lasting. It is for this reason that it”s hard to find cases of divorce in the Gulf countries.
Although there are many differences between the Arabian Gulf and American cultures in terms of religious views and understanding of marriage, both of the cultures have some similar taboos on which relationships are found. For example it is forbidden to marry brothers, sisters, a son or a daughter. In the modern Arab world, an engagement ring is common. While the expectations of a marriage based on love are not always justified, love may quickly fade away and as a result, it leads to splitting and divorce. However, arranged marriages, which may sound a bit strange in the modern world, have a lot of advantages. In such marriages the emphasis is made on the family values, there is financial security, family support, the divorce is unthinkable, you do not have to spend time and efforts on looking for someone to marry, and the parties focus on the religious beliefs.