Getting Married For Practical Reasons Rather Than For Love

Written by on June 18, 2012 in Relationships - No comments | Print this page


A survey in 1993 showed that 4% of Americans, 5% of Australians, 8% of those from England, and up to 49% in India and 51% in Pakistan are willing to marry without love (Levine, 1993).  Americans value independence and rugged individualism, which is a characteristic trait of western cultures.  On the other hand, for cultures where arranged marriages are common, the parents take into account family concerns, social obligations, religious constraints, and income(Dion & Dion, 1996).  Western cultures may take those factors into account to some degree, but love is still a huge contributing factor.

We can argue that there are many different types of love, but two types of love will be discussed henceforth.  The first, passionate love, is romantic love characterized by high arousal and intense attraction.  This has been the theme of many songs in our pop culture.  The second type of love, companionate love, is a secure, trusting, stable partnership.

Companionate love describes arranged marriages.  The families decide the “appropriate” spouse for their children.  Upon reading anecdotes of arranged marriages, some of the first things that are asked are “Do you own a house?” or “What level of education do you have?”…you know, practical matters.  At least they cut to the chase.  It may seem too much like a transaction to us, but hey, it’s different strokes for different folks, right?

A friend of mine from China always used to say, “Get married first, then you can work on the love part later.”  What a foreign concept.  What if that person turns out to be an abusive bastard?  What if we she is a conniving woman?  One extreme case of an arranged marriage gone bad was Nujood Ali, a child bride from Yemen who was forced into marriage at the age 10 and was beaten and raped incessantly by her 30 year old husband.  She was married off to pay off the debt of her father.  It was essentially a financial transaction.  There is a happy ending to the story though.  She was granted a divorce and is a best-selling author.  That all occurred by the ripe age of 10-11 years old.

Luckily, we have the freedom of choice here.  We have a statutory rape law against pedophiles.   Little Nujood is an extreme case.  There have been plenty of arranged marriages that do work.  These marriages serve a functional purpose of having a life partner who can really be your “other half.”   That emotional, passionate love can possibly come later.

Companionate love is less intense than passionate love, but in some respects is deeper and more enduring (Brehm, 2002).  Sprecher and Regan conducted studies surveying heterosexual couples and found that passionate love scores of both sexes initially rose over time but then peaked and declined somewhat after 2-3 years.  Companionate love did NOTsimilarly decline.  One interesting observation in these research studies is that there are less expectations of the spouse in arranged marriages.  They develop over time as they get to know each other and lead to less conflict in the long run.

In couples that stay together, partners are likely to report that “I love you more today than yesterday” (Sprecher, 1999).  Just like the slow, but steady tortoise in Aesop’s fable, companionate love may seem outpaced by the flashier side of passionate love, but can still cross the finish line well ahead.

Now, if all of us can have both passionate and the steady and enduring side of companionate love that would last “til death do us part.”



About the Author

M. Yu

M. Yu is a single, working professional who lives in New York City. She has eclectic interests, ranging from cancer research (her day job) to traveling to writing for the Relationship Category on QLR. She has an active dating life and views every life experience as a learning lesson. View all posts about healthy relationships.