Alex Sangha: Husband hunting in Canada can be a difficult task

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      My friend has been looking to find a husband for at least five years. She has had no luck. She is a beautiful, well-educated, Punjabi Sikh woman who works as a nurse. She is approaching 30, and it is not getting any easier. She asked me recently to help her find a lifelong partner.

      I really didn’t want to get involved in the matchmaking business due to the potential repercussions if the marital arrangement does not work out, so I recommended that she talk to her parents about an arranged marriage. She was a little taken back by this suggestion considering my modern, progressive views on most issues. Nonetheless, I highlighted the fact that the divorce rate is almost 40 percent in Canada and only one percent in India, where arranged marriages are customary. Surely, India must be doing something right, or maybe not?

      My friend did not like this arranged marriage idea at first. As a result, we started off by seeking the advice of local matrimonial services and even trying online dating. Why not give love a chance? The problem with finding love is that time is not on her side. She can’t spend forever dating someone who may or may not love or marry her for years. She wants to settle down and get married and have children and raise a family together. She wants to build a life as a “respectable, married woman”, in her words.

      That’s one of the great things about an arranged marriage. After a brief introduction and period of time to get to know each other, which is usually approved by parents on both sides, an arranged couple can move forward and plan their life together if they agree to a marital union. The parents have already looked into the education and career compatibility, and family background of the potential partner. It is especially important for the bride to be accepted and get along with her potential future in-laws as she will most likely live with them, at least initially until the new couple becomes established and moves out on their own.

      Despite my recommendation, it is important to note that arranged marriages are practised less frequently among South Asians born and naturalized in Canada, from what I have witnessed. I still believe arranged marriages can be an ideal solution if it is difficult to find someone, however. Furthermore, even the dowry system is slowly being abolished and interracial marriages are becoming more common, both which I see as positive steps in the evolution of marriage within the South Asian community. Actor Lisa Ray, professional hockey player Manny Malhotra, and figure skater Emanuel Sandhu are all the product of mixed marriages. Hopefully, their success will work to break down interracial barriers and stigma.

      Marriage is big business in Canada within the South Asian community. If love marriages have such a huge chance of failure, it may not exactly be a great investment. Marriage takes work, commitment, and compromise, which I have discovered as a counsellor and social worker. Both partners still have the individual choice of agreeing to the marital union. They have the final say. I am opposed to forced marriages, which are essentially a form of institutional rape and can result in no love and adultery and infidelity, not to mention domestic violence and resentment within the couple. If a person is given a choice whether or not to marry, then he or she can own that decision and put in a solid effort to make the marriage work. They would be included as part of the marital decision-making process.

      My other problem with arranged marriages is that they can be a form of discrimination and racism. Many parents only want to marry their child into a certain caste, class, or high-status family, preferably with money and high education. In addition, I have read many advertisements seeking a woman with fair skin tone. Furthermore, who knows how many hearts families have broken by rejecting a potential boyfriend or girlfriend as a husband or wife due to their background, religion, ethnicity, or status in life. I feel this is morally, ethically, and spiritually wrong, although it may be sensible for a family looking out for the best interests and future well-being of their son or daughter or should I say themselves as a family unit.

      There may be many reasons why the divorce rate is so high in Canada and so low in India. Perhaps, the availability of contraception, gender roles, women’s rights, and social programs makes it easier for a woman to seek a divorce in Canada? In India, it is probably much more difficult to divorce due to it being a cultural taboo and the fact that the women may be dependent on the husband and his family financially. In addition, it may also be difficult to re-marry once a woman has been divorced in India especially with children.

      In conclusion, my friend is having some luck on the arranged marriage front. Well, she has had a number of promising coffee dates. I have taken the liberty of opening an account for her on because I hear the Internet is the future of everything including love and marriage! We will see what happens. Stay tuned.

      Alex Sangha is a registered social worker in British Columbia. He is the author of the social discussion book The Modern Thinker and one of the winners of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Awards of 2011.




      Apr 27, 2012 at 7:08pm

      Some of the reasons for a much lower divorce rate in India could be the lack of both Economic + Women's freedoms where women are still discriminated far more than say in Canada.

      The Caste system and the way India treats it's poor is shameful.

      As for your friend perhaps she's far more picky than usual :) she of course has the choice to remain single & have children have you heard of artificial insemination?

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      Hey, Pick Me

      Apr 27, 2012 at 9:11pm

      I suspect that an arranged marriage is one way of avoiding taking responsibility for ones own critical life decisions.

      I'm sure if we legalized Honor Killings in Canada, the divorce rate would go down.

      OH, just one question, will her mother be moving in with her and her husband?

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      Kamal Kishor

      Apr 27, 2012 at 9:50pm

      Whenever I come across a statement starting with "my friend ...", I wonder if isn't about the author/speaker himself. Anyway, that's beside the point (it's mean't to be a joke).

      Why does your friend need to get married anyway ? I suggest it's cultural conditioning. All she needs is a circle of close friends and good family relations. Being single is a very good alternative. It's very freeing.

      I think your comparison between the divorce rates in India and Canada is like the old Apples and Oranges routine. Are you saying the 99% of married folks in India are happy ? I doubt it. Those people, from a very early age, are taught and conditioned how their lives will be when they grow up. They (the women) dare not leave a marriage no matter how miserable they are (you see it's all a matter of "honour"). In the West, if you're not happy with your partner, you can leave and start again. But in India you risk being stigmatized. So, people stay in unhappy marriages and endure the misery.

      Another point: marriage is not a natural state of human existence; it is a social and economic construct; and, as such, places unrealistic and unnatural demands on an individual. So, a high divorce rate is a good thing !! It means people aren't staying in undesirable relationships against their wills.

      A person shouldn't get married just to uphold or perpetuate cultural or traditional practices. He/she should get married because they feel they've found the right person. An arranged marriage "forces" a person to accept another person into his/her life. It's not natural.

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      Arthur Vandelay

      Apr 28, 2012 at 9:06am

      To my knowledge, "arranged marriages" in Canada, are a bit of a misnomer. They are more like "arranged meetings". The couple must still then agree that they are compatible mates. Its not like they must marry at the parents direction. This is Canada, not the farm in the old country. I think its more like a good dating service, one that you can rely on to weed out the total douches, but there is still work to be done nonetheless.

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      KiDDAA Magazine

      Apr 28, 2012 at 9:28pm

      Arranged marriage a joke and even most in India and Punjab are going to love marriages. Bottom line the world changes. My parents had arranged marriages and had love between them.
      But the arranged marriage is not always a blind union as the prospect of husband and wive usually meet each other and talk, socialize etc.
      Western ways are not always the best and sometimes neither are eastern ways. Love usually comes when you are not looking for it. But that being said many Punjabi women do have unrealistic expectations of their future husbands. Maybe that's why alot of Indo Candians are going w ith other races.
      Im not sure the point of Mr. Sanghas article as people continue to love, marry, divorce and live. Life goes on and no cultural restrictions can ever stop love. Love is power, love is energy and love is KiDDAA Magazine.

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      Surinder Kaur

      Apr 29, 2012 at 9:40am

      @Kidda Magazine

      I think Alex Sangha is saying that an arranged marriage can be useful and has merit if someone has a difficult time finding a partner on the condition that both people have final say over the marriage and are not forced into a marriage against their will. I agree with the previous comment that the writer should have perhaps referred to this as an arranged meeting instead of a traditional arranged marriage because that is not what he is espousing.

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      KiDDAA Magazine

      Apr 29, 2012 at 6:13pm

      Surinder I think what the article misses is obvious. There is a huge difference between someone who was born and raised in Punjab and here. Even if you are fluent in Punjabi, the Canadian ideals and Punjabi ones are quite different.
      To be honest even as a person not raised in Punjab I actually love the women's attitudes from India, not Canada. It seems many of the women in Canada that are Punjabi are pretend princesses. It seems those that are raised in India, even if unbelievably beautiful are more grounded. Two different socities. Canada tends to be more individualistic and India far more social. A good looking, smart woman in India is a dime a dozen.
      That being said, finding a spouse is never easy and often times, arranged marriages end up in disasters. Same can happen with love but you usually know what you are getting into.
      People are smart and it really doesnt matter where they are from. Those old school ideas of backward Indians, Arabs, Chinese etc are just backward.

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      John S.

      Apr 30, 2012 at 8:28am

      A "beautiful" woman can't get a guy? Here's a simple three-step procedure for her. Feel free to print this out on a flash card and give it to her.

      1. Go to a bar
      2. Find a guy you like
      3. Flirt with him

      That's it. Not so hard, was it?

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      May 30, 2012 at 10:08pm

      As per Indian culture arrange marriages are preferred more than love marriage, considering the fact that parents know it all, and of course know it better. However, the ending of the article talked about online matrimonial and dating stuff, then that is prevailing in India too. In the rat race lifestyle, online dating and matrimonial sites work as time savers

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      May 31, 2012 at 12:06pm

      let me preface this by saying that this is not meant to be an insult, but as a generalized observation on our current society.

      I think that women have really evolved internally over the past few decades, working on themselves in every way, getting higher educations and more rewarding jobs on top of developing their physical appearance and spiritual prespectives.

      men, not entirely but for a large part, have gone the other direction, becoming overgrown kids playing video games, and not exactly expressing a real internal landscape, or consciousness of themselves and the world around them. all over town you see guys in their 30's and 40's dressed in t-shirts and ball caps, swearing and telling dick jokes as if they are 10 years old.

      now stay with me for a second here, because i'm not saying it's their fault... i really believe this has happened because of our overexposure to American media, and the glorification of "dude" culture. The portrayal of women in the media is abhorrent and often single-faceted, but so is the portrayal of men.

      there are so few husbands out there because there are so few men we can really admire and get dreamy-eyed over.

      you meet these douchebags in track suits grabbing their crotches and going "it's not going to suck itself" and you don't exactly hear "Johnny Angel" in your head.

      ladies, can you feel me?

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