Published June 29, 2007
Still looking for "the one"? Ask your mama.
The best way to find your partner for life could very well be the oldest: the arranged marriage, according to one trend expert.
"It sounds traditional, but in some ways so much of the future is back to the past, turbo-charged,” she said.
Arranged marriages have been part of many cultures for thousands of years, primarily born out of the desire and/or need for a financial, political or property-based partnership. As America expanded multi-culturally, this custom filtered through as certain ethnic groups sought to preserve cultural and class traditions.
But, contrary to the "old" arranged marriage, in which children are forbidden from choosing their own partners, the modern arranged marriage is not about being forced into federation. It’s about relying on the matchmaking mastery of Mom and Dad.
“This is about picking a marriage partner — not about falling into bed for a world-class romance," said Salzman, whose trend forecasts are based on pattern recognition and what stylemakers are talking about.
“There is a newfound interest in letting someone else solve the love dilemma,” she explained. “We’re on option overload, and we’re maxed out in terms of time, and we’d all love a partner. So it makes sense to enlist those who know us best to forge a proper and satisfying match.”
But are parents really the best people to hook up their children? They can be, says Sloane Veshinski, a Hollywood-based marriage and family therapist.
“Your parents usually know you best of all and are aware of an adult child’s likes and dislikes, habits, peculiarities, turn-ons and turn-offs and other factors that would determine a suitable and acceptable mate,” she said.
According to Salzman, the first stage in the modern-day arranged marriage involves meeting the partner put forward by the family for a limited time in a controlled environment.
If these initial meetings go well, the next meetings are designed to elevate interest.
“In the best case there is a seamless and joyful transformation of two extended families as the romance and energy of planning a wedding heats up,” said Salzman. “The bonds between son and parents and daughter and parents are often very much strengthened through this type of involved courtship.”
One such woman who has been happily hitched for 14 years — thanks to her folks’ marriage pick — is 38-year-old Tomoko Chibana.
“I always knew my parents would find me a lovely gentleman, so I was able to concentrate very hard on my professional studies while at university,” said Chibana, who was born in Japan and now lives in New York City with her husband and their three children.
“I never had to waste time looking for love. After graduation I started working, got married and had a family.”
Chibana believes that one of the primary misconceptions of arranged marriage is that just because it is a traditional concept, it must mean traditional male/female duties.
“I am more than just a housewife,” she declared. “I am a career woman who has traveled the world and built my own fortune independent from my husband as well.”
But despite Chibana’s happy ending, arranged marriage is not for everyone, Veshinski warns.
“For those individuals who are independent-minded, lack a truly close relationship with their parents or who believe that it is their job to pick a future life partner, this is not for them,” she said. “There should never be a pressure to be a part of an assisted marriage situation if you trust no one's judgment but your own.”
Carlo Machado, a 42-year-old businessman who was born and raised in California by Venezuelan parents, has no regrets about backing out of an arranged marriage, even though he's been divorced twice since then.
“Thirteen years ago I was engaged to a lovely young girl my mother and father had chosen on my behalf,” said Machado. “But she was just 18 and getting ready to come all the way to America. The few times we had met she just cried about leaving her family, we had no common interests and it was clear we were worlds apart.”
Despite Salzman's prediction, most experts believe arranged marriages will never be commonplace in America.
“We're too individualistic, too much into personal freedom," said Dr. Robert Epstein, a visiting psychology scholar at the University of California, San Diego, and host of the satellite radio program "Psyched!"
"On the other hand, I think the way we seek love will change, in part because of what we can learn from arranged marriages in other cultures. We leave love entirely to chance, but in many arranged marriages, people deliberately learn to love over time."
So is it really possible that just by giving it a go, a solid relationship can grow out of an arrangement?
“There have been many arranged marriages that started out as being for the family, power, property and procreation, and love grew out of that bond,” Veshinski said. “It is believed that assisted marriage is about having others help to go through the stack of potential spouses to find those that meet the criteria for top-10 status, so that the potential bride or groom can have a smaller but more appropriate pool to choose from.”
Salzman said arranged marriage makes sense in a world in which the search for "the one" has disappointed so many people.
“I think of so many of my friends who married for lust or ‘true love,’ and most are now divorced, cheating or lost in therapy,” said Salzman. “Who knows what true love is? Thus we seek true partnership — and we rely upon others to help us pick suitable partners.”
But Machado is glad he nixed his arranged nuptials.
“At least the mistakes I've made are ones I made of my accord,” he said.