Should my parents choose a marriage partner for me or not?

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In the olden days, many traditional marriages in East Africa were arranged by the parents. The parents chose the marriage partners for their sons and daughters. Since it was the tradition conventional in those days, things went on smoothly and the young couples learnt to love each other as they built up their families and homes. marriage used to be a family and a clan affair rather than individual couple’s affair. However, with the coming of the Christianity and later on the dawn of globalization, things changed a lot. individualization and nuclearization of the marriage affair as well as independence from the parents took over. Today, majority of the young people choose their own partners at times also disregarding what their parents may feel or say, although in some communities arranged marriages are still being practiced.

Yesterday, the youth group in the our SVD Epiphany Parish in Burka, Arusha, during their usual Sunday afternoon meeting, debated on this theme. I was given the role of taking down the points from each side, may be because according to them,as a priest I stood on neutral grounds. It was interesting how the debate unfolded. These are some of the points argued out by each side.

Side A: The parents should choose the marriage partner for their sons and daughters.

  1. The parents scrutinize carefully the behaviour and the family background of the boy or the girl they would like their son or daughter to marry.
  2. The parents love their children and will always choose the best for them.
  3. Marriage is about learning how to love one another and so one need not to have loved the person before marring them.
  4. The marriage has less post marriage conflicts because the two families will have already agreed on the terms.
  5. The young couple persevere in  marriage in respect and honour of their parents.
  6. It is God’s commandment to obey one’s parents.
  7. The one chosen by parents is prepared well before marriage.
  8. The Old Testament talks of arranged marriages.
  9. The parents are involved in solving the marriage conflicts.

Side B: One should choose his or her partner.

  1. The parents are not the ones to live the marriage, so they have no right to choose partners for their children.
  2. There must be enough time of getting to know the person one is going to spend his or her entire life with.
  3. Arranged marriages bring conflicts in the marriage because the couple may not come to love each other after all.
  4. If one choses he or she will trust and love the one they have chosen but if the parents choose, they will not trust or love them.
  5. It is easier to resolve conflicts when the couple have freely chosen each other.
  6. Marriage is an agreement in freedom between the couple and not between the parents.
  7. Some parents choose material gain and not the compatibility between their children.
  8. It contributes to lack of respect between the partners and toward the in-laws.
  9. It contributes to cheating in marriage since the union is not based on love.
  10. There is always a blame game towards the parents in case of conflicts in marriage.
  11. Times have changed and this tradition is no longer viable.
  12. The couple may not have future dreams and plans about their marriage since it is a forced relationship.

The institution of marriage is being threatened today more than never before. This kind of debate helps the young people to be alive to the whole question of marriage and what it takes to sustain a healthy family. It is important for us to be up-to-date on the issues that surrounds the institution of marriage in the places where we work so us to be able to give informed guidance to the young people who would like to start families.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD.

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