When I teach workshops about doing business in India, I am often asked (with some incredulity) about the concept of “arranged marriages” among Indians.
A new study by American researchers compares the dynamics between arranged and love marriages among Indian Americans produces some remarkable findings.
The study sampled adults of Indian origin living in the U.S. who were in arranged marriages organized by their family members or professional matchmakers. They also identified a comparison sample of adults in love-based, free choice marriages in which they had personally chosen their spouses on the basis of love. On average, these men and women were 35 years old and had been married for 10 years; all were of Indian descent and most were Hindu.
In order to compare relationship outcomes and experiences, there were four separate questionnaires that identified a particular aspect of the relationship:
1) Passionate Love Scale by Dr. Elaine Hatfield (University of Hawaii) and Dr. Susan Sprecher (Illinois State University), which explores the level of passion, love and romance.
2) The Companionate Love Scale created by Dr. Sprecher and Dr. Pamela Regan, which tests the partnership and friendship of the couple.
3) The Satisfaction Love Scale by Dr. Caryl Rusbult
4) The Commitment Love Scale also by Dr. Rusbult
Analysis of the results proved to be surprising to the authors of the study: There is no significant difference in the answers from the couples who were married through “arrangement” or who were married through “free choice”. Regardless of the nature of their marriage, both types of couples reported to be very satisfied and happy with their relationships. The bottom line is that love, satisfaction, and commitment appear to be common outcomes in both arranged and free choice, love-based marriages, among Indian adults living in the U.S.
This study, like all research investigations, is not without limitations. It is important to consider that these couples live in the United States, where the men and women all live in urban, industrialized environments. Furthermore, those who entered “arranged” marriage do have the freedom to say no. The researchers say that a similar study conducted in rural India or other environments might expect to find greater differences in love, satisfaction, and commitment in cultural contexts that support a clearer division between the two types of marriage.