Day with Mike


I was having a “day out with the guys” with my friend Mike, yesterday, mostly to ask for his advice over a couple of issues that I’m going through, but since we haven’t seen each other in a few years, we did a lot of catching up and we also “shot the breeze”, an expression he uses sometimes to describe what we did.

We talked about a lot of things and at some point the subject of arranged marriages came up. Years ago, in another life, Mike used to have a business partner who, coming from an eastern country, was in an arranged marriage, and the guy’s wife once confided in Mike that when she was betrothed, she was distraught by the whole thing. She had never met her future husband, she didn’t like him, she just didn’t want to get married.

But now, years and several kids later, she couldn’t imagine herself without her husband. If he left her, she said, she wouldn’t know what to do. She loved him. With all her heart.

“In the west”, she continued, “couples fall in love. And five years later, they divorce.”

Having been an orthodox Jew for a short period in my life allowed me to have a look into the way this “other half” lives. Jewish orthodox marriages aren’t as arranged as Indira’s (maybe her real name, maybe not), but courtships are short and sweet, and with a clear purpose: marriage and kids.

No fooling around here. If both sweethearts believe they have a chance at a life-long relationship, they go for it. There definitely has to be physical attraction involved (otherwise, I don’t see how they’d make it past date #1), but if love happens under these conditions, it’s purely accidental.

In one of those rare moments of absolute clarity, I told Mike that arranged marriages work simply because neither partner is in love and they have absolutely nothing to loose by showing their true colors. When rejection is not an issue, be it because your partner is stuck with you or because whatever you bring to the table is besides the point of the marriage, people are more sincere, they are more themselves, without masks. There’s no lying and nothing’s really hidden. There’s nothing to be lost. There’s no risk.

David Wilcox’s “Start with the ending”, has some more wisdom to pour on this. The song’s premise is to break-up with your partner at the beginning of the relationship. Not having a tie will empower you to be fearless about what you do and say, and tell the truth. And, the song continues, if you tell the truth, the relationship will endure.

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