Arranged Marriage Gone Wrong: Not A Love Story

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He Never Deserved Me Ariana MansourWhen we were writing the book, the subject came up of how I ended up marrying my husband. My best friend kept on saying that it was an arranged marriage and I would explain to her that it wasn’t. Then finally, she asked me, “Why don’t you be the judge of that?”

In my society, it was understood and never questioned by anyone that a potential husband should be from a specific social class, the same as mine or higher and of the same ethnic group as me. He had to be older than me because that meant he was financially settled and had the capabilities to support me in the way I was accustomed to or at an even higher level.

After I turned 16, I was considered of marrying age. That meant my family and their friends were alert to any candidates that would fit all these criteria. The mothers of the single men would also be on the lookout for a young woman that fit their personal criteria. Ranging from being obedient, quiet, submissive, to being a good cook, smart enough to hold a conversation and good natured, kind and patient enough to accept her role. Gold diggers were to be avoided; the young woman would have to come from a well-to-do family.

If by chance, either the man or the woman were to fall in love with someone that did not fit all the criteria, a threat of disownment would hang over them. After all, the parents knew better, or so they thought.

Anytime there was an event or a gathering where there were single men or women, the parents would send us with a briefing of the candidates that were going to be present with specific stories about the families we came from and with instructions to go and see if we were interested in any of them. These events were the perfect and obvious disguise for getting two people that didn’t know each other to meet. In their minds they were helping their children to find “the one”.

A couple in Beriut, Lebanon getting married. Image courtesy of Al Jazeera.

What is important to understand is that at any given event, even something as big as a wedding, there were no more that five possible candidates. So, the pool was quite small. How could one find real love in such a limited amount of people? Then again, love was not what we were supposed to be looking for. The best you could do was find someone that you felt comfortable with and whose company you enjoyed.

You have to understand that this was my normal, I had grown up with these ideas and nobody ever questioned them. The people who defied their parents would have to break the bond with them for a number of years. Many times the ice would break only when grandchildren were born and the parents would have to accept the relationship. This doesn’t feel right is why I felt the need to write my own story.

I hope younger generations will read my book and take from it the lesson I learned about being the judge of one’s own circumstances in life and the courage to marry someone out of love, not tradition.

Ariana Mansour (A pseudonym) is a Middle Eastern novelist, who tells the story of her marriage and how she battled psychological abuse while fighting the laws of her country to keep her son from being taken away. Her story inspires women to stand up for themselves.

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