Compatibility is one of those elusive, unmeasurable, undefined secret ingredients of successful marriages.
Can we determine the level of compatibility between two people with 100% certainty?
But through spending sufficient time with each other over a long enough period of time and through asking the right questions we can form an idea. That’s the best we can do to help ourselves take the biggest decision of our lives. Those of you who’ve been following this site for a while are familiar with these thoughts already. :)
But we want shortcuts. We want quick fix solutions. Unfortunately, such solutions rarely work in the long run.
I recently had a very interesting conversation about how we should go about gauging compatibility before marriage and whether there are any quick fix solutions to it. Here are some excerpts. Do let me know what you think. :)
Someone: What should I do to determine compatibility through a few meetings in case of arranged marriages?
Me: In my opinion, even in case of arranged marriages there’s no easy replacement for a real courtship of at least two year – not after fixing the marriage date, like they do in case of modern Indian arranged marriages – but before you decide to get married to each other.
“But what happens if after investing two long years we decide not to get married?” You might ask.
When I say date each other for two years, I don’t mean date each other exclusively. You’re not in a relationship or anything, you’ve met through matchmaking. So you don’t have the responsibilities that come with a commitment. Feel free to date more than one people at the same time, but disclose it to all the people involved.
Someone: In the Indian societal set-up this arrangement is not going to be even acceptable- leave alone successful- beyond the tiniest fraction of arranged marriages taking place in the few metro cities.
Dating more than one person at a time?
Guys might just about escape any stigma or adverse remarks, but what about the girl? In a country where you need the flimsiest of excuses to set tongues wagging about “loose character”, dating multiple guys openly is the equivalent of showing a red cloth to the bull. Even if the girl cares two pence, her parents are unlikely to be unaffected by the constant insinuations.
My perspective is that of a guy hailing from a conservative family in a tier-2 city. I have been witness to innumerable instances of such “whispers” and comments being passed and I dare say that most folks outside metros (where I have been living for the last 2.5 years or so) harbor the same mindset- or worse.
Me: When I say date, I mean interact over a period of time after meeting through an arranged marriage channel (“getting to know each other” over months, sometimes more than a year, as is already common in case of modern arranged marriages). Most people do meet and interact with more than one “prospect” over the same period of time – otherwise how would you choose a partner in the limited timeframe of an arranged marriage preamble?
What I’m suggesting here is you do that for at least two years BEFORE, not AFTER you decide to get married. If you’ve already decided to get married, spending time with each other isn’t aiding your decision, which is the whole point of dating in the first place. :-)
A lot of people in India cannot afford 10 years of school education for their children. While this is unfortunate, this doesn’t take away anything from the importance of education for children.
Similarly, some conservative aspects of the Indian culture might make it impossible for you to interact with a “prospect” for a sufficiently long period of time before making a decision. That’s unfortunate. That doesn’t take away anything from the importance of these interactions in gauging compatibility between the two people. :) Like I said, the thumbrule is – you should interact for at least 2 years before you can understand a person at least to some extent, which is essential to taking a decision as important as marriage.
If that’s not possible, well you’d be taking a higher risk with your marriage decision. :-) There is no shortcut to knowing a person. The criteria that are usually checked at the time of an arranged marriage like family backgrounds, education, financial status etc. are at best hygiene factors – they ensure a basic match between the tangible aspects of the two people’s lives. They don’t say ANYTHING about compatibility – a match between the type of people they are.
What if one of you is an honest, straight forward person while the other is manipulative?
What if one of you is a diehard conservative, while the other is a free-spirited liberal? (inside their heart. I understand on the surface everyone is expected to act conservative in the kind of scenario you’ve described. :D)
I’m sure you understand that such basic differences in nature, values and beliefs of the two people is sure to lead to an unhappy marriage (I wouldn’t say a failed marriage because Indians don’t divorce. :D)
The only way to even begin to gauge such aspects of a person is to keep spending time with them over a sufficiently long period of time. This will NOT ensure a happy marriage (nothing can, because people can change 5 years later, fall in love with someone else etc.). But it will reduce the risk of a mistake significantly. :)
Similarly, this is not to say 100% of “blind” marriages (arranged marriages where the bride and the groom don’t even get to see each other more than a few times before marriage) are sure to be unhappy. If you’re lucky you’ll coincidentally find someone compatible to you even through the “blind” process. But it would still be that – a very lucky coincidence. :)
Realistically speaking, while a blind marriage may not be the best option, if it’s your only option you’d have to make it work, even if your spouse doesn’t turn out to be exactly what you needed. A mental readiness for making all necessary compromises, a willingness to treat the other person with respect no matter how much you like or dislike them and continuing to set clear boundaries and rules of the relationship as you discover each other are essential to making it a stable, peaceful union.