The institution of marriage predates recorded history making it a phenomenon that has existed for thousands of years. The concept of marriage in early civilisations was an attempt to foster alliances between families but over the hundreds of years that followed, as society evolved, marriage transformed into a sacred bond between two people born out of love and commitment. Marriage traditions vary widely across cultures but what remains constant is the belief that two individuals who choose to marry each other are promising their sustained love, devotion and commitment to each other.
Don’t rush into a marriage because of family pressure
In India, marriage is one of the most crucial aspects of an individual's life. Families believe that their child’s life will remain incomplete if they do not find a suitable life partner to marry. Decades of this mindset has placed an abnormal pressure on Indians to get married by a certain age in the fear of being perceived as a failure if they refuse to do so. The constant pressure by families often forces many people to marry partners they aren’t familiar with, an action that is guaranteed to have a lifetime of consequences. Choosing the wrong life partner could cause several hurdles in a person’s life. The stigma attached to divorce makes things harder. People are forced to stay in unhappy marriages because they fear the fallout after a divorce.
It is important to not rush into a marriage and take your time while deciding who you want to spend your life with. The idea of spending the rest of your life with one person can often seem overwhelming, especially when you’re confused about the person you’re getting married to. In the Indian context, arranged marriages can get doubly tricky. How does one choose the right partner? What factors should you keep in mind while selecting your spouse? There are a number of criteria you should keep in mind before deciding to marry someone and asking the right kind of questions is essential before you take the next step. Before we move to the crucial questions we must address before selecting a spouse, let us understand how scientific theories of partner selection visualise how humans choose their partners.
What does science say about choosing a partner?
Scientific theories propose the different ways in which we choose to be with someone and what may be desirable to us. The evolutionary theory suggests that physical characteristics, personality features along with behavioural tendencies determine how we select our partners. The need to reproduce and survive is what defines this line of thought. In many cultures, marriage is often viewed in this limited context. Next, the social role theory explains that mate selection rules depend on the roles that women and men occupy in the society. As social roles and norms shift, people’s preferences also shift. This theory takes a more holistic look at how cultural shifts impact partner selection.
The importance of a courtship period and understanding your potential partner
In the Indian context, while arranged marriages have remained the norm, the approach to them has shifted. What was earlier a decision family members took on behalf of their children has now become more democratic. The children have become equal decision makers, they are given more time to spend with their potential spouses so that they gain a better understanding of the person they are marrying. This courtship period is very important as it helps build a better relationship between two people as they get to know each other on a more personal level. Whether it is a love marriage or an arranged marriage, the courtship period is critical. Moving beyond mere likes and dislikes, the two people can engage in deeper, meaningful conversation that lasts over a few months before they finally decide on taking the next step. During the courtship period, take the time to inquire about basic facts which include what line of work they are in, what salary they earn and what their interests are. This is only the beginning, beyond this delve into unearthing their personality traits, what makes them a unique person? Always ensure that you set your expectations and then gauge the other person based on that. Another interesting way of getting to know your potential spouse is by suggesting scenarios both of you might find yourselves in and seeing what kind of response they have to it. This will help you understand how your partner may behave in a crisis situation and lay the foundation for your relationship.
Exploring the personality of your partner to see if matches yours
Taking a personality test together will also help immensely. Personality tests available online are designed to holistically understand a person and their temperament in different situations. The Myer Briggs Test, The Big Five Personality test, Truity Test, Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire and the Comrey Personality Scales are some examples of tests that you can take with your potential partner to understand the kind of person they are and what values they prioritise. Belonging to a similar background and having the same likes and dislikes is not enough while choosing a life partner, you also have to hold similar opinions about the world, have similar beliefs and ideologies to avoid clashes in your core values. Your core values define the person that you are and dictate how you would behave in critical situations. Having a partner whose core values align with yours is of the utmost significance.
Health should always remain a priority. Have a conversation with your potential spouse, discuss your personal health history so both of you know what kind of health issues run in the family. Going for a health check-up together is always advisable, testing for serious conditions like TB, cancer and other chronic illnesses will help you understand what you can expect after you get married in terms of prolonged health conditions. Checking if your spouse has undergone any cosmetic surgery will ensure transparency in the relationship. It will eliminate any scope for discovering new aspects of their physical bodies after marriage, which could potentially lead to unpleasant situations. Discuss any surgical procedure they may have gone through to enhance their appearance much in advance.
When inquiring about your spouse’s work and their salary, it is essential to understand their financial lifestyle and check if it matches with yours. Pre-existing family debts and other expenses must be discussed at length to prevent any future miscommunications and clashes. Understanding each other’s finances is a foundational factor you must consider.
Career and kids are two areas that can make or break a marriage. Knowing what you and your spouse want from your careers is very important, and will most definitely define the course of your future together. Also discuss the prospect of moving abroad and if your partner would be comfortable with that. Often, our jobs require that we move to different locations to work and your spouse should be comfortable with starting their life in a new country. If they are not, it will cause a hurdle in your career as well as your relationship in the long run. Women should make their career ambitions clear to prevent future demands of becoming a ‘housewife’. It is also important to check if men are open to the concept of being ‘house husbands’ if and when the need arises. Career paths that are too distinct will lead to problems later in the relationship and must be thoroughly discussed before deciding to marry someone. Wanting or not wanting kids is a major deal breaker in most potential marriages. Ensure your potential spouse knows that you want/don’t want children or if you are open to adopting children.
Sexuality is a very important part of your marriage. Your physical relationship with your spouse will build intimacy and trust which is why discussing sexual preferences is key. If your partner is asexual, both of you must have an honest conversation to understand how you will navigate your physical relationship together. Discussing your religious practices and your faith in a higher power is also an element you have to have a conversation about. In the case of inter-caste or inter-faith marriages, the religion you practice might pose an issue for the extended family, which is why it is essential to clarify your faith and its associated practices right in the very beginning. Spirituality also falls into this framework, discuss your beliefs in a higher reality and clarify if you are an atheist so your partner understands what your belief system is.
Do you prefer living in a nuclear family or a joint one? The family system you are most suited to is important to clarify when choosing a spouse. It will determine your future living conditions and you do not want to find yourself living in uncomfortable surroundings. Once you explore all these areas and fully understand your partner and decide to marry them, you also must have a conversation about your wedding expenditure. The ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ is expensive and time-consuming and not something everyone would want in a wedding. It is therefore essential that you make your views clear about the kind of finances you want to spend before planning the wedding.
Spending the rest of your life with someone is an important decision to make and the best way to make an informed decision is to understand every aspect of their personality and what they want from their lives. Ignoring issues you assume will automatically fall into place after your marriage maybe the incorrect approach to take. Keep all your essential criteria in mind before you begin having a conversation with your potential partner so you can successfully cover all bases and enter a relationship where both of you are completely aware of the other person’s needs, thoughts and desires.