All marriages are arranged.
Some are arranged by parents. Others are arranged by the prospective mates themselves.
Throughout human history most marriages have been arranged with the active involvement of parents. The human species, in its wisdom, has chosen not to entrust such an important decision to callow youths.
In Asia parental involvement is the norm. In America it tends not to be.
Even in America, however, the parents of Asian-American children are often directly involved in arranging meetings between prospective spouses. The same holds true among Orthodox Jews.
Needless to say, this takes a great deal of the mystery out of dating.
Obviously, the great American experiment in allowing young people to choose their mates without any parental involvement is proving definitively that it’s better for parents to be involved.
In all cases, parental involvement still allows young people to accept or reject a prospective spouse.
In America, we are so enamored with youthful exuberance and autonomy that we, as a culture, prefer a hands-off approach to mating. We have even made a fetish out of making your own mistakes.
American parents today often refuse to interfere with youthful mating rituals. At times, they even refuse to offer an opinion.
Usually, they live to regret their reticence.
Why the silence? Most parents of rebellious adolescents know only too well that if they offer an opinion their children are likely to do just the opposite, as a point of youthful pride.
Some young people make it a point of pride to marry someone they know their parents would never accept.
American youth have been brought up to distrust and to defy authority. They are hypersensitive to any advice that might threaten their illusion of autonomy and independence.
Allowing young people independence has produced a marriage market that borders on anarchy.
Many older people are quietly distressed to see what is happening. They do their best to instruct their children on the criteria and standards they should use to make their way through the chaos, but that simply makes them involved at remove.
Given how much of a mess the mating game has become, many people long for the days when there was more parental involvement.
This morning The New York Times offers an excellent article on arranged marriage. It points out that, in the best of circumstances, young people who do not enlist the active involvement of their parents often filter prospective mates through criteria that their parents would use.
It makes perfect sense that parents would be involved in the choice of a spouse. Young people should be happy to accept the wisdom of people love them more than anyone else, who know them better than anyone else and who have considerable life experience in the area.
As the Times notes, parents can bring a more objective perspective to the mating game, and thus offer direction and guidance to young people who are likely to get carried away with love or lust or both.
What lessons can young Americans can draw from this article?
First, don’t date anyone you wouldn’t marry.
Second, don’t allow yourself to fall in love with someone you would never marry. .
Third, don’t marry anyone your parents would not accept.
Fourth, if you don’t know who your parents would accept make it your business to find out.
If your parents tell you that it doesn’t matter who you marry as long as you’re in love and are happy, they are either deluded or are lying to you.
Marriage is a social and very public commitment. Love is a private and personal commitment.
If you begin with nothing but true love, you are setting yourself up for failure.