Circumstances that lead us into marriage can be classified into two.
- The first is love marriage where potential partners meet, become friends, fall in love, court, and marry.
- The other is, arranged marriage where partners who hardly know each other are brought together by parents, relatives, and friends.
In the past, it was the responsibility of Ghanaian Parents to provide suitable partners for their children. The process called ‘Patriarchy’, involved Parents searching and investigating backgrounds of potential spouses and their families on issues like conduct, contagious diseases, sterility, and mental health. The man’s parents approached the woman’s parents about their intention and presented gifts and on agreement ‘tri nsa’ or ‘head rum’ is paid in the presence of the two families as full recognition of the marriage.
Sometimes partners in arranged marriages may not even know each other and may not even be present during the marriage rites. Some may be meeting for the first time in the evening of the marriage rite when family members of the bride accompany her to the man’s home.
Virginity was an absolute requirement and a day after the first ‘show’ the man would proudly and openly display blood-stained bed sheet to show he married a virgin, otherwise, he could reject the new bride.
Today we know intact hymen is not a valid test for virginity; few women have no hymen, some hymen break during physical activity and some hymen grow back after breakage, but it showed how strongly our Ghanaian society viewed virginity as requirement for marriage.
Merits of an Arranged Marriage
The good thing about an arranged marriage is that
- Parents who are older, more experienced, research the background of in-laws and make wiser decisions.
- They are not blinded by the lust, infatuation, and romance of their children.
- They know their children better than anyone else and try to get their children out of trouble and give their children the best to ensure stable marriage.
- Arranged marriage rites are simple – no elaborate preparation, no documentation, counseling, religious rites and exchange of consent and yet failure rate could be as low as 10% as compared to love marriage which now stands at 60% failure rate even with counseling and exchange of consent.
An Indian sociologist; Rabindranath Tagore explains “in arranged marriage, you put cold water on the stove and bring it to boil slowly but in love marriage, you start with boiling water in a kettle which often grows cold”.
The Bible and Parental approval
Children are called by God to obey their parents in the Lord even when it comes to Catholic marriage. In Colossians 3:20 we read “children obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord” and in Ephesians 6:1 we read “children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right”.
The key words here are children and obey. In the bible children refer to people who are still dependent on their Parents. The biblical guidelines for Christians and their Parents change once the person is no longer depending on their Parents like a child. This means if you are not dependent on your parents you are not a child but an adult who may include your parents in ways that help you grow holistically.
Adults are not commanded by God to obey their parents. As an adult you do not blindly follow your parent’s advice including choice of spouse only because they are your Parents. If you are a Christian adult but your Parents do not want you to date or marry someone, you are not obligated to obey them.
However, Exodus 20:12 calls on all Christians to honour their Father and Mother. This means:
- even when you disagree with what your parents want, you must disagree in a way that is not disrespectful.
- You must seek to honour them even when you do not follow their counsel.
- Do what is respectful when it comes to your marriage. Listen to your Parent’s counsel in ways that make sense.
- If you respect your Parents and believe they are matured Christians in the Lord, if you believe that they love you and if your Parents have track record of offering you wise counsel, then you should value what they say about your marriage. You are however not called to obey them but to respect them and listen to their counsel.
…. Watch out for Part 2
Source: Dr. John Boakye, Marriage Counsellor