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Dear Newly Wed in an Arranged Marriage, As you would know, I am still (!!!) on this marriage mart thing. While my parents are not being difficult (though needlessly anxious), a question I struggle with is how do I know THIS is the person to marry? In this urbanised arranged marriage mart, the guys I meet are good on paper and I really try not to write them off. I’m lucky they are mostly nice (though clueless about girls!) but conversations do always end up at the point of ” huuh, is this it?” There is nothing truly objectionable about them but something in me rebels when I envision marriage to them. (Perhaps, it is the combination of “OMG, I need to sleep with you forever with a dash of ‘”huhh”, is this it?”). I don’t know if chemistry is the right word for what this “extra” needs to be but I know I don’t have trouble socialising with them. This process has the expectation of marriage hanging over it so I can’t seem to treat them like I would, had I met these guys on my own. I know the practicality involved in this process and I am really not gunning for a grand romance. But I do wonder whether I have secretly psyched myself into expecting a movie romance and letting go of “great partner” material, because of the inability to spot the good ones. I am truly confused as to what I am supposed to be looking for. I suppose I ask, because you had a few false starts before you met Mister NWAM and found your happily every after Yours in Confusion, How do I know?
Dear How do I know? You were spot on in saying that I was worn out by the process but on hindsight, I was doing a few things wrong. These were the mistakes I made and you should not:
1) No clarity over what I wanted.
I seriously had very arbitrary standards for the man I wanted to marry. I wanted a man who read a lot of the same things I did. I wanted a man who shared most of my interests. And when none of the men met these criteria, I thought the pool was shit. I later realised that instead of looking at ‘similar’ interests, I should have been looking at things like “Can make me laugh”; “Can make me relax” and if I was lucky, “Can put butterflies in my tummy”. When I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, that’s when Mr NWAM came along. When we met, I recognised the things I had listed in my new ‘list’ and realised this could be going somewhere.
2) Getting too emotionally involved
Due to the timeline involved in this process, feelings can develop too quickly . Knowing that you have about 2 weeks (or even 2 months) to make up your mind, coupled with an active imagination WILL translate to “falling in love” ridiculously fast with someone who may not feel the same way or someone who is inappropriate for you. This means that when either one of you rejects, there will be a huge ball of hurt and guilt to deal with. I re-evaluated and realised, I was being silly, and I should be looking at this, in the same way, I considered job interviews : with cautious optimism, and a certain amount of logic so rejections (from either side) won’t hurt so much. To put it in perspective, Mr NWAM told me I was really reserved for the first 6 months we were chatting and I only started opening up to him much more later. It made me seem mysterious and he was more intrigued. So you also get bonus ‘mysterious woman’ points!
3) Not getting my parents more involved
One of the main things I had to deal with was men assuming that my polite “how do you do” messages were akin to “yes I will marry you and have 10 babies”- and then making trouble. When I went to correct their assumption- I was told I was of loose morals because I conversed ‘too freely’ with the boys. But as we know, some people are crazy. My best defence (developed late in the process) was to copy my parents in initial exchanges so they know what’s going on and if the boy steps out of line- and they can step in to tell them off. Yes, parents do put an insane amount of pressure so do use this with discretion but when the going gets tough, having them around can be helpful.
4) If your gut tells you no, trust it.
There was one guy I was very nearly engaged to. When I look back, it was an unmitigated disaster. He wasn’t the most assertive and coupled with the fact that his parents were rude to my family should have raised huge alarm bells. But I was initially charmed by the guy – so I went along with it, finding no logical reason to reject the guy. Yet throughout the process, something about him didn’t seem right. I should have listened to that little warning voice and saved myself the trouble I had to deal with later.
5) If you are not sure, it’s most likely a No
Related to the above and the most important rule for you. Sometimes we meet guys who could tick the boxes but we’re not sure. So we try to make it work. But if it is a “not sure”, it is most likely going to be a no. Don’t hold on thinking you can make it work, because you won’t. Move on to the next one but do the rejection early so no hurt feelings. It helps to give a timeline (a month is good) to decide if the not-sures can become a yes or a no. It helps to also request (and insist on it) a face to face meeting before you decide since you can also get a more solid feel for chemistry before you decide. I will say this: the ‘yes’ man will elicit a wholly different set of emotions inside of you. Like a click of two lego bricks coming together but then I’m an unromantic cynic. 😉
6) The person is unlikely to change for you
If there are things you see in the person that annoy you, this is not going to change. So you’ll need to either reconcile to the fact that you need to accept it, or reject him on the basis that you can’t accept this. Mr NWAM isn’t a reader, something I thought was non-negotiable. Since then, I found out it was actually not a big deal since we have a lot more other things in common besides books. Hell, it also means I get all the bookshelves to myself 😛
7) Being too hard on myself.
Sometimes it won’t align up. It can be incredibly frustrating but don’t go down the wormhole of blaming yourself. I did that and it was just a waste of time. Just keep moving forward. Be happy with who you are, and don’t let any man make you feel inferior- because that’s how some people work. (There was the one guy who told me I needed to lose 10 pounds and was too opinionated for my own good. He looked like a clown). You have to believe in yourself, that Mr How will turn up and declare his undying love for your wit, your gorgeous hair, and your stunning smile soon enough. But in the mean time just don’t let your incontrovertible sense of humour flag- as you’re going to need it. Things are going to get crazier before they settle down. And if you can find someone outside of this system, please don’t turn it down! Yours in practical love, NWAM