I have been working in Asia since 2008. I did my doctoral dissertation on the differences between America and Japan in how they choose partners for marriage and one night stands. I currently live and work in China. In Asia, arranged marriages are quite common still. Chinese parents of 20 something children are aggressively trying to pair up their sons and daughters. A parent hires a dating service to find eligible partners, then folders with information about the candidates are given to the parents.

Children oblige their parents and go on many arranged first dates; usually with the parents going along or having the couple meet in one of their homes. The couple is left to chat alone while the parents mingle. The most important questions are related to the ability to afford a mortgage for a home, their work, and their parents jobs. I work with singles that have had to endure these dates, and I have some coworkers that have settled into an arranged marriage but do not think their partner is attractive, funny, nor do they feel any particular emotional attachment to them. They do this out of family obligation. A parent with single adult children is embarrassed for themselves and their child. Japan considers a woman over 25 years old to be a “Christmas cake”. Once they are past their 25th, they are expired. In Japan the “love marriage” is the ideal, but not always practiced. Women desire to be single, wanting to avoid the marriages that they see as the end of their freedom.

There are some benefits to arranged marriages. When a partner is hand picked by the family, they tend to stay on board with the decision. The couple has a common enemy in some ways, and they often strive to make the best of the situation. When there is no strong emotional attachment, they can live more independently than couples that might be more co-dependent. There is less divorce in arranged marriages. Some negatives, for the women in the relationship, is that they are often forced to give up their chance to choose a partner at some age. I have a friend here that had to move home to her small town to “help her mom” but she admitted later that she was being pressured to marry. She wanted to live her life by her own choices. There are many women in the cities that enjoy the single life and resist the family pressure. If they can sustain themselves, they see it as their shot to find their partner before they feel forced to settle down by their parents. 

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Author of I’m Sorry, You are Not a Pick-Up Artist