Of or years, marriage was considered one of the most important life events in a person’s life. In North America, for most of the last century, divorce was rare; it only become more common in the 1970s and beyond. In many ways such changes were a good thing; the ease of separation and divorce gave an opportunity for those in relationships that were not working or that were marked by violence a way out. The unfortunate side effect is that couples nowadays seem quick to divorce, sometimes unwilling and too stubborn to put in the effort to compromise for the sake of their relationship. Yes, North American society has done a great deal to devalue marriage.
Yet the South Asian community has also done its fair share in devaluing marriages. Whether the marriage was arranged, or two people met and fell in love, in our community marriage was considered a life-long commitment. Both wife and husband did everything they could to make that relationship work. But we’ve adopted some of that stubbornness found in western cultures, in not wanting to put in the hard effort to make marriages work. Worse yet, there are some in our community, who through their actions, have set a terrible example for our youth to follow.
The issue of runaway spouses has gained greater notoriety over the past few years. A runaway spouse is someone from South Asia who pretends to be committed to a relationship to someone from Canada, only to basically disappear the minute they set foot in this country.
Then there is the example of men from Canada who go to South Asia to marry, take a large dowry from their brides’ families (they even sleep with and sometimes impregnate these women) and then upon their return fail to sponsor these women to come to Canada.
Another way we have devalued marriage is through sham marriages. This is when someone from Canada marries and sponsors someone from South Asia, but they are married in name only. They will remain married (though generally live apart) and when legally able to, will file for divorce. There is sometimes money involved for the person here who does the sponsoring, or that person’s family may expect the other family to return the favour by sponsoring one of their family members. Now there are many families who are desperate to be reunited with a family member who could otherwise not make it to Canada so they go this route – but the message we are sending (especially to our children) is that marriage has little value.
Finally, there is the example of a marriage that is arranged based on bringing someone to Canada but it is not based on compatibility. This differs from the previous example, in that both the husband and wife in this scenario have every intention of remaining married. The problem is that the families who arranged the marriage were more interested in having a relative come to Canada rather than on looking for a suitable spouse that was matched based on common characteristics. For example, is someone who has little interest in education a good match for someone that has their doctorate degree? Often a couple that has little in common will argue a great deal, and if they have children, those children will suffer in having to witness their parents not getting along. There is nothing wrong with arranged marriages, but if they are not based on compatibility they are basically being set up to fail.
For the sake of our children, who learn from what we do, let’s stop ruining the institution of marriage!