Love and Loving in Middle-Class Pakistan

The article by Ammara Maqsood, Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at University College London, tells us the modern story of love in Pakistan and how modern urban women manage their desire for love in Pakistan.

Traditional marriages in Pakistan are arranged marriages. However, I previously talked about how love coexists with modern arranged marriages in Pakistan. I also explained the controversies surrounding love marriage in Pakistan.

Modern transformations in the notions of love, romantic love, intimacy, and conjugal relationships occur in Pakistan as well as in South Asia overall. The author challenges the traditional depiction of the transitional processes of love transformation in Pakistani culture as a straight lineal transition from the cultural values of ‘traditional’ (collective) obligations to the values of individual desires in modern individualistic societies.

Taking these ideas as a starting point, the author of this article examines how different types of intimacy coexist in a middle-class urban setting in Pakistan. The author does this by concentrating on the emotional experiences and modern relationships of young mobile women of the middle class in Lahore and Karachi, the two major cities in Pakistan.

“Within these families, like elsewhere in Pakistan in other South Asian contexts, arranged marriages are the norm, both in prevalence and in social approval. However, love unions, in the form of love-cum-arranged marriages – where partners engage in a pre-marital romance but then seek parental approval and follow typical marriage proceedings – and elopements that are on the rise.”

(Maqsood, 2021, p. 3).

How Different Ideas of Love in Pakistan Coexist

The article highlights the ways in which different ideals of love and intimacy coexist, the ways in which they are entangled in everyday practices, and the places, situations, and spaces in which they separate.

Young women, who live mostly in joint-family arrangements, need to negotiate between two values in their lives. On the one hand, they value their private desires for a life within a nuclear family and the associated forms of consumption. On the other hand, they respect the economic pressures and emotional obligations that necessitate their collective living in the nuclear family.

They live in a persistent presence of liminality, the psychological process of transitioning across the boundaries and borders of these two groups of values. In these conditions and contexts of their lives, the women make it possible for these competing desires to be experienced and managed in a certain way.

Love in Liminality

In this cultural context, their understanding of liminality opens their doors to experimentation and potentiality and provides a space in which they experience novel desires and behaviors.

However, at the same time, their “emotion work” to manage these situations and controversies bends and brings these new emotional paths into line with the moral codes that are culturally common in Pakistani society.

One young woman, who had married against her family’s wishes, commented on the hurt that she experienced when

“none of the women in the family did come to her wedding. Her husband’s family organised a small event, to mark the marriage, and invited her family members, in a bid to normalise relations. In response, her two brothers came but left without eating. She said, ‘more than anything, I felt bad .. still feel sad … that my younger sister in law did not come. My mother, I can understand, she was forbidden but she loves me, but my sister in law, she could have convinced my brother [her husband]’

(Maqsood, 2021, p. 7).

Professor Ammara Maqsood also tells in her article other dramatic stories of love and marriage in modern Pakistani urban cultures.

As the author concludes, these individual experiences are not gradual transformations from collective to individualistic ties and persona values. These young women do not disrupt pre-existing ethical codes. These emotional practices are rather the management of differing demands and desires that constitute ‘feeling’ middle-class.

The Golden Age of Love Marriage in Western Societies

Love marriage appears to be a valuable cultural value in many countries throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as many other modernized societies around the world. However, it was not always true in history. In the 20th century, industrialization, urbanization, increased social mobility, and social and cultural modernization brought the hope that love would finally conquer marriage.

When Was Love Marriage’s Golden Age? 

It turns out that the decade of the 1950s, which began in 1947 in the United States and lasted until the early 1960s there and until the late 1960s in Western Europe, was a truly remarkable time for marriage. Romantic love transformed marriage in the 20th century. Love finally conquered marriage. Romantic love and sexual fulfillment became the realities of premarital and marital relationships. In the Western world, marriage entered its heyday during this time period.

In that decade, there was a surge of support for the view that a happy marriage should be one in which each spouse feels they have received their fair share of sexual satisfaction, emotional closeness, and the opportunity to realize their full potential. The majority of people believed that they would not only find the greatest happiness in marriage but also the greatest meaning in their lives. Marriage had become nearly universal by the 1960s in many western European countries and North America (see for review, Karandashev, 2017).

What Was Good About the Golden Age of Marriage?

During that period, about 95% of all men and women strived to marry and married younger. During the 1950s, the norm of young marriage was so prevalent that an unmarried woman as young as twenty-one might be concerned about becoming an “old maid.” Many men and women relished the opportunity of courting and dating the partners of their own choice. They enjoyed marrying at their leisure and establishing their own households. The life span increased, married people felt happy, and divorce rates held steady. Married couples felt independent of their extended family ties. They enjoyed the freedom of their marital relationships (Coontz 2005, pp. 226–228).

By the 1960s, it looked like marriage had found the perfect balance between the personal freedom of a love match and the limitations needed for social stability.

Would the Golden Age of Marriage Spread Throughout the World?

Many social scientists thought that as industrialization spread around the world, love-based marriage and the male breadwinner family would replace the many other marriage and family systems in collectivistic societies. They predicted that love marriages would prevail over the consanguinity and arranged marriages widespread across many societies in traditional cultures.

For example, American sociologist William Goode (1917–2003), an expert on family life and divorce, conducted cross-cultural analyses of marriage and divorce across many societies. He examined family data from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, and Japan available at the time.

Based on his analysis, Goode revealed that the above-mentioned cultural evolution of conjugal family systems and the “love patterns” in mate selection were evident in all of these world regions and societies. In his pioneering and seminal book “World Revolution and Family Patterns” (1963), he presented these results and conclusions in an explicit and direct way.

People across cultures prioritized their material and psychological investments in the nuclear family as well as their emotional needs. They believed that each spouse could legitimately expect to rely on the other, prioritize their relationship, and put their loyalty to their partner ahead of their responsibilities to their parents.

The Love Marriage Ideology 

According to William Goode (1959), the ideology of love-based marriage declares the individual’s right to choose his or her own spouse. This cultural ideology also emphasized the value of the individual over inherited wealth and ethnic group. Goode provided statistics and other data to show that love marriages were gaining popularity around the world at the time.

Many social scientists agreed with Goode and supported this conclusion. They believed that in Western societies, love marriage and the nuclear family increased their popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. They thought that the cultural evolution of marriage had prevailed in Europe and North America and had reached its culmination.

Their scientific prediction was that the rest of the world’s cultures would soon follow this marriage pattern that will soon be prevalent across many societies. This way of thinking about relationships was very appealing to young and educated people, especially women (see for review, Karandashev, 2017).

What Is “Love Marriage”?

Love marriage is a marital relationship that is based on interpersonal love attraction. Men and women experience love attraction for each other and they rely on it in their decisions to marry. Love marriage assumes a mutual desire for a partner. The idea of a free choice and a personal decision to marry are the key features of love marriages. Love marriage is opposite to arranged marriages, in which parents and families decide who is suitable for marriage and who is not.

Cultural evolution from arranged marriages to love marriages occurs when societies evolve from collectivistic to individualistic types of cultures.

Individualistic Societies and Love Marriage

The modern economic, social, and cultural conditions in individualistic European American and European Canadian cultures, West European countries, Australia, and New Zealand are conducive to love marriages. Men and women in those societies have more personal and social rights. They are relatively independent of social institutions such as families. Modern life in those countries provides people with more extended personal and relationship affordances in their marital choices.

Individual autonomy, the independence of members of a social group in their relationships, human rights, gender equality, the independent model of self, self-determination rights, and freedom of choice are among the social norms emphasized in those individualistic societies.

Person’s Individuality in Individualistic Cultures

A person’s personal self is seen as distinct and independent from others. The autonomous self-concept encourages men and women to pursue their own views, personal desires, and preferences. Their individuality encourages open expressions of their unique selves, freedom of choice, and personal decision-making. Their individual selves are the main source of people’s thoughts, feelings, motivations, and behaviors. Social connections and interpersonal bonds are important, yet they assume individual autonomy. Individuals have the option to start and end their relationships  (see for review, Karandashev, 2021; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Uchida, Norasakkunkit, & Kitayama, 2004).

Social Affordances and Love Marriage

Economic wealth, social progress, and modernization of the societies in those nations decreased the values of physical and economic security and the role of survival needs, which were prevalent in traditional materialistic and collectivistic cultures. This socioeconomic progress substantially extended the personal and social affordances of love marriage as an individual enterprise, compared to previous arranged marriages as a family enterprise.

Economic and social modernization of societies increased the values of quality of life, subjective well-being, and self-expression, which have become prevalent in modernized individualistic and postmaterialistic cultures (Inglehart 1997, 2015; Inglehart & Baker, 2000; Inglehart & Welzel 2005).

The Cultural Norms of Love Marriage

Currently, love marriages are common in individualistic countries. They are defined by the free choice of partners and the limited or moderate involvement of families and parents. Women and men are free to choose their mates based on their attraction, passion, and romantic emotions. Parents cannot limit their children’s mate selection choices.

Since the middle of the 20th century, love marriages have been considered culturally normative in Western societies, such as Western European, European American, and Canadian American cultures. For example, during the 1960s, the self-expressive paradigm of love became increasingly popular in the United States. For many Americans, love and marriage have become arenas for individual self-exploration, self-esteem validation, personal discovery, self-fulfillment, and self-growth (Finkel, 2018). Marriage’s function has shifted. Marriage became less necessary as a formal social institution. It became more affordable for those who opt for it and are able to choose.

In many other countries around the world, love marriages are also on the rise, especially in urban areas. Modern individualistic as well as collectivistic societies around the world vary in terms of their beliefs and actual cultural practices. Many countries are in the process of modernization. Anyway, modern cultural ideals expand social and relationship opportunities and affordances in many societies. The conditions give people more freedom in love, dating, and marriage (Karandashev, 2021; Karandashev, 2023). 

The Evolution of Marriage: From Arranged Marriages to Love Marriages

The cultural evolution of marriage coincides with the evolution of societies from traditional collectivistic societies to modern individualistic societies. Increased social mobility, economic wealth, and other ecological, economic, and social factors all contributed to this evolution. All these circumstances of living allow certain ecological, economic, social, and cultural affordances. These affordances are what a specific society can afford individuals to undertake in certain settings of their lives to maintain a balance of social and personal interests. The values of freedom of choice and societal responsibility in marriages vary substantially between collectivistic and individualistic societies.

Social evolution has been increasing people’s ecological, economic, and social affordances, which were limited in traditional collectivistic societies but have become more readily available in modern individualistic societies. Economic and social progress has been driving cultural evolution from arranged marriage to love marriage (for a review, see Karandashev, 2017, 2021).

Arranged Marriages in Traditional Collectivistic Societies

Arranged marriages have been typical for traditional collectivistic societies, which are characterized by several ecological, economic, and social conditions of living that reduce ecological, economic, and social affordability in marriages. Strong interconnectedness, ingroup relationships, interdependence of members, and determined social organization characterize societies with collectivist cultures.

People in those societies have low geographic, socioeconomic, and relational mobility. Subsequently, social norms in collectivistic East Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures emphasize harmonious interdependence and the social responsibility of individuals as cultural values. Men and women have limited freedom of choice and interdependence in their marriages. They have limited options and limited control over who, when, and how they marry. The parents and family are in control of their marriage. Therefore, their marriages are commonly homogamous and arranged by their parents or other senior members of their kin or local community. These marriages help groups stay together and compete with other groups, which is good for social survival.

In arranged marriages, parents impose limitations on their sons’ and daughters’ selection of mates based on certain economic and social circumstances of their lives. Young men and women have limited influence on the selection of their mates and the arrangement of marriage. These limitations are usually due to low social mobility, a tendency toward ingroup homogamy, and strong outgroup negative stereotypes. All of these factors, for the sake of community interests, limit men’s and women’s options for free mating.

Love Marriages in Modern Individualistic Societies

Independent social connectedness, ingroup relationship independence of members, and self-determined organization characterize societies with individualistic cultures. Therefore, ecological, economic, and social conditions of living have increased the affordability of love marriages in modern individualistic societies. The cultural evolution of marriage has occurred; love marriages have become more typical.

People in those societies have high geographic, socioeconomic, and relational mobility. Subsequently, social standards in individualistic European American and West European cultures emphasize autonomy, independence from others, and freedom of choice as cultural values.

People have greater freedom of choice and independence in their marriage. They have many possible options and a larger pool of prospective partners for their marriage choice. Men and women can have their own control over who, when, and how they marry. Therefore, their marriages are commonly heterogamous, and prospective partners select each other on their own based on personal preferences, such as attraction and love.

The socioeconomic and cultural circumstances of life in individualistic societies, which are largely mobile and wealthy, provide more affordances for love marriages. Parents and family do not limit their children’s choice of marital partners and are only moderately involved. The bride and groom are in control of their marriage. However, studies conducted in an individualistic American setting revealed that involving friends and family helps with marital issues.

Love marriages are viewed as culturally normative in modern Western cultures, such as in Western European and European American societies.

The Changing Views on Divorce in Pakistan

For generations, Pakistani families and marriages have been endogamous. Their parents or other family elders arranged their children’s marriages. These were the “arranged marriages.” Currently, marriage is still a family affair in Pakistan. Despite modernization, arranged marriages are still widespread. Parents and other elderly people are involved in their married children’s future. However, the views on divorce in Pakistan are changing nowadays.

Divorce is frowned upon in Pakistani Islamic culture. Even discussing the potential for divorce in their extended families has been forbidden. However, the culture in Pakistan has been changing over recent years. Nowadays, the notion of divorce is not taboo anymore (Ahmed, 2021).

Cultural attitudes have shifted in many traditional societies around the world, including Pakistan, over the last few decades.

Cultural Evolution of Arranged Marriages

The idea that married couples should be in tune with their emotions and wellbeing is more culturally accepted now than before. People recognize that sometimes it is better to let go of something than to hang on to it. “Gone are the days when partners, especially women, could just stick with an abusive spouse because of the “What will people say syndrome.” (Sheraz, 2019).

Awareness and acceptance of gender equality, in some respects, are increasing in many countries, including Pakistan. In Pakistani society, education has played a significant role in the evolution of marriage. Modern women are more educated, so the concern about who will look after them has faded. Women today are more aware of their rights and choices. They have a better understanding of their rights and are aware that they can use their rights to achieve happiness. They understand that they have the freedom to walk away if they so choose.

As a result of changing cultural views, divorce rates are rising in Pakistan. Some can attribute the rise in divorce rates to the decline in arranged marriages and the rise in love marriages. This new social trend, however, may be caused by more people realizing that women and men have the right to choose who they want to marry and how they want to live their lives (Sheraz, 2019).

The Modern Right to Choose a Partner for Marriage and Divorce in Pakistan

In the end, men and women choose their own happiness over the happiness of their parents. Although this may appear cruel, it is critical for youngsters to consider their own destiny. Parents have already accepted their decisions, and it is now up to the children to make their own choices (Ahmed, 2021).

A divorce can be no bad thing at all, if it paves the way for a better life and the wellbeing of the people. Instead of enforced interdependence, which keeps a man and a woman together in an unhappy relationship, they get independence, which gives them the possibility of a better relationship. Arranged marriages have been based on economic and social needs for survival. Nowadays, many societies free people from the need for survival. As a result, the modernization of their culture provides the opportunity to pursue a happy relationship.

How are Pakistanis finding their partners these days? According to one of the recent Gallup polls conducted in Pakistan, only 5% of Pakistanis said they had a love marriage, while 85% of Pakistanis met their spouse through parents or close relatives (Sheraz, 2019).

Modernization in Pakistani Culture and Divorce in Pakistan

With the passage of time, better education, women’s empowerment, and western influence have changed Pakistani culture and people’s mindsets. Regardless of the modern shift in cultural attitudes, men and women may still face criticism if they come forward with a partner they wish to marry. Unfortunately, offensive actions against those who seek to express their freedom continue to occur in Pakistan and in the Pakistani diaspora abroad (Ahmed, 2021).

Assimilation of immigrants from Pakistani culture into other societies occurs slowly. It is likely that the second generation of Pakistanis will be able to better adopt new perspectives. And the cultural evolution of Pakistani marriages towards positive acceptance of love marriages will continue.

Social transformation from collectivistic societies of interpersonal interdependence to individualistic societies of interpersonal independence is the modern tendency of cultural evolution. People need to acknowledge that cultural evolution from arranged marriages to love marriages is inevitable. It just takes time.

What Pakistani Women and Men Think About Divorce

Some modern Pakistani women and men sometimes think about divorce, despite the culturally negative attitudes toward divorce. Traditional Pakistani family relationships and marriages have been endogamous for centuries. How does it look in Pakistan?

The boys’ and girls’ marriages were all arranged by their parents or other family elders. They found a suitable mate for their adult child, planned their wedding, and wished them well. That’s why these methods of family arrangement are dubbed “arranged marriages.”

These days, marriage is still a family matter in Pakistan. Parents and other elderly people feel responsible for their children’s future. Therefore, they are used to being active in their future marriage arrangements. Arranged marriages are still common despite their modern transformation.

The Pakistani Traditional Culture of Marriage

These marriage traditions have been related to the Pakistani communal and cooperative cultures of the past. Familial bonds are the basic means of community life. In Pakistan, the extended family is valued more than the nuclear family.

The extended family system is interwoven and intertwined. In many cases, spousal ties are weaker than other family obligations. Marital love and happiness are of lower importance. Parents are heavily involved in their children’s new families since they planned and organized their marriages. They perceive their son’s or daughter’s families as part of their large extended family. They can even intervene in situations when their son or daughter no longer wishes to remain married.

All these social and economic factors of Pakistani traditional life influence people’s cultural attitudes toward the idea of divorce. This is why Pakistani women and men rarely think about divorce.

These cultural factors also affect what men and women think and feel when, in the case of turbulent marital relationships, they try to contemplate the possibility of divorce. Let us consider the challenges that women and men encounter in such circumstances.

The Economic Challenges of Divorce for Pakistani Women

For women, for example, economic reasons have been the main reason for staying with their husbands. Who would support them if they left? Therefore, women are told to compromise on any issues in their relationship with their husbands for the sake of their security and subsistence. A woman would not have the resources to support herself once she was divorced:

“Divorce is a “nightmare” for her, affecting her financially, socially, and psychologically”

(Qamar & Faizan, 2021, p. 352).

“Her decision to stay in the marriage made it possible for her to practice choices regarding her employment and public mobility as well as decisions regarding her”

(Khurshid, 2020, p. 103)

Parental Families Are Unwelcoming for Divorced Women

A common perception of Pakistani marriages as stable can be deceptive and misleading. Such marriage “stability” can conceal the hidden problems of family relationships, making them invisible to outsiders. In traditional Pakistani culture, the return of married adult children to their different family homes is frequently frowned upon by their parents. Many parents never open their doors to their divorced children when they return home (Ahmed, 2021).

Therefore, rather than returning to their parental home and being confined to the rules of their house, women find more freedom in remaining in their marriage. They remain in marriages even though they are unhappy.

Here is an example of how a woman in the interview stated her reason to stay:

“She realised that returning to her parents’ home would invite ridicule and blaming from the community members and even from some members of her own family. She would not be seen as a ‘wise’ woman for leaving a man who did not have any extreme flaws”

(Khurshid, 2020, p.103)

Many women act wisely in marriage relationships. Instead of wasting time and ruminating on their unhappiness, they find satisfaction and settle into other things. Many of them find contentment in their children and relationships with other women in their extended family (Ahmed, 2021).

Challenges of Divorce for Pakistani Men

While it is more stigmatized among women, it is not deemed acceptable for men either. Pakistani men are also under pressure to keep their promises and stay in the marriages that have been arranged for them, including love marriages.

A Promise of Cultural Change: What do modern men and women think about divorce?

Thus, we can see that divorce is a difficult topic to discuss and even contemplate, both for women and men. The main reason is that in traditional Pakistani Islamic society, people have a negative mindset about divorce. Even talking about the possibility of divorce in their extended families is usually forbidden.

Pakistani culture, however, has evolved in recent years. Divorce is no longer regarded as a taboo subject. Over the last few decades, cultural attitudes have altered in many traditional societies around the world, including Pakistan. All this gives a promise of possible changes.

Cultural Views on Divorce in Pakistan

For generations, traditional Pakistani family relationships and marriages have functioned as endogamous unions. The parents of the children or other family elders arranged all marriage matters for the boys and daughters. They found a prospective mate for their grown child, organized their wedding, and cared about their future family life. This is why such matrimonial practices are called “arranged marriages.”

What Is Special About Pakistani Marriage Today?

Nowadays, marriage is still a family affair in Pakistani culture. Parents and other adults in the family feel responsible for their children’s future. They are accustomed to being involved in their marriage decisions, wedding arrangements, and later marital lives.

Pakistani traditions are collectivistic and follow a community-based way of life. The large extended family, rather than the nuclear family, is the foundational unit of community life. All family members are interdependent and intertwined with each other in many ways in the family structure. Spousal bonds are often no stronger than those with other members of the family. Love and intimacy between spouses are of lower importance than family responsibilities.

The priority of extended family over nuclear family is the main reason why arranged marriages have been common in Pakistani society for years. Since parents planned and arranged the marriages for their children, they were active in many of their new families’ interactions and relationships.

What Are the Cultural Attitudes Toward Divorce in Pakistan?

Traditionally, marriage in Pakistani society has been set up to fulfill family duties. For any family member, the responsibility of others was a priority. The pursuit of marital happiness was not in focus.

Therefore, Pakistani Islamic culture looks down on the idea of divorce. The Prophet said that, “Of all things permitted, divorce is the most hated by God” (Ali, 2003). Because of this, many religious Pakistanis take this statement very seriously. Even conversations about the possibility that divorce may happen in their extended families are not allowed. Zara Ahmed (2021), however, argues and contends that cultural reasons rather than religious ones are the main reasons why divorce is avoided.

Spouses, young or old, were supposed to manage any problems in their relationship for the sake of family preservation at any cost. Parents tell their married children that they need to live with their spouse despite anything that happens in their lives. They suggest that “suffering through the hardships of marriage is the right thing to do” (Ahmed, 2021, p. 8).

That especially refers to women. They are taught to understand, compromise, and do anything more than leave their marriage.

Public perception and opinion about family life rather than happiness in family relations are priorities for parents and kin. Parents cared more about “what the town gossip may have begun to say about them.”(Ahmed, 2021, p. 8).

To Divorce or Not to Divorce?

Pakistani arranged marriages tend to be stable and endure for years. Do they have a cultural recipe for marital happiness? The cause of such stability, however, is different. Marriage “stability” has other reasons that make spouses remain in their marital relationship despite anything.

In general, parents do not usually welcome their married adult children’s return to their family homes. Many parents never leave the doors of their home open for their divorced children to come back.

Traditional culture teaches women and men that once they are married, they are married for life. Their parents encouraged them to do all possible things to bring peace to their marriage. Therefore, women and men stay in their marriages in order to satisfy their families. Their personal happiness takes a backseat.

For better or worse, spouses are aware that their extended family will never accept divorce. Therefore, it is pointless to try. It is extremely difficult to convince the parents’ family to agree with this.

Marriages in the Pakistani Diaspora Abroad

The Pakistani diaspora in other countries often has the same conservative views on marriage as Islamic culture in Pakistan. Traditional Pakistani households and family unions have formed and run as endogamous marriages for many centuries.

In the arranged marriages, the children’s parents or other senior relatives arrange all matrimonial issues for the sons and daughters. They select a prospective bride or groom. They organize the children’s weddings and continue to be involved in many of the relationships in their new families.

Since the family structures are not nuclear, they all feel like part of their large extended family, which is interdependent in many respects. The matters of family life are to fulfill the duties and responsibilities for the practical issues of subsistence and wealth. Arranged marriages are effective in ensuring social and economic survival, security, stability, and affluence.

Love works as the pragmatic love of serving each other and being responsible for each other, rather than an interpersonal relationship and emotional intimacy. Love is just a romantic phantasy and dream. It is for leisure entertainment rather than for real life.

The Time of Change in Pakistani Culture

However, in the last few decades, a lot of social and economic changes have occurred in Pakistani society. As a result, many Pakistanis’ cultural views on marriage have shifted toward modern beliefs and attitudes about family roles and marital relationships. Former social and economic pressures have waned, while the importance of interpersonal relationships has grown. Subsequently, contemporary understanding of arranged marriages shifted towards a better acceptance of interpersonal attraction and love between partners in such marriages.

Yet, some people in Pakistan are still conservative and not very receptive to these new cultural tendencies in their perception of family, marriage, and interpersonal relationships. They resist these progressive advancements. They are less ready to adopt these open-minded cultural perspectives.

Conservative Pakistani Diaspora Abroad

It is worthy of note that some Pakistani families and communities living in other countries, such as the US and Canada, can be strictly conservative in their attitudes toward marriage. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (2019) witnessed such abusive cases among the immigrants in the Pakistani diaspora. For example,

“If the husband’s family does not approve of the marriage, it could encourage the husband to be physically or psychologically abusive toward his spouse, a situation that could result in divorce or murder. Sometimes, the husband’s family physically abuses the wife”

(p. 2).

It looks like the family is attempting to get revenge. Other times, they are dissatisfied with the care or attention given to their child’s spouse. They believed that the daughter-in-law was meant to move into the home to look after them (as they did for their in-laws), rather than enjoy her life with her husband and start a family. Besides, when parents choose a daughter-in-law or son-in-law, they assume the couple will work things out and stay married no matter what problems come up.

In another case, when their son or daughter finds a partner for themselves, parents may encourage them to separate and go their separate ways, even if the couple has no problems. For parents, it is challenging to comprehend that their child is now married and that everything should move on. Nevertheless, the nagging parents may frequently grumble at their married children that

“this would never have happened if you had married so-and-so” or “this is why I told you to marry so-and-so and not this girl.”

(Ahmed, 2021, p. 7).

The Proper Understanding of Pakistani Islamic Culture?

Zara Ahmed believes that the mentality of Pakistani people should evolve and accurately understand their cultural religion of Islam. It is not correct to use religion to cover their actions without a proper understanding of religion. It is painful to learn that by hurting others, you serve the Islamic faith. It is disheartening when people do things like this while saying they are following God (Ahmed, 2021).

The new generation of adults is attempting to make their voices heard and properly understand Pakistani culture and the teachings of Islam. As Ladly (2012) noted, young adults are increasingly asserting their rights against the traditions of forced marriage and parental authority. Thus, they are implicitly challenging one of the most powerful institutions in Pakistani society.

They should be able to transform Pakistani culture and shape more open and accepting attitudes towards marriage. There should not be a contradiction between arranged marriages and love marriages. Love is compatible with family values.

Controversies of Love Marriage in Pakistan

Through the centuries, traditional families and marriage in Pakistan operated through arranged, endogamous marriages. Parents or other senior family members arranged the marriages of their children. For pragmatic reasons, young men and women married whomever their families selected for them. Romantic love or personal liking were of lower importance.

Many cultural norms, traditions, and practices have recently changed in Pakistani culture. Modern Pakistanis’ attitudes have shifted in recent years toward more accepting cultural views of love marriages.

Progressive Parents, Happy Children

New cultural norms in contemporary Pakistan are more tolerant and accepting of marriages in which men and women initiate their marital relationships. Some parents are pleased that their children take the initiative to choose life partners on their own. They recognize that their children are adults who know themselves and their family’s opinions well enough to make an informed decision about marriage. Parents may think that “if the decision is theirs, they cannot blame me if, God forbid, something goes wrong.”

These parents believe that their grown children should make their own decisions on matters important to their future lives. And they should deal with the consequences of these decisions. This way of thinking embodies wise parental attitudes toward this matter. Such new cultural perspectives have more frequently come to mind in recent years. It is a rapidly growing part of Pakistani culture that accepts and even encourages children to find their own relationships (Ahmed, 2021).

Conservative Parents, Unhappy Children

However, not all categories of Pakistani society welcome this new cultural trend. Some meet these progressive innovations with resistance. This part of Pakistani culture is more conservative in their view and, therefore, not willing to accept this open-minded approach.

Such parents may feel disappointed because they believe their parents made decisions for them, and now it is their turn to make decisions for their children. These parents are fighting for a chance to decide in the same way that children are exercising their right to choose. It is difficult for them to recognize that their boys and girls try to make their own choices.

Young men and women are increasingly pressuring their parents to listen to them. That is what parents may be reluctant to do. It is difficult for parents to make compromises for their children’s happiness. It is even harder for them to admit that whatever they had expected to happen would not occur. The parents are not content with the decisions being made (Nazir, 2021).

Resistance of Pakistani Parents to Children’s Wish for Love Marriage

A common conservative reaction to a wish that a son or a girl have a love marriage is to condemn, resist, and reject it. Consequences can be negative for children. Violent reactions within the household can also happen.

Some families can be explicitly outspoken in their resistance to the freedom of marital choice. These parents are unable to comprehend, support, or accept the child’s decision. They tell their adult children up front that they will not marry anyone who is not chosen by their parents. They say that they must learn to live with that parental decision, thus asserting their right to an arranged marriage.

What if Boys and Girls Decide to Disregard Their Parents’ Wishes?

When boys and girls choose to disregard their parents’ wishes, some families can go to extremes of violence. Here is one example of a case that occurred in 2012. “Pakistani newspapers routinely carry articles about couples who faced violence as a result of marrying without their families’ consent. In one recent case, The Express Tribune reported last month that a couple, Almas Khan and Shamim Akhtar, were killed in Chakwal, Punjab, over the weekend of Id al-Fitr, the holiday ending Ramadan” (Ladly, 2012).

In Pakistani culture, families can carry out such actions, pretending as if their child has dishonored them. In such cases, both the man and the woman are frequently murdered since they are both deemed to have disobeyed the word of the parents, and ultimately God (Ahmed, 2021).

In Pakistan’s patriarchal society, adults assume that they know their children better and can make these decisions for them. It’s tough for them to accept a child’s decision and regard them as adults in charge of their own lives when they come to them with one.

What if Pakistani Parents Agreed to Their Children’s Desire for Love Marriage?

The parents who have agreed to their child’s wishes are still not truly happy with such a decision. On the surface, family members may accept the child’s own decision, but internally, in their implicit minds, they can plot ways to end the relationship or marriage. Thus, many challenges remain for the new progressive movements in marriage arrangements.

Thus, some Pakistanis remain traditional and resistant to these new cultural tendencies in family, marriage, and interpersonal interactions. They are less willing to accept these open-minded cultural attitudes. They disagree with these progressive changes.

Love in Modern Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

Traditional marriages in Pakistan were formed through arranged marriages. Most of them were endogamous marriages, when parents or other senior family members arranged marriages between the groom and the bride within the same extended family or community clan. Consanguineous marriages ensured the family’s socio-economic status. They permitted people to keep their familial bonds and assets within the same social group.

The traditional marriages in Pakistan have functioned to preserve families socio-economic status and relationships.

These arranged marriages fulfilled family responsibilities for financial, social, and economic security. Love and romance were of secondary importance in these matters. Modern social and economic changes in Pakistani society and ethnic communities have substantially transformed cultural attitudes toward arranged marriages.

However, in recent decades, the modern cultural evolution of marriages in Pakistan has changed the way men and women marry.

Love Can Be Compatible with Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

Modern cultural norms and people try to accommodate the possibility of love in a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. As previously stated, parents allow their children to have a certain freedom in relationships before committing to marriage. Nevertheless, many young boys and girls come to their parents for their advice and direction in making important life decisions, including marriage. They appreciate their opinions.

It appears that in many cases, love marriages are intertwined with arranged marriages and keep children, parents, and society happy. Many young people know that keeping their parents in the loop when they make big decisions is in their own best interest. This way, both parents and children are involved in making the decision. Senior members of the family feel like they participate and offer advice. This gives them an opportunity to “save face” in the community because it appears that they are playing up their part in the marriage. Children are also happy because they are able to make their own decisions in the selection of their marital partner for life (Ahmed, 2021).

New Cultural Forms of Arranged Marriage in Pakistan

Other boys and girls may use another, new version of arranged marriage. They are set up by adults in the family. And then they get to know the other person and decide if they will marry them. Zara Ahmed describes such an experience as follows:

“This is how my marriage evolved. I was introduced to my husband through our families, we spoke on the phone, were permitted to travel to see each other, and then allowed the parents to hash out the details.” (Ahmed, 2021, p. 5).

This form of mixed “arranged” and “love” marriages is the new norm in Pakistani culture. It gives both parents and children satisfaction. In particular, “women can self-make and build toward a future of financial security and emotional fulfillment in an environment of limited options and considerable patriarchal control” (Maqsood, 2021, p. 94).

The New Cultural Forms of Marriage in Pakistan

The cultural changes in modern Pakistani society change the ways older and younger people view marriage. Now, marriage is not simply a responsibility or an obligation that needs to be taken on. Modern young adults prefer to “create families and homes around companionship and understanding. It is time for parents to shed caste and creed, as this matters very little to the ultimate happiness of their children and future generations” (Nazir, 2021).

These changes take place even though some adults of the past generation may not feel convinced of their reality. These changes are able to make a difference in Pakistani culture. Religion is still respected, and cultural changes are becoming more accepted.