Cultural and Religious Significance of Arranged Pakistani Marriages

Pakistani culture is the cultural values, norms, and practices that people follow in Pakistan as well as in the populations scattered in other countries whose origins lie in Pakistan. Pakistan is a Muslim society with a traditional collectivistic organization that highly values social stratification, power distance, family, and social interdependence. Pakistani marriages are still widely arranged by other members of the family.

Cultural things are tightly intertwined with religious ones in all facets of life, including matrimonial customs. The traditions of arranged marriages in Pakistan are still quite widespread, as they are in other traditional societies, such as India, for example.

Cultural and Religious Mixing in Pakistani culture

Islam substantially influences the culture of Pakistan as a Muslim country. Therefore, many values, traditions, and beliefs have religious and cultural roots. This makes it difficult to argue with any cultural ideals, traditions, or customs while avoiding the risk of offending Islam.

The cultural mixture of religion and culture makes it challenging to distinguish how much is cultural and how much is religious in any given cultural tradition in Pakistan. Arranged marriages are culturally common in these types of societies, so they are widely practiced in Pakistan and cultural diasporas around the world.

What Do Arranged “Pakistani Marriages” Mean?

In arranged marriages, parents or other senior family members select a mate for their son or daughter. Professional matchmakers and community elders may also participate in finding a suitable spouse. A man and a woman have a limited opportunity to choose their spouse, yet they consent to this custom. They may have little freedom in choosing their spouse, but they mostly agree with family wisdom. An extended family usually plans the wedding events and rituals according to cultural customs.

Because Pakistan is a Muslim society, Islam has a significant impact on culture (Zara Ahmed, 2022). So, it is important to distinguish between religious and cultural aspects when we discuss marriage traditions, norms, and customs.

What Does Polygamy Mean in Pakistani Arranged Marriages?

Polygamy is acceptable in Pakistan. Muslim men point out that they can marry four times simultaneously. However, this cultural rule, which they may conveniently forget, is intended to support financially divorced or widowed women who are struggling with resources. Besides, the consent of previous wives is needed. Regrettably, many men increasingly use this loophole to legitimize their extramarital affairs.

As Zara Ahmed (2022) noted, it is important for women to understand Islam. This way, they can resist the forced choices, such as obedient acceptance of their husband’s infidelity or a forced marriage arranged by their parents in the name of Islam.

Arranged marriages are customary in Pakistan, and dating in Islam is not advised. This seems to limit the freedom of choice for a man and a woman. However, it is important to note that Islam says, “The right to choose a husband was understood as a right given to women by Islam” (Khurshid, 2018, p. 92). Practically, this means that the couple getting married fully consents to the union without coercion. “The parental duty to respect a child’s right to veto” does not contradict their religious or cultural duty (Shaw, 2006, p. 213). Thus, parents who attempt to heavily persuade or force their children to marry are following patriarchy rather than true religious teaching.

Arranged Marriages Among Pakistani Diasporas

Such cultural-religious conflations can be especially common among immigrants moving outside of Pakistan. They struggle to retain their culture and religion while being away from their country of origin. It is especially challenging for them to distinguish between the cultural and religious sides of traditions. Because of this, they tend to be stricter with themselves and their family than their religion and culture expect, trying to distinguish between religious and cultural beliefs.

This desperate holding on to outdated cultural ideals can cause problems for their children. Children try to fit into the culture they have grown up in while also respecting their Pakistani culture. Living abroad, they have more freedom to criticize cultural traditions. However, they may still struggle to persuade their parents and families to embrace new mixed-cultural ideals.

The Case of Intercultural Pakistani Marriages

Here is an example that Zara Ahmed (2022) provides: A young man of Pakistani parents fell in love with a non-Pakistani Christian woman. They were expecting a child before marriage. He was determined to marry her and stood by the woman he adored and his unborn child.

However, the adults in their local Pakistani community said his parents failed him in his upbringing. How could this child walk away from his religion and culture by insisting on this marriage? “Ironically, these same people would be judging him for walking away from his child; they would then use religion to demonstrate how he should have supported the child and married the woman. It was convenient for the adults to twist their words to suit their preferences; it was not like every next-door neighbor could advise you on your religious rights.” (Ahmed, 2022, p.2)

Immigrant children look to their parents for religious guidance, so they must accept their interpretation of right and wrong. Four years later, it was evident that it was a strong marriage. They were happy and expecting another child. Once again, as I mentioned above, culturally as well as religiously, it is right that “the parental duty to respect a child’s right to veto” (Shaw, 2006, p. 213).

In the modern world, however, the cultural evolution of arranged marriages takes place in Pakistan and in Pakistani diasporas abroad. In the same way as in many other traditional societies, arranged marriages gradually evolve into love marriages. Love fuses into arranged marriages. even in Pakistani cultures.

Islamic Arranged Marriages

Islamic arranged marriages have been a traditional type of marriage in Muslim countries for centuries. They are still widespread in the Muslim world and among Muslim emigrants in many other countries.

What Is an Marriage?

An arranged marriage is one in which parents or other senior members of the extended family select a potential mate for their daughter or son. Community elders and professional matchmakers might also be involved in finding a suitable spouse. The groom and bride have little opportunity to express their preferences as to whom they want to marry. Parents and other members of the extended family also decide on the proper time and plan the wedding events and rituals according to cultural traditions.

Both the groom and the bride usually consent to all these arrangements out of respect for this cultural tradition. They both rely on others in the planning of their wedding. They may have some degree of freedom to express their wishes about whom they want to marry. However, this preference must be in accordance with family wisdom. Cultural traditions of arranged marriages have been typical across many collectivistic societies throughout the centuries.

Collectivistic traditions and modernization

This kind of marriage has been widespread in collectivistic societies because of the cultural value of relationship interdependence in families and other social groups. Arranged marriages are still practiced in some traditional collectivistic countries, in rural areas more frequently than in urban ones, and among lower-educated men and women more often than among more educated young people.

Collectivistic attitudes toward arranged marriage in traditional societies are quite positive and different from modern individualistic societies.

The current modernization of many traditional societies, however, makes some people doubt the suitability of this old cultural custom for a new generation of men and women.

Let us review such practices of arranged marriage in Muslim societies, in which collectivistic cultures have been traditionally very strong. Here are two of them: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

The Muslim country of Pakistan is a typical example of a traditional society with high values of collectivism, power distance, and social inequality (Hofstede, 1998; 2001, 2016).

People of different socioeconomic classes are distinctly separated according to social strata. Societal and personal relationships are structured collectivistically and hierarchically. Members of society recognize and accept social status differences, power distance, and social hierarchy as necessary for the proper organization of society.

Interpersonal connections and relationships recognize both collectivistic values and the value of power differences. Gender inequality and patriarchal families and institutions are common, especially in rural areas.

Islamic arranged marriages have been traditionally highly prevalent in Pakistani culture. Even in an urban Muslim community in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, these kinds of marriages were common in 1961–1964 (Korson, 1968).

Relatives arrange their sons’ and daughters’ marriages, selecting a proper mate from a pool of eligible prospective partners in the community. Families from the lower social classes have a limited pool of potential candidates. So, they choose their boys’ and daughters’ spouses from the neighborhood community. Families from the upper social classes can afford to choose their potential marital partners from the larger regional population.

The Modern Cultural Evolution of Islamic Arranged Marriages

Islamic arranged marriages have been undergoing cultural evolution in recent years, along with the gradual changes in modern Pakistan and its social practices. The tradition is still popular in rural areas and among low-educated people. However, new trends toward freedom of marital choice and love marriages are evident. Educated women feel more empowered in their relationships now than ever before (Ahmed, 2022; Khurshid, 2020).

The Islamic Arranged Marriages in Saudi Arabia

The Muslim society of Saudi Arabia is another example of traditional culture. Collectivism, power distance, and social inequality are culturally acceptable values (Hofstede, 1998; 2001).

Arranged marriages in Saudi Arabian society are similar in many regards to those in other Muslim countries, yet the attitudes toward gender roles, relationships, and marriage are more conservative and culturally old-fashioned.

Personal kinship connections with a prospective mate are often preferred in Saudi Arabian arranged marriages (El-Hazmi et al., 1995). Such consanguinity implies that a potential spouse would be descended from the same ancestor and belong to the same kinship. Such closely related candidates can be first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins, third cousins, or more distantly related men and women. Thus, the consanguineous form of arranged marriage is quite common.

Generally, matchmaking and arranged marriages in Saudi Arabia are characterized by

  1. Gender segregation assumes that a woman and a stranger man are not allowed to meet without a “mahram” for the woman to be protected…
  2. “Bir al walidayn” implies family involvement and stipulates that a son or a daughter needs to involve their parents in the marriage process and obey their opinions,
  3. “Khotobah” entails the formal agreement between both families that is necessary for the relationship to proceed… (Al-Dawood, Abokhodair, & Yarosh, 2017, p. 1022).

Nowadays, men in Saudi Arabia may have a certain freedom to select a spouse. However, their choices are limited. A man knows little about a prospective bride. They can meet, but only if they are chaperoned. The more important thing for marriage is how relatives perceive the suitability of a possible match. (Al-Dawood, Abokhodair, & Yarosh, 2017). 

The transformation of cultural attitudes toward arranged marriage in Saudi Arabia has been slow in recent decades. They are still fairly conservative.

Collectivistic Values of Arranged Marriages

The practices of arranged marriages have been common in many traditional collectivistic societies in the past. They are still performed in certain old-fashioned cultural communities in India, China, Muslin societies, and some other countries.

What Are Arranged Marriages?

Arranged marriage is an old, traditional way for men and women to meet for the purpose of marriage and marry each other in many collectivistic cultures. In this kind of matrimonial arrangement, the groom and bride have limited control over who and when they marry and how and when the ceremonies are organized. Instead, other family members, religious leaders, community elders, or professional matchmakers find a decent match for a man and a woman to become a good couple for life. These people, as well as the whole family, are responsible for the appropriate organization of the wedding in terms of the right time and proper rituals.

Practices of Arranged Marriages in Collectivistic Cultures

Collectivistic societies are characterized by the strong individual interdependence of members of families and other social groups. Such interdependence is highly valued and widely practiced in collectivistic cultures. Therefore, arranged marriages are very suitable for family formation in a cultural context where marriage is a matter that concerns the entire family. Being interdependent in a family, a man and a woman cannot afford to ignore its interests. Even though they may feel romantic attraction and experience love for someone, they recognize that an arranged marriage is a cultural norm that they need to abide by. Consequently, they agreed to such an arrangement.

It should be noted that cultural traditions of arranged marriages have substantially varied across collectivistic societies throughout history (Karandashev, 2017).

How People in Collectivistic Cultures Feel About Arranged Marriages

People who were raised in a collectivistic culture feel differently than those who were raised in an individualistic culture regarding an arranged marriage because they have different conceptions of individuality and models of self. Therefore, they understand freedom of choice differently.

People in individualistic societies are more likely to have culturally normatively independent models of themselves, while people in collectivistic cultures are more likely to have interdependent self-in-relationship-with-other models of themselves. These differences determine different attitudes towards arranged marriages.

It should be noted that in Western individualistic cultures and Eastern collectivistic cultures, people’s attitudes toward arranged marriages differ. The example of arranged marriages in India well illustrates these practices in collectivistic societies.

The individualistic point of view presumes that an independent and free choice of who, when, and how to marry is of primacy. This is why people in individualistic cultures strongly oppose the idea of arranged marriage as violating individual autonomy. They believe that they must “follow their hearts” and that romantic passion is the best guide to marriage as a long-term union.

The collectivistic view assumes that the choice of who, when, and how to marry is interdependent with others’ interests. This is why people in collectivistic cultures naturally accept the idea of arranged marriage and abide by it. They believe that they must “follow the wisdom” and that romantic passion, though a bitter-sweet enjoyable feeling, is not the best guide to marriage as a long-term union.

What Are the Values of Romantic Love in Collectivistic cultures?

Romantic love, passionate attraction, and erotic allure are highly praised and finely elaborated in the arts and poems of many Eastern cultures. These artistic depictions of intense emotional experiences serve as great ideals, inspiring people to dream about love, its joy, happiness, and bitter-sweet suffering (Karandashev, 2017, 2019).

However, people of collectivistic Eastern wisdom do not dare admit all these beautiful idealistic experiences as the guide for their long-term marital relationships. The ideas of love and marriage are separated in their minds. That is different from the individualistic viewpoint, in which men and women believe that love will win marriage.

We should acknowledge, however, that due to increased relationship mobility, education, urbanization, and social modernization, the tendency towards Westernization of many Eastern cultures is evident. These changes are shifting the cultural norms and values in those collectivistic societies toward more individualistic norms and values. Consequently, attitudes toward arranged marriages are also changing.

Arranged Marriages in India

In traditional arranged marriages, the bride and the groom have limited possibilities in making their choice of whom to marry and how the wedding is planned. Other family members, religious leaders, community elders, or special matchmakers choose a good match for the couple and make sure they get married in the right way.

The freedom of marital choice for prospective spouses and specific practices of how weddings and marriages are organized vary across different collectivistic countries, in urban and rural contexts, and in traditional or relatively modernized societies. There are no universal or common practices for arranged marriages that fit all collectivistic countries. Cultural traditions of arranged marriages vary across traditional societies.

A Collectivistic Perspective on Arranged Marriage

Arranged marriages are quite common in collectivistic cultures because of the high value of individual interdependence in social groups and families. Marriage is a matter of family, not only of a bride and a groom. Although they may feel their romantic attraction and experience love for another man or woman, as it is beautifully depicted in Indian movies, they usually understand that an arranged marriage is a cultural tradition. Therefore, they usually consent to such an arrangement.

They may have a certain degree of freedom in their choice of a partner depending on cultural variations across regions, social groups, and castes in India. However, they have very limited options to decide how wedding ceremonies are organized. This is a significant issue for the family and cultural tradition. The wedding is an important life experience not just for the couple but also for their families and all others involved. The planning, preparations, and rituals engage strong sentiments and feelings.

The collectivistic conception of self in these societies includes not only the individual herself or himself but also other family members and interdependent connections with them. Therefore, a man or woman in a collectivistic culture understands that the choice of spouse and marriage is a responsibility rather than a freedom. They feel interdependent with their family, so they adjust their decisions and actions accordingly. They feel responsible for the family’s interests and for the future of their marriage. Romantic passion is of secondary importance.

The perspectives of Western individualistic cultures and Eastern collectivistic cultures on arranged marriage differ substantially.

Nevertheless, modernization, urbanization, education, and increased social mobility in those societies have moved modern marital practices away from arranged marriages.

What Is the Tradition of Arranged Marriage in India?

Indians typically marry in their early twenties. Parrents or other kin usually arrange the mating process. The cultural patterns of mating and marriage are diverse in different parts of India. These practices also vary in rural and urban contexts and across traditional Indian castes. Variations are observed even within the same geographical regions (Banerjee, Duflo, Ghatak, & Lafortune, 2013).

Indian culture looks at marriage as a social institution from a collectivist perspective. This view considers the selection of a prospective partner as a family matter. So, young men and women respect the kin’s opinion and engage in a discussion with the family. Matchmaking is an important process that may include professional matchmakers or matrimonial websites. The process is perceived beyond the simple dichotomies of arranged versus love marriages. The modern distinctions between these two types of marriage are no longer as clearly apparent as they once were. Contemporary cultural practices do not enforce a choice between the person and the family. Young men and women treat the family’s permission as a significant but equal factor (Bhandari, 2018).

A wedding is a significant event not just for the couple but also for their families. This celebratory ceremony must be perfectly arranged in terms of rituals and timing. The preparation for the event and involvement in it engage intense sentimental emotions for many who attend. In addition, the arrangement of processes and conditions also calls attention to cultural values, norms, social obligations, kinship bonds, and economic resources (Heitzman & Worden, 1996).

Modern Arranged Marriages in India

Nowadays, in India, social and economic mobility, the proportion of the middle class, and modernization have been expanding, especially in urban areas. New generations of educated young men and women from the middle class have more control over their marital choices and the ways in which they marry (Kamble, Shackelford, Pham, & Buss, 2014).

These young people accept arranged marriage as a cultural practice, yet they modernize its meaning. They manage to reconcile the cultural traditions of family-making with their motives for personal growth. They figure out how to live in Indian culture’s modernity (Sharangpani, 2010).

Since Indian society is regionally and socially diverse in terms of religious and cultural practices (Hindu, Christianity, Buddhism, and Muslim), the extent to which modern innovations in traditions evolve varies across different parts of the country, social classes, and castes.

Transformations of Gender Roles and Arranged Marriages in India

Generally, in modern India, arranged marriages are gradually declining. The increasing geographic mobility of the population, changing relationship networks, and social media act as cultural factors of social change. They open up new avenues for young Indians to choose a marital partner and pursue marriage.

Currently, extended families and kin are less inclined and less capable of overseeing the matchmaking of their children. They are less directly involved in the marital process. It is especially true among Indian urbanites and those living abroad (Agrawal, 2015; Allendorf & Pandian, 2016).

Perceptions of gender roles and the status of women are changing. The transformations in the gender image of a new Indian woman are publicly visible. They are pervasive in many personal narratives and web-based representations. The new gender role models combine cultural rootedness and a modern lifestyle in their relationships between men and women. Therefore, the images of love and marriage are gradually changing. They adjust to the new realities and lifestyles (Allendorf & Pandian, 2016; Titzmann, 2013).

Cultural Traditions of Arranged Marriages

Throughout history, arranged marriages of various kinds have been common in many traditional societies of the Western and Eastern cultures, as well as in other parts of the world (Karandashev, 2017).

Why Did People Agree to Arranged marriages?

This sort of marriage arrangement has been largely related to several social and economic factors that people just needed to abide by. They needed to take into consideration the interests of their family, clan, tribe, and local community, which they belonged to. Individual preferences of men and women were subordinated to the obligations of their social relationships. People mostly had a collectivistic mentality. In many respects, they felt interdependent in their family and community relationships.

How Did Cultures Start to Abandon Arranged Marriages?

Over the last several centuries, many so-called Western countries, like western European countries and the United States, have evolved into individualistic cultures. Their societies largely abandoned the idea of arranged marriages for the sake of individual autonomy. People became individuals who were more independent in their family and community relationships.

In the 20th century, social and economic conditions in many countries modernized. During the last several decades, many other countries in the world have also been in transition from collectivistic to individualistic cultures (Karandashev, 2017). So, they gradually abandoned the old-fashioned forms of arranged marriage in favor of the freedom of individual preference and choice.

Many other societies in the world are still in very slow transition from their old traditional cultures of the collectivistic type. Therefore, in those countries, arranged marriages, or their remaining old-fashioned practices, are still widely spread. In isolated, remote, and rural residential areas, these customs are more persistent than in urban areas, where modernization processes take place more rapidly.

What Is an Arranged Marriage?

An arranged marriage is a form of marriage in which the groom and the bride do not decide who they marry. Other people, such as parents or other family members, select and arrange their marriage, with a limited opportunity for the groom or the bride to express their preferences and wishes. Other members of the extended family, community elders, religious leaders, or matchmakers may be involved in helping to find a prospective spouse for a young person. The groom and the bride consent to such a cultural tradition. They agree and trust others to arrange their marriage. They may have a certain degree of choice about whom and when to get married.

Collectivistic and individualistic cultures differ in their views on the conception of individuality and therefore understand freedom of choice differently.

The collectivistic perspective looks at the choice of spouse and marriage from the perspective of family interdependence. Marriage is a matter of responsibility that includes responsibility for the family’s needs rather than for oneself.

The individualistic perspective considers the choice of spouse and marriage from the perspective of individual independence. Men and women view marriage as a matter of individual choice rather than a responsibility for anyone. The freedom to choose a prospective partner has primacy.

Societies Favorable to Intercultural Marriages

In the modern world of increased social mobility and mass migration, many countries have become very multicultural. Subsequently, new mixed cultures with blended communities have been developed in many regions.

Some workplaces, public spaces, and residential areas have become spots where regular intercultural contacts occur. International trade, transnational cooperation, and the development of multicultural projects have also caused more regular inter-cultural contacts and interactions.

The Mere Exposure Effect and Interpersonal Attraction

The mere exposure effect and the familiarity effect may lead to greater interpersonal attraction in intercultural relations.

First, the “mere exposure effect” means “the more you see, the more you like.” We tend to love those we repeatedly see for a while and interact with them in a neutral or positive way. Negative experiences of interactions often produce an adverse effect, thus counteracting the positivity of the mere exposure effect. (See more in How does mere exposure induce love attraction?)

The Mere Exposure Effect and Interpersonal Familiarity

The mere exposure effect also creates an impression of familiarity. The others, whom we see on a regular basis, look more familiar and trustworthy to us. When we meet others who look and behave differently, people tend to be nervous and worried. This evolutionary tendency is what produces in-group positive bias, out-group negative bias, and intergroup tension. (See more in Love attraction to familiar others).

The Effects of Mere Exposure on Familiarity in Intercultural Relationships

Different cultures appear to us as in-groups and out-groups. For us, our culture is perceived as an ingroup, and people look and behave familiar to us because we see them regularly and adapt our perception frame. Therefore, we tend to like and trust them. On the other hand, another culture is perceived as an outgroup, and people look and behave strangely to us because we have never seen them before or have seen them rarely. Therefore, we tend to feel suspicious and apprehensive.

What can happen in culturally blended communities? People of different cultures see each other on a regular basis. We have become accustomed to seeing “others” who look and behave differently. The more we see them, the less strange they appear to us and the less they differ from us. We begin to feel they are basically the same good and trustworthy people as we are. If not, it may not be a matter of culture but rather of an individual’s personality.

Thus, when we meet people from other cultures routinely and in positive interactions, their looks and behaviors gradually become more recognizable and familiar. And due to the “familiarity effect”, we begin to love them more. So, the more often we see those of another culture, the more they look familiar. The more we perceive them as familiar, the more we like them.

The Opportunities Breed Possibilities for Intercultural Marriages

When applied to intercultural contacts and relationships, these mere exposure and familiarity effects can increase the likelihood of intercultural love, dating, and marriage. Considering these social psychological effects, we can think that once men and women of different races and ethnicities have more opportunities to see each other and interact in a positive way, they will perceive more familiarity in each other and, consequently, like and even love each other more. The matter of love, as in within-cultural relationships rather than cultural distinctions, will play a role in their attraction and possible love. Having regular opportunities for intercultural perception and interaction can trigger the simple exposure and familiarity effects. Intercultural and interpersonal attraction and love will follow accordingly.

Studies have shown that this possibility is real in friendships and romantic relationships. Physical and interactional proximity serve as the strongest predictors of interracial friendship and dating. The availability of interracial and interethnic contacts determines the likelihood that students of different races and ethnicities develop friendships. In the same way, greater opportunities for interracial contact predict a greater occurrence of interracial romantic relationships (e.g., Hallinan & Smith, 1985; Fujino, 1997).

However, different proportions of cultural majority and minority groups and belonging to majority or minority groups in a community have different effects on the likelihood of friendship and romantic relationships. In addition, different racial and ethnic groups have different wiliness and a chance to get into such intercultural relationships. Overall, Latinos and Asians are most likely to marry outside their ethnicity and race.

The Multicultural Society of the USA and Increasing Rates of Intercultural Marriages

In the USA, western states, and especially Hawaii, represent excellent examples of mingled multicultural communities favorable to intercultural relationships. The cultural mixing in these regions creates multicultural communities conducive to inter-cultural friendships, romances, and marriages.

The Pew Research Center conducted research in 2012 that showed that Hawaii and the Western United States had the highest rate of interracial marriages nationwide. According to that study, the US was a broadly diverse, multicultural country that continued to break down racial barriers and boundaries. Furthermore, the trend toward a high rate of interracial marriages was growing. In 2012, about 15% of all new marriages in the United States were interracial. In 2015, the number grew by up to 17%. The increasing numbers of Latino and Asian immigrants, as well as the growing public acceptance of such intercultural relationships among young people, were the major causes of the high and rising rates of interculturalism and polyculturalism (See more in The increasing trend of intercultural marriages in America).

The Western United States and Hawaii had the most pronounced increases in the number of intercultural marriages. In comparison to the national average, approximately 20% of newlyweds in the western United States were men and women of different races or ethnicities. In California, more than 23% of new marriages were inter-racial or inter-ethnic, a higher rate than in other western neighboring states. However, Hawaii had the highest rate of 40 percent interracial marriage in the country (Hawaii leads nation with 40 percent interracial marriage rate, by Rebecca Trounson, Feb. 16, 2012).

Consanguineous Marriages for Cultural Homogeneity Preservation

Throughout the history of human civilizations, endogamy—the custom of marriages within communities of tribes, clans, extended families, and kin—has been common in many societies. These were consanguineous marriages between men and women who were closely related to each other.

These types of marriages were largely due to some historical, socio-economic, and cultural factors. They were practiced among the nobility, like kings, queens, and tsars. Commoners practiced consanguineous marriages for different reasons. Many families preferred their children to be married this way due to the advantages it offered in social and financial status. In these kinds of cultural settings, it is easier to maintain familial assets, structures, and alliances (Akrami et al., 2009; Hamamy, 2012; Shawky et al., 2011). 

What Are Consanguinity Marriages?

In consanguineous marriages, the man and woman marry each other within a circle of extended family and kin. Generally, in these cases, a potential partner is descended from the same ancestor as another person and belongs to the same kinship. They are the family members who are first cousins, first cousins once removed, and second cousins. Marriages between double first cousins are practiced among Arabs, and uncle-niece marriages are practiced in South India (Hamamy, 2012).

These are rarely cases of incest. Nevertheless, the substantial genetic similarities between spouses often cause the risk of inbreeding. Consanguinity in mating is a cause of a high rate of birth defects, stillbirths, abnormalities, and health complications in offspring (Heidari et al., 2016; Fareed & Afzal, 2014; Maghsoudlou et al., 2015).

Consanguineous Marriages in Modern Times

Nowadays, such consanguineous traditions in marriage have greatly declined in many modern societies. However, these marital relationships are still prevalent in some countries and communities across the world. According to some estimates, in the early 2000s, about 20% of the human population of the world still lived in communities practicing endogamy. And around 8.5% of children were born from consanguineous marriages (Akrami et al., 2009; Obeidat et al., 2010).

Consanguineous marriages are socially and culturally preferred among some communities across South India, West Asia, the Middle East region, and North Africa. They represent around 20–50% of all marriages in those societies. In these consanguine relationships, couples married to first cousins account for about one-third of all marriages (Bittles 2011; Hamamy, 2012; Heidari et al., 2014; El-Hazmi, Al-Swailem, Warsy, Al-Swailem, Sulaimani, & Al-Meshari, 1995; Tadmouri et al. 2009).

These cultural traditions of consanguinity have been enduring among emigrants from these cultural regions who now live in North America, Europe, and Australia. In their communities, the initiation of such relationships is also common.

These practices are more prevalent in rural areas where people are less educated. So, they are not aware of the inbreeding consequences for their offspring. Living in rural areas, they have low socio-economic status, low social mobility, and a large family size. They commonly marry at a younger age. Another reason is that these conditions cut down on the number of potential mates who could be good mating partners (Heidari et al., 2014; Masood et al., 2011; Sedehi et al., 2012; Tadmouri et al., 2009).

An Example of Consanguineous Marriages in Muslim Societies

In Muslim societies, cultural attitudes toward relationship initiation and marriage arrangements are very conservative. So, endogamous and consanguineous marital relationships are still relatively widespread. One such example is Saudi Arabian Muslim society.

Initiation of a marital relationship begins through matchmaking, in which personal kinship connections and consanguinity are preferred. Consanguinity arrangements are culturally highly important (Al-Dawood, Abokhodair, & Yarosh, 2017; El-Hazmi, Al-Swailem, Warsy, Al-Swailem, Sulaimani, & Al-Meshari, 1995).

Consanguineous Marriages Oppose Intercultural Relationships

Consanguineous marriages in the past have traditionally served the purposes of social and cultural preservation. In the cases of traditional conservative societies, they still work the same way despite the changing social contexts. The modern world is becoming more multicultural and intercultural in many regards, including intercultural marriages. The old tradition of consanguineous marriages continues to persist even when conditions have changed, like in modern America.

There is an increasing trend of intercultural marriages in America and many other societies become conducive to intercultural marriages.

Modern and Traditional Models of Relationships in Spain

Interest in love studies has been on the rise among Spanish researchers in recent decades. Scholars explored the general processes of love relationships and culturally specific aspects of Spanish cultural models of love (Karandashev, 2019, 2022). Let us look at the modern and traditional models of relationships in Spain, considering the examples of Spanish couples and Moroccan immigrants’ couples.

The recent article “Love, Relationships, and Couple Happiness: A Cross-Cultural Comparison Among Spanish Couples and Moroccan Couples in Southern Spain” by Encarnación Soriano-Ayala, Verónica C. Cala, Manuel Soriano Ferrer, and Herenia García-Serrán recently reported the study of multicultural models of love in Southern Spain (Soriano-Ayala et al., 2021).

Modernized Spanish Culture and Relationships in Spain

The authors show that love relationships are sociocultural constructions, and the differences in cultural models of relationships in Western and Arab countries play their roles. Moroccan immigration comes from Arab society. It is Spain’s largest foreign cultural group that brings with it the Arab culture of relationships. Due to this large immigration, people in Spanish society observe the coexistence of two models of relationships: modernized Spanish and traditional Moroccan cultures.

Modernized Spanish culture has changed along with the country’s social and economic changes. There is less religious influence and more open public discussion to support freedom of choice in relationships. Attitudes towards relationships and love have become more liberal, flexible, and open to diversity. Spanish men and women tend to have a greater number of partners, with a shorter relationship duration and less predisposition to marriage. The more fluid forms of love govern these patterns of relationships. Despite such modernization of relationships in Spain, “familism” is quite distinctive to Spanish culture. Some estimates indicate that Spain is the most family-centered country in the European Union. Nevertheless, only one-third of the Spanish stated that their family had a strong influence on them. This fact can reflect the loss of the importance of the family as an institution among the Spanish.

Traditional Arab Islamic Culture and Relationships in Spain

Traditional Islamic societies have remained largely conservative in these regards. In their cultures, religion defines many of the normative prescriptions for love relationships. Although Arab Islamic societies have traditionally valued eroticism, pleasurable sexuality, and love, they considered them separate from marital relationships. In the matter of marriage, their views were opposite, with the restriction on freedom of choice and sex being focused on its reproductive function and the maintenance of social roles and status. Moroccan immigrants tend to have more stable and lasting relationships in which marriage plays an important role. Moroccan couples residing in Spain have the highest marriage rates. Marriages continue to serve a social status that immigrant Islamic communities highly value. According to some estimates, more than 90% of the Moroccans stated that their family had had a strong influence on them.

How Happy Are Spanish Couples and Moroccan Immigrant Couples in a Relationship?

Based on their analysis of earlier research, the authors identified some sociocultural differences in how happy couples feel in their relationships. They claimed that:

“The enormous changes in affective-emotional relationships in Europe and the United States have been accompanied by decreased marital happiness and satisfaction within the couple, particularly among groups with low socio-educational levels and minority ethnic groups. These groups experienced the lowest satisfaction.” “Conversely, family, sexual and matrimonial forms in Arab countries have experienced transformations in affective relationships that are tempered by the role of religion, thus maintaining greater stability in family, marital and gender structures, although younger generations are beginning to demonstrate changes in that stability.”

Soriano-Ayala et al., 2021

So, from these two excerpts, we see two main tendencies, which are difficult to judge in terms of good or bad. In the first case, it is about relationship satisfaction, while in the second case, it is about marital stability—two incomparable parameters of relationships.

Acculturation in Relationships

A main question for this study is, “What happens to couples from non-western countries, such as Morocco, when they migrate to Western countries, such as Spain?”

The authors reviewed a few studies that examined post-migratory changes in couple relationships when they migrated from traditional to modernized cultures. Those studies showed that couples continue to maintain their own cultural norms while adopting the new cultural norms of the society from which they migrated. They gradually develop a hybrid cultural model of relationships. Some immigrants acculturate to a new cultural model of love sooner than others.

The change in the affective and relational models of couples shifts the immigrants’ attitudes in favor of the romantic model of love, towards more freedom of choice and less dependency on family ties.

Couple Relationships in Morocco

In Morocco, such basic cultural values as honor, religion, traditional gender roles, and family stability significantly influence couple relationships. However, the gradual transformations in Moroccan society, such as the modernization of interpersonal relationships, continue.

Among those are legislative measures such as the “Moudawana” family code, which allowed divorce, set a minimum legal age for marriage, and started to punish sexual harassment.

A liberal romantic understanding emerged that recognizes marriage as a choice and the fruit of love. This new cultural value admits new forms of intimacy.

All these mixtures of modern norms and practices with traditional ones evolve into ambivalent and contradictory modern models of relationships. Some people experience a liberalization of their lifestyles linked to modernized sexual and social patterns. The other people tend to preserve their traditional Arab Islamic norms and practices, which are linked with puritanism and conservatism in gender and sexual relationships. Scholars also consider controversial interpretations of these changes (see for review, Soriano-Ayala et al., 2021).

Some speak of a Moroccan sexual and democratic revolution due to Western ethnocentrism. They explain the changes that occur as the result of progressive steps forward for the family, romanticism, and intimacy. Many scholars, however, focus on more traditional and folk ways of life, which give rise to rigid stereotypes about sentimental relationships in Arab and Muslim couples.

How Are the Relationships in the Couples of Spaniards and Moroccan Immigrants in Spain?

A recent survey study showed that Spaniards perceive their relationships as less stable. The relationships are influenced by a variety of factors. However, they reported spending a greater amount of time with their partners than Moroccan couples. The relational patterns of Spaniards reinforce the new, discontinuous forms of couple relationships. Those patterns are consistent with a weakening of interpersonal connections in Western societies (Soriano-Ayala et al., 2021).

Spanish women tend to highly value love in their lives. They consider intimacy especially important and rate their happiness in couple relationships highly. The Spanish women felt happier and more satisfied. However, the Moroccan women did not feel this way. Moroccan women tend to be in favor of romantic love. They give high priority to commitment, intimacy, and passion. However, someone may doubt the validity of such self-reports from Spanish and Moroccan women considering the other findings described above.

The results of a recent survey study found that the Moroccans in Spain are more influenced by religion and family. Despite the migration to different societies, they consider religion a very important factor of socialization for the Moroccan communities. They tend to maintain more stability in relationships (Soriano-Ayala et al., 2021).

For Moroccan men and women, the maintenance of social relations and communities, such as family or religious practice, is of high importance. These social values displace the importance they place on couple relationships. Couple relationships for Muslim women are based more on socio-economic materiality than on intangible sentimentality, such as love and couple relationships. Even among immigrants, love does not occupy the vital role in their lives that is culturally attributed to it. They would rather establish strong emotional bonds with other women. The stereotype of the submissive woman may not be quite adequate.

Gender-unequal stereotypical roles are considered

the “feminine mystique” and represent women as “emotional beings who are responsible for giving and expressing love to men”

(Soriano-Ayala et al., 2021, p.82)

In summary,

“The Spanish love style appears as a transitional style between the romantic model of the twentieth century and new neo-liberal forms linked to love, sexual poly-consumption and female empowerment.” “The love model presented by the Moroccan people corresponds to the traditional forms of love. In immigrant couples, the liberalisation of love that is taking place in large Moroccan cities is not observed to any significant extent”

(Soriano-Ayala et al., 2021, p. 84).

Japanese Marital Intimacy

I noted in another article, “The Japanese Dating Culture of “Tsukiau” Relationships“, that men and women enjoy the tsukiau relationship to explore the freedom of intimate emotional and sexual relations. They do not feel any pressure or expectation to marry. Yet their relationship could lead to marriage.

What Is Japanese “miai”?

The tradition of “miai” (or, with the Japanese honorific prefix o- “omiai”) is a Japanese custom of relationship transition to marriage. It is similar to matchmaking in other cultures. This tradition has been modified in the context of modern Japanese lifestyles. After kokohaku (“confession”), a man and a woman enter a new chapter of their relationship development, which ultimately evolves into miai. An introduction to the parents follows, and marriage is seriously considered.

Some may see the process of “Omiai” as akin to arranged marriages. Sometimes, there is an outsider’s general assumption that arranged marriages are culturally normative in Japan. However, it is largely not the case nowadays. The real arranged marriages happen in Japan now quite rarely (probably less than in the 10-20% cases), mostly in rural areas, and substantially less in modern times (Relationships and Sexuality in Modern Japan. Last updated in 2011).

These days, many more marriages are formed out of mutual love for one another. Once the Omiai begins, actual dating means less than before. Successful “Omiai” implies that the man and woman go on a series of dates that result in a decision about whether they decide to marry or not.

  • If they decide to marry, they go through a formal marriage process called “miai kekkon.” The groom’s family typically arranges miai kekkon.
  • If they decide not to marry, they each go their separate ways.

Public and Private Sides of Japanese Intimacy

In Japanese culture, public displays of affection for a loved one—such as holding hands, kissing, hugging, or any intimate physical contact—are considered impolite, rude, or shameful. Many times, one would never guess that partners are actually a married couple. Publicly, Japanese tend to pretend that they are not in love.

This is why kissing is uncommon in Japanese films. Many people condemn kissing in public places. The majority of men would never kiss a woman in public. But if they would, they would feel embarrassed.

Any form of intimacy should be kept in private areas. In the home, children commonly say that they have never seen their parents kiss or express affection in any way.

It should be noted, however, that modern men and women of a young generation, especially in the larger cities, are slowly changing these old customs of public displays of affection.

Problems with Marital Intimacy in Japanese Culture

In general, traditional Japanese culture places a low value on psychological intimacy in marriage. Therefore, sharing one’s intimate self in companionship with one’s spouse has been less common (e.g., DeVos, 1985; Roland, 1988).

Even among many middle-class Japanese couples, psychological intimacy in marriage is still uncommon. There are two contextual factors that impede the formation of intimate relationships in marriage (Roland, 1988).

The men’s intimate psychological needs have usually been fulfilled in the circle of other men in the workplace. The intimacy of their friendship outside of work is uncommon among Japanese men.

The women’s intimacy needs have been satisfied in their friendships with other women and their relationships with their children. Because men generally spend long hours at work and then have rituals of lengthy socializing after work, it is difficult for women to create closeness in their marriage relationships.

Love in Bedouin Culture

Bedouin culture is the culture of the nomadic Arab people who live in Arabia, the territory that stretches from the deserts of North Africa to the rocky sands of the Middle East. Living in tribes, they have a common culture of herding camels and goats. Most Bedouins follow Islam, but there are also a small number of Christian Bedouins. In Arabic, they are known as the ʾAʿrāb (أعراب).

One example of such a society is that of the Bedouins in the Western Desert of Egypt. Another example is the Arab-Palestinian people in southern Israel. Some Bedouins still follow their traditional culture, living in clan structures. The others, however, have acquired a modern urban lifestyle, abandoning their nomadic and tribal traditions.

In another article, I talked more about “Bedouin Culture.”

Two Realms of Love in Bedouin Culture

In Bedouin societies, love exists in two realms: real and ideal (Karandashev, 2017). The traditional Bedouin culture is a patriarchal society, keeping boys and girls, men and women, segregated. The moral discourse comprising modesty and honor has a high value. Cultural norms discourage autonomy and individual choice in relationships. As in many other traditional South Asian cultures, kinship, family honor, and social hierarchy are valued more than individual emotions and preferences. Therefore, both men and women usually feel uncomfortable in intimate relationships (Abu-Lughod, 1986/2016).

The Ideology of Gender Inequality in Bedouin Culture

Bedouin cultural ideologies declare gender inequality and social hierarchy. Individuals have the freedom to make choices about their lives. However, the value of autonomy is normally associated with masculinity. The cultural value of autonomy is for men, while the cultural value of dependency is for women. In Bedouin communities, patriarchal control over women is still existent and prevalent (Aburabia 2011, 2017; Kook, Harel-Shalev, and Yuval 2019).

The traditional extended family—the hamula (clan)—continues to maintain high authority and control over women’s lives. Every woman can choose what she wants, but she must know the limit (Aburabia, 2011; Daoud et al., 2020; Harel-Shalev, Kook, & Elkrenawe, 2020, p. 493).

An extended family puts limitations on and also keeps control over men’s lives, yet men are allowed to have more autonomy and freedom. For instance, the practice of polygyny is still common among the Bedouin community, even though it is legally forbidden. The approximate rates of polygamy are 20–30%. In some villages, it could be 60% (Aburabia, 2011).

Cultural Dreams of Romantic Love in Bedouin Culture

On the other hand, stories, poems, and songs in modern Bedouin culture cherish romantic love as a high value. It is worth noting that passion seems more valuable than intimacy. Love is bound by controversial emotions. Poems of love may express an individual’s strength, autonomy, mastery of passions, and support of the values of honor and modesty. On the other hand, the poetry of love expresses attachment, vulnerability, loss, and bitterness related to the state of “being in love.” Romantic poetry is valued, relishing a declared freedom from social domination. It conveys subversive messages. Thus, despite the patriarchal and segregated society in which Bedouins live, their stories, poems, and songs of romantic love cherish the imaginations of people in modern Bedouin culture. Romantic poems, songs, and stories about love offer important expressions of deeply held human emotions and desires that are considered unacceptable and disturbing by the dominant culture (Orsini, 2006, pp. 22–23).

The amorous feelings expressed in poems and the seeming rigidity of modesty in daily communications are evidently at odds with each other in modern Bedouin culture. Does it mean that these poetic sentiments illuminate the more authentic selves of men and women? Not necessarily.

Ideal and Real Love in Bedouin Culture

The romantic, poetic expression of love is not always evidence of a person’s more genuine self. The psychological interactions between the social hierarchy of power, the moral sentiment of modesty and submissive reverence, and the poetic discourse of love are far more complex than just defying authority. These cultural experiences cannot be reduced to such straight interpretations and cannot be simply contrasted with Western understandings.

The structure of Bedouin love is more tangled than Western scholars tend to interpret it. Poems, songs, and romantic stories enrich men’s and women’s cultural understanding of emotions, but do not refuse or rebel against the reality of the love life. Their selves rearrange priorities and integrate other people and social obligations into their extended “collectivistic self.” Their freedom of choice integrates with social affordances and communal responsibility. Such perspectives on love appear to contrast with European American individualistic culture, which emphasizes an individual’s freedom of choice while minimizing responsibility for the choices individuals make.  (Abu-Lughod, 1986/2016).