In arranged marriages, families get into an understanding on all the questions related to ‘When’, ‘How, ‘Who’, ‘Where’, etc. while considering marital alliances. In arranged marriages in India, there is a lot of emphasis on ‘mutual agreement’ or ‘verbal agreement’. This serves as the foundation of trust and going ahead with the marriage.This ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was respected in earlier times but is losing its ingenuity. A promise given by an elder in the family was usually taken as etched in stone and families could look at solving disputes arising between a couple, amicably, to a large extent.
But currently in arranged marriages, it is becoming common that the word / assurances given at the time of marriage are not followed post marriage. This is especially observed in nuclear families.
Pooja (name changed) lived in Pune and Rahul (name changed) lived in Bangalore. Both families had been introduced to each other via a common acquaintance. The boys’ family was given a high recommendation by the acquaintance, making Poojas’ family take keen interest in this alliance. They had a couple of meetings and were assured to provide their daughter with a safe haven and continue working as she wished. She was free to lead the life she wanted and Rahul was in complete agreement with this too.
After the grand wedding, the relatives and the senior members went back to their respective homes, the bride / groom and their families went back to their nuclear family status. This is where one side started taking advantage of the situation.
The interference of Poojas’ in-laws in their everyday life and the change of word by Rahul started at this stage. It began with small changes that were expected of her like her choice of clothing to going back on their ‘verbal agreement’ of letting Pooja continue with her career and lead the life that she wanted to. Her aspirations were slowly being suppressed because of constant pressure to start a family and to give complete focus to her husbands’ house. This led to many marital spats that eventually broke the family and ripped the trust that was once built on mutual terms.
Today, Rahul and Pooja are separated, and the incident has shattered Pooja completely from within. She finds it difficult to trust a person’s word or agree upon anything only on mutual terms, based on her bitter marital experience.
Breach of trust and breaking the gentleman’s agreement
With families becoming nuclear ‘breach of the conditions agreed at the time of marriage’ is becoming the common ground for disputes post marriage.
While circumstances of each family vary, the common issues revolve around the below:
- Job and Career
- Place of settling down
- Salary/cost sharing and finances
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Taking care of parents and in-laws
Changing of word/agreement/assurances post-marriage is a trust issue and a huge risk everybody takes. While in earlier times matrimonial failures were a rarity and viewed as someone’s fate, with the increasing instances of ‘change of word’ in today’s arranged marriages, it has become a common issue in nuclear families and there is an increasing fear of matrimonial failures due to this.
The problem with such matrimonial failures is that the society always points fingers at the victim for not doing proper due diligence and trusting the wrong person. The society doesn’t care whether you were cheated in the marriage. The society expects one to be intelligent, shrewd and to have proper risk assessment in an arranged marriage disposition.
The stigma, pain and suffering associated with a matrimonial failure in India is too high to ignore. Many middle-class families are now investing their time and money in carrying out a complete risk assessment for the fear of a breach of the gentleman’s agreement in marriage. They want to get a complete report about every aspect about the family and their standing in the society to assess whether they would actually live up to their promises.