Marriage Of Convenience: Can Money Trump Love?

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Actor Prachi Desai will ‘never opt for a marriage of convenience.’ A remark she made recently argues against using marital union as a “safety net” for when the going gets tough, financially. While that is the general sentiment today, wherein the element of ‘love’ has made space for itself alongside ‘arrangement’ as a precondition for marriage, the issue is a layered one. Because we live in a complex world, not utopia.

“My parents have brought me up in such a way that I never saw marriage as a safety net,” Desai said talking to Hindustan Times. She says she wasn’t inclined to look at marriage as a way out for when her “career slowed down for a bit or something didn’t work out” and would marry “only if and when someone perfect comes along.”

These are all valid points the Silence… Can You Hear It? actor makes, and something, a lot of singles believe in or aspire towards. For those strongly against the institution itself, marriage isn’t on their list of life goals at all. Meanwhile, many are holding out for that ‘perfect someone’ to come along and be worthy enough to sweep them off their feet, until which time singlehood is sufficient.

Both states of being make strong cases against indulging in a marriage of convenience for the sake of seemingly better living. Isn’t individual existence sufficient? Are our singular values only determined when we have a companion validating them for us? Financial independence, agency, self-love – don’t these afford a whole, empowered life away from biases?

Marriage Of Convenience: A Longstanding Culture In India

For ages, and especially in India, marriage has been held up as a sacred phenomenon. It is precisely from that belief that a lot of its stereotypes, pressures, burdens, oppressions stem, most of which fall in the lap of women. In the process of this patriarchy upkeep, a majority of marriages in India are still ‘arranged,’ which (and this is not a radical take at all) is just a sanitised way of saying ‘transactional.’

In wars, women were often given away by rulers as peacemaking objects for better diplomatic relations. The 21st century hasn’t changed much. Family elders carefully select grooms for their daughters basis the money in their wallets, achievements on their resumes and standards of living. Meanwhile, brides are still commonly picked basis looks, home-making skills, desired docility and dowry-giving capacity. One need only look at matrimonial ads in the paper.

Is this all not marriage of convenience, when all permutations-combinations are put in place before the knot is tied? When love comes as a secondary force in the union, way behind finances and other material factors?

And we are naive to think that these transactions we are making are so tight that India’s divorce rates are among the lowest in the world at an abysmal approximate of 1 percent. The reasons for it, however, are far different.

Does Marriage Of Convenience Hamper Love Or Do People Sustain?

We hope for a marriage of convenience to ultimately blossom into love and genuine affection between the partners. It does happen, but every marriage is not a Jodhaa Akbar story. Because when done for convenience, the motivations for keeping up the marital union always lie on dicey grounds. When love lacks, can the marriage be redeemed?

In a lot of cases, it does. Throughout history, people have used the ‘transactional’ aspect of marriage and turned it around to their advantage that isn’t malicious. Queer persons, for instance, find that entering into a marriage of convenience can act both as a cover for personal, physical safety as well as social acceptance in a world that still stigmatises and criminalises same-sex love.

Dr Pamela Haag, author of Marriage Confidential, believes that staying in a marriage of convenience may not be easy but is doable, conditionally. “A marriage of convenience may indeed be worth saving, if—and it’s a monumental if—the spouses are willing to give each other some accommodations and freedoms so that they can meet other vital needs elsewhere, and still enjoy a companionate marriage,” she writes.

At the same time, it’s important to appreciate that the very concept of marriage of convenience has often been used to paint women as gold-diggers, even as the agency hardly lies with them. Remember when Priyanka Chopra’s marriage to Nick Jonas, an American many years younger, prompted allegations against her of a green card pursuit and supposedly more money?

One can say that, in a way, all relationship bonds we make – marital or otherwise, save for the one we’re born into – is driven by some kind of ‘convenience.’ We make friends basis our own comfort levels, choose partners as per our own notions of who is a suitable fit. There’s no good or bad to it, it’s just how it is.

Where marriage is concerned, the legal and social implications of it add a ton of terms and conditions to it. And if we’re able to navigate through by choice, what comprises ‘convenience’ becomes wholly subjective.

Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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