Arranged Marriage: My wife prefers tradition over me
February 9, 2010 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I agreed to a long-distance arranged marriage to the woman who is now my wife and I think I made a mistake. How do you know when to cut your losses?

Some background:

We're a couple in our late 20s. We're both born in the US but entered into the arranged marriage process because of our mutual religious and cultural values.

We've been legally, and religiously, married for 3 months, but only had 1 big cultural wedding ceremony which means we're only partially married culturally speaking. One of the events that still needs to happen is the homecoming where the bride can live with the groom and makes it permissible to consummate the marriage.

Long distance issues:

We live apart. She lives with her family and goes to grad school and I work in another state. I feel like I'm discouraged to visit her until the whole marriage is complete. For example, to visit her, I must book a hotel and may only spend time with her during the day. She is not permitted (or so she says) to visit me in my city.

I just don't get a sense of her making an effort to meet me halfway. However, she does insist that my family and I buy her cultural gifts, like gold sets, diamond wedding bands, a substantial cash dowry among other things.

I feel like I'm being used. When I raise this concern, she assures me that she loves me, and that all these concerns are just part of the marriage process and everything will be better when we live together. Part of me wants to believe this, but part of me mistrusts her.

What do I do?

1) Divorce- I'm actually contemplating divorce, since we've been married for a short time, and she can remarry faster with less stigma I guess. I don't think she will ever be loyal to me because when it comes to me or a cultural tradition (like the ban on visiting me), she picks the cultural tradition. I want companionship but she seems more interested in what I can offer her in gifts.

2) Stick it through - eventually she will move in with me. I do like spending time with her and maybe when we actually have more face time, we can adjust to each others needs. She won't say, but maybe the reason she is being super traditional is that she is living with her parents, and won't risk displeasing them.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to your parents about this?

Being older and more familiar with the cultural and religious aspects of this marriage, and perhaps, having seen more of them, they might be able to give you another set of eyes with which to view this situation.

My own gut reaction would be to 2a) Stick it Through After Discussing With Others.

Perhaps your parents, aunts, uncles, others within your cultural and religious community whom you can trust to keep the discussion under their hat, so as not to cause any drama, but give you their own honest and unbiased opinion of the facts and the situation as it stands.

Good luck!
posted by willmize at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd also try to see it from her side. Visiting you at night, in your city or half-way may imply sexual relations that would shame her and her family. This might be something she's not willing to risk. IMHO, it is a big thing to ignore in terms of cultural things (as opposed to listening to secular music or wearing pants or whatever your cultural rules are.)
posted by k8t at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2010

I hope that there are some members on here who will be able to speak to the experience of arranged marriages. As you may or may not know, most people on here are pretty liberal and Western and are unlikely to have much experience with this situation--I know I certainly don't.

But I'll take a stab, mostly by giving you some questions to think about.

I think the manner in which the marriage was arranged might be relevant. Who selected her for you? A matchmaker? Your family? Is their judgment trustworthy and sound? Is it normal in your culture for the groom to buy gifts for the bride at this stage? What do your family think of this? If your father was in a similar situation (arranged marriage), he might be someone good to talk to about these concerns.

Some more questions: when is the full marriage planned? How much do you enjoy her company when you're together? Do you feel any sense of a connection or friendship with her yet? Can you try (gently) discussing your concerns with her? More importantly, do you think you really want a less traditional wife? If this is a priority to you, it's something you should definitely try to discuss with her, because it's going to have a huge impact on the rest of your relationship. And, if you're traditional enough to be married in this manner, what will the impact of divorcing be?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2010

Perhaps you should consider getting a prenuptual agreement, which could provide some protection against getting taken for your money. You could explain that it would just make you feel more comfortable and able to enjoy your new marriage.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2010

Why hasn't the homecoming happened yet? It seems that your current limbo is giving you all of the drawbacks of marriage but none of its benefits. One thing that would alleviate your stress would be to complete all the stages of the marriage. It is always frustrating and painful to be between life stages.

In the short term, perhaps you could have a (male) friend or relation accompany you when you go to visit her in her city, so that when you are not able to be with her and her family, you are not alone.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

This really sounds like something you need to discuss with people of your own particular cultural background, i.e. not anyone on the Green. MeFi, God love it, is a veritable bastion of modern, Western, liberalism, much of it of a leftist sort. Getting good advice about what appears to be a very traditional situation is difficult in many contexts these days, but I'm going to suggest that you've come to exactly the wrong place. Especially as we don't actually know anything about your background, so even those few MeFites who may have that in their range of experience aren't going to be able to speak intelligently.

What do you do? You talk with the members of your cultural community, ideally people who 1) you can trust, and 2) aren't party to the situation in any personal way. That's the only way I can think of that you're going to get anything like good advice on this.
posted by valkyryn at 10:00 AM on February 9, 2010 [28 favorites]

If you've never lived together, and haven't consummated the marriage, civil annulment is potentially another viable option. Much, much easier than divorce. Annulment laws vary by state. Talk to a lawyer.

This might make the decision to cut your losses easier.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Salvor, I think the OP would need a postnuptual agreement, as he is already legally married to this woman. However, I don't think post-nups are available in all jurisdictions; contact an attorney for the laws in your area. This is not legal advice; I am not your lawyer.

Good luck, in any event, OP. I know a couple of people who had arranged marriages, and it always seems to be a real balancing act.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2010

Perhaps you should consider getting a prenuptual agreement, which could provide some protection against getting taken for your money.

They're already legally married. Too late for a prenup.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:02 AM on February 9, 2010

I agree that this is something you should talk about with your parents, the marriage broker if you have one, or a religious leader or counselor in your community.

My own totally-unfamiliar-with-your-traditions two cents:
It seems wrong to judge her for participating in what, from your note, sounds like a perfectly acceptable cultural tradition. If tradition dictates that you buy her gifts, why is that about her being greedy? Also, you might consider that in many traditional marriages the husband has a lot more power than the wife. She may be trying to get as much collateral from you now in case YOU turn out to be a jerk once you and she live together. You imply that if she does consummate the marriage with you her chances of finding a new match, if you do indeed divorce her, are greatly reduced. Her insisting on gifts up front make your good faith clear (although as you write, it is wobbly!) and also gives her a little leverage.

In any case, trying to imagine what motives she has that are NOT bad faith motives might help you calm down about this.
posted by tk at 10:11 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Ah, I missed the "legally married" part. Sorry!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:12 AM on February 9, 2010

Given the details that you've shared, I'm guessing you're from the Subcontinent. I will give my advice assuming this.

1. Divorce is a huge step. Even though it's not as much of a stigma as it was in the past, it may affect your wife's prospects for getting remarried. So, this should be a last ditch option.

2. You've said that you haven't spent much time together yet. I say you get a date firmed up for the 2nd ceremony ASAP. If it's her family that's holding things up, you need to have your parents put heavy pressure on her parents. It's my experience that the bride's parents would rather die than be dishonored in any way.

3. Once you've gotten all the stuff out of the way, then give it a few months. You like spending time with her, and you'll have the rest of your life to do so. This is a temporary setback, and you had to have known that she was like this prior to marrying her. If not, then shame on you for not doing your due diligence.

Stick through it, man. Don't make an impulsive decision. If it's sex you want, book a flight to Reno for the weekend and go to the Bunny Ranch.
posted by reenum at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2010

You don't know your wife. You're judging her based on the few interactions she's had and her adherence to cultural norms. She still lives with her parents, she is of course going to do only what is culturally appropriate because that's what her parents expect.

Also, why are you asking her if she loves you? She has no reason to love you because she hasn't spent any time with you (unless you believe in love at first sight?). You will cause feelings of love to grow in her by understanding where she's coming from and empathizing with her situation. Usually, love grows after a couple has spent a LOT of quality time together, and usually after they've started sleeping together.

It sounds like you are yearning for a Western-style love story. Arranged marriages are different; love and companionship grows after a couple has married and spent time together. They can be just as loving and fulfilling as a Western romance.

You will have many of these issues with any arranged bride.

That being said, there is a lot of fraud that goes on in arranged marriages, especially when the families don't know each other. I urge you to follow PhoBWanKenobi's advice in this regard.

Good luck! Don't let your family's cultural expectations eclipse your happiness. But don't run roughshod over your traditions either. You have begun this process, it will be very difficult to escape from it without severe repercussions to your reputations in the community, probably especially towards your wife-to-be. Keep her interests in mind as well as yours as you go through this difficult process, whatever your decision is.
posted by sid at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Awkward and possibly expensive though it may be for you, I think you need to spend as much time as possible with her. Sure, booking a hotel room every weekend for a month might be expensive, but if you compare that to the amount of money you're investing in dowries and gifts and, of course, the rest of your life spent with this woman....well, it seems like a worthwhile investment to me.

It sounds from your question that most of your worries have to do with not knowing her motives. The best way to find those out is to get to know her. So, plan on a month or two of really getting to know her and ask all the usual 'prospective spouse' questions (Does she want kids? How many? What's her view towards discipline? How does she deal with money? etc.).
posted by brambory at 10:23 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

I would share your concerns with her - maybe not that you think she is using you, but that perhaps her loyalty to tradition may not be instep with yours. It is hard to judge how she feels based upon her actions now because of the influence of her family - even in western style weddings, parents have a huge impact on decisions.

What are the things that may threaten the future of this marriage with this women? Values are huge - how you two will manage money? - how you want to raise your children? If there is a chance to visit her and spend some time with her away from her family you could discuss these things with her. Perhaps getting a good friend supervise the visit rather than a family member. I'm not sure if this would be possible but perhaps some "premarital" counseling with someone who is familiar with your cultural background.

A warning flag I do see is "everything will be better when we live together." Honestly, that may be harder - you don't know each other very well. There are going to be adjustments and getting to know one another - it's not like either of you have been married before, right? If you are committed to the marriage you will be up for the challenge.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:32 AM on February 9, 2010

If you're from the Subcontinent and are awaiting the rukhsati as I think you might be, do consider these things:

- women in this society are expected to maintain cultural obligations. A girl who travels to another state to visit someone she is not 'fully' married to is marred in her family's eyes and the eyes of her in-laws. You may not mind, even your parents (who are presumably more conservative than you) may not mind, but she does not know this. Your family and its ways are new to you and _every_ South Asian woman knows the horror stories of in-laws who feel slighted or feel that they have received damaged goods.

- This is why she picks the cultural tradition. Also in an arranged marriage is almost always a bigger step for the woman than for the man. Simply because _she_ is the one entering into a foreign family. Cutural traditions are a safety net.

- I see she is living with her parents. Do not underestimate the insecurities of a SA woman's parents regarding their daughter's virtue and how it is perceived by others. Really. Don't.

- Dowries etc are the one thing that strikes me as odd. In my South Asian culture it's the girl's family that gives the dowries, but I know there are others where it's the opposite. However, she may have pressure from her family. if she's sticking to tradition, you can too, by saying that only her parents and your parents should discuss this in private, and you don't want to interfere. On the other hand, it's also a simple fact that this is an arranged marriage. For both of you marriage is simply a contract right now: I don't see how love even comes into it just now. Her primary ties are with her family at the moment, and I can imagine that it will take after you're married to truly understand that your part in it is not as an adjunct to her family, but to start a new family.

I'm from Pakistan, and I chose married a foreigner and left my country. But I know all these considerations from the woman's side because my own friends and cousins have gone through them. If you'd like to memail me, please feel free.
posted by tavegyl at 10:45 AM on February 9, 2010 [19 favorites]

All of your concerns--frustration about living apart before the marriage is culturally complete, disappointment that your wife is not "meeting you halfway," and feelings of being used for the gifts and possessions you bring to the marriage--sound like they come from a clash of modern expectations and old tradition. It sounds like perhaps you agreed to a traditional arranged marriage assuming that your wife would share your more modern views (i.e., that she would be using the traditional arranged marriage model in order to begin/create her marriage, but would live and act like a "modern" woman). From an outsider's perspective, it seems like your wife is following cultural constraints, not being abusive or selfish. It may well be frustrating for you, but I don't think it's fair to blame your wife for adhering to the very traditions that brought her to you as a wife.

I think you should consider some type of couple's counseling with your wife so that the two of you can discuss your expectations, frustrations, and views in a constructive and productive way. You're trying to do something very difficult, entering a traditional arranged marriage (which comes with certain priorities and expectations) in a broader cultural context that prioritizes other expectations and aspects of marriage, and having supportive guidance will be critical.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2010

There are plenty of us on this site that understand your situation first of all

technically if you've had the nikkah then you should be able to be more liberal about things, but from the sound of it you visiting her is liberal for her

i know a lot of guys who speed up the process for the rukhsati because they can't really deal with the married but not really bit

you're already married, you might as well give it a good shot (which at a minimum includes living with each other and actually being married, of course i'm assuming you have a base attraction/compatibility with her which it sounds like you do)

talk to her. be gentle. don't make a big deal out of the gifts. talk about things in emotional terms- get advice from others if you're unsure how to do this. you're not being used in terms of the gifts because she's already married to you, breaking things off would be pretty difficult now for her to do, and I imagine if she were to do this she would probably return the gifts but that would be the least of your problems

the reason i'm recommending that you talk to her- now is the time to establish patterns in this relationship- establish a pattern of talking to her when you are uncomfortable about something- whether you have justification to be uncomfortable or not is not really the point, as long as you're gentle about it- you don't want to get into a pattern of withholding your frustrations and letting them fester

good luck to you. send her flowers before you have a rough conversation with her, it'll be a small expenditure to make a difficult conversation a lot easier.
posted by saraindc at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

This really isn't a good question for AskMetafilter. You need to ask people in your own community, and preferably your parents, for guidance. You sound like you need some people to talk to in going through this rite of passage. I would not leap into talking/thinking about divorce because you sound like you're scared and anxious, which is not a good place to make longterm decisions from.
posted by anniecat at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2010

Also, don't underestimate how scared and anxious and worried she is feeling right now. I am positive she isn't in this for the gifts (I'm sure her parents could buy her a lot of stuff).She's probably feeling pretty depressed, frankly, because getting married is a very big deal and a big life change.
posted by anniecat at 11:06 AM on February 9, 2010

Not to blame you -- and I know this observation can't by itself solve your problem --, but it seems to me that when you agreed to an arranged marriage, you accepted most of the things you are complaining about. A young woman in the United States who chooses an arranged marriage is signaling a devotion to tradition and to norms dictated by her parents. Similarly, by relinquishing direct choice of mate, she is signaling that who you are is of diminished importance. You should not then be surprised when she is very deferential to tradition, and does not yet show loyalty to you personally.

None of that means things won't work out. The particular traditions you're chafing against now -- ones relating to courtship and wedding -- will soon be over and gone forever. Likewise, you two will (probably, hopefully) grow close to each other specifically as you get to know each other and grow into the roles of husband and wife.

Her saying that she loves you now is more like a promise than a statement of fact, but it needn't be seen as an empty promise.
posted by grobstein at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

You already seem "out of step" with your wife and your cultural traditions.

Is there a real danger of fraud here? You are legally married, so I assume the problem here is really one of protocol. Check with those more experienced than you in these matters to be sure. How can she be setting you up? It's not clear from your ask. You're already married. It's your duty now to support and provide for each other.

The rest of my answer assumes you've checked with those in the know, and there is no fraud here. Read on...

I'll be honest: You don't sound like good husband material. A good husband thinks of "Us" first, while you are thinking of "You."

Why did you get married in the first place? Was it for appearances? To have company and someone to cook and clean? What do you think marriage will be like? What were you hoping to get by pursuing an arranged marriage??

I think your answer about what to do lies in the honest answers to these questions. It's possible this route just isn't for you.

The reason I asked these particular questions is because you don't seem emotionally ready for this marriage. I fear for your wife considering your current attitude towards her and how you think this is supposed to work. I really do.

Frankly, you sound unprepared for marriage and/or ignorant of your cultural traditions. You are not doing your wife or her family any favors by refusing to visit, refusing to honor your new bride with gifts, or considering divorce. Instead, you betray yourself as an unprepared groom with a significant lack of emotional and financial generosity. Are you sure you're ready for this marriage?

The lack of generosity, both emotional and financial, is a maturity and character issue that will follow you into the future.

If you can't muster and maintain an open heart towards your wife after you deeply consider your own position in all this - then please don't follow-thru with the marriage. Your almost-wife deserves many long and happy years of partnership. You will never be able to give her that with a closed heart, mind, and wallet.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Disclaimer: This is coming from someone with no cultural background as it relates to your question.

You said you entered into this mariage due to "mutual religious and cultural values." Yet, I'm getting the feeling that they aren't so mutual. You seem to be disenchanted with the process. Which leads me to think you ought to talk to family members about the process and see what is normal... It look like your version and her version of normal don't align.
posted by magikker at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

So let me start off by saying I don't think you're unprepared for marriage and I'm sure you can have the life with your wife that you desire.

I obviously don't have much experience with this, but I think these two comments best describe what your next course of action should be. It seems like your biggest concern is that you're being taken advantage of monetarily and that she doesn't actually want to spend a life with you. I agree with others who have said that the family is likely just being protective of her honor, so you shouldn't expect her to see you at night, much less to be able to visit you in your city. I also think that you should have nothing to do with the dowry bits. Let that be discussed between your two parents, as was mentioned before.

You seem to be really concerned about how your relationship will be and whether it's worth continuing the process. I would recommend option 2, stick with it. If you ever decide to get an arranged marriage, it's probably going to be like this every time. You said you enjoy spending time with her when you are able, so let that guide your decision for now.
posted by scrutiny at 11:52 AM on February 9, 2010

Really, you are a human being first and foremost. Yes, you may have a particular cultural or religious background, but does that completely define you or constrict you uncomfortably? What do you owe and to whom? Are you willing to sacrifice your own happiness on the altar of your culture, religion or any other external superstructure? How about your parents, friends and broader social environment? Perhaps you are a bit caught in between cultures.

Where will you ultimately live? If it is in the West, then it is my guess that the contrast between hidebound tradition on the one hand and increasing liberalization of your surroundings on the other, will only keep increasing. In the West, arranged marriages are seen as a bit odd - and will, I hazard a guess - only seem odder as the decades pass... as you grow older, how happy will you be having stuck to this lifestyle, if it's making you miserable?

Live your life. You only got one. Marriage - the person with whom you'll spend your waking hours - is such a huge part of your life, that you should think long and hard before entering into such a union based on ANYTHING other than your own thoughts and feelings. Family, tradition, culture and religion all take a back seat to this - unless you are willing to subjugate your entire being to those... and if you were, then you wouldn't post this ask me, IMHO.

To me - emphasis me - trust and loyalty come first. That is why I cannot be married to a religious person - someone for whom their concept of a supreme being comes first. Or being married to someone who feels loyalty to their family first. And so on. To me, her putting her family and tradition ahead of you would be unacceptable - goodbye on the spot. I wouldn't be able to live with such a person. She may be the greatest, but "I know you want this or that, and I refuse - BECAUSE "Mommy says" or "My god says" or "My culture says"" would be intolerable. Of course, people are different, so this may not apply to you.

Yes, there are many considerations - and the posts above have done a fine job of delineating them. My post is different, in that I approach it from a very individual perspective and very personal focus on your own happiness - sure you may be of this culture or that, but why exactly do you have to have your life defined by that? Just food for thought.
posted by VikingSword at 12:35 PM on February 9, 2010

It's a great question for AskMe. The Asker already has two replies from people who understand the cultural implications and general advice from those who empathise. Strange to automatically come out of the box saying that based on one's own cultural tilt, I think.

Asker: Don't underestimate the value of talking to your parents about this, as your culturally-aware respondents have pointed out. They can both advise you AND help take up some of the heat you're feeling regarding gifts.

My knowledge is based solely on the experiences of friends, associates, and cultural exposure, but this is one thing that has been proven time and again in any of the cultures where parents are involved in the process: They can and are generally prepared to help!
posted by batmonkey at 1:18 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Going off tavegyl's response to you, I'm guessing that the rukhsati is an Islamic wedding tradition... so, do you have an imam you could consult for guidance, as well as your family members? I'm guessing you wouldn't have opted for an arrangement if you weren't some flavor of devout, and that as a result, you have a religious community to fall back on.

A Hindu friend of mine who had a rough familial road to his love match with his Western girlfriend sought counsel from his guru and found it really helpful in soothing his anxieties.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:02 PM on February 9, 2010

I don't mean to be harsh but it sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it too.

I have seen some people go through the arranged-marriage route and take this as from someone who is not an expert in it. The only thing that's odd to me about her behaviour is the expectation of gifts but since its a cultural thing, I have no idea what the norm is. Heck, women in ads light up when they get jewellry- which completely beats me but I digress. So..

When you decide to go for an arranged marriage, the deal comes with some do's and don'ts. It is very unfair for you to even begin to blame your wife with any of this because you are supposed to be aware of your cultural values, because of which you say you went for this in the first place.

You say that you are both born in the US and decided to go for it because of your mutual religious and cultural values. Maybe its just me, but it doesn't sound like your cultural values, or they way you see them, are mutual. Something sounds off. Or its a lack of effective communication between the two of you? You could take some how-do-I-make-my-marriage-last tips around here- which may or may not help.

Arranged marriage and Not-arranged-marriage are like two trains on parallel train tracks. To be with someone, you've got to be on the same train. If you decide to switch trains, your partner must be willing to get off the first one onto the second one with you (be on the same page on the important issues- refer to tips). And its not like if you got a ticket for the arranged-marriage train, you've got to go all the way to the last stop on the same one (do all things in the traditional/expected way)- its okay to get off one station with your partner, as long as you both agree and decide on which station, wander and play around a bit and get back on when you feel like it. But the thing is, you are an adult. Its assumed you do give a thought about which train to get on to begin with- and you had your reasons. You are already on this train with your partner- its not the route you thought it would take and sure, you can bail out and leave your partner hanging. But the thing is, you are not traveling alone. You have a mate who can reassure you this is the correct route- you did decide to take this one for mutual reasons. Its okay to rely on her but you must talk things out. This is just the beginning...a little patience and care and you may just realise that this also goes to the same destination.

Finally, another vote for flowers.
There is nothing like fresh and dewy flowers.
posted by xm at 7:28 PM on February 9, 2010

I'm a little confused because you say you agreed to an arranged marriage based upon your culture and religion, however you don't actually appear to be a cultural match with this woman. She is making demands that are (I presume) consistent with her cultural expectations of marriage, you find her greedy and untrustworthy. You also are upset that she won't visit your city and see you at night, but this seems pretty standard for many cultures and the religious before marriage.

You are embarking about a very traditional arranged marriage, but you appear to be approaching it with the same expectations of a modern western marriage. Neither type of marriage is right or wrong, but I think you really need to examine why you have chosen an arranged marriage and if this is really what you want.
posted by whoaali at 8:44 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

From her point of view, she doesn't know you or your motives any better than you know hers. She doesn't know if you care for her, or just wanted a wife. She's asking for material possessions as a sign of love because she doesn't know if she can trust you yet, and because you two can't really be together. It's also possible that her family members have told her that a good husband provides these things, or that there is other pressure from outside that is driving these requests. Until you two really get to know each other, you're not going to be communicating clearly. So I suggest you wait, talk to people you trust about the situation, and then spend as much time as possible getting to know the woman you married. She's probably feeling as uncertain about all this as you are.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:39 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think I can speak from a position of understanding your culture and I would urge you to think about this primarily from your OWN point of view. I dont buy the 'postmodern' approach of lets think how she feels about it and how her dog feels about it. Your primary responsibility is to yourself and chances are that you will regret decision you take out of altruism or for reasons of cultural harmony and living under the same roof and sharing your gene pool with someone who you regret being with is not a nice way to live - among many things it interferes with your pursuit of happiness.

The problem seems to be the current arrangement seems to suit everyone but you. People who want to be seen as upholding their cultural and family values are getting their way. People who want gifts and money are getting their way. I dont get the sense that they are having as bad a time as you are and moreover they seem unaware or uncaring of the fact that you are not happy (now, not expressing your unhappiness strongly enough may be a contributing factor).

Now to the practical points: The way your question is drafted is that you feel it is better to 'cut your losses' indicates that you do not have much love for this person (understandable) or feel strongly that it wont be that bad if you couldnt be with her. To me that is an important observation because I wont even buy a house that I didnt regret not owning. The caveat is that sometimes you dont know what you have until its gone but my feeling is that it is already gone.

The quesitons you have to ask yourself is this:

If you went into this arrangement due to the expectations of your family then what makes you think it will be different this time unless your willingness to please them changes.

And the point you might want to keep in mind:

If you do not forsee a longlasting happy marriage with this person then cut it now, it may be less important to you but the stigam for a woman in traditional cultures is much greater so be nice.

hope this helps
posted by london302 at 1:29 AM on February 10, 2010

After sleeping on it, here's another thought. I think your own doubts may be expressive of your own nervousness. Marriage -- or moving in with a person is always a big step. It's extra big when it's an arranged marriage and when you don't know the other person. It's super-extra-mega-big when an arranged marriage occurs outside its original culture. You're surrounded by people who go out together and know each other, often for years, before they move in together. Even if you're immersed in your expat community, the dominant culture is one in which married people already know each other well. As a male, you're more thoroughly immersed in this idea and have less to lose if you choose the Western way of doing things.

So it's not surprising that you're nervous and that you feel a disconnect between how things are and how they should be according to the dominant Western narrative. Hell, they're not even in accordance with your cultural narrative: since you're not in Pakistan/ India/ wherever your family is from, you lack the cultural support that makes an arranged marriage ordinary and helps you negotiate it.

You said you 'agreed' to an arranged marriage, which suggests to me that there might have been visible or invisible pressures on you to get into it. And now you're thinking you might have made a mistake.

You might have. You might not have. The thing about an arranged marriage is that the best you can do is to find out as much as you can about each other before you marry -- within the parameters imposed by culture and family -- and then make the best go of it you can. If you think you can make an honest effort to get to know your wife and don't like what you see, then you should break it off before the rukhsati. Breaking a nikah is tough for a woman or a man, but it's better than a full-blown post-rukhsati divorce. But by the sound of it, it doesn't seem like a personality clash.

Since you're in the West, you can talk about these things honestly with your wife now. You could even show her an edited version of the question you asked (minus wondering if it's time for a divorce). You can try to ensure that you set up a home away from both sets of parents, to minimise interference in your brand new not-Western not-traditional union.

The happiest couple I know had an arranged marriage. They lived in the same town and occasionally sneaked out for an unchaperoned daytime date, and talked on the phone for hours, but that was the extent of it. The unhappiest couple I know also had an arranged marriage but much more freedom in meeting each other, but they didn't even try to find out about each other's personalities.

So it's a crapshoot, and I do feel marrying for love is usually easier than marrying by arrangement. To make it work, you two will have to work on different factors than your friends who marry for love. For instance, it will take much longer for you two to feel that you are a unit against the world and that you don't need to defend your territory against each other. Or to refrain from involving your own families in your marriage. But talking honestly and showing your honesty and willingness to understand each other now, before you are married, will help.
posted by tavegyl at 1:29 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you haven't consummated the marriage, wouldn't an annulment be more suitable (from a legal perspective) than divorce? But you also have to consider the longer-term fallout. Which is going to make you more miserable, giving it a try or backing out and dealing with family tensions?
posted by wkearney99 at 8:29 AM on February 10, 2010

I don't think post-nups are available in all jurisdictions

At least in Canada, post-nups tend to be more enforceable than pre-nups. Pre-nups bring the question of whether one or the other party agreed because they felt pressured to or that the marriage was on the line, which is alleviated for post-nups.

Either way though, you're right that they should look up the relevant jurisdictions and check out the best practices there.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:38 AM on February 10, 2010

You should memail tavegyl like she offered. You really need support from family and friends in your culture.
posted by anniecat at 9:14 AM on February 10, 2010

MeMail me too, if you wish.
posted by reenum at 9:48 AM on February 10, 2010

I think it's a wise choice to get to know this woman as much as you can. it seems like your cultural pressures were the only factor that actually set this marriage into action, and it may not seem natural to you to be a part of this process. If you are also investing money to placate her desires of jewelry and gifts, I'm sure it's easy to feel used. You should really try and ask for support from your friends and family and spend time with her if possible- to really know what you want to do about this marriage.
posted by HStern at 4:50 AM on July 15, 2010

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