Transition to Arranged Marriages among Asian-Indian Newly-Wed Couples in India and the U.S.

Date of Completion

January 2011


Asian American Studies|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|South Asian Studies




Perceptions of arranged marriages often fall victim to exaggerated cultural differences between the East and West which reinforce stereotypes of arranged marriages as being forced, premodern, patriarchal and devoid of romantic love. An over-arching goal of this study was to demonstrate that contemporary arranged marriages have evolved with time. Further, despite the existence of a large amount of western scholarship on the transition to marriage, the ‘transition to an arranged marriage’ is relatively understudied and is qualitatively different. In addition, a majority of the literature on arranged marriages focuses on the processes that go on before marriage but neglect the processes that go on after marriage. Not only does the Indian cultural context need to be taken into consideration, but also this transition needs to be understood as one that continues into the first year of marriage. Thus, this qualitative interview study explored how Asian Indian newly-wed couples in India and first generation immigrant Asian Indian newly-wed couples in the U.S. approached and experienced the transition to an ‘arranged marriage’. Individual and joint in-depth interviews were conducted with spouses in 30 arranged marriages; 15 couples living in India, and 11 living in the U.S. ^ Couples' stories of ‘how they met’ started to crumble the walls around ‘arranged marriage’ as something strange, orthodox and mystic. Couples exercised resistance and displayed agency in going against the ‘typical’ script of how an arranged marriage should proceed. Instead, they set their own goals for their relationship development. They also challenged the barriers around sexuality in arranged marriages by openly engaging in a dialogue about beginning to establish sexual intimacy. Kin work became an important contributing factor to successful relationship development during couples' courtship periods and post-marriage transitions. Couples also engaged in marriage work in order to have a successful transition. While women had to make the most adjustments during their marital transitions men participated equally if not more, to help their wives adjust to new routines and new environments. The efforts that men and women took to make their marriages work exemplified a real and true synergy between ‘marriages between families’ and ‘companionate marriages’. ^