I can honestly say that I am a happily married person, albeit only just approaching our second year anniversary. It took a while to meet this person, and I'm going to tell you my story and how I feel about marriage and how it can be approached.
When I was looking for Mr Right, number one it was a shock to some people who couldn't understand why I didn't date that person. It was never something my family allowed, therefore I didn't question it, but I did always wonder if things would have been different. After meeting family after family (some who I look back on and still want to punch in the face), I became more and more distressed, angry, despondent, and weary. I wasn't too fussy, I just wanted someone who was at least taller than me, someone who could make me laugh and someone intelligent. However, they had a LOT of problems with me being a certain weight, or they had huge problems only wanting someone from the same caste (who does that nowadays?!), to stay at home and do the cooking and cleaning, to bring up 11 children, to only wear certain clothes (yes, shocking), so that by the end of it I felt like I had run a marathon without the endorphins that go with it. Introductory marriages (I say introductory, because 'arranged' means the partners are chosen for you. I absolutely had a choice) often have a bad reputation because people think, "How do you know that you know them fully?" The answer is, you don't, and you don't even if you have dated someone for 10 years. I have heard stories equally as shocking when people date for so long, move in then break up. I'll come back to breaking up a bit later.
The truth is, you don't truly know someone until you actually live with them. It's harder in Islamic society, and many other societies too, for it to be socially acceptable to live with the opposite sex before marrying them. This means that for us going through the introductory marriage process, it is a gamble based on how you feel you would fit in to the other person's family and with the person themselves. You have to be quite strategic about what you want out of a relationship. This may sound unnatural and that meetings with this people are like interviews and highly robotic, which is how most of my meetings felt, but when I met my husband it didn't feel robotic. We were able to have a conversation where we found out a lot about the others' views just from talking, without having to ask our top priority questions. Top of my list was equality; and I mean this in terms of men's and women's worth being the same. I didn't want to be branded as a 'housewife' and that it would be my 'duty' to do housework and cook, rather both of us should be responsible for that stuff seeing as we would both be working and both have to eat to stay alive and clean up to stay hygienic. 'Duties' didn't come under it and I was so happy that he agreed. To this day, if I don't feel up to cooking he will actually go in the kitchen and cook. If he was sitting on his laptop working, I will get up and vacuum the flat.
I digress slightly. When you meet the right person, it won't feel unnatural, whether you dated them, whether you met them through a family friend in your house. The point I am trying to make relates a huge amount to Disney and cinema, actually. In these films, there is always an ideal of 'perfection'. What is perfection? My friend Naz and I were talking the other day and she said some true words, along the lines of "in your life, are you 100% happy with everything? Even if you get some new shoes, or start a new job, you're really excited to begin with then the novelty wears off. Does that mean you start hating the shoes or quit your job?" I know marriage isn't the same as a new pair of shoes, but the thought process is the same. The divorce rate is so high but I feel this is because people don't give the other person a chance. I have heard of a lot of people giving up on their marriages for really silly, petty reasons. Something like adultery is warranted; arguing about toilet seats and other little things is not. The relationships you see in movies are completely unlike real life. Is the man expected to bring home flowers to make his wife happy? Not at all. They are a lovely gesture, but actually spending time and giving emotional support is much more important. Is a surprise trip to Paris on a long weekend necessary to make a relationship work? Only if you can afford it, and a lot of people can't. The key is to COMMUNICATE. Just because you don't have the Hollywood 'perfect relationship', doesn't mean your marriage is in pieces or that you should want to divorce/break up; if the other person is worth staying for, by remembering their positive attributes, then there are always solutions.
This is for anyone out there who is going through what I went through. I think my main points are that, no matter how you meet somebody, the outcome of that meeting is the most important. How you decide to live your lives together are more important. Remembering that life is not a Disney film is also super important (I still love Disney though. But don't believe in the fairy tale!). You can create your own fairy tale by appreciating who you have right now, and who you might meet tomorrow and appreciating them for who they are. Women may be skinny now but after kids, we could get fat. Men may have a 6 pack now, but in 20 years, be balding and have a beer belly. Looks change but characters don't. Life goes on, people evolve, and marriages and relationships should stick together as best they possibly can.
Someone who vows to stick out her marriage 'til the end of time...and hopefully after that too :)