Experts have backed the findings of a landmark study which found that arranged marriages are more likely to last than getting hitched for love.
They have welcomed recent research which found that 45 per cent of mothers from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background described themselves as “very happy” in their relationship, compared with 34 per cent of white mothers.
The women, who identified themselves as Christian and Muslim, said they were very happy with their partners, 45 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively, compared with 32 per cent of non-religious mums.
The survey was carried out by Harry Benson from the Marriage Foundation think-tank, and Professor Steve McKay of the University of Lincoln.
Kulbir Randhawa, director of the Asian Family Counselling Service, believes arranged marriages have a “better than average” chance of succeeding if done with “care”.
She told Eastern Eye: “As long as the couple have been given the choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ after meeting a few times, there is a higher probability of the marriage being successful.
“The couple know right from the beginning that there will be a lot of adjustments and compromises they will have to make. They do not necessarily go into a marriage with high expectations, and there is therefore a lower chance of disappointment.
“Couples in arranged marriages may not be in love to begin with, but start to love each other over time, rather than falling in love first and being disillusioned afterwards.”
The research is believed to be the first in the UK to explore the links between religion and relationship stability. It used data from the Millennium Cohort study which contains details of the lives of 15,000 mothers.
Dr Fauzia Ahmad is an honorary research fellow for Centre for Minority Studies, at Royal Holloway University in London.
She told Eastern Eye: “I welcome the report linking religion, marriage stability and ethnicity and the efforts made in the report to challenge stereotypes about Asian and Muslim arranged marriages, and Muslim women in particular.
“However, the research was statistical and so lacked a qualitative element, which I think would have yielded much more in terms of underlying factors behind the success of arranged marriages and personal experiences and choices.
“It is a bit odd that higher rates of higher education among Muslim Asian women has not been acknowledged, or that ‘arranged marriages’ have different meanings in the current contemporary context.
“Among professional second and third-generation British-Asian Muslims, there is a greater tendency for a more individualised route into marriage, evidenced by the high numbers of online and event-based matrimonial events across the country.”
An Oxford University study in 2014 found up to 10 per cent of Pakistani and Indian men had been divorced, compared to 20 per cent of white males and 27 per cent for black Caribbean adults. Among all ethnic groups, the number of couples splitting up has doubled since the mid-1990s.
Parag Bhargava, who runs the Suman Marriage Bureau in west London, believes the family structure is key to making an arranged marriage work.
He said: “Arranged marriages, or ‘assisted’ arranged marriages, as my father named them many years ago, have one very major benefit – strong foundations to the union.
“These foundations are based upon having compatible family backgrounds, status and education, all of which provide greater stability and understanding of each other and between the families.
“It is sad people are ‘window shopping’ for partners these days rather than really making the effort to meet people face to face, hence taking much longer to meet someone. Those who use services like ours, providing a personal assisted arranged marriage system, tend to find partners sooner than later.”
Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation thinktank, said the study showed arranged marriages removes the pressure to find the “perfect” partner before settling down.
However, Jo Sidhu, the president of the Society of Asian Lawyers from 2013 to 2016, believes that having an arranged union is not the main factor for the couple’s happiness.
He said: “The problem of family breakdown is creating severe pressures within our local communities. Over recent decades, there has been a huge rise in the number of single parent families either because parents choose not to get married and live apart or because of divorce.
“In my experience, the key factor behind successful marriages in the Asian community is the support structure built into our extended family systems.
“These transcend religion and are crucial to both working women and to stay-at-home mums.
“When women are supported they are happy. When they are isolated and treated badly, they will inevitably feel unhappy, regardless of whether they had an arranged marriage or are from a particular faith.”