Transactional Marriages: Notes from an Indian Matchmaker

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Disclaimer: The thoughts below are our own, and you may not agree with us. Hell, we may not agree with our own thoughts a few months down the line. These are just some of the observations we make to help us get some clarity about relationships in India. So, we can just agree to disagree.


We find ourselves at a bit of a crossroad sometimes. In a country where arranged marriages takes prominence, and almost all marriages are arranged, we don’t really talk openly about the concept of “transactional marriages”. Peruse any matrimonial ad on or in the newspapers, and you will realize that almost all Indian marriages are transactional. To put it simply, whenever we see the advertisement – “Slim, fair and good-looking bride looking for a well-to-do groom”, and the converse – “IIT/IIM Groom looking for a beautiful bride” – both are highly transactional in nature. Such nuances are so deep-rooted in the Indian culture that no matter if you self-identify as an upper class, or middle class, you’re subconsciously programmed.


To put this in a bit of a context, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a transactional marriage. Outside of love, hope is the second most powerful word in the dictionary. However, both love and hope are very abstract. It’s much easier to fall in love in your early 20’s. However once you are in your late 20’s and 30’s, falling in love (true love, and not puppy love) takes a long time. When a guy is attracted to a woman, it’s not really love, it’s infatuation. In our early 20’s we are innocent and that’s why falling in love is darn easy. Unlike love and hope, there is a fundamental truth which brings two people together (and they stay together for a long time). This fundamental truth sometimes takes the shape of a transaction. It’s the absolute truth. Love is fickle. A transaction, much like an M&A, is based on a foundation which is not abstract. It’s equitable and fair. It can be written down on a piece of paper. On the bright side, it’s this fundamental truth which keeps two people together in a marriage, and this is perhaps why we have a [much] lower divorce rate in this country that that in the west. After all, you’re not getting married on love and hope, alone.


So what is a transactional marriage? Anytime a woman who wants to marry rich (somebody who’s making MUCH more than her), or a guy who wants to marry somebody MUCH better looking. For the sake of clarity, in both cases there is “some” mental & family compatibility and it’s not only about the money or the looks. We think it’s okay for women wanting to marry rich (based on their own family backgrounds and personal income). After all they’re looking for security etc. What we get amazed by is when their expectations are not rooted in any kind of reality. Similarly, for the guys. They obviously need to marry somebody they are attracted to, but isn’t it good for that to be reciprocated?


But here is the irony of a transactional marriage viz-a-viz the United States (not that transactional marriages do not exist in the States – just that it’s among the Rockefeller’s and the Kennedy’s, and its not so common as it is in India). Wherein the west, two equal partners (based on their education and income) come together, some people in India seem somewhat “entitled” to marry rich (or pretty) regardless of their individual credentials/personality. However, this expectation of marrying rich/pretty comes with a lot of strings, which can make most people cringe. At some point or the other, most men and women who are in transactional marriages will understand what these strings are. For one, infidelity is the most common in [business] marriages in India. We often wonder why infidelity is almost a given in Indian (business) marriages, but in the west, sexual infidelity is almost the end of a marriage. We think it’s because of this transactional nature of a marriage in this country (that money you’re marrying into often has infidelity attached to it). Two, there is greater chance of mental incompatibility between the couple over the long-run. Three, we find that most Indian women who’ve been through transactional marriages are sexually incompatible with their partners over the long run. We think these are some serious irreparable issues that may arise from marrying into a transaction. We think on the flip side, most couples work through these issues for the sake of their kids. Besides, they knew what they were signing up for, and so long as the fundamental truth of a transaction has not changed (rich is rich, not poor; so you can never lie about the money), the marriage has a very good chance at success. Marriage is hard work either way. We think we’re too small in the game to figure what’s right or wrong in the long run, but we find that most people who are looking at such an arrangement have a lot of clarity and maturity. It’s not something they’re cooking up to please their parents. They really seem to want it.


We still think love & companionship trumps all. However, we don’t really understand love & companionship in an Indian arranged marriage setup. If you’re open to dating, perhaps there is a chance that love will bring you guys together. But in an arranged marriage, it’s never love that brings two people together. You don’t marry the person you’ve in love with, you love the person you get married to. We are not a country where women are open to dating. Neither sex really understands dating. When it comes to dating, most men are looking to get laid, and most women are looking to get married. Understandably, women in their late 20’s and early 30’s don’t really have the time or the inclination to date and take a chance. Dating and getting to know someone (and falling in love) could take months, and even years, and there is no guarantee that it will work out in the end. Therein lies the transactional nature of a marriage. Perhaps this is why arranged marriages are so popular in India.


I guess we write this today, because we find some of the expectations that our clients have are completely off the charts (both men and women). We have to put ourselves in the shoes of a possible suitor and wonder if what they’re asking for is even doable and whether it is something that they truly want. If we really had our way, before fixing our clients with anybody else, we’d make them counsel with a life-coach who can help them figure what they truly want from a partner and what will make them happy. I think a lot of us need a reality check every so often. Somewhere we find that dating apps are at fault, where every right swipe is a mutual match for a woman (in reality, it’s the exact opposite). The women that men marry in this country are not the ones they meet on Tinder. Dating (in this country) & marriages are poles-apart. When it comes to dating, most men don’t have any checklists. However, when it comes to a marriage, their checklist is as long as that of a woman, if not longer.


We ourselves didn’t start A World Alike with a transactional flavor in mind. However we think that the expectations for the vast majority of men and women in this country is actually transactional in nature. It’s very rare that we come across women (and men) who are looking to marry somebody “equal”. We think this is also because of the inequality of men and women in this country, and because men have had better opportunities in this country, both professionally and personally. Or maybe it’s because we’ve just been dealing too much with the business families, and professional families are vastly different in their thought process. We find ourselves going back to the fundamentals every now and then, and reminding our clients of those fundamentals – love! But then we get a quick comeback from the old & the wise, that love is BS!


But we also see the tides changing among the more well-traveled & well-exposed urban Indians. And when we do get clients like that, we give them the best shot at finding love. For everybody else, we give them the best shot at a marriage.


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With Love,

Team AWA

Rahul Singhania

Client Lead, AWA Plus