– Kaye Lin
Last week, I picked up a book called “ Committed” from the library. The author of “Committed” is the same writer of “ Eat, Pray Love,” one of my all time favorite books. Elizabeth Gilbert is an exceptional journalist, and her book, which turned into a blockbuster hit, is also turning into a movie starring Julia Roberts. In “ Eat ,Pray,Love” , Gilbert searches for life’s ultimate questions, while recovering from a divorce. In her adventure of finding inner peace, prayer and food, she also finds love again. In her sequel, Committed, she asks why people marry and the secret to attaining a happy marriage.
Gilbert travels to Southeast Asia to discover other cultures and research about the philosophy of marriage and the answers to a happy marriage. She learns the differences in the views on marriage between the East and the West. In the East, one’s family name is important; children are seen trying to please their parents to bring a respectable family name in society. When it comes to marriage, one marries someone who is approved by the parents.
One’s family reputation is of utmost importance. Hence, arranged marriages are still common in Asia. A suitable boy is chosen for the girl or vice versa- a suitable girl is chosen for the boy, by the family. In Burma, although girls are under strict custody of their parents, it is seldom that the parents force the girl to marry the man against their will.
I used to be very much against arranged marriages, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also become more open minded. I’ve realized that arranged marriages also depend on the individual couple. In the West, everything is centered around the individual. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, it is always about “ me” – around one’s individual happiness. Quite contrary to the East, who are not too concerned of their individual happiness as they are about their family’s happiness.
In the West, people marry for love, although statistics have shown that divorces occur frequently in the U.S.- even when a marriage is based on love. Gilbert points out that it is risky marrying for love, because nothing is certain; one can fall easily out of love. She also states that the odds of a marriage failing raises, as a couple has more children.
For Asians, marriage is not just about the union of the husband and the wife. The husband and the wife become part of the bigger whole; they are interdependent on the extended family. In Asia, a married couple lives with their parents, under the same roof. Asians are serious when it comes to commitment. They will stay with their partners for as long as they can ( most of the time) until death do us part. Is this necessarily a good factor of a marriage though? Should one endure a marriage because one is afraid of hurting the family name?
Another question that I raise after reading this book is, “ Are we all pre-wired to think that we have to get married, have babies and so on, or is this list of ‘To Dos’, what society has installed into our minds?” What do you think?