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A match made by mom and dad - Parents seeking life partners for their sons and daughters

Published:Sunday | December 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Mary and Joseph's relationship might have been a match made in heaven, but this is not necessarily the case for some Jamaican couples whose relationships are being arranged by their parents who are intent on aligning themselves to the best possible in-laws.

This practice is not only confined to those of Indian culture, or even those in the upper echelons of society where there are often talks of keeping the money within a particular sect through arranged marriages.

The practice is very much evident in poor communities as well as where some parents see their children's marriage as a vehicle for upward social mobility. According to marriage and family therapist Dr Barry Davidson, the reality today is that many parents are very much concerned about who their children date and eventually marry.

"A lot of parents are concerned. They are concerned about their children's choice of life partners," said Davidson, who has more than 30 years of experience counselling couples at the Family Life Ministry, which he founded.

"It's not only about trying to keep the family wealth in certain grouping, it's also a deep concern about what they perceive to be a deterioration of values and attitudes among the younger people," added Davidson.

 

MATCHMAKING INTENT

 

While the biblical Mary and Joseph's union continues to benefit millions today, the intent of these matchmaking parents is not always altruistic and sometimes only benefit the immediate family. The fact is that they oftentimes hope to shield their family from undesirables and their children from possible heartbreak..

"Let's face it, Christians are going to try to make sure that they are exposed to other Christians, because what we do know is that people of similar background, similar education, similar sociocultural background stand a better chance of making a marriage work. The Bible does speak to this in Amos 3 verse 3, which says, 'can two walk together, except they be agreed'?" argued Davidson.

"If you have too many differences, you are going to have more stressors than are needed," he added.

These stressors are often the catalysts for divorce, which is increasing in Jamaica. At the start of this year, lawyers, litigants and even judges expressed concern about the huge backlog of divorce petitions before the courts, despite several measures implemented to speed up the process.

 

DIVORCE STATISTICS

 

Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica show that divorce has increased almost 46 per cent in five years, from 1,654 divorces granted in 2008 to 2,410 in 2013.

Chairperson of the National Family Planning Board, Dr Sandra Knight, believes that matchmaking parents are often motivated by the need to do what they feel is in the best interest of their children.

"I think most of us do that with our kids," said Knight.

"We warn our kids, no not that one, or not her, not him," added Knight, as she argued that part of being a good parent, she believes, is helping one's child to make good decisions.

"There are some kids who are very smart, very savvy, very socially appropriate, but some of our kids are not.

"Not all children at 16, 17, 18 know what they want. Some people at 40 don't even know what they want much less," said Knight.

But while arranged relationships are not entirely bad, Davidson believes these unions sometimes come with their own set of challenges.

"There has been a lot of research which shows that if you are in a society or a culture where arranged marriages are the norm, then chances are yes, it's going to work very well, but if you are in a society or a culture where arranged marriages are not the norm, what we do find happening quite often is that we have people who are married because it has been arranged, but they are also having affairs.

"So they are married to the person who their parents organised for them, but they are having a relationship with the person who they regard as their soulmate," said Davidson.