Communication Strategies for Couples in Arranged Marriages

Communication Strategies for Couples in Arranged Marriages

Arranged marriages are still very common in some cultures, and they come with their own unique set of challenges, especially around communication.

Whether it’s navigating expectations regarding life changes, finances, intimacy or the roles each person should play, having open communication from the start is crucial for building a healthy foundation for the marriage.

How Arranged Marriages Differ From Other Types of Marriages

Arranged marriages differ from love marriages or marriages between those that choose to be together in a few key ways that can impact communication:

  • The spouses often do not know each other well in the beginning so there can be shyness, discomfort or uncertainty when talking openly
  • There may be cultural expectations, pressures or societal norms influencing communication and behaviour
  • Family members may be very involved in deciding the match so their expectations influence the couple
  • Each spouse may enter with assumptions or idealized notions of the other or of marriage that may not match reality

Getting Off to a Good Start With Communication

When an arranged marriage is set, the time leading up to the wedding and the first few months after are the most critical period for establishing open, healthy communication patterns. Here are some in-depth tips:

1. Have Essential Conversations Upfront

It’s vital for couples to have in-depth conversations about important topics early rather than avoiding complicated or awkward discussions.

Bring up issues around having kids, career implications, household financial planning, expectations around tasks and responsibilities, intimacy preferences, and more.

While breaking the ice on tense topics may feel uncomfortable, given cultural taboos, it sets the stage for greater transparency down the road by revealing potential areas of conflict sooner when they’re easier to address. Don’t let shyness, uncertainty about each other, or embarrassment stop essential talks.

Draft a list together covering all major areas that could impact the marriage, set time aside devoted just for deep dialogues, and agree to speak honestly and compassionately without judgement.

These initial mutual understanding and priority alignment chats lay the groundwork for navigating all of life’s curveballs together smoothly.

couple having happy conversation

2. Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Once married and settling into new routines, couples need to carve out consistent check-in times where they can speak freely about the relationship, raise any issues that have come up, and jointly problem-solve.

Unlike romantic relationships where communication happens more spontaneously, arranged spouses must be intentional.

Set up a weekly 30 minute meeting to touch base on what’s working well, where there are disconnects or friction points, questions or uncertainties that have emerged, and appreciation for each other’s efforts.

Also use this time to course-correct if behaviors or decisions are negatively impacting the partnership so resentment does not build up over time.

Treating this check-in ritual as non-negotiable rather than only talking when there are perceived problems establishes strong communication muscles right away, which will continue paying dividends for a lifetime.

3. Define Rules of Engagement

Arranged marriages are also unique in that couples don’t always enter the relationship with established rapport or conflict resolution tactics. That’s why it’s wise to outline communication etiquette guidelines upfront.

Before tough talks, mutually establish and promise to abide by ground rules like allowing space for each person to fully express themselves without interruption, asking clarifying questions rather than jumping to conclusions about intended meanings, avoiding hurtful language or demeaning criticism, practising active, empathetic listening instead of just passively hearing, respectfully compromising to find common ground instead of insisting on concessions.

Also agree to summarize key takeaways at the end of any difficult dialogue and to follow up on action steps identified in order to reach desirable outcomes together. Setting these kinds of collaborative expectations paves the way for healthy conflict transformation vs destructive escalation.

Making communication a priority from the earliest days by diving into substantial talks right away, scheduling recurring check-ins, and codifying respectful engagement policies allows arranged marriage couples to thrive.

With intention and compassion, the spark between relative strangers can brighten into a lifelong partnership burning strong.

Managing External Expectations

A unique challenge for couples in arranged marriages is balancing communication and intimacy within the marriage while managing expectations from extended family members. Strategies like these can help:

  • Set boundaries as a couple for what discussions or decisions will only involve the two spouses vs. those where family input is welcome.
  • Have a unified front when addressing extended family by discussing responses beforehand and reinforcing mutual decisions after.
  • Designate certain times, such as an hour after work before dinner, as couples-only time with no family involvement so you have space to operate authentously as the new marital unit separate from families of origin.

happy couple conversation at coffee

Growing Intimacy Through Communication

Unlike those who choose each other expressly due to an emotional or physical connection already established, arranged spouses have to focus first on interpersonal communication to build intimacy.

  • Ask open ended questions and really listen without judgement both to get to know each other better and to foster emotional intimacy. Share dreams, fears, passions etc.
  • Compliment each other regarding qualities or actions you appreciate to build trust and affection through positive reinforcement.
  • Engage in physical intimacy slowly, communicatively and consensually so it feels safe for both spouses rather than tense or obligatory. Don’t make assumptions about preferences or comfort levels.

Seeking Help When Needed

Even with the best efforts, some couples in arranged marriages may find communication remains challenging or breaks down despite attempts to resolve issues independently. In these cases, seeking outside help is wise:

  • Enlist a mutually trusted spiritual leader, family elder or marriage counsellor to facilitate difficult conversations in a mediative rather than adversarial way.
  • Attend marriage enrichment workshops or trainings focused specifically on arranged partnerships and the unique hurdles they face to gain specialized techniques and support.
  • Seek individual counseling if one spouse in particular struggles with vulnerability, self-expression or interpreting messages accurately so they can become a healthier communication partner with skills to foster intimacy better.

The key in arranged marriages is recognizing that robust, respectful and responsive communication must be actively nurtured; it does not simply occur organically like in other relationship types.

Following these tips to prioritize getting to know each other, establishing group guidelines, balancing external voices and building connection can set the stage for a stable union characterized by compassion and clarity.

Putting in concerted effort especially early on to openly communicate expectations around all aspects of married life is the best way for arranged couples to ease the transition and grow together in mutually fulfilling ways.