I like details. I'm a detail-oriented person -- sometimes to the extent that it's detrimental rather than beneficial, but still I find beauty in the details. It's a comment that nearly every family member has made so far that I'm very daghighe (precise).
There's a distinct difference between kind and nice, gracious and hospitable, or colorful and vivid. While they're each similar within their respective meanings, that precise definition is what correctly captures an essence of a person, place, object, or experience. Sometimes details demonstrate differences, but sometimes creating so many layers can also reveal parallels and commonalities between things that might not appear superficially.
About a week ago, I was in Behshahr (northern Iran) for my cousin's engagement party. Romantic relationships in Iran are fascinating to me. It's often thought of as archaic in the method of arranging a marriage to the West, but there's actually a lot of deep and complex thought that goes into making those decisions. I like to call them suggested marriages instead of arranged, because the individuals desires are taken into account.
When you marry in Iran, you don't just marry the person, you marry the family. Family is who you mostly hang out with, and there's a certain family culture that's majorly taken into consideration when bringing someone else into the picture. Because the West has such a high emphasis on individualism, this sort of group input can seem bizarre when it comes to something as personal as marriage.
I've come to think of it this way: your family in Iran is your tribe, your wolf-pack. There's no need to seek and find friends that think similarly because honestly you're not really challenged as a child to have drastically different perspective, so this sort of mentality fosters an environment where your family are your friends because of your commonalities in thought. Of course this isn't absolute, and each family is different, but what I've observed so far is that there's a certain acceptance culture because that's just the way things are and have always been.
I, on the other hand, am drastically different. I ask why for almost everything...most because I'm curious. Needless to say, I caused quite a bit of tension growing up because of my innate need to understand why things are the way that they are, and why they can't be different. Being an outspoken girl didn't help either but I'll save being a female in Iran for another blog post.
Anyways, because of the difference in approaching marriages stem from different perspecitves of how you as an individual interact with society versus you as a family unit interacting with society, there needs to be a group consensus of whether or not a new partner would be an acceptable addition to the tribe. I'm being a bit general and superficial, but I think of individuals marrying for love and the feeling, and tribes marrying for the traits that are needed when sometimes love fades: duty, sacrifice, and diligence. How can anyone commit to feeling an emotion in perpetuity?
Having qualities that demonstrate the capacity of deep commitment and resilience through difficulties is more valued than whether or not you're in love romantically. That feeling of support and responsibility towards another person might not create an immediate romantic love, but a developed love/attachment after time. This is what many of Iranian marriages are based on, and I think those positive qualities transfer to children creating the sense of responsibility, not obligation towards family, and commitment to seeing things through to the end. You don't have an individualistic purpose, but instead a family purpose.
Aside from specific family culture considerations, there's the thought of: is this other person capable of providing a good life for my child? For a woman, her main priority is whether or not a man can provide in terms of food, shelter, expenses. For a man, it's whether or not a woman can provide in terms of homecare, bearing and upbringing suitable children, cooking, being hospitable. The gender-specific marriage responsibilities line is blurring all over the world, more so in the west, but it's slowing creeping in Iran as well.
In the case of my cousins, and many other young Iranians today, couples now go on multiple dates similar to in the US, before getting engaged. My grandmother's doctor told me not to get engaged until I've spent at least 6 months with someone and their family - it made me giggle. It would have been unheard of to be told that during the time when my grandmother or even my mother got engaged.
While it can be a little challenging to digest, comprehending the values that different cultures emphasize on is crucial to deciphering why societies make the decisions that they do. I think context is vital to understanding the world and people around us. The differences are in the details of approach and thoughts towards marriage, but deep-down, the intent is still the same: creating a subjectively good life for yourself and those who interact with you.