Is dating overrated?
Few weeks ago, a friend was visiting London and we were talking about my escapades at Marriage Broker Auntie. In passing, I said, dating’s over-rated and that people much rather build the muscle to make a relationship work. A week later, he asked me to explain what I’d meant by dating being over-rated and as always, I thought I’d attempt to think out loud through a blogpost.
Until the late 90’s and early 2000s, you’d have a handful of people settled abroad in the extended family circles. With the advent of IT, pretty much every Indian household today has at least one member of the family settled abroad. This exponentially increased our exposure to western culture. While earlier, Indian men were happy to fly down for a weekend, get married to someone from a prior shortlist by parents, suddenly these men wanted to “date”.
First, it started with the girl and boy going out a few times, with the excuse of learning more about one another with a clear intent to be engaged within a certain time frame. Then, this evolved into hanging out without any guarantee of these meets resulting in an engagement. After having lived away from parents for a while, there was less and less coherence in criteria of spouse selection, and hence, people wanted to lead the search independently without parental involvement. Hence, the advent of things like South Asian dating, Tinder in India and so on. Without much parental involvement, this was a great proxy for falling in love.
While largely chided by society in the past, falling in love suddenly became a matter of status for the entire family as if it reflected on the progeny’s ability to land a catch. People started looking down upon arranged marriages as the search was led by parents and this was perceived as a sign of inability on the part of the ward. Suddenly we were more hung up on how we sourced rather than the quality of marriages itself.
While marriages had always been a contract, trade in the relationship was more straightforward back in the day with men offering the finances and women running the administration. Today, the lines are all blurred with greater women empowerment (which is a great thing!) and hardly any work being done in redefining the terms of this contract, which makes for the increasing number of troubled marriages.
Some might argue that dating helps draft the terms of this contract better for individual couples and if we are all busy re-drafting terms, collectively, this will result in a better contract for the institution. But really? All people are trying to do with dating is test the waters before going knee deep into it, and if the waters are murky, dating allows a low cost exit that is not offered by a marriage. May be there is a marginal improvement in terms but why can’t this be done post wedding anyway?
Through creating additional flexibility in the selection process, we are less flexible when it comes to accommodating changes post selection. We spend so much effort on selection, that we believe there’s nothing left to be done except living happily ever after, and that’s where we couldn’t have been more wrong. Relationships take a lot of work, sometimes every day and for years, and our societies have stopped focussing on preparing individuals for this journey, rather we are heavily focussed on beautifying the tickets for this once in a lifetime journey.
What you learn about someone while you are dating is like the tip of an iceberg waiting to be discovered post wedding, so why bother with incremental gains in discovery when you’d rather start seeing the whole deal once you’ve taken the plunge.