5 things you should know about matrimonial sites


Top 10 Matrimonial Sites In India 2020

I’ve seen tonnes of negative reviews of matrimonial sites. The more people spend on them, the more disappointed they feel. How do I know this, you ask? Because a lot of these people come to M.B.A. after they’ve tried out pretty much everything available in the market. Before people can shell more money on me, I start by dispelling a few myths and try to set the right expectations before we begin a longer term engagement.

I realised that this information is gold, and I’d happy to freely distribute this to every single person out there who is either already on these apps or is considering getting on them. While matrimonial sites are a great place to start your search, here are top 5 things you should know before you get a paid membership, so you don’t hate on the product or service for the wrong reasons:

You do not get access to more profiles

While services like Elite Matrimony or VIP Shaadi may give you access to an exclusive database (let’s say 30% of your leads), mid-tier (assisted and select) or basic packages (gold/diamond/premium) do not give you access to more profiles.

The members you see as a free member on these platforms is what you get access to even as a paid member, unless of course your matches have selected options such as “show my profile only to premium members”.

Getting a basic paid membership that is in the Rs. 1500-Rs.8000 (for 3 months) range allows you to access contact information of a certain number of matches (150-200) and allows you to use in-app chat without any restrictions. Some of these packages even promise to “highlight” your profile in searches.

But the one thing you will not get from a basic package is access to new profiles.

Different matrimonial sites work for different profiles

Just because your neighbour found a match on Bharatmatrimony does not mean you’ll find a match on the same website. Your profile could do better on Shaadi or Jeevansathi. There is only one way to find out – trial and error. While these websites have profiles from all over the world, the databases tend to represent the demographic where these companies are headquartered.

Not just that, there is a lot more that goes into why a certain website may work better for you. Best way to figure out which one works for you is by signing up on all of the big ones at once, and watching the performance for a couple of months before you upgrade to a paid membership on one of them.

There are heavy discounts on prices

These websites run heavy discounts on their paid membership packages. The discounts range from 15%-85% on some of these websites, and they are usually a function of how likely you are to continue staying on these websites. The more illiquid your profile is, the higher the discount you will be offered. If you’re awesome, then no discount for you.

But hey, you can always bargain your way through this if you’ve the time or patience to chat up some customer support person. That way, these guys have quite a bit of leeway in terms of giving away discounts which makes for a great customer experience.

You get what you pay for

You could go to the most enthusiastic aunty in your family, but she’ll probably introduce you to a handful of people. Relevant or not depends really on how well the aunty knows you or how well connected she is. If you say “No” to 2-3 in a row, she won’t come back to you with a 4th prospect. She has no incentive to do so.

She doesn’t charge you any money because she has no skin in the game, rather she doesn’t want any. She won’t put her credibility at stake for you. There are no boundaries with her – whether that’s a good or a bad thing is hard to say.

On the other hand, a matrimonial website charges you say 6K, gives you access to their entire database without hovering over your neck until you make a decision. Okay well, they do hover until you’ve bought a paid membership, but there are ways to avoid the spam.

Assisted or VIP services are priced higher not because you’ll get access to more people, they’re essentially saving you the trouble of rummaging through these platforms on your own. They’re charging you for your time saved. This is a level of service you will never get with 6K, because there are tens of thousands of people like you on this platform.

So, it’s important that you understand what service will be most valuable for you and know exactly what you are paying for.

They won’t make to order

It doesn’t matter if you could quote a 100 examples of awesome men and women you know in your life, but there is a reason why you and I are talking about them – either they’re taken or not interested in you.

Matrimonial websites are social discovery platforms. People get discovered, they don’t get manufactured. If you aren’t having any luck finding matches on these apps for a few years, despite your best attempts, it’s most likely because the person you are looking for doesn’t exist on these platforms, or would never be here. You only have to choose from the ones that are “readily available”.

 


A common complaint I hear from a lot of women is this: “Most cool men are on dating apps, and not matrimonial apps. But the problem is they don’t want to commit or settle down. On the other hand, men on matrimonial apps are too eager, but damn boring.

Well, that’s life, isn’t it?

M.B.A. assisted search – now invite only

Assisted Search
Marriage Broker Auntie is always evolving to address gaps in the matrimonial markets, and to provide greater value to customers, just as any start-up. One such endeavour was launching the assisted search service on M.B.A.

Assisted Search

I created and managed people’s matrimonial profiles, and made introductions to relevant prospects by helping them them cut through the noise on various matrimonial platforms.
Initially this started only with a couple of friends, as I wanted to be close to the market so I could provide greater value to my advisory clients. I wanted to gain insights from larger datasets as opposed to my own little database.
Soon, others wanted to engage my services, and so I decided to advertise it on my website. It was a logical extension of the advisory service, adding immense value to my customers. At the same time, personally speaking, it was an immensely insightful experience for me being a part of the market. It also made me realise how naive my perspective was previously, without my own skin in the game.

With skin in the game

There was a marked difference in the clientele of the assistance. I saw this difference indirectly, through my own interactions with them – these were people who REALLY did not want to be single anymore, very little time was spent in introspection and I mostly refrained from providing unsolicited market insights. I always focussed on rummaging through the market to make relevant introductions.
This reminded me of an “art installation”contest in VTU’s (my university) annual cultural festival, where I was the undisputed champion for three years. The contest worked like this – you’d be given a theme, and you’d be expected to make an art installation from existing materials (whatever you carried for the event before you knew the theme).
Finding relevant prospects for my clients on matrimonial websites is somewhat like this – orchestrating magic out of platforms that’s nothing but a last resort for most people on it. My clients are always made aware of the possibility of miracles happening here, rather the lack it. My clients understand this perfectly, and they simply hire me to save bandwidth, and heartburn.

Learnings

I am pretty good at what I do, but increasingly over the last year, I kept feeling like I was selling myself cheap. I was working very very hard for very little money. As I increased prices every quarter to eventually get on par with the rest of the market (Assisted Matrimony, Select Shaadi, etc.), I realised that my joy wasn’t correlated with the revenues. I realised this when I out-priced the market at one point, and people were STILL interested in hiring my services.
At this point, I could hire people who would do the filtering on my behalf, in order to scale. But that’s precisely what these big matrimonial firms do – employ relationship managers who’ve little to no domain knowledge and have a very poor understanding of their customers’ needs. While I may be providing superior customer experience, I realised that I am not solving any problems by adopting a model that already existed. I needed to take a moment to pause, reflect and learn something from this experience to help unlock my own journey forward.

Moving forward

So, I’ve stopped advertising this service on my website. I am immensely grateful to all my clients who trusted and engaged my assistance services over the last one year. I will continue to serve my existing clients until we complete our engagements. Going forward, I will serve a very limited clientele with the sole purpose of staying in touch with the market, and these registrations will be invite only.
If any of you still want to engage my assistance service, then you will need to first book a Quickie, post which you may be extended an invitation subject to availability.

Why matrimonial apps aren’t the last resort

We go from kindergarten to primary, high school to college and college to a job quite seamlessly. It’s hardly a decision we’ve to make, at least not in India where our parents pretty much take care of designing and executing our lives. However, getting married is a decision we consciously make, and for the first time ever, we have a pretty big say in it if not making the decision entirely on our own

But how can one ever be sure that they’re actually ready to get married? Especially for a generation that is out to question if and when one must allow something like marriage be a distraction in their lives.

When our parents casually bring up the topic of marriage, we might shy away from it initially, and finally make up our mind about it over time. Given that this decision is made gradually, we as a society have somehow designed phases in which this information will be made public.

First, the immediately family and friends are informed about the availability of the bride/ groom. Very casually. After limited success, we succumb to suggestions by some relatives to sign up with a local community bureau (Aseema, Pushpa Nandish or the likes of it). When success evades us even there, we decide to take matters into our own hands and finally glance through matrimonial sites. I must say that these sites are quite cheeky too, where they create this illusion that there is a sea of amazingly eligible brides/ grooms on the other side of the registration form, so you reluctantly sign up.

When you sign up, you realise that the platform is full of people like you who’ve looked everywhere and come here as a last resort. Some people panic, and exit the market quickly. But most people just hang out like stale food. Sorry, that sounds pretty harsh I know, but unfortunately matrimonial profiles don’t age like wine. To make matters worse, these platforms also incentivise freshness by having a separate tab for those who’ve recently joined the platform.

Now, I know a lot of people love to hack this feature by creating a new profile every time their previous one stops garnering interest or their paid membership expires. I am guilty of it too. But imagine, if you were truly “fresh” or new in the market, the matrimonial universe actually conspires to get you tonnes of interest.

Platforms like Bharatmatrimony or Shaadi.com easily have the highest number of registered members. The customer growth rate of these platforms are mostly stalled, so if you were to hang around on these platforms even for 3 months, you’ll have the opportunity to sit back and see what’s available to you, and help assess if you’ll exit the market soon or end up spending a decade of your life feeding matrimonial agencies.

Now, you may not like how the arranged marriage market operates, but it takes courage to walk out on it. Most people don’t. But let me tell you that there’s no better way to figure out if arranged marriage works for you or not than signing up on a matrimonial app and assessing this for yourself rather than letting your family fool themselves for years that they’re being useful in your partner search.

The 5 by 3 partner preference prioritisation principle

In the last few months, I cannot count the number of times I have tried to help people prioritise their partner preferences through M.B.A. So, I created this 5 by 3 principle which helps people in sorting out their preferences. I know it works when people genuinely follow it. In fact, this might work for just about any major life decision. I think. Try it and tell me, may be? But let me explain this in the context of choosing a partner in the arranged marriage market. Rest, you go figure.

So, who should you marry? What should you optimise for?

Dating apps and matrimonial sites have made us believe that what constitutes a happy marriage is our partner’s caste, mother tongue, education, profession, salaries, height, weight, body type, etc. Now, I am not saying all of this is B.S., but I have an alternate view – Relationships are essentially a series of actions and reactions, day in and day out. It’s what you do to your partner and what your partner does to you. 

You could scream at your partner, they might take it lying down, or they could scream at you and it might shake the daylights out of you. After a point, this happens on auto-pilot, so essentially, it’s the initial set of actions and reactions, that occur repetitively without us thinking twice.

Now, there’s no way to accurately predict how you or your partner would initially react to a situation when you enter a relationship relationship. But you can always lay out your . This way, you hedge yourself against unpleasant situations that could occur over and over again in a relationship.

How do you even optimise for what you want, you ask?

Here’s where you use 5 by 3 principle. It’s simple. You just have to list the things you want from a relationship. Start with as long as list as you want, then, sort it based on what matters most. Then pick only the top 5 from this list. Remember that nothing from the rest of the list can ever beat the top 5. So keep going at it till you have your absolute top 5 things that matter.

Here are a few examples of things people have typically wanted from relationships:

  • Mutual respect
  • Great conversation with intellectual stimulation
  • Space
  • Being able to share responsibilities in life
  • Being able to talk things out and resolve issues

These things are usually deeply personal, and stem from past relationships, observing marriages around us or even movies.

Once you have your list of top 5 priorities in a relationship, ask yourself what are the “not so pleasant things” you can put up with given that all or some of the above 5 things are being met. After all, love’s not blind, it’s about all the faults you don’t mind. And no, I am not talking about faults like your partner being ugly, or not having a masters degree. I am talking about things that really have an impact on the relationship, and will take you coming out of your skin to make peace with it.

Here are a few examples of real faults (real, because they belong to real people):

  • Inability to make independent decisions, relying overly on his/ her family
  • Anger management issues
  • Lack of desire to build a life together

Now, you could be someone who is okay putting up with any or all of the above. Your reasons to do so may vary, but you need to build a list of 3 things in a relationship you are willing to put up with because that’s where you are drawing your boundaries. Those are the actions you know how to react to. Now, unknowns are going to be unknowns, you don’t know what you don’t know. You could learn that your tolerance to over socialising might be very very low, and that might become a deterrent in the future, but you’ll always find something much more positive to counterbalance it, in a healthy relationship.

Once you have the 5 by 3 list, what next?

Essentially, each time you meet someone in the market, take a look at your 5 by 3 list and ask yourself how this person fares on your list. I’d say if they are a 4-1 at least, you should consider giving them a real run for their money.

If not, I mean dash. I’m sure you know better.

Honestly, you could rationalise the shit out of anything in life. As cliched as it may sound, when you are ready to take the plunge, when you ready to settle down with someone, you’ll know. We all have pretty strong instincts, so sometimes, we’ve just got to listen. It ain’t love, it’s just instinct, so don’t get all excited thinking that you are getting a love marriage. Just saying.

Making a matrimonial profile


Eons ago, I was out clubbing with some friends and I saw this boy, who was swaying to some metal, with his eyes closed. He was carelessly holding a beer bottle in one hand, and carried this non-challance that was so attractive. That was his signal (besides the fact that he had a fancy degree from a fancy school, which I already knew about). Unfortunately, given how online the world is and how little opportunity most of us have at emitting such “signals”, we have to make do with an attractive “profile”, because that’s the only signal you can emit these days. It’s pretty your only shot at getting anyone’s attention at all, online.
Depending on what app/ site you are on, you could either be a “naughty boy” or “boy with no habits”. But deep down, who are you, really? Do you know who you are as a partner, in a relationship? Do you know what type of a partner really suits you? How do you leverage your matrimonial profile to attract the right partner? I have a few tips here to help write up a simple matrimonial profile that can help build a meaningful relationship:
Step 1: What matters to you about you?
Even before you get to the “I want a liberal but homely girl or a boy with MS from US” type of wishlist, make a list of all the things that matter to you about you. Whether you care about being in the market or not, do this little exercise the moment you get the slightest clue that you’ve been put in the market by parents, grandparents or random aunty on your street. Make a list of top 10 things someone who’ll live with you must be aware of about you. For instance, a list could look like this:

  • I have to start my morning with a peaceful cup of coffee
  • I love my family, which means sometimes I will do things I hate, just for their sake
  • I like to discuss all disagreements till finish, and don’t like to leave things hanging
  • I watch absolute trash on TV, and I love it, so I won’t stand any judgements on that
  • I am a cleanliness freak, bordering on OCD which means I will assassinate anyone who messes with my order at home…

…the list could go on, doesn’t really have to be just 10 things, but at least 10.
Step 2: What matters to you about you, today? and in 10 years?
Once you have the above list, ask yourself if each of these things would matter even after 10 years of being with someone. If not, get rid of it from the list. This leaves you with the absolute list of things that matter to you about you.
Step 3: Love is not blind, its about all the faults you don’t mind.
Now that we are done with ourselves, let’s move on to what we want/ don’t want in a partner.

  • Make a list of top 3 things that you absolutely cannot compromise on in a partner. For each of these, justify it with why it is so important.  Again, check whether this matters now, or will matter forever. Through this process, you will figure out if something is a frivolous wish or truly important to you.
  • Next, make a list of the things you will absolutely not tolerate from the other person – it could be anger, dishonesty, lack of interest in learning, etc. and justify this with reasons for not wanting to put up with.

A combination of the two will tell provide you with a great framework to choose a partner.
Step 4: Choose your primary channel
Once you’ve arrived at this step, you’ll be fairly clear which app/ site you are most likely to find your partner. If it’s Bharatmatrimony, then start here in terms of filling your profile. The registration starts with a bunch of very objective questions about your height, weight, caste, education, salary and what not. Don’t be dejected by the fact that Bharatmatrimony asks for this information where-as tinder doesn’t. All these sites/ apps are trying their best to objectify a highly irrational decision, nothing more. So, provide information that matters to you. If you don’t care about religion or caste, you can choose any, and move on. Towards the end of the registration process, you will be asked to write about you. This is where you should write a crisp bio about you based on your learnings from Step 2.
Step 5: Diversify your portfolio
Once you have filled out your profile on one app/ site, you should consider listing yourself on all others. Remember, while these channels outwardly signal “who you are” to someone who finds you on one of these apps/ sites, if you have written your bio loud and clear, I am sure there’s no reason for anyone to be confused about who you are irrespective of the channel you have chosen. The key here is that your profile should be coherent with the one on your primary channel. You cannot be a “homely girl with no habits” on one, and “a feminazzi” on the other. This only means you either have biopolar disorder or your account is hacked (by your parents!!). Most of the time, there is a large enough overlap across these apps/ sites, but you want to address the tail cases, because that’s where you find love.
Step 6: Stay alive
Once you have made your profile, use your learnings from Step 3 to choose potential partners. Make contact, make conversation and make progress (either way!). Don’t die on people. Don’t overdo the process for one month and then hibernate for six, atleast not on your primary channel. You’ll only be older (not just by age) but even as a profile. This too signals something, trust me, it ain’t a great signal. Now, I understand if you’ve not liked anyone you spoke to or no one responded, and this disheartened you and made you jump off the app. But that’s when you should seek help – either from family, friends or Marriage Broker Auntie. It’s quite easy to fix any issues 6-12 months into the process. But beyond that, the only thing you’ll be doing is massaging your frustrations. So, stay alive.
Step 7: Close the deal
You won’t believe this, but most people in the world today are pathetic at closing the deal. I have heard all sorts of rubbish reasons like I am busy at work, or I have other priorities in life or I am changing my job and what not for people not making the effort to close the deal. Believe me, staying married is more work than getting married. So, if your professional life is stalling you from choosing a partner, I can’t imagine what your job would do to your marriage. So, quit giving yourself excuses and figure out how to manage all your priorities in life. Close the deal when you need to, not when you “find time”.
Step 8: Stay married
This needs a whole other blogpost. But if you’ve got till here, well done. You are half way there.
Having said all of this, it’s much easier said than done. So, I hear you. It takes discipline to truly follow this and keep at it till you have succeeded. Once you have done your bit, trust the universe a little bit to do its magic. If not, there’s always Marriage Broker Auntie’s Market Strategy service for help. 😀

Tearing down the ideal husband

For the longest time, I remember romanticising the idea of an ideal husband. Back in 2006, I had even found this boy who I thought was great marriage material. He was well educated, smart, good looking, hailed from a good family, belonged to the same caste as me and we got along quite well. At this point, I was barely 20 years old. Where did all these ideas of an ideal husband even come from? None of them were my own.

Some context: Of the 8 cousins on my dad’s side who were older than me, 1 girl and 3 boys were married by this point and all of them had had an arranged marriage, each alliance beating the previous on money or fame or some other crucial attribute that elevated the status of my family in the society even further. Next, was this cousin sister, who was in love with a guy from another state, did not garner enough support for a long time to go ahead and marry as the whole family was fighting the love marriage epidemic.

So, you can see where my ideas of an ideal husband came from. They came from my family, who had derived their ideas of a good partner from a society, that does nothing but sits back and passes judgement as if the music would never stop (using a musical chairs reference here!!).

Now, 13 years hence, if you asked me what makes an ideal husband, I am not sure I’d even have an answer to that question. I have been married for over 8 years now, and a husband is no longer a static idea for me. It is this real dynamic person that I share my life with. We are constantly learning new things about ourselves and each other, and we are still in the process of learning acceptance and reasonable responses to each others thoughts and actions. I can’t believe that I ever thought a static list of 10 points would determine the trajectory of a marriage that lasts a few decades.

I decided to marry my husband when I was 22 based on my juvenile ideas of an ideal husband, but none of that mattered every time we fought, and fought so often. It was not like I thought Oh, I’ve come back home exhausted from work, while he sat at home all day and did not bother tidying up the house, but you know what, it’s okay because he comes from great family or that my parents are happy I married from the same caste. I would still be pissed as hell for him not keeping the house tidy.

So, I just put tidiness on the list, and that should make the list for an ideal husband no? But no, there will be another situation on another day that will emphasise another attribute that’s essential in a partner. The list can be endless, but each of us only really have a handful of strengths if we are lucky, so optimising for an ideal husband seems like a dumb thing. Instead, optimise for a good partnership, and what each of you will continue to bring to it.

The idea of ideal is like forcing a trend line out of the many myriad relationships that exist in the world today. It’s not real, it’s not a reflection of any one relationship. Every individual values different things in a partner in different situations, and each one of us has the moral responsibility to respect our own. We simply cannot compare our values and situations to someone else’s just like that. That would just be a recipe for a disastrous relationship. Apply your own rules, not your mother’s. But if you ever feel under-confident about applying your own rules or sticking by it, then use the trend line. But remember, you’ll risk never ever living upto the trend line for the rest of your life, mostly because you were never meant to.

So, ask yourself who you are and what you value in a partnership and whether the guy you are evaluating will live up to their end of the deal a decade from now. If yes, there you have it — the husband. And trust me, he will always always be far from ideal (unless he leaves the toilet seat down everyday of course!), so you’re better off tearing down the idea of an ideal husband today just so you have a real shot at building a beautiful relationship with someone who has just torn down their idea of an ideal wife.

Signs your arranged marriage date ain’t into you.

The biggest problem with the arranged marriage process is that it is an excruciatingly long process, especially if you aren’t lucky. You have to meet so many people before you start to see some hope. Now, the number of people you see is not something you can significantly influence, although the duration you see them is definitely under your control. You can cut your losses and move on pretty quickly if you can spot the following quickly:

1. Not making the effort to initiate a meeting

People who dilly dally on meeting you knowing fairly well that things are not going to move up a notch without a face to face meeting, are just not worth anyone’s time. If this is a cross country alliance, I’d cut them some slack, but if they aren’t even making the effort to move things up to a FaceTime/ WhatsApp video call, forget about it. Don’t take being shy or introverted for an answer, this is the guy who hopes to get into your pants the rest of your life, so he can save his shyness for the first night.

2. Endless getting to know you conversations/ meets

Beware of the ones who texts you every Friday night with the endless getting to know you better type questions such as your favourite movie and cuisine and such nonsense. They might as well send you a slam book and have you write a parting note once you have answered all the pointless questions on them. I have been with my husband for almost 10 years now and I honestly don’t care what his favourite colour or restaurant is. We are just fine trying to discover new things about each other even today. You will never know everything about anyone even if you lived a 100 years with them, and so talk about the stuff that matters when you meet once or twice, take a leap of faith and jump. If it doesn’t work, there’s always annulment or divorce, really.

3. The WhatsApp forward sender

No, WhatsApp forwards are never a way to initiate a conversation. For pete’s sake, this is 2019. If someone wants to talk to you, they can send you a sensible message, even if it’s just to say “Hey”. Actually no, save the “hey”s for after marriage, because conversations between couples are mostly boring, so at least until you become a couple, try and keep things spicy. So, if someone’s sending you a Hey, they are out too, unless of course its a “Hey you ..” which is a whole different level. Wink wink.

4. I need more time

Unless you are weighing multiple options, more time never helps with such decisions. They only make an incremental difference and if you are after that, sure, give it more time. If you hear anyone giving the I need more time, move on. Now, I do know people who are married after one of them gave this shady excuse but mostly the other person bugged them till they caved. Unless you are confident of bugging someone successfully, just cut your losses and move on.

Now, I am sure the list could go on, but these 4 filters should help you sieve through most of the weed in the market. If this doesn’t work, I am always around at — www.marriagebrokerauntie.com.

Fingering your phone too much?

Part 1: How it all started

You’re stuck in a traffic jam, you pull out your phone and mindlessly start swiping. You are waiting in a queue, you pull out your phone, start scrolling. You aren’t able to fall asleep, you pick up your phone and start fidgeting. You go into one app, then into another and back to the first. Each time you do this for a couple of minutes, you get extremely exhausted and switch tabs or put your phone away, and then do it all over again after a couple of minutes.

Then, there are some days you decide to take a hard look at yourself, realize you are getting older each day but not one bit closer to finding that ever elusive soulmate who you hope to get into a long term stable relationship with. You conclude that you need to be more disciplined about your partner hunt and decide to sit in front of your laptop/ desktop and spend a few hours scrutinising a couple of reputed matrimonial sites that are known to attract eligible singles who are just as serious as you are feeling at the moment. You decide to look past people’s terrible photographs, and read every bit of their profile carefully in order to go through the process in a non-superficial and structured manner. That discipline yields a few well crafted expressions of interest to the select few that were the best among the worst available online. You end the weekend feeling great, having made a lot of progress by “settling” on what was available and assume that if you can pull off the ability to “make do” for a little bit longer, your search would end soon.

At this point, having aimed quite low, you are reasonably confident of hearing back. But just when you are revelling in your little success, your mind starts wondering when you’ll hear back. You constantly keep going into your inbox wondering if one of them has already responded, then when you don’t see any replies yet, you decide to disable your notifications and decide you won’t check your inbox for another week. You prefer to be surprised when you open your inbox randomly in a week and find a message you didn’t expect. Except, you keep wanting to look for the surprise every day, every other minute. So you then decide to delete the app because you can’t believe how this has taken over your life. Except, you re-install it the very next day. And you go over this cycle of deleting and re-installing a couple of more times.

By this point, your body has completely taken over your mind. Your body desperately wants to experience the rush of dopamine levels that come out of experiencing something unexpectedly pleasant. So it cannot get you to stop fingering your phone every now and then. It’s going to be a while before you realise that your body has taken over this process and is controlling the way you choose a partner.

Part 2: How do you get it to stop

First, pause for a moment. Allow yourself to acknowledge what is happening here — Your body has taken over a process that should ideally have involved your mind as well. Now, it’s one thing when you are 16, lust over someone and confuse that for love, and that over time evolves into much more and eventually does become “love” and you end up with that person forever. But here, let’s face it, your hormones aren’t exactly raging anymore and your mind is probably worth trusting a bit more, so it’s important to gain back some control from your body. But listen, it’s easier said than done. So, I want to share a few things I know works better than most of the advice I have personally ever given myself –

1. You are made up of two people

You are made up of (1) Core you and (2) what I call the “valent” you. Core you is who you are when no one is looking. It is your identity devoid of any external association. You could be someone who reads, writes, enjoys art or science, etc. and it’s what best describes you or your interests, and is responsible for attracting a partner. “Valent” you originates from the concept in chemistry related to the ability of an element to react with other elements and combine to form compounds. Similarly, the “valent” self in each of us craves for association, be it in a couple or as a member of an organisation. You need both parts to attract a partner.

2. Restoring balance between them both

With extended partner hunt, the “valent you” has taken over and subdued the “core you” hence, impeding you from attracting a partner. So, it’s important to restore balance, and it takes a ton of discipline to do that — You need to tame your valent self while encouraging your core self to become a bit more pushy. In order to tame your valent self, you need to be strict about when and how you will seek association. If you’re logging into dating apps/ sites everyday, stop. Do it once a week. Dedicate a day of the week, when you will go wild hunting, but that’s it. On the other hand, dedicate some time every day to spend time on yourself, exploring your own likes and dislikes. Give yourself a month to try this new routine to see you’ve been successful in restoring balance. Ask yourself if you’ve become any more interesting than you were a month ago. If yes, great. It won’t be long before your fingering skills will be put to use elsewhere. If not, try again, but try harder this time.

3. Serendipity happens when you least expect it, not when you go looking for it

We all like to meet our partners by chance. Despite spending hours on apps consciously looking for partners, we expect to be caught by surprise. So, if you are one of those people expecting to have a chance encounter that results in a long term relationship, let me remind you that serenity actually happens when you least expect it, not when you are wildly hunting for it day in and day out. So, focus on 1 and 2, and leave the rest to serendipity.

Of course, as always, if nothing works, you know where to find me!

How to make virtual dating work?

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The great thing about technology is that opens up your social network quite a bit and allows you to date someone at the other end of the world. Sustaining a long-distance relationship over an extended period is quite hard but it’s still a great way to meet someone. Whether you are away from home or you live in a small city, meeting like minded people can be challenging. So, making virtual dates work is an essential skill to have. So, here are 5 easy steps you can follow to both set up dates and follow through –

1. Cast your net far and wide

If you really care about meeting someone interesting, then its quite likely that they aren’t living next door (unless you are Penny from Big Bang theory). So you want to explore people who live in other cities, especially if you are open to moving or if the other person is (you can tell based on their ideas of travel and life) because they are likely willing to make something work if they’re invested in you. Don’t let physical boundaries bog you down, the internet makes the world a little village today.

2. Invest in travel

Invest in travel if you really want to give something a chance, don’t hope to tie the knot virtually too. If you ever happen to be in a city you know you could meet someone interesting, prep for your travel by either finding yourself a date beforehand or by making plans to meet friends/ family who could help the cause. A lot of people I know get trapped in this ping pong of “Oh, I travelled all the way last time, they should make an effort this time if they want to”, and it’s not always fair. You want to strike the fine balance between being lenient vs not being in denial.

3. Stay connected

Now, you don’t need to spend all your time and money in travelling to meet people every weekend. There’s texting, audio and video calling at practically no cost, so make use of this technology. Technology is so powerful that it transcends distance like never before. Staying connected is a way of saying you are interested. If someone is not making any effort to stay connected, likely they aren’t interested. People can go on dating for years without getting even a step closer to making a decision because it’s easy to trail off when in a long-distance arranged setup. So, it’s doubly important to stay connected, have a routine (although boring) and be consistent.

4. Get creative

Although having a routine helps you sustain a healthy relationship, it’s important to get creative once in a while. Who says you need to hold hands and walk by the shore to be romantic. A candle light dinner on Skype can be just as romantic. Put each other to sleep after a tiring day of work, or play an online game together. The more creative you can get, the more fun you’ll have getting to know each other. It’s okay if you don’t have any ideas on your own, go research on the internet, there are hundreds of people like me to give you ideas.

5. Lock it down

Although it’s hard to hold someone’s hand and have a meaningful conversation, it’s important to let the other person know how you feel. It’s important to be as open and explicit as you can about how you feel. If you have this urge to take things to the next level, you must say so as early as you can because when you are seeing someone virtually, it’s easy to be distracted by other things or people. Time doesn’t always help build relationships, so it’s important to speak up when it feels right for you. If the other person doesn’t feel the same way yet, but you feel the strong urge to make it work with them, then you should look to move to where this person is. Now, if that feels like too extreme a step, it’s probably not worth it.

Simple enough? So, if your folks have been bugging you to meet someone at the other end of the world, give it a shot. These simple steps will surely help you get half the way and the rest is just your charm and luck. If not, there’s always Marriage Broker Auntie!

How do you decide whom to marry?

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I hate to admit, but I am a compulsive googler. I’m pretty sure some of you out there are closet googlers too. So, this one goes out to you, especially if you are in a relationship (or just even seeing someone on the arranged marriage market) and wondering if you should get married to the person you are currently seeing. You want to start by asking yourself these 5 basic questions –

Do you get along?

If you are familiar with consulting interviews, a popular way of interviewing someone is to assess if you’re willing to be stuck with this person on an 8 hour flight because most committed relationships are like long haul flights, where you can’t possibly jump off the plane in the middle. You could change seats (read partners), but it’s not easy so you better sit next to someone you “think” you can survive the journey with. If their company is enjoyable, that’s a bonus. So, when you guys met, did you have a good time? If not, don’t bother.

Is there a shared vision?

This is quite easy to get wrong as it doesn’t always mean that both of you should want the exact same things. It can be as simple as – Does this person appreciate your dreams/ ambitions enough to stand by you? Achieving one’s dreams is hard enough already, you need someone who’s willing to cheer you on or not tug you down at the very least. The way to find out is by talking about lots of things that matter to you – work, food, travel, family, social causes, etc. – question is does this person listen to you, understand what matters to you and why?

Have they thought about marriage?

This is important, because you aren’t just looking for a flatmate to share rent with or recruit a new labourer into your household. Have they thought about what kind of a spouse they want, what kind of a partner they want to be or how they plan to accommodate all the changes that come with marriage? Its easy to tell based on what they’re asking you and what they’re telling you. If they’ve just walked in with a laundry list that they want to check off by the end of the night with the slightest of regards for what you want, give them another chance but if they fail yet again, move on. The first thing about marriage is thinking beyond oneself, and if this person’s struggling to do that, it probably means they’re not ready yet.

What about kids?

30 years ago, this question would have never made the list. But today, this is a very important question in most relationships. A lot of people today consciously choose not to have children for a variety of reasons that are personal and convenient for each. However, being married to someone who doesn’t share your thoughts about having kids can be quite frustrating and a sacrifice that may not seem worth it if your partner ceases to be around.

What is your gut saying?

We almost always know when it’s a yes or a no. It’s with the maybes that most of us have an issue with. When someone seems good enough, we like to hang on see if we’ll get more convinced over time. This is a trap you must avoid at all costs. If you really want to be able to make a firm decision, sooner rather than later, I’d say finish the thinking bit even before you meet someone and then let your gut lead. More often than not, our gut leads us to better decisions that we respect for much longer, so if you are a romantic like me, trust your gut.

This is not the ultimate guide to a great marriage, but this gives you a great head-start into making a well informed decision in a short period of time. If you have your own set of questions you like to run with, feel free to do so but make sure these are questions that would be relevant even after you get married.

Good luck, happy spouse hunting!

The marital whisper network and why men don’t have it

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Disclaimer – While I am principally not opposed to the idea of gender as a spectrum, I must confess I am fairly illiterate. So, as always, this blogpost will cover only the two ends of this spectrum. My sincere apologies to anyone else in-between for not having enough to say.

I was talking to a good friend from school earlier this morning and we were exchanging notes on our respective married lives and she said atleast we women folk have a whisper network where we are able to vent/ share experiences, although we are shamed about it as being disloyal to the husband/ family, whereas men don’t talk about these things. Anecdotally, this seemed very true, but I wondered why men and women behaved differently despite sharing the same experience – marriage.

The three questions that I set out to answer are – (1) why do women share their personal stories, unlike men? (2) Why are they then shamed about it? (3) Why don’t men share their marital stories?

Men are structurally stronger, they went out to work, hunted/ gathered to feed the family and subsequently had access to education that resulted in superior jobs. Women on the other hand were the child bearers and rearers, and then when we started leading more settled lives, women’s responsibilities extended to managing all responsibilities within the house. This natural division of labour resulted in men becoming the financiers and women feeling indebted to the income for running the house. In this way, for hundreds of years, men have dominated women, and especially in marriages.

Given this social structure that has been nurtured by our patriarchal society, women opposing this dominance is never a pleasant thing. From a man’s perspective, shaming this rebellion is the most natural thing to do. Whether this is right or not is a completely different question, but all I am saying is that given our social conditioning, this is not unexpected. From a woman’s perspective, it is a matter of pride if you do stand up to this dominance, and like anything else we are proud of, this deserves to be shared to. However, given that women have to balance this pride with the shaming, they resort to whisper networks.

Does this make a woman disloyal to the husband/ the family? This question is best left to individual judgement as everyone’s circumstance is different and this depends on who you are sharing what information with and how that would affect the person being discussed. But you are being bloody disloyal to our patriarchy I tell you, for which our forefathers would never forgive you. But I’m okay with that, are you? Now, what about men? Why don’t they talk about their marriage with others? Ideally, I would have liked to ask men this question, but given that they don’t talk about it, I’ll try answering on their behalf although I’d be thrilled to have a man challenge me on this, though.

If our society is structured for men to dominate, then it is socially unacceptable for a man to declare loss of control. If a man talks about a disagreement with his wife, he is implicitly admitting to loss of control. What man can’t keep his woman in her rightful place? It is a matter of shame for the man, so he’d rather not talk about it. Today, as more and more women gain control in relationships, more and more men are comfortable breaking free from social conditioning to allow greater balance in power in a marriage. Unfortunately, in most cases, this is confined to the walls of their household.

Men are yet to talk declare loss of control more openly, and this is all down to social conditioning and how little incentive they have to break free from it. Why should they be more vocal about their problems? Who is going to champion this change? While gender equality is a great thing, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I have access to more opportunities than my grandmother did, I think we must encourage our men to speak up. It’s okay to not be in control. It’s okay to grow a pair and talk about your marital problems, because you are not alone!

Dating's over-rated!

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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 atleast 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?

By 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 trying with incremental gains in discovery when you’d rather start seeing the whole deal once you’ve taken the plunge. Sound like an auntie you think? Yeah, I am one. Kthnxbye.

So you’re 30 and still single, what now?

 


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With the recent shutdown of Mint on Sunday, my column died too. My dream of having a column in a national newspaper about love and relationships was pretty short-lived, but lived nevertheless. Sigh. So I shall continue to publish my works here.

A couple of months ago, I wrote that the average age at which people are starting to look for partners nowadays has gone up significantly and how the lack of liquidity in that market has made it challenging for people to find mates and easily settle down. An overwhelming number of people reached out to me and said #metoo (no pun intended). Most of those emails went, “I am in my 30s and struggling to find a partner, so what’s the solution?” There is no simple answer really. I wish life were straightforward – you install an app, right swipe twice, find your soulmate on day 2, download a child on the same app, outsource its maintenance and live happily ever after. Wait, you knew that already.

What most of you don’t know (or prefer not to acknowledge) is that a part of the reason you are in your 30s and struggling to find a partner is because of you. The other part is the universe not providing enough liquidity, but that’s not something you can do anything about, so let’s talk about things you can do on your own. So, the first thing to do is to figure out why/ how you got here in the first place. Despite each of us having our own little quirks, we are more similar than we think and so, I’ll closely classify us into 3 different types to help explain why we are where we are and how to get ourselves out of the trap –

I want a love marriage types

These are people who have not come to terms with the fact that they are in the arranged marriage market where finding a spouse is anything but serendipitous. You are introduced to a fairly curated list of people that have been double filtered like groundnut oil, and you are not meant to fall in love. But still, these people will diss every prospect in the market because they didn’t feel a “spark”, being fully aware that the process is not designed for sparks, instead it is a fairly regimented process to make a rational (or superficial) decision on who best fits your template for a partner. So, the sooner you start playing by the rules, the faster you will move ahead in the game.

I am still not over my ex types

This is fairly self explanatory. I am reminded of gully cricket, where the first couple of balls a batsman faces are deemed as “trial” and don’t count towards the game. And then what Bangaloreans call “all reals” begins.

In a similar manner, people who get into the arranged marriage market even before they are over their previous relationships pretend like the first few prospects don’t count. The problem is, sometimes you have met the best people you could’ve possibly met early on, and then by the time you have made up your mind to move forward, you have exhausted your supply. So moral of the story – get over your ex quickly and move on, because like most other things in real life, there are no “trials” in the arranged marriage market. It’s all reals from the get go.

Thes ones with daddy issues

These are people who think they have grown up, but actually haven’t. These are people who haven’t thought through what it means to live independently and grow their own family without the oversight of a guardian. They will constantly talk about their parents on a date, or let their parents make all decisions for them even after getting married, sometimes outweigh the wants of a parent over the needs of a partner without realising that the new relationship needs nurturing and their partner needs to be included in all decisions. What is the solution for this you ask? Realising that you suffer from these issues is more than half the job done, so I’d say ask yourself if you really have the confidence to run a house independently.

Obviously, there are nuances to each type and the more you think about them, the more you’ll be able to relate to one or more of these types. The sooner you get yourself out of the shackles of these types, the closer you’ll be to finding a partner. If not, you know where to go.

Watching love as it ages

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A school friend and I were discussing about the point (rather pointlessness) of life and we concluded that it is gene propagation; food and sex are just means to it. Sex is very primal and over the years, we as a society have started making random associations with it such as love, etc. So, love is a man-made concept and like all man-made concepts, it’s quite subjective, fluid and hard to define. Thanks to literature, and now media, we have a nice little template to go with.

If you are 16 (or probably younger today), love is that feeling which gives you the tingle, makes your groin ache and what not. If you are in your 30s, love is that feeling when your husband surprises you with roses even on your 10th anniversary, and you can put that on Instagram. When you are in your 50s, love is that hypothetical feeling when your husband praises your culinary skills in front of your family and friends. Given that the husband would never do such things, your love probably died the day you had kids. When you are in your 70s or 80, it is love when your husband holds your hand while crossing the road. But then you think he is trying to act like he is 16, because love is only for youngsters no?

I’d like to argue that love can be so much more, but we are limiting its potential by trying to confine ourselves to the template thrown at us by a large data set of movies with stereotypical plots of love and it’s implications on our lives. Ask anyone who has lived a long life (I mean like over 40-50 years) with a companion and all they have left of this person is memories, they will tell you what love felt like for them. If we all left love to take over our lives and let it do it’s magic without trying to control it every minute, I am sure we will have so many more stories about love to tell our next generation. Okay, I haven’t asked anyone about love when they are old and withering, and it’s hard to guess either because social conditioning makes us feel like its wrong to feel romantic love as we grow old.

We like to think of love as a short-lived fleeting feeling one only feels once or twice at the most in their entire lives. That’s because we still think of love as being that pain in the groin, and the thing that you feel down there in your 70s is just herpes. But what if love is not just about someone whispering sweet nothings in your ear or running their fingers down your neck. What if love were to walk into your life in a disguise, would you ever know? The problem is we don’t recognise the face of love as it ages, it only feels familiar in retrospect. The same love that you feel for someone when you are 16, grows into a different person as you grow older. This 3rd person called love in your life evolves with you.

What if I told you love is that feeling of exhaustion (or relief) when you walk into a house that looks like a disaster, but your partner has managed to put your toddler to bed by the time you got back home from a tiring day at work. If you are 50, love is that feeling of frustration you feel when your husband won’t let you sleep in late even on a Sunday because he can’t start the day without your home cooked breakfast. If you are 70 or 80, love is that feeling of helplessness you feel when your wife won’t give up on trying to change you even after 40-50 years of marriage.

Most of us have probably been in love once or twice, but watching love as it ages is a whole new experience all together, I think.

What kind of fighter am I

The best part about Marriage Broker Auntie for me is the stories I have the privilege to listen to, personal thoughts that I am privy to, and sometimes, if I am lucky, I get to stir up a poet in some hopeless romantic. This one is called “What kind of a fighter am I”, which was written by someone in response to me saying that fighting is an inevitable part of every relationship and so, it’s important to be aware of what kind of fighters we are. I read it, and I loved it. It’s simple, yet says so much without really saying much.

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I think I am a fighter whose prime premise is that the other person is rational too and that a logical argument should win. I admit, this is not always true in a fight that involves relationships. 

I like to be sarcastic in fights and have often tipped over a fight to serious just because I used words which I shouldn’t have. 

I feel the physical bits, like making food, putting a blanket on her while she’s asleep etc shouldn’t stop just because we are fighting. 

I feel super hurt for no reason and expect the other person to go to great lengths to make up. 

If fights could have a intended decision at the end of it, that’s great. If its a passive aggressive tension in the air kind of fight, that’s scary. 

Fights shouldn’t interfere with work or the broader family or how we are with friends.

Both of us should have the ability to push a fight to later so as to not spoil a special event, planned outing, milestone etc. 

The generation that wants it all!

20140513-214810Today, the thirty somethings in India are really struggling to find life partners like never before. When I say like never before, I mean these are people you would have expected to be already married by now, but not anymore. Some 8-9 years ago, on Varamahalakshmi festival, our family priest, who also doubles up as a matchmaker, had come home to perform the ritual. He mentioned that one of my dad’s younger colleagues had approached him for matchmaking help. When my dad asked the priest about this colleague’s prospects of finding a bride, this is what the priest said – “This chap is a 30 year old muduka (roughly translates to grandpa), that too with just an engineering degree  (no masters) working in some private company, not even Infosys or TCS. Even software fellows are struggling to find women because all brides want to go onsite nowadays, so this guy doesn’t have a chance!” Of course it sounded a lot more amusing in Kannada with alliterations and all that, but the point being I am not talking about such men or women here. I am talking about people our society would generally consider very successful, if not too successful. So, why then, are these successful people struggling to find partners?

What is different about this generation is that we are full of high achievers, we thrive on a sense of achievement and we don’t settle for anything less than a sense of achievement from whatever we do. Simply said, we are at far higher levels of the Maslov’s hierarchy today than any other generation in the past. Until we have checked that self-esteem box in our professional lives (which is roughly measured in terms of founding one’s own company and making millions of an IPO/ sell-out), we want to push the decision of getting married and hence, the average age of people looking to get married is far higher today. So what does this mean in terms of finding a partner?

Men no longer just want a wife who can look gorgeous, cook, clean and bear their offspring, and women no longer want men who can just be the breadwinner for the family or be the macho protector like the Shah Rukhs and Hritiks of the world. We want partners we are proud of, we want partners who make us feel like we have achieved great heights in our choice of partners, and in turn our personal lives. And, it’s okay. Well, to be fair, our grandparents or parents were also fairly ambitious and you might think this is the problem of every generation with respect to the previous, but what is different about this generation is that we are looking for trophy partners in India vs trophy son-in-laws or daughter-in-laws or a general addition to our existing esteemed families unlike in the last few hundred years.

In the past, when parents/ aunts/ uncles found a potential daughter-in-law/ son-in-law, they optimised for values that matter when you recruit a new family member – cultural upbringing, physical genes, compatibility with a large extended family, workload reduction for existing family members, protection of family wealth and so on. The bride who finally got recruited would have cleared the bar on all counts, and the groom has nothing left to do in terms of getting social approval since his family would have taken care of that bit during recruitment. At the most, the girl would have to check off the “oh how did this dude land such a cute chick” test amongst the groom’s gang of single male friends.

Most of us have been in and out of several relationships before we have resorted to the arranged marriage route, and we have pretty solid ideas on what kind of a partner suits us. Parents have no clue about what we learn from our past relationships and hence, there is a lack of interference in filters between parents and us. So parents actively encourage their kids to find their own partners, in numbers larger than ever before, despite having a pretty static view on what is a good son-in-law or a daughter-in-law.

This puts undue pressure on the ward to not only seek validation from the family, but also their ever expanding social circle thanks to the internet. So what do you then optimise for? Everything. And this in turn, makes it harder to find a partner because let’s be honest, you simply cannot optimise for everything. So, we start with trying to match ourselves in terms of professional success because by 30, our professions are a large part of our identities. Anyone who is as successful as us, is probably just as proud of where they have gotten in their lives, so if you are hoping to force-fit them into your families who is hoping to find you a “smart, modern, liberal thinking, yet homely” person, don’t you think you are going to find them to be “rigid”, “too feminist” or “not making an effort to get along with your family”?

Whether you like it or not, life is about trade-offs and we’ve all got to make them at some point. Being with someone who gives you a sense of achievement also means you both have very strong personalities and you are bound to run into disagreements, more likely on a daily basis but guess what? Making that work, embracing the challenge of convincing someone to see life your way, and agreeing to disagree is what will continue to give you a sense of achievement. Imagine if you were married to someone you never disagreed with, someone who would just listen to everything you said, and life was just too easy, would you enjoy that? Probably not.

You are in a market, this is an auction, and you only get something precious if you are willing to pay the price for it. Each of us has to figure out the price we are willing to pay and that’s what we are going to get. The big difference between a regular auction and a marriage is, you make a downpayment and have a recurring price to pay everyday of your marriage unlike in an auction. Sounds tough? Sorry boss, such are life. So, happy spouse-hunting and enjoy making your marriages work!

Fail if you have to, but fail fast

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No, this is not gyaan about start ups. Although there is a lot to learn from them. Last evening, quite unexpectedly, I got a call from a very good friend back home, who I had also worked with through Marriage Broker Auntie in it’s previous avatar. He told me he was getting married in two weeks. I love it when people reach out to me and share the news of them getting married even if I hadn’t really been able to successfully set them with their chosen partner, because Marriage Broker Auntie is that person who you can always count on through your relationship journey and if someone thought I provided any form of support through their hunt, that’s a big win for me. Also, I love listening to relationship stories, and the one I listened to yesterday, is definitely worth sharing.

This friend was looking to recruit someone for his start-up and found someone whose profile he found interesting. When the girl came in for an interview, they chatted for a couple of hours and they clearly stuck a good rapport. When asked what her plans in life were, she told him that her family was currently looking to get her arranged married, being in the same position himself, our man clearly sensed an opportunity. She even said something that was a “violins playing in the background” type moment from an arranged marriage perspective – she said she didn’t have time to fall in love given her career choices and she would probably consider marrying someone only if she deemed them to be marriage ready/ fit without having to spend years figuring it out.This is exactly how our man felt too, so it was almost now or never.

So, he suggested they go out dinner after the “interview” so they would have a chance to get to know each other better beyond the basics. At the end of the evening, given that there was a good fit, our man knew he had to take a chance, fail if needed, but fail fast and so he just popped the question – “Do you want to get married to me?” Obviously the girl was shell-shocked/ taken aback but our man assured her that it would be like a regular arranged marriage proposal with parents verifying fit through jatakas and what not, and if it were to not work out, there would be no love lost. It was almost like a put option from his perspective.

I was too impressed by his guts, especially because I always tell people the same thing – if you like someone, just say it out loud, fail if needed but fail fast because life is too short Although this is easier said than done, so when I asked him how he mustered enough courage to say it out loud, he said something that was even more impressive – he said “well, I liked her and she surpassed a fundamental threshold I had for a woman I wanted to marry but I wasn’t ready to spend years chasing this, wondering if I would clear her threshold or not and then brood over things not working out the way I wanted so I had very little to lose if I just asked her straight away because anyway she would come work with us in the future when he had a project, worst case.

The longer you hold something within your head, the more you build it up without any real feedback. Given that most men lack the ability to read women or their intentions very well, they are most susceptible to being led on with the wrong imagined feedback. So, when they finally receive real feedback, it’s too big to deal with rejection and the stakes her too high to fail, resulting in the whole thing dragging along for longer. This is a vicious cycle that you don’t want to get into. This is probably also why people can get over one night stands quicker than something they’ve been at for ages, because the downside is limited – one less person to copulate with.

What about if you are a woman and you think you are better at reading a man’s intentions and given social norms, you believe you must wait around long enough until the man has made his move? Should you really wait or apply the fail fast rule and just tell him how you feel and get it over with? Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple answer for this.

There are two parts to this answer – Ask any guy and he will tell you it’s far easier for a woman to get any man she wants than the other way around. So, if it’s so easy for a woman to get who she wants without much more than the blink of an eye (which is the code for hitting on someone anyway!), being more explicit makes it more likely for a woman to seem like a lemon (although we can debate if she is really a lemon or not). The second part – given the social pressure around seeming like a lemon, women have a harder time being rejected when they have made the first move. Women find it close to impossible to just move on, unlike men. Women take it very personally as we are generally more self critical, and go into this vicious circle of trying to prove our worth to someone who is not even interested in us and make things worse.

However, if you are a woman who is beyond this social pressure, I say, fail, and fail fast because nothing like trying a 100 men vs being stuck trying to pursue one, because you don’t even know how much harder the battle to make it work with this one is. For those who are single and think you can relax after once you find a partner, you can’t be more wrong – relationships are a LOT of work. So, if you’re optimising for no work post marriage and chasing that “perfect” partner, let me break your bubble right away – there is no perfect partner for anyone. Optimising for the battles you can handle post marriage  is a more realistic challenge to take on – As I’ve said before, love is not blind, but it’s about all the faults you don’t mind.

 
 

Relationships and their expiry dates

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If you’ve gone grocery shopping to a super market, you’ll know that the fresher stock (with later expiry dates) is always stocked up behind the older stuff because supermarkets like to follow FIFO (first in first out). However, what they probably don’t realise is that there are people like me who know this and they will end up with LIFO (last in first out) instead. Someone like my husband would think why bother making the effort of sorting through the stock as long as they are all within the expiry date – what’s the big difference anyway? It makes a huge difference – If I know the spinach is going to expire in 7 days instead of 3, I could happily dump the spinach in the fridge for a few extra days not worrying about making the decision of salvaging it. It’s not always because I want to cook with fresher spinach, sometimes, it’s about having the option to not cook with it immediately despite buying it. Strange you think?

Think about this – When you are fresh in a relationship, you could have a fight or two in a day and still be snuggling up in bed later that night, but if you’ve been together for a long time, a fight is always ugly – you always have to deal with it immediately, it can take a few days for you to “resolve” it before you can snuggle up in bed. The fresher a relationship, the longer you can keep stuff in the fridge and not bother about it (until the expiry date), whereas older relationships can’t be taken for granted for too long because relationships have expiry dates, egos that grow with time and the longer you’ve been in a relationship, the more likely you are closer to its expiry date.

With age, relationships mature, like old wine or single malts – so in a way, they don’t really ever expire. But some people enjoy the taste of it, some don’t. For those that don’t, that relationship has an expiry date. We all want fresher spinach because some of us want our relationship to retain its novelty, some of us want to take it for granted for longer, but we all want it to be fresher for longer. So when you’ve picked up spinach that is going to expire in 4 days and you see someone next to you who has picked up a packet that’s due to expire in 5 days, you want their packet so bad because apparently even one extra day can make all the difference.

We always want to go back in our relationships, even if it’s one step, because we are a day farther away from it’s expiry, its fresher by one day or we have a day longer to take it for granted. Familiarity increases with time, quirks become exposed, our reactions to the other person’s quirks mellow down over time (because you can’t possible break up with someone because they leave the toilet seat up all the time, come on!! that’s what men do right?), we start to become comfortable with things that were unthinkable at one point. Then, someday, something hits you hard, an expiry date or existential crisis for instance, and you start thinking and overthinking all the changes in your life and suddenly, you want your neighbour’s packet of spinach, you want to go back in time, just so you can shove your problems in the fridge for longer and not have to make the decision of whether you need to salvage it now or not.

God, this is such a morbid view of relationships. Sometimes, I can be very cynical. Most of us are, and it’s okay. As Yuval Noah Harari says, it’s also just our imagined order.

Exclusivity and taking joy out of love

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Woke up this morning to some happy news. A close friend who’s been single for a very long time, sent me a text saying he and this girl he’d been meeting on and off over the last several months decided to be exclusive. While I was overjoyed, I also thought it was a funny way of saying it. Maybe because I fell in love in another era where people would say I love you instead.

Do we now assume that people are in an open relationship by default, that there is a need to explicitly clarify? There have always been people who didn’t subscribe to monogamy but in general, we are less likely to take monogamy for granted today. We live in the world of Tinder where you can go from one person to the next in just a swipe. Before your relationship with one person has ended, another has already begun and so we find ourselves being fairly non-commital to either relationship, just to be safe. There’s no incentive to stick it out and make it work with anyone because choice is infinite.

So, when people explicitly state that they want to be exclusive, it’s a big step. Even if it is for a limited duration, it’s huge because then you become accountable to upholding your word through the life of that relationship – be it physical, emotional, intellectual or social exclusivity. Accountability takes the joy out of love, or atleast love as we know it. Love as we know it (thanks to media) is about uncertainty, that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness and it’s about being young and irresponsible. Love as we like it isn’t about being accountable – because you know, love makes us do stupid things.

Most people don’t make it past this first step of establishing accountability because it’s hard to stay exclusive. Strangely, we embrace uncertainty in love better than certainty in a stable relationship. We are so used to going from one stage to the next – being single to getting into a relationship to make it exclusive that we don’t know how to cope with the stability exclusivity brings in our lives. The few of us who brave the exclusivity, stay on in the memory of that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness that preceded this life of accountability because it’s what makes the mature aftertaste worth it.

Emotional dependence and why we remain unmarried

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Marriage is a (wo)man-made institution to legalise two people choosing to live together as romantic partners, engaging in procreation and so on. But at a very carnal level, there is no need for it and we can very well do away with it. So, if any one of you believes that you “have” to get married for your parents’ sake, we have a problem because you’ve probably surrendered to the society much more than you should have (Okay, that’s a judgement alright).

While we know our parents would love to see us married and “settled” (an unattainable state of stability that parents dream of for their children), it’s okay if we don’t settle. A lot of parents’ hopes/ dreams for us, get shattered at various points in their lives and so one more won’t make so much of a difference unless they are convinced we don’t have much else going on in our lives. So trying to get us married is their desperate attempt to find us a “purpose (read distraction)” in life, so we don’t die of loneliness/depression as we age. So, if your parents are breathing down your neck constantly, either you need to convince them that you have a bigger purpose in life or go find that purpose asap before their concerns can break you to pieces.

Some one or two generations ago, parents bulldozed their choices on children in terms of when, whom and how they must marry, but that was usually quite premature and you couldn’t quite blame the kids for not having picked their own partners by then because the kids were usually busy focussing on their careers (mid-late 20s). Off late, I’ve been meeting more and more fully grown adults (in 30s) with mostly sorted professional lives still waiting for their parents to find them partners or play the primary role in deciding who they should marry, which makes me wonder if our parents were too focussed on keeping the family close-knit and in the process missed raising independent decision makers.

Now, I don’t blame our parents because their generation was fighting the transition from joint families to nuclear families and hence, resorted to emotional blackmail (not consciously of course) to retain family bonding. Naturally our generation values emotional independence having got very little of it growing up and so, we might be headed towards raising more nuclear lives. And as we raise more independent thinkers, our children might get very little of the warmth and closeness of a huge close knit family resulting in them making up for it in their own ways as they raise their following generation and so on. But that’s not for me to worry about.

As far as my generation is concerned, we might probably focus on raising strong independent decision makers because it is scary to see the number of people who remain unmarried because they haven’t found a partner, their parents approve of. It scares me to see that lack of parental concurrence is an acceptable excuse for someone even in their 30s. If you had found your life’s greatest passion, would you let someone else (even if its your own parents) tell you what to do with it?

Karthik often said he wanted to marry someone who has lived in a hostel (I’d spent 22years of my life living with my parents at the point when I met him), but I never really understood what he meant until recently. Living in a hostel away from home allows us to “grow up” in so many ways that staying home with parents doesn’t. We learn to take control of our day-to-day lives, make independent decisions and uproot a few roots that have grown deep into our families over the years.

While this might recalibrate our bond with our families, it is an especially important trait for us to be truly marriage-ready since the recalibration facilitates welcoming a new bond in our lives. Some of us get confused by this recalibration as having to choose between the family and a partner. It is not one or the other, instead it is making way for both in the long-term while giving the partner short-term benefit of being new in our lives. And there is no way you can strike this balance gracefully if you haven’t learnt to make your own choices.

P.S – Don’t be like Wilbur Saragunaraj and go in an auto with your mummy!