Dating in India – Is it finally happening?

“Yeah that’s right. Don’t let your parents arrange your marriage. Don’t let your auntie/cousin create your matrimonial profile. How on earth am I supposed to get married if I happen to have not been lucky enough to just run into my soul mate accidentally??”

My vehement advocacy of freedom of choosing one’s life partner has landed me in trouble not once, not twice, but several times. To be frank, I kinda don’t mind.

But this was serious. My follower-cum-friend T wanted a real solution to a real problem: What about those who don’t “accidentally” find someone to fall in love with?

“Well, that’s why we have dating.” I offer, as we sip coffee together on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Separated by a few thousand miles. Typing away fiercely.

“Which doesn’t exist in India. Let’s be honest.”

Dating … What?

Well…er…right. Indians do marry for love. But these matches are usually based on people “accidentally” finding each other through work/school/mutual friends and relatives. No nonsense, goal-driven dating is still rare.

“But what about online dating?”

“You try it. The profiles are mostly either fake or of sickos looking for new ways to get off.”

“You’re right. I would probably not go out on a “date” with a guy I didn’t already know and/or like,” I was thinking aloud. “You can’t really trust people you don’t know.”

“See?” I could almost see the look of huffed triumph on T’s face.

The conversation stuck with me. Indian girls are simply put off by online dating. Strange men are usually seen as sources of potential danger in our culture, and for good reason. So what are the options of the young, urban(ized), upwardly mobile singles who’re bored of matrimonial websites and are ready to write the Indian Dating Story?

I did my research. I was surprised to find how many Indian dating portals and apps exist. While each was unique in its own cool ways, none of these apps answered my basic question: Am I sure I’m not wasting my time?

In other words, how sure am I of the quality of the member community?

One of the apps which stood out is called Woo – A cool mobile meeting platform for interesting, young, progressive singles.

Keeping it real

So what’s Woo’s answer to my question? And why is it special?

The answer is simple – a flat rejection of my sign up request. And it’s special because it irked me and wowed me at the same time.

What characterizes Woo is its commitment to keeping things real – creating opportunities for you to find a person you can actually go out on a date with. The platform intends to actively discourage “casual” flirting and thrill-seeking by people not looking for a serious relationship. For starters, when you try to sign up it screens your Facebook profile to check if you’re married or in a relationship, and politely declines to have you on board if you are. Woo rejects a substantial proportion of the sign up requests that it gets. It calls itself a “curated community” of real singles, looking for a real connection.

But being single on Facebook isn’t your sure-fire ticket on to Woo-land.

Woo auto-creates your profile photo album from Facebook.

Woo pulls in what you do for a living from Linkedin.

It even auto-populates your interests (in the form of pages you subscribe to) from Facebook.

That’s how real your Woo avatar would be once you’re past the sign up stage.

Woo

This approach isn’t free of its glitches though. I, like most of you, subscribe to many pages on Facebook, without giving a lot of thought to it. Like humour pages, friend’s photography pages etc. Woo picks two pages out of those under “interests” and shows it to one’s matches, which may not at all be representative of one’s actual interests. (In my case “Neha G Photography” showed up as one of these two. What the ….?)

However, the bottom line remains – no faking customizing of interests in order to attract people you like. No “enhanced” profile pictures for dating purposes. No padded up resume. Just the real you. That’s all you get to bring on to Woo.

Liar liar…

Between you and me – the rejection didn’t feel great. That ensured I was all the more curious to find out what exactly Woo offered me in return for demanding such high standards of authenticity.

Here’s what I did. I signed up through the Facebook profile of a single friend. :D

First surprise after you’re past the profile creation stage – it’s telling you to turn on your GPS.

Woo

My GPS?? I almost checked again to make sure I was not on Google Maps.

This was wow. This was truly unique. In keeping with Woo’s commitment to “keeping it real”, it gives you match suggestions of people only in the same city as you – people you can date in the real world. True to its principle of accepting nothing but the truth, Woo doesn’t trust you with disclosing your true location. It would rather believe your GPS.

Woo sometimes takes this mistrust of its users to a pesky level. For example, you can’t write what you want about yourself in the “About me” section. Users are allowed only to pick from a list of pre-defined adjectives which describe them, such as “wanderer”, “music maven” etc. Trolling-proof as they may be, standardized interests for everyone with no scope for expressing oneself freely takes a whole lot of the fun out of a dating app.

The final move

When it comes to match suggestions, Woo takes into account your mutual friends on Facebook, which increases credibility. If you like someone and are too shy to just kick it off by sending them a message, you can even ask mutual friends to introduce you.

You can open up a chat only if the attraction is mutual, i.e. if you confirm that you like someone and they return the favour. That takes care of spam. As a further measure against spamming, Woo also lets you “hide” your profile from being displayed publicly, if you want use the app to chat only with your existing matches.

Woo

You can continue to chat on Woo’s plush red-and-wood themed IM platform till you’re comfortable to take things to real life. (Oh btw, Woo’s Indianized humour emoticons are the coolest I’ve EVER used. And that includes Facebook. And Whatsapp.)

Woo

So if you’re a young adult, out there looking for a real relationship, Woo might just be your perfect start. If you’re a woman, with the whole suite of security tools from anti-stalking to anti-spam features, this is also one of the safest it’s going to get on a dating app.

Real matches. The real you. A real connection.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

“Prostitution in The Name of An Arranged Marriage.” Deepika’s Story

Below is a heart-rending life story from one of our readers, Deepika. I thank her on behalf of all of you for sharing it with us.

I had an arranged marriage five years ago. We had a nine-month long period of courtship.

Falling in love

It bears mentioning here that through most of my twenties, I’d been in a relationship with my best friend from college.

The relationship was great in every other respect, except that my “boyfriend” and I could not agree on issues of children and our careers.

He expected me to put my career on hold and become the standard IT spouse. I wanted children, he didn’t. No room for negotiations.

Long story short, we broke up months before our wedding. I was heart-broken. I had never considered a future without him. He’d been an integral part of my life since college.

Falling out

I felt as I was missing a limb after we broke up. Did I mention that we belonged to different communities and castes?

It had taken us three years to get my parents’ approval. Yet, here we were, unable to get past the issue of children.

“What kind of man doesn’t want children?” My parents exclaimed in utter bewilderment.

Anyway, we broke up and I moved back to live with my parents. I couldn’t bear living alone; I was completely devastated. I had lost my best friend and not just a boyfriend.

Long story short, I took two years to recover emotionally, and at 29, I was past my shelf life. I created profiles on the matrimonial websites, hoping to meet someone I’d begin to like.

I met men in their 30s who were either looking for a quick fling or men who just wanted to get married. Anyone would do.

After a couple of years of countless dead-ends, I was getting desperate. My clock was ticking loudly and I had always wanted kids.

An arranged marriage?

At the age of 32, I was looking squarely at a childless future. My parents suggested the arranged marriage route.

arranged marriagePhoto by Mr. Seb

I had always been against arranged marriages. I have two aunts who had terrible, abusive arranged marriages. I didn’t want to end up like them. Yet I wanted children, and there wasn’t enough time to build a slow, gradual relationship.

It was out of my desperation that I agreed to meet a prospect. He was extremely well-educated, with a PhD in engineering from a top British university. He was very successful professionally and came from a similar socio-economic background.

Apparently.

After checking for “hygiene” factors, we decided to get married. While I wasn’t attracted to him sexually, I hoped to develop some kind of affection for him over time.

The arranged marriages around me lacked passion. But they seemed to have a time-tested, easy bond of familiarity around them. Much like you and your favourite, worn-out cotton pajamas.

Before marriage, I’d once asked him why he was always on edge, tightly wound up and fiercely on his guard. He’d told me he suffered from social anxiety, that it took him some time to let his guard down. He was shy, he told me. “Give me time,” he said.

Is that what it looks like?

Reality struck the day after our wedding day. The measured, soft-spoken man I had married morphed into a critical, severely controlling, chronically suspicious, angry and hostile stranger.

Nothing I did pleased him. Every action, gesture or word was criticised harshly.

I also discovered that his closeness to his mother and sister bordered on the abnormal.

Our marriage didn’t have two people in it, it had four people. “You’re not married only to me,” he said, “You’re married to my family”. I asked him, “Does it mean that all of us should have sex with each other?” The absurdity of it made no sense.

Every intimate detail of our marriage, including our failure to consummate the marriage, was discussed with his mother and sister.

A bit of friendly motherhood advice

My mother-in-law called my mother and said to her, “Your daughter won’t sleep with my son. Haven’t you taught her the duties of a wife?”

In that family, sex between husband and wife was reduced to an entitlement, a privilege, a right.

Sex was something you did, in darkness, silently, quickly, without affection, without regard for each other, without emotion. Prostitution in the name of marriage.

arranged marriagePhoto by Johan B. Lindega

That was my marriage. An impersonal transaction based on power and privilege. No warmth. No empathy.

No humanity.

A joyless, loveless, humourless meeting of bodies, but not of hearts or minds.

Oh no, all arranged marriages are not like that.

In conclusion

Long story short (OK, not so short). My only advice to young women is: DO NOT marry a man for his education, bank balance or family background. You will wake up every day next to this person.

For two years, I’d wake up next to my ex-husband and want to weep.

I’d married a PhD, a man who made a tidy sum, but who had no empathy, no capacity to feel joy or love. I’d married an emotional void. A repressed man who could feel no emotion but anger.

Compatibility is elusive, but critical to the success of a marriage. That shared laugh, that quick squeeze of the hand, that familiarity, trust and understanding is extremely important.

Be careful who you marry.

It’s the biggest decision of your life.

Are All Arranged Marriages Bad?

I was having the good old love vs arranged marriage debate with a friend a few days back (Yes. Again.) His point was – isn’t dating similar to arranged marriages? A modern arranged marriage is about meeting different people shortlisted by your parents based on certain preset criteria, getting to know them over a period of time and finally selecting one of them. How different is that from inputting certain criteria on a dating website, meeting people based on these and selecting one of them finally?

Not very, I conceded.

But that’s not the image that comes to my mind when I think of arranged marriages. I’m reminded of young girls forced out of jobs and into marriages they weren’t ready for. I’m reminded of young couples forced out of their existing relationships into marriages they never wanted. I’m reminded of incompatible matches made on the basis of castes, religions, gotras and kundlis.

Clearly he and I couldn’t possibly be talking about the same thing even though we both thought we were describing “arranged marriages”. That’s when I realised we need to reclassify marriages.

So what are the different types of arranged marriages?

arranged marriagePhoto by The People Speak!

#1. Guided marriages

In this case a man or a woman willingly allows their parents to look for possible matches for them, at a time when he or she is ready for marriage (not at a point of time chosen unilaterally by the parents). The parents then shortlist a set of possible matches as per criteria jointly decided by the parents and the child (again, not unilaterally dictated by the parents). The child then meets and spends time with the selected people over months/years. They start “dating” the ones they like. Eventually they get married after a year or so of knowing each other, if everything goes as per plan.

A minuscule but increasing proportion of modern, ultra-urban arranged marriages are done this way nowadays. As you can see, this is a win-win solution for everyone. This doesn’t, in any way, sacrifice anyone’s freedom and no one – leave alone me – can possibly have anything against a spontaneous exercise of free will by every individual concerned. I’m all for guided marriages.

#2.  Forced marriages

This, on the other hand, is a decision  on a person’s marriage taken unilaterally by their parents and extended family. Usually it’s the family which decides the timing of the marriage. They select a set of potential matches. The final selection might be made by the guy/girl themselves. But the base criteria for selection are laid out by the parents (including caste, religion etc.).

Sadly, forced marriages often involve coercing a guy/ girl OUT of an EXISTING relationship into an unwanted marriage. It can also involve getting a daughter, or even son, married off at a much earlier life stage than they’re ready for.

Now this, as we all know, is a kind of marriage that doesn’t recognise the concept of individual freedom. By failing to take individual choice into account, this sometimes sacrifices the happiness of the new couple.

wife sex before marriagePhoto by VishalSinghx

Unfortunately, a significant proportion of Indian arranged marriages end up going down the forced route. I’m sure you’ll agree – no rational person in their right mind can support such coercion of innocent individuals into a life they never wanted. Neither do I.

Have you had an arranged marriage? Have you observed one from close quarters? Was it guided or forced? Share the experience with us by leaving a comment. 

Q&A:My Girlfriend is Still Not Over Her Ex’s Death

Q: I have been in a relationship with a girl for the last two months.

The thing is, her ex boyfriend died two years back. Now, I’m willing to handle this. But of late she’s started feeling like all of her feelings died with him, that she can never truly love anyone ever again. I really care for her. What should I do? 

– Anonymous

Should I break upPhoto by Love is the key

A: When a couple breaks up, it’s because something went wrong between them. That itself gives both the people a good reason why it couldn’t work – a starting point for moving on. It might be entirely one-sided, that is – it might be just one of them who fell out of love. But even in that case it at least causes pain to the other person – gives them some reason to not want to go back.

Death, however, is a shocking end to a relationship. It doesn’t let you say your goodbyes. It takes you away from each other when NEITHER of you wanted it. That makes it excruciatingly difficult for the surviving one to feel anything but longing, yearning and pain for the departed one. They miss them forever. There’s no closure for them.

Hence your case is particularly challenging. She’s still reeling from the shock and pain of not having said her goodbyes to her departed boyfriend. Two years is a long time. Since she hasn’t moved on yet, her wounds seem really deep. I think she needs help. Why don’t you help her see a grief counselor and connect her with support groups of people recovering from similar experiences? Given her situation, these are very important steps in her healing process.

At the same time you have to control your emotional involvement with her at this stage. She’s not completely ready for a relationship yet. If you do decide to help her, make sure you can do so without expectations. You should also keep your own options open by continuing to date. And you should be open to her about it. Help her more as a caring friend and because she needs it, rather than because you want commitment from her in return (as I said – she’s not ready for it).

 

Of Cupcakes, Lethargy & That Distance That Grows Longer

You close your eyes. You take a deep breath. You turn your thoughts to cupcakes, the countryside and other good things of life. You wish the real world would magically disappear from in front of your eyes.

Or at least your exam results would.

Or that email full of “feedback” from your boss.

You know the feeling, don’t you? That moment when you keep avoiding reality believing it’s somehow less disastrous if you don’t know it exists?

Me too.

Yeah … The Shameful Silence

This is how it happened. I stopped checking my stats. I stopped logging in to WordPress. I even stopped opening this website altogether, in case I catch a glimpse of the last date I posted! I don’t know how long it has been. Two months? Three months?? Six months???

And Alexa rank? What’s that?

The SilencePhoto by HiCe

Sure, I wanted to post.

Or so I told myself.

I planned to “write more” …

“When I’ve “settled down” in the new job.” (Did I tell you I switched jobs in between? :P)

“When I’m a little less busy”.

“When I’m “feeling like”, ’cause with weeks this crazy, weekends are meant for “relaxing”.”

You see the problem? These were my real challenges bulls**t excuses.

If that sounds familiar, you’re like the 99.999…9% of us “normal” people.

You see, that’s what we do. We like easy. We like escape-routes. We hate looking problems in the eye. We like to hope and dream and fantasize about solutions falling on our heads from somewhere “when the time comes”.  

That Phone Call …

Could you be doing the same? Like … right now? With your career, your new weight-loss program, or your relationship with your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/parents/children?

The DistancePhoto by phantomswife

“I’ll make that call tomorrow. Today I have a lot of work piled up.”

“I will apologize to him/her. Just not now. Some other time.”

“May be we can work through our distance if we try. But I just don’t have the courage to get my hopes high again.”

“I need to tell him … what I feel like, but every time he calls we just talk about how’re-you-how’s-life-what’s-up-at-work. I just don’t have the energy to bring up all that stuff… What’s the problem if we can get along just like this?”

Some relationship issues are deep. The kind of deep that makes you try to avoid them forever.

Doesn’t matter if it’s with your significant other or a parent or a friend or anyone else. Whatever it is, postponing dealing with it won’t make it go away. Distances don’t reduce over time. They only increase. If you’re hoping a really big disaster will bring you together like in the movies – yes it might happen. But if you’re like the 99.99% of us, it won’t.

Make that phone call now. Write that email now.

Yes, it’s not easy. But it’s necessary. 

It was Me

I was there behind the glowing sun.

Wrapped in secret winds,

The unborn future of a dormant seed.

Veiled by vibrant butterfly wings

Perhaps it was me.

Perhaps it was me in the skies

When the clouds swam by.  

In boundless deserts,

My thirst buried in sand –

You never knew.

I was the name of the nameless text,

The untold desire of your desolate heart.

The slave legions in the Emperor’s kingdom – there I was.

You never knew.

I was the fragrance of wild blossoms.

I was captive

In a riot of grass and dewdrops.

You never felt – I was there in the essence of cryptic verses.

You never felt – I was there in the said and the unsaid. 

It was me

This is a loose translation of a Bengali poem “Ami Chhilam”, by Abhijit Debnath, originally published on the Prothom Alo Blog. Translated and published here with permission.

The Tale of Four Hearts (Part 1)

[I won’t waste any more of your time by apologizing for the hideously long break in posting, than I already have by taking it. So just help yourselves to this instalment of a freshly-baked teenage romance.]

They say love at first sight is not real. May be it isn’t. But boy it’s heady.

Have you ever been on LSD for months, or years?

Forget it. That was a joke. And anyway, you wouldn’t know what love at first sight is even if you had.

That’s what Ranjini was to me – a psychedelic disorienting taste of first love.

We were neighbours in our sleepy town of Dhanbad. I used to watch her from my balcony as she made her way to the temple with her mother every Sunday. One day I smiled at her. She smiled back. Before I knew it we were scrapping each other away on Orkut (Facebook wasn’t around since beginning of time, remember?). That was back in my Higher Secondary days.

Good times don’t last forever. For us it ended as college life approached. It was time for me to go join my engineering course somewhere in the Southern part of the country, and for her to join hers in the East. I panicked. I proposed her.

Four HeartsPhoto by Our Enchanted Garden

As I look back today, everything that happened thereafter looks all normal, all too predictable. She was instantly the quintessential Indian good girl – “haven’t thought about that thing ever”, but would love to remain the best of friends. What choice does a hapless, smitten teenager have but to agree with the enthusiasm of a puppy at the first sight of its master after a month of separation?

I arrived in college. So did Rahul – the only other chap from good old Dhanbad – and was made to share his dorm room with three local students. He came running to me. He needed a quiet room for studying. Would I not help him out, coming from Dhanbad and all? If I didn’t let him share my room he’d have to go back to Dhanbad, and God knows whether he’d want live at all after that. I saw tears.

I melted. I went to great lengths to ensure he was allowed to shift to my room. Thereafter we became best friends.

Enter Sheetal – meek and shy, fresh out of a girls’ school and mortally afraid of boys. She just wouldn’t talk to a boy. What if he tried to make passes at her?? :D

Rahul fancied Sheetal inside his heart. But he knew she wouldn’t talk to him. So he came up with a cunning plan. He made her tie a Rakhi to him. (In most Indian cultures Rakhi is a symbol of sibling-hood.) For good measure, he also told her he was madly in love with some other girl from his school. I was aghast when I came to know what Rahul was up to. It was just wrong. He was just … fake. I felt I couldn’t take it.

When he finally proposed Sheetal confessing the whole story, she was as disgusted as I was. Rahul’s excuse – “You won’t talk to me unless I was your Rakhi brother. Or some sort of a brother. :D” When Sheetal turned her back on him he came up with a new plan.

When Sheetal was out with her friends in a local market, Rahul drove up to her in a motorbike – tears running down his cheeks – and literally begged her to come to a quiet place with him and talk things out. The entire locality was swelling with glee as they watched “real-life drama” unfold in front of them. It was too much for Sheetal. She hopped on to his motorbike without a word.

I would never forget that evening. When the door to my room burst open, I was playing Prince of Persia at my desk. Rahul’s terrified face was just about enough to jolt me back to reality. He and Sheetal had been to a park known as the “secret haven for lovers.” Soon a gang of local louts surrounded them, making rude remarks and threatening. Rahul somehow managed to send Sheetal back. Later the goons roughed him up and wouldn’t let him go until he gave them some money. While I felt sorry for him, I couldn’t but loathe him for leading Sheetal into this. Three weeks later Sheetal and Rahul were dating. Don’t ask me how or why.

Four heartsPhoto by oline221296

In the meantime I was happily chatting away with Ranja. Every phone/chat conversation with my girl would light up my day/night. But for Rahul it was the exact opposite. The more he’d talk to Sheetal the more negative, irritable, stressed he’d become. This puzzled me, but I let it go. Through Rahul I got to know Sheetal. We’d share funny texts. She’d tease me regarding Ranja. It was friendly and warm.

But good times don’t last forever. I started feeling ignored by Ranja. She almost stopped replying to my messages. I’ve never felt as hurt in my life as I did when she didn’t even open a beautiful slideshow of photos I’d created just for her. I lost control. I panicked. I proposed her on Valentine’s Day through a wall post on Facebook. I knew she might not have liked the gesture. I knew she might get angry for me taking it out in the open. But what I couldn’t anticipate in my blackest nightmare was to be ignored completely. A cold refusal to acknowledge the whole thing.

Something snapped. I did something which even today I don’t believe I’ve done. I called her up told her she had a black heart. I’ll never forgive myself for that moment of madness. Needless to say, we lost touch after this. There was no way Ranja was going to take c**p from me. In hindsight I feel she might have fallen for someone else at this point, but … anyway.

I entered the first phase of depression of my life. The numbness was a real thing. It really was. I’d open my eyes in the morning and find it impossible to leave my bed. Rahul would almost drag me out. He’d force me to eat. He’d coarse, cajole, scold me into attending classes. I’d never be able to repay him for what he did for me over this period. In spite of what happened thereafter.  

[To be continued…]

Q&A: My Live-in Boyfriend Goes Out with Another Girl (Part 2)

[This is a response to a Q&A query. Please read the original question here.]

Sarah, are you or are you not Jake’s girlfriend as of today?

The main issue here is that none of you have a clear answer to that question at the moment. You’re both confused.

Jake breaks up with you. He stops having sex with you to impress this point upon you. And then he has dreams about you cheating on him and drinking again. If he’s truly let go of you, why does he care? If he’s truly let go of you, why does he need to tell you that Sally is only a friend and not a date?

On the other hand you sometimes feel it’s over. You feel you’re living with him just because you have nowhere else to do. Then again you feel helpless about not being able to make him believe that you’d never drink again. And you feel uncontrollable pangs of jealousy for his new “friend” Sally. Why Sarah?

Live in boyfriend cheatingPhoto by romaaaaaa

This brings me to the question of the mysterious circumstances of the “break-up” itself. Your boyfriend of three years broke up with you because you went out and got drunk one evening. One evening in three whole years. Really? I’m sorry Sarah, but let me tell you – that wasn’t the reason Jake tried to end this relationship, it was the trigger. Things have been there on Jake’s mind for a long time, nudging him, pushing him to reconsider your relationship with him. I suspect there isn’t one but several reasons he’s been feeling this way. The incident of your night out in the town was just the trigger which excited him into taking action.

It’s these real issues which you need to find out Sarah.

What are these issues?

Why didn’t he discuss these with you?

Can you do anything to allay his worries about whatever the issues are?

Do you want to?

These are questions the answers to which both of you will have to work out together. Have an open discussion with Jake. Ask him directly about what is it that’s bothering him. And most importantly – emphasize that you want to make this relationship work and you’re ready to put in all necessary efforts for it. At this point there’s a significant communication gap between the two of you which needs to be bridged if this relationship has to move any further.

The second issue is that of your total emotional dependence on Jake. Yes Sarah. You’re overly emotionally dependent on him. His approval means the world to you. Him going out with another girl – who he doesn’t even call a date – makes you completely out of control. You’re still extremely guilty about the drinking incident. And you feel desperate because you have nowhere else to go.

That’s not the way any healthy relationship can work, Sarah. Every relationship requires some space. Emotional intimacy is great. But too much emotional dependence on your partner makes them feel suffocated. It makes you completely out of control. And so it gives your partner two reasons to start feeling a bit wary about you.

Hence you need to find yourself. You need to find your strength. That’s your Priority #1 in life at this point. And for that you need to be self-sufficient. Yes, it’s a long-term goal, it can’t be achieved tomorrow. But what stops you from spending every waking hour in pursuit of that goal? Focus on your job search. Put that as the #1 item on your daily to-do list, because it is. No matter whether this relationship survives or not. Jake is right – even if it does survive, some level of material independence on your part will take certain pressures off both of you (e.g. guilt on your part for feeling like using him, consequent lack of trust on his).

Also, as a direct consequence of your excessive emotional dependence your boyfriend, you’re letting him take you for granted. At the moment you’ve put him at the centre of your life. That’s not where he belongs, Sarah. There’s one, and only person who belongs there – you. If you’ve been regular around here you’d know that your partner is a very important part of your life, but not your life itself. One more important principle that’s relevant to you is – you can’t change others, you can only change your own response to them.

Sally, for example. You’re letting her affect you so much more than you should, Sarah. You’re way too worked up about her role in Jake’s life. The only message that this conveys to Jake is, “I’m desperate and unable to function without you.” Jake may not be conscious of it, but this message signals to his brain that you’re “safe”, that you can be taken for granted. Which makes his brain think it’s OK to not reply to your message while he’s out with Sally at 1 in the morning.

This is a never-ending vicious cycle Sarah. The only way – if at all – of making Jake take you more seriously is to let go. When he comes back tonight don’t even wake up. Tomorrow morning ask him pleasantly how his evening went. Never ask him about Sally. Never make angry comments about Sally. If she ever comes up in conversation, be warm and positive. You’ve told Jake you’d be “mad” at him for having a night out in the town with Sally. But ironically, your message to Jake would be a lot clearer if you don’t get mad, than if you do. If you’re all cool about the whole Sally thing, Jake will slowly realize you probably need him less than you once did. Trust me – if Jake still loves you, that can be just the wake-up call he’s needed for so long.

All the best Sarah. At Love in India we’re all there by your side. :)

Q&A: My Live-in Boyfriend Goes Out with Another Girl (Part 1)

I’m 18 year old, American, female, living together with my boyfriend of 3 years. He’s 20. Let’s call him Jake. His dad had problems with alcohol abuse when he was a child. As a result he’s promised himself never to drink in his life and expects the same from me. I’m not a great fan of alcohol either and had no problem giving him my word on this. However one evening about a month back I got drunk with a couple of friends. He was mad and broke up with me.

Now Jake is an extremely responsible, smart, good guy and I’m completely dependent on him for all my practical needs. Like a place to live, for example. I had a job earlier which I left for further education. I’ve now completed my degree and I’m looking for a new job. Ironically, I don’t even have a car which I can drive to my interviews, apart from the one his family has lent me. Even though he’s “broken up” with me, he’s promised he’d never abandon me, so I can continue to live in his house and use his resources as long as I don’t have other options.

Q&A Live in Boyfriend CheatingPhoto by davemmett

It’s emotionally very stressful for me to continue to live with him, with his family thinking we’re together, when he’s totally stopped hugging me or showing any kind of affection. I was used to a lot of hugging and cuddling. Nowadays he just comes home and sleeps and tells me to make plans with my friends in the weekend. And there’s no sexual intimacy between us anymore. He says he can’t get intimate with me as he’s “broken up” with me.

Since that fateful evening out in the town it has been an uphill task trying to convince him that he can trust me again. He’s started getting upset about me visiting even my family and friends. He says whenever I leave the house he feels stressed and worried about what I might do when I’m out alone. He says he feels betrayed, he feels I don’t value our relationship. Apparently he keeps having dreams about me getting drunk and cheating on him. It breaks my heart when he says he can never think of me in the same way again. I haven’t been able to make him understand how I genuinely regret whatever I did and can’t imagine doing it again.

Jake has suggested I take a break, go live with my mum for a few weeks and see if we can work things out. But my mum is part of the problem. Right after my parents’ divorce she started drinking a lot, had a lot of boyfriends over to our place and wasn’t really a great parent. Let’s just stay going back there, even for a few weeks, is not an option for me. Frankly, she doesn’t want me there either.

Recently Jake has started being all friendly with a girl who he had a sexual relationship with earlier. Let’s call her Sally. Jake says she’s just a friend. But sometimes they go out together to eat at night and Jake doesn’t come back till well past midnight. That crushes me every time. I yell at him when he comes back. But the pain doesn’t go away. Even as I write this, at 12:50 AM in the night, he’s still out with Sally and isn’t replying to my messages. It’s such a horrible humiliation, but I’m stuck and don’t know what to do. I don’t even know how I should react when he comes home tonight.

I’m confused, hurt and stressed. Please help me. 

-Sarah,

San Fransisco

20 Most Common Relationship Killers

Relationships start and end every day for a number of reasons. A break-up can happen for something as trivial as “Why didn’t you call me for such a long time?” to something as serious as cheating.

But are there any common patterns? Any red flags which can put a relationship at risk?

Here’s my attempt at identifying some of the most common ones.

Relationship-killer #1. Lack of Space

Expecting your partner to share everything under the Sun with you is a deadly but very common relationship mistake. Assuming you should pursue every activity together – from watching a football match on TV to shopping for a red dress of a particular shade, a particular length and a particular design is a recipe for frustration and failure.

Relationship-killer #2. Trying to change others

As I’ve repeated in many occasions, one of the basic rules of life is – you can’t change others, you can only adapt and change yourself, if you want. Trying to change your partner through force (cruel words, malicious behaviour … the usual) would lead to nothing but frustration and exhaustion for both of you, endangering your love.

relationship killersPhoto by Love is the key

Relationship-killer #3. Trying to change yourself

Trying to change yourself: At the opposite end of the same spectrum lies the tendency to change yourself completely to suit someone else.

I’ve been a free-spirited tomboyish daredevil all my life but overnight I’d become a fulka-making Ghar ki Devi fit to be featured in the next K-megaserial if my boyfriend wants me to.

Relationship-killer #4. Taking them for granted

There are some relationships in which one partner is the perpetual giver and the other is the perpetual receiver. The receiving partner often expects the moon and the stars from the other and treats them badly in return. While this kind of relationships can look like paradise for the luckier partner, they’re not. Because they don’t last. Sooner or later the dissatisfaction piling up inside the meeker partner is bound to come out in the open and end the relationship.

Relationship-killer #5. Lying

Lying within a relationship is an act of serious breach of trust, irrespective of how trivial the lie may be. If one or both partners feel the need to lie to each other, the relationship becomes pointless.

Relationship-killer #6. Finances

Are we going to pool all our earnings in a joint account?

Or we’re going to divide responsibilities for expenses?

Are we going to treat everything as family expense or we’d have some specific expenses attributed to individuals?

Failure to set clear rules about handling of finances before marriage is a potential risk to relationship stability post-marriage.

Relationship-killer #7. Forced commonalities

You can spend a whole day with Tolstoy and Maggi, but he wouldn’t touch a book if his life depended on it. He’s never listened to anything but instrumental classical, but that stuff plain puts you off to sleep. Forcing each other to change their tastes so that you can “share everything” is a firm step in the wrong direction.  

That’s the kind of blunder I’m suggesting you avoid, ’cause it’ll break you so bad that it’ll eventually break your prized relationship.

Relationship-killer #8. Self-isolation

Giving up your other relationships for them: “My girlfriend doesn’t like my best friend from school, so why not stop seeing him altogether? After all, she’s more important than him.”

Again, a recipe for disaster. Every important relationship of our lives provides us vital emotional connection and support. One is not a replacement for any other. In fact if you cut off any of your previous relationships for your partner, it would eventually make your relationship suffocating and speed up its demise.

Relationship-killer #9. Unclear needs

 “I thought I wanted intelligence, verve and humour in a man, but now I realize a willingness to share the household chores equally is a much more important criterion for me.”

In relationships, such rude awakenings are not rare at all. The more people we meet and get close to, the more we learn about our own needs from a relationship. While it’s never possible to know all of your needs clearly before getting into a relationship, it’s important to at least have some basic criteria clearly defined.

relationship killersPhoto by meechellllle

Relationship-killer #10. Unclear life goals

You want to live and work in five continents whereas your partner would like to settle down cosily in their quaint hometown as soon as possible. The glitch is, you’re already engaged.

Before you get into a serious commitment, each of you must have some basic idea of you want from life and how much of it you’re ready to sacrifice for the relationship. Having your own limits clearly defined is essential for a healthy relationship.

Relationship-killer #11. Forced parents

No one is “like” anyone else in this world. That’s what makes each of us unique. Besides your relationship with your parent is one of the most special relationships of your life. A parent can never be replaceable. Expecting someone else to be like them is unrealistic and unfair. Instead look upon them as friendly acquaintances who deserve respectful treatment from you.

Relationship-killer #12. Parental interference

Some people, especially in India, are very close to their parents. That’s great, as long as that relationship doesn’t cause problems in other relationships. You’ve all heard of the proverbial mollycoddled Indian boy who refuses to leave the “shade of his mother’s aanchal” even after he’s married. Not only in case of marriage, but also in case of relationships, too much interference from parents of either side can be a deal-breaker.

Relationship-killer #13. Marrying at the wrong time

Nothing kills a relationship faster than converting it into a lifelong commitment before either side is ready. (You don’t want your love to die as soon as your marriage starts, right?) There’s no shortcut to knowing a person – the only way to know if someone is right for you is to spend at least two to three years with them. In order to minimize risk, take the time to assess your mutual compatibility & ask the right questions before taking a decision.

Relationship-killer #14. Divergent values

If you read Kafka and she reads Sidney Sheldon you can still have a very successful relationship by giving each other necessary space. However if your senses of right and wrong are divergent, if you hold conflicting beliefs and values, that’s surely not good news for your relationship. These differences may not always be apparent immediately. Again, spending a lot time together before committing is paramount when it comes to identifying such differences.

Relationship-killer #15. No social life

“We have each other, so it doesn’t matter that we don’t have any other friends.”

While at an initial stage of a relationship it might feel that way, this is a wrong approach to a relationship. It’s important to cultivate common friendships and together you must create an active social life. Being together while also enjoying others’ company will save your relationship from becoming claustrophobic. It will also give it a new dimension.

relationship killersPhoto by Heaven`s Gate (John)

Relationship-killer #16. Obsession

Some people tend to put their partners at the very centre of their lives. They think and act as if their life revolves around their partner.

“I’d leave this job to be in the same city as my partner, even though this is my dream job.”

“I’ve given up my hobbies so that I can find more time to spend with my partner.”

Always remember, your partner is an important part of your life, not your life itself. If you make them your life, you’re in for a nasty disappointment, sooner or later.

Relationship-killer #17. Looking for “perfect”

I know a girl who’s had three different relationships over the past one year. No wonder she’s still single.

No one is perfect. No one will be an “ideal” partner for you. A perfect relationship is not made by two people who’re perfect for each other, but by two people who’re willing to make the relationship perfect in spite of their imperfections. Having a rough list of some basic criteria and then letting your heart take the lead once those are satisfied is a workable strategy for finding lasting love. If you look for perfect, you’re likely to remain disappointed.

Relationship-killer #18. Long distance without deadline

If you’re going long distance, it’s imperative to set a timeline by when you’re going to be at the same place again. Many a potentially successful relationship breaks up because of the sad, circumstantial reason of distance. Being long distance indefinitely brings feelings of emotional distance, uncertainty and a possible eventual separation.

Relationship-killer #19. Jealousy

This one is an all-too-common silent killer. Unfounded suspicion, jealousy and over-possessiveness can very quickly suffocate and otherwise perfectly healthy relationship. If you find yourself in the throes of unexplained blind jealousy, the key is to apply reason and keep your suspicious urges at bay.

Relationship-killer #20. Cheating

The last and the most common relationship-killer is cheating. When it rocks the foundations of the relationship it takes trust away. It takes meticulous work on the part of both partners to make the relationship work again.

Are you experiencing any of these red flags in your relationship?

Have you seen people around you break up because of one or more of these 20 relationship-killers?

Share your experience by leaving a comment.