In the midst of an intense conversation about finding a suitable partner, Kritika Ayya, 29, pipes in with a suggestion. “We should check matrimony apps.” Not for “marriage marriage” but to find someone who is committed and willing to have a long-term relationship. The girls in the room agree on ‘no more just hookups’. Most of them have been on dating apps for about five to six years. But today, the conversation has steered away from dating apps. One of their friends, London-based Vinita S, 30, recently got married to an advocate from London. The two had connected on a matrimony app late last year. “They went on dates,” Ayya says, “But we knew that they would eventually marry.”
Considering the constant swiping, endless ‘getting-to-know’ conversations, and disappointing fizzles of potential matches on dating apps, have young people started looking at matrimonial apps and websites in the hope of finding commitment? Mumbai-based dating coach Pratik Jain has reasons to think so. But those reasons have less to do with matrimony apps and more to do with dating fatigue. “The most common complaint I hear is a lack of quality people on (dating) apps,” he says.
In Jain's opinion, dating apps in India have a skewed ratio, with 67 per cent of the users being men. It’s not a level playing field. “There’s a great degree of jadedness with regards to dating apps because rarely does one find the right partner. Matrimonial sites, on the other hand, bring certainty about the other person’s intentions,” he says.
Over emails, Vinita says that most of the men, who reached out to her on a dating app, either wanted something casual or would ghost her after a date or two. When her mother suggested creating a profile on a matrimonial app, she hesitated. “Did I want the ‘family meet family’ kind of situation?” she asked herself. “But after being on dating apps, going to mixers, and going on goodness knows how many first dates, I felt I needed some stability in my life. Funnily enough, it worked,” she adds.
Ayya mentions that she has asked her parents to look for someone through a matrimonial app. “When I turn 30, which is next month, I am going to upload my profile on a niche matrimony app suggested by my mother. Right now, this seems to be a better way to find a suitable relationship.”
Today, profiles on matrimonial sites and apps are very often created by the prospectives themselves. Coach Suchetaa (she prefers going by her first name) from Bengaluru believes it is a trend. “Nowadays, youngsters are handling their accounts on their own instead of their parents,” she said. “This is a shift from the past.”
What has made it so difficult to find a meaningful relationship? Two reasons, Coach Suchetaa points out. One, the expectations are too high. “Young people, have high expectations,” she says. “Not only in terms of looks and wealth but also expectations in terms of behaviour. They want someone who makes them feel special with grand gestures. The quality of dates, the kind of vacations, the celebrations of birthdays – all of these need to be off the charts.” The second reason is the age at which one gets into relationships. “When a young adult in early 20s has already experienced a serious breakup, the tendency is to get back on the apps without going through the process of healing. They carry emotional baggage that’s sure to set them up to more breakups and toxicity,” she said.
So, wherein lies the difference between dating and matrimony apps? Shalini Singh, founder andwemet—a service for single Indians over 25 years of age looking for a long-term relationship in India or overseas—has observed that both apps perform the same function but their marketing strategies differ. “Due to the way it's sold, marriage is viewed as a permanent commitment and dating as something temporary. I believe that the term ‘marriage’ should be abandoned in favour of matchmaking, as single people may be interested in long-term relationships in which domestic partnership or companionship may be more desirable than marriage," she says.
That could be the key difference between those looking at matrimony services, say a decade ago, to those who are turning to the matrimony apps now. D.S., a 35-year-old Mumbai-based stock broker, describes himself as progressive and an atheist. After being on dating apps for years, and engaging in several casual relationships, he experienced burnout. “What started as excitement to meet new people turned into a drill. I wanted to move beyond dating but didn’t want to walk into marriage immediately," he says.
D.S. decided to create a profile to upload on a matrimonial app. “I was appalled by the emphasis on caste and community on most apps,” he comments . “Do we still do this?” Still, willing to give it a try, D.S. created a profile “refreshingly different from the rest in terms of value systems”. Over the past two years, he has had interested queries, often by the parents of the girl. “Somehow, I felt more ready meeting the parents this time around than I was ten years back,” he laughs.
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He is now in a committed relationship. “Our six-month relationship progressed from friendship, dating and now to, hopefully, a long-term relationship. We openly talk about marriage plans, something I never did when I was on dating apps.”
Jayanthi Madhukar is a Bengaluru-based writer.