Are single people still interested in getting married? As a relationship coach I am often asked this question by those already married and by parents of children of marriageable age. What confuses them is statements like ‘I don’t want to get married right now’ or ‘I haven’t found the right person’. The delay in pushing the decision to get married, makes them wonder if they want to get married at all.
There is no doubt that there’s been a change in the way we approach marriage over the past few decades. The right age for getting married was early twenties, which has been pushed to late twenties and thirties. The fact that urban Indians are seeking autonomy in choosing their partner is also an accepted change in urban India. There was a time when inter-caste marriages were rare; but even that is slowly gaining acceptance in India.
Two weeks ago, K a Tamilian got married to V a Bengali. K has been my client since June 2020. When she approached me at 31, this was her goal: to get married. I coached her through the entire arc of achieving this goal, starting with helping her navigate dating and matrimony apps. We jointly analysed her initial dates and continued our sessions when she met V and decided to get serious with him. We discussed her choice to move and live in with V. Finally, I helped her through meeting of parents and ultimately making the decision to marry V.
The transition from living in together to marriage was a difficult one for K. Even though her goal was to eventually get married. K and V had been living together for a year. Both set of parents were aware that they were in a live-in relationship. Initially K’s parents often asked her if they will get married. She handled it gracefully, with confidence and set boundaries by stating that she will let them know if and when they decide about the future of V’s and her relationship. Her discussion about marriage with her partner V, was a short one. V was ambivalent. He was sure he wanted to be with K, marriage or no marriage. He left it up to K. Her biggest concern was about what might change with the ceremony. Would they love each other more? Or less? Would a piece of paper offer more security? And does she need that kind of security? K believes if one checks out of a relationship emotionally, the relationship is essentially over. The legal security offered by getting married is meaningless for her.
She was largely unaffected by the pressure from society or either set of parents to get married. It was however, the fact that both K and V want children, that tilted the scales towards marriage for her. Our society is still decades behind in accepting children out of wedlock, K says.
K’s journey brings to light that people are not blindly adhering to the old framework of society of getting married once you are financially settled (hopefully by the time you are 25 years old); followed by having children soon after. They want to get married for the right reasons. And those reasons are also defined by each of their priorities as individuals. It could be for love, companionship, financial stability or having children like it was for K.
This is reflected in our society when you look at the trend setting celebrities in the film, sports and the business worlds. In the last decade quite a few of these popular figures have gotten married; Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli; Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh; Sania Mirza, Shoaib Malik; Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap. The hugely popular Shark Tank India’s sharks are all married entrepreneurs. The narrative it sets is that you can have it all: a career, your individuality, and marriage.
The answer to the question ‘are single people still interested in getting married’ is a resounding yes. They just want to do it their way. The construct of marriage is changing to adapt to a more progressive approach, which ties in with the overarching goal of urban Indians; to lead a fulfilled life. Together, couples are redefining the rules and framework of their marriage, to accommodate their ambitions, aspirations and personality types. In my opinion this collaborative approach is fantastic. For now marriage as an institution still holds strong, and this time, perhaps for the right reasons.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org