In India, being single in your mid-thirties and forties is tough. From trying to find someone in roughly the same age bracket, getting into a relationship with them, dealing with ghosting and often not being able to establish clarity of intent — whether one wants to be in a serious relationship or not — the entire process is challenging. The experience leaves people disheartened and sometimes also with corroded self-esteem.
R, a 38-year-old Bangalore-based client is single — she’s been looking for a partner for the last six years. Besides the introductions she gets from friends and family, R is using dating and matrimony apps, too. Eight months ago, she had her very own “Tinder Swindler” experience; The Tinder Swindleris a Britishtrue crime documentary film released on Netflix in February and tells the story of the Israeli conmanSimon Leviev(born Shimon Hayut) who used the dating application tinder to connect with individuals who he then emotionally manipulated into financially supporting his lavish lifestyle.
R had connected with a charming and professionally successful man from Mumbai on a dating app. The man – let’s call him V – claimed to be heading the Southeast Asia concern of his company’s business. R checked this claim out through a quick LinkedIn search. V seemed to be on the road a lot. They spoke every day but R was still waiting to meet him. During one of V’s so-called work trips, he told her he was having some issues with his bank accounts. He requested R to transfer four lakh rupees to an international charge card. R agreed to loan him this money, which V told her he would return in a week.
Their calls continued daily as they had, and R didn’t suspect a thing. Four days into that first loan, V asked for an additional loan of two lakh rupees. R transferred this amount too, while they were still on the call – it was just a few clicks after all.
Ten days after she loaned him both tranches of money, R brought up the subject and asked V when he intends to pay her back. He apologised profusely for the tardiness and promised to transfer the amount as soon as they hung up that call.
That was the last conversation they’d had. R logged into her account five times that night. No transfer was made into her account. In her heart, she knew where this was headed. It got confirmed the next day when there was no money transferred and no usual call from V. R tried his number, and it was switched off.
In the last four years, this was the fifth such unpleasant dating experience for R. The other four were emotionally draining, like the married man who said he was on the verge of a divorce which never happened or the younger man she dated who eventually told her that his family will never accept their four-year age difference.
But this last experience with V was the worst of them all as it hit her financially as well. The bit that she is still trying to reconcile with is that she had become so desperate to be in a relationship that she allowed herself to be exploited this way. A successful professional and self-professed woman of the world, R was blind-sided by her vulnerability.
She is not alone though, both women and men in this age cohort tend to have experiences which leave them disheartened in their search for a loving partner. Yet, R and most single people don’t give up.
Ashwini is an acquaintance who happens to be my Facebook friend. A week ago she shared a deeply personal note about her journey as a single woman trying to find love and companionship. Here is a relevant quote from her post “I have everything. To top it all, I even have happiness. I thought it would be easy enough to give up on that one last pebble that I would have liked in my jar. That one evasive pebble called a relationship. Turns out that it’s bloody hard. At 44 I can say with some confidence that I’ve loved and lost a few times. And I agree with the bard when he says that it is better this way than to never have loved at all. Because we all know how wonderful it is to love and be loved, and as an experience, it’s probably the most valuable one in life. Knowing how beautiful it is and now how elusive it also is, I have learned to live without it. But that never stopped Hope from poking her head out now and then. Recently though, I made a promise to give even Hope up. And that by far is the toughest challenge.”
Moved by her post, I called Ashwini immediately. Over the last five years, she has dated men who have ghosted her, have had a relationship with her on the rebound and some have misled her by saying they want to be in a committed relationship but backed out eventually.
As our conversation came to an end, I asked Ashwini, if someone were to introduce her to a man now, if she would be open to meeting him. Her answer was a solid yes.
Both R and Ashwini believe the effort to find love is more like an emotional roller coaster. The highs and lows are inevitable. So,what keeps them going despite them wanting to give up? It’s the age-old need for love and companionship, they both say. It’s wonderful to love and be loved, Ashwini noted, and as an experience, being loved is probably the most valuable one in life.
That being said, one also needs to be vigilant, especially in the initial days of getting to know someone. If you’re connecting with someone on a dating app, I recommend that you insist on meeting that person in real life as soon as possible. What’s worked well for my clients is purging a chat with someone by day three, however exciting it may seem, if the person is not willing to meet in person. The issue of meeting married people on the apps is also a common concern, the approach that works here is to always pick a time to connect or meet that is generally considered as family time — for example, weekend afternoons or evenings. If the person in question reschedules repeatedly, you will be able to see the pattern for yourself.
Keep any financial transactions out of the equation till things have gotten serious enough that you have met each other’s families and circle of friends. The important thing is to rein in yourself when you connect with someone who seems perfect, and not to give them your all — emotionally and financially — till they have proven and established trustworthiness, whether by being present over an extended period of time or not making unreasonable demands of you. Once you are armed with such checks and measures, you will feel more confident in the decisions you make and will look forward to continuing your search for the right person for you.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org