When Shivram Iyer (name changed) showed his evident interest in the newly-appointed intern Anushka Kapoor (name changed) in office, Ms Kapoor was thrilled. She waited for him to make the first move. Finally, in the last week of December, he asked her out to a New Year’s party. She agreed and it was a great party, they chatted non-stop and it was early morning when he dropped her home. Kapoor started falling in love, without realising it, and since Iyer was sweet to her at work, and helped her out whenever she asked for help, she fell deeper. But Iyer didn’t ask her out again. Kapoor kept wondering when he would make the next move. But it just didn’t happen and she was left heartbroken.
Later, when she asked around, she got to know that Iyer was already in a serious relationship and had asked her out for the New Year’s party, only because his partner was out of the country during Christmas and New Year. Luckily for Kapoor, her internship ended in a couple of months, and she moved on.
Casual dating is a sign of our times. But for those who do not understand the rules, it can be a traumatic experience. Dr Shefali Batra, Psychiatrist, Cognitive Therapist and Co-Founder of InnerHour, Mumbai, explains, “All dates aren’t about friendships and all dates won’t result in marriage either.” In Kapoor’s case, she mistook attraction for seriousness and assumed the ‘date’ was a precursor to a lasting relationship.“Dates arouse that possibility and initiate the opportunity for a love that could be transient yet instrumental in self-change; or better still, an affection that could lead to commitment and permanency. We take that risk on unknown paths of intimacy because they may just lead us to light in unexpected places,” says Batra.
DATING AND MARRIAGE
The rules in the Indian context are different since we are a traditional society even though the urban youth have learnt new behaviours, adapted from the West. H’vovi Bhagwagar, Psychotherapist and Clinical Psychologist observes, “India had very few options for casual dating unlike the West. Meeting in college and through common friends were the only sources of dating.” In India, unfortunately, dating is always perceived as a means to marriage. “Dating meant ‘arrangements’ by well-meaning aunties at family weddings who would try to matchmake ‘compatible’ boys and girls. Of course, all of this was done with the ‘M’ word very much on the horizon.” But today, casual dating has become a lot easier with Apps such as tinder, match.com and meetme. The difference is that casual dating is where guys and girls having common interests meet up to date, get to know each other and hang out. Sex is often on the menu. Marriage is not.
Young men and women going out into the world need to learn the rules of relationships. Priorities must be set. For instance, if you are entering college, the purpose is to study, get a degree, become a professional. Even if there are casual encounters, they need to be part of one’s life, not the goal. Similarly, once one takes up a job, there will be many attractions, encounters and dates, but marriage may not be the end result. Remember that break-ups can be traumatising and painful and result in depression, anxiety or suicidal tendencies.
Once the rules are clear in one’s mind, it’s easier to enjoy dating. “We learn a lot about ourselves and other people; our likes and dislikes, apprehensions, fall outs, communication deficits and in many ways, our own reactions to rejections and disagreements. And all of this happens without any strings or commitment,” says Batra.
Casual dating is a slightly less serious thing compared to meeting on a matrimonial site. “Both sides are aware that the purpose is to have a partner to go out with for coffee and movies, and sex may be an added benefit. But a long-term relationship isn’t a priority,” cautions Bhagwagar.
Truly, one cannot predict one’s own emotions; leave alone the emotions of another. Thus what starts off as casual dating could become serious for one or both partners. If this happens for both, there’s little reason to worry; however, if it is a one-sided case, there could be pain and suffering. “Honesty and openness in communication is the key to success in any interpersonal relationship. There is no guarantee of permanent happiness or contentment in relationships but heartbreaks are imminent when one partner gets serious and the other isn’t. It is best for both partners to keep reiterating their intentions in the relationship and watch out for emotional attachment in case it is setting in. Emotions are better managed earlier on in the relationship before they get out of hand,” advises Batra.
It also depends on the maturity of the couple, says Bhagwagar. In case it’s an older couple, they can give time to each other in case they want to nurture the relationship. “The best thing would be to speak up upfront about it. Keeping feelings hidden is never a good idea. If the partner rejects the proposal or asks for more time, one can get closure or move on.”
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS
Casual dating can be a huge advantage for those looking for a partner at a later stage in life. “In case a person is divorced or a widow/widower, casual dating is the best way to ‘check’ out a future partner. Thanks to casual dating sites, a man or woman can enjoy getting to know people from the opposite sex without the pressure of making a commitment,” says Bhagwagar. The best age to date casually is when one can take responsibility for one’s actions and their outcomes. “There are always different priorities at different ages.Hence, dating at a later age when one is emotionally mature is more acceptable,” advises Batra.