Two decades into the 21st century, technology has shrunk the world, forced new kinds of evolution, and altered almost all our relationships.
For couples, thanks in large part to dating apps and social media, there are now scores of relationship statuses to choose from — ranging from the vague “situationship” to the loud-and-clear “polyamorous” and the rather gloaty “everythingship”.
This wasn’t the case until about a generation ago. Before Facebook, people were either single, dating, engaged or married. Over the last two years, through coaching sessions and deep conversations with over 10,000 singles and couples, I’ve tried to track how these labels have changed for the urban Indian. Here then are some of today’s most common romantic relationship types.
Marriage: This remains the goal for most people looking for or in a relationship. I think that’s great — commitment, family, fidelity are all good things in my book — as long as it’s not done to check a box off. Marrying for the right reasons is really important if you want the relationship to succeed.
Living together: This is an increasingly popular choice, often in the lead-up to wedding plans. Even the Supreme Court ruled for it in 2005, recognising the legitimacy of the live-in relationship in India. As with any relationship, trust, love, confidence and communication can make this kind last for life. But expect some awkwardness from time to time — at work gatherings, among new neighbours. There is still such a compulsion for marriage in our society that many live-in couples find it easier to just say they’ve tied the knot.
Exclusive: Here, two people who enjoy each other’s company decide to concentrate on their relationship to the exclusion of all others. If they decide they’re compatible in enough ways, they usually graduate to the boyfriend/girlfriend tag.
Girlfriend / Boyfriend: The initial happy burst of being in a committed relationship is expressed through these tags. The couple wants the world to know they’re together. The goal, however, may or may not be marriage. This is often a trial and learning stage, and can be invaluable for young people looking to learn what it takes to make a relationship work. It’s at this stage that you usually learn it’s not all Insta posts and #sunsetviews.
Non-exclusive: Dating multiple people at the same time was rather frowned upon before this generation. Now, it’s often an unspoken given. It is exclusivity that must be stated in young urban India.
The synthetic relationship: This is a committed relationship with someone you’ve never met, where all interaction is conducted virtually. It has become increasingly common in the pandemic, with hook-ups more or less off the table. Synthetic relationshiops tend to feel easy, undemanding — sort of like the videogame versions of reality. It’s important to remember that you cannot really be in a romantic relationship with someone you’ve never met. And I’m afraid I do believe it is neither wise nor safe to think you can.
Complicated: These are some of the hardest relationships to be in, or get out of. It’s that on-again-off-again, unable to take a call, not sure if they’re the one bond that you can neither confirm nor deny. There’s plenty of back-and-forth, a lot of talking. It can all get emotionally exhausting and develop into a vicious circle. It needs to be broken, one way or another. If you really can’t commit, move on.
It’s important to remember that no matter how your relationship started, it can make its way to any of the above stages that you prefer. Just keep it moving forward, rather than backward, and aim for a lasting, loving commitment. It’s what makes the world go round!
(Simran Mangharam is a dating and relationship coach and can be reached on email@example.com)