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How to Work On Your Relationship During a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has wrought unprecedented levels of distress on an international level. Such global upset can trickle down and translate to a personal level as well, particularly when it comes to relationships. After all, sheltering-in-place with your partner adds extra pressure, while rendering the normal outlets and sources of personal perspective – things like visiting friends, going to school or work, even a trip to the grocery store – altered or entirely moot.

South Asian couples, ranging from those in their teens to right up to the ones hitting their 30’s are suffering a lot. Many South Asians who are in relationships often do so with such secrecy, they themselves forget that they have a significant other. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but still. When your relationship depends on covert dates with backup covers like, “Hey mom, I’m going to stay at Ayesha’s home tonight” and you are struggling to meet even a few times a week, a pandemic situation can be exhausting and difficult.

Whether you are in a long-term relationship, or just getting adjusted to each other, or you are somewhere in-between, here are eight morsels of advice for keeping your relationship healthy during the turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Understand how your partner responds to stress and how you do, too

It is often easy to assume everyone reacts to high-level stress in the same way we do. But you and your partner might actually have different coping mechanisms to mitigate pandemic-related triggers – and if those responses are vastly different, your actions stand to baffle each other unless you openly explain them.

For example, you might prefer to stay on top of breaking news updates, while your partner only weathers the larger updates as they come. Whereas you would prefer to spend 30 minutes of quiet time in the morning drinking your coffee and getting up to speed on the news, your partner starts their day with funny videos or silent meditation. Neither of your responses is the “right” one; they are simply your respective ways of getting through the situation.

Being aware of what you both need to process stress can help you learn to grant each other space and respect to honor those needs, without questioning their validity. Plus, popular relationship therapist Esther Perel points out using these differences to balance your perspectives instead of exacerbating tensions.

Keep communication open and ongoing

As scary as the pandemic situation is, it is important to air your worries and fears. While your partner can’t be your sole source of support, they can provide solace about things that are concerning you.

If you and your partner don’t have the vocabulary for this type of open communication, you can set the stage for mutual support by asking each other open-ended questions, like:

  • What are you feeling today?
  • How has this day been for you? 
  • Is there anything I can do to be a better partner?

One exercise from couples counseling, called uninterrupted listening, can help you deepen this type of communication. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes where you are able to talk freely about absolutely any stressors on your mind. It could be work, your health, your future, etc. Your partner can respond with non-verbal cues, but they can’t chime in until the timer ends. Then switch, and take your turn as the listener.

Working on building this communication may help establish what preeminent relationship psychologist Sue Johnson refers to as a “secure bond”. Such an attachment is formed with someone when we know they are emotionally responsive, and that they feel for and with us. It doesn’t mean that they will protect us, necessarily, or that they will do the labor of problem-solving for us. Rather, it means they will face our problems with us (not for us).

Carve out designated space for different purposes around the home

You might have heard that it is helpful when working from home to designate “work” space from “home” space. The same goes for quarantine life!

Since so much of our lives are happening indoors, it’s all the more important to identify and label different areas for distinct purposes.

That might look like a room (or corner) that is just for your or your partner’s work; a table for sharing phone-free meals; or a nook for doing yoga and meditation together. Adding these defined spaces can provide you both with a sense of autonomy and boundaries you might be craving.

Do your best to keep any major decisions on the backburner

If you and your partner had some big choices on the horizon, to the extent possible consider holding off on reaching a decision. After all, it’s nearly impossible to make sound decisions when there are so many universally unpredictable variables, from job security to the everyday health of ourselves and loved ones.

If there is something that’s pressing, you don’t have to ignore it altogether. Instead, try keeping track of your thoughts about the topic in a shared or individual journal. You can revisit those ideas when things have resumed to normal, or you feel you are both in a calm headspace.

If you feel an argument coming on, pause – and plan to revisit it when you have both cooled down

Just as it is hard to reach logical conclusions on any major decisions during times of extreme flux, it can also be hard to fully stay grounded during an argument. Ironically, of course, the upheaval in routine and living conditions can leave us feeling unsettled and may trigger more arguments than we would normally have.

If you feel a spat or full-blown argument coming on, plan to touch base again in at least half an hour and no longer than 24 hours later.

Go for a walk alone in the meantime, or engage in self-soothing practices like a breathing exercise, practicing self-compassion, or calling a friend to check-in. Revisit the argument when you have both had the time and (mental) space to cool down.

Avoid criticism of your partner; along with contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, such behavior is considered one of the “four horsemen” of the apocalypse for romantic relationships by esteemed relationship psychologists John and Julie Gottman.

Go overboard with compliments and appreciation

In these times of absolute tumult, many of us are craving kindness and comfort. Your small notes of appreciation will go extra far in keeping your relationship strong.

Be sure to thank your partner for the little things, like boiling water for your tea, making the bed, giving your partner an extended hug, or putting away the dishes.

Resume your regular romance to the extent possible

You have likely heard it before: Keeping some semblance of structure is helpful for staying balanced when everything seems topsy-turvy. If you had a regularly-scheduled date night, for example, make time to incorporate that into your quarantined life, too.

Here are some at-home date night ideas to try out:

  • Take a virtual tour at one of the many museums making exhibits accessible online
  • Try your hand at creating art together! If you are not crafty, this can be as simple as drawing your houseplants with a pencil and paper
  • Learn a new dance routine together. Getting silly and laughing together can be a great distraction from global and personal stress  

Try to eliminate outside distractions, just as you would if you were on a normal date! Put your cell phone on airplane mode, and focus on creating these new memories together.

You might just discover a new ritual of connection, a term that the Gottmans refer to for small but meaningful habits that you and your partner regularly incorporate into your daily routine, which can help you grow closer over time.


Vindhya PV is a passion-driven journalist who hails from Calicut, Kerala.

Meet, Match & Marry – the Online Playbook

There is a quiet, barely noticeable virtual revolution taking place in the world of dating and marriage, transforming society in a way we could never imagine.   

First there’s online dating, then comes love (maybe), followed by the K 1 Visa (if you’re lucky)!

In the prehistoric era before Match.com (1995) popularized the concept of meeting someone through a laptop screen, marriages were made through flesh and blood introductions initiated by friends, parents perpetually worried about their offspring’s single status, workplace colleagues, or blind dates. The circle was small and not very diverse. After all, your friends were likely to introduce you to someone more like yourself,  or, your workplace was stocked with people like you. 

With the introduction of sites like Internationalcupid.com, Match and Tinder, and social media platforms like Facebook, online dating has grown with such speed that today, one third of all marriages in the U.S start with an online connection to a complete stranger. The explosion of online dating sites, including sites for international dating, has brought the world to the lonely single’s doorstep–– compare the small pool of minnows consisting of people-like-yourself who inhabit your universe of work and home, with the massive ocean of fish from all over the country and globe that lives inside an app in the palm of your cell phone.  These sites have the potential to do what centuries of human history hasn’t–make love and marriages across racial, ethnic and cultural barriers.

Researchers studying the social impact of this tidal wave of virtual lonely hearts have found that the diversity of relationships in the U.S. has grown exponentially since 2014, when online dating spiked to new heights. And many of these relationships, conceived on the web, remain stable over time.

 Joseu Ortega Ph.D, an economics lecturer at the Queens University, Belfast, and Philipp Hergovich, Ph.D. at the University of Vienna, have analyzed years of data and published their results in an article aptly titled, The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration Via Online Dating.

“Its social integration on an unheard of scale before,” says Ortega. “Many of these couples would never have met, even 10 years ago.”

A vigorous contribution to this diversity is made by international dating sites. If you’re remembering murky catalogs of mail order brides, think again. Today’s popular international dating sites are sophisticated, allow for feedback, and answer criticism posted online. They make background checks for potential sexual predators and warn users about how to spot a scam. (Scammers tend to be slippery as eels though, and many have a way of wriggling through security nets.)

So, what happens after the happy couple floats back to the earthbound realities of passports and international borders? The K-1 or fiancée visa is the next step. This is a visa granted to the fiancée of a US citizen on the condition that they wed within 90 days of his/her entry into the US. 

The popularity of the reality show, 90-day-fiancé, is a reflection of how comfortable people are with the world of online, international dating.  A scroll through their site, which features serial episodes of multiple couples who discovered each other on international dating platforms, found several who had “tied the knot” within the allotted 90 days, and some had even had babies!

For example, the series featured the “Desi Super Scammer” Sumit, a 30-year-old Indian who met Jenny, a 60-year-old American grandma online and declared he was in love. Jenny believed him. Several declarations of mutual love and a trip to India later, Jenny discovered that Sumit wasn’t a British-born Indian male model looking for love, but a call center employee in Delhi, who still lived with his parents. Jenny forgave his child-like deception and was still willing to give him a chance, when she also discovered that he was secretly married. 

Amazingly, even this pithy revelation didn’t explode the tender romance, as Sumit begged forgiveness and pledged to divorce his wife and introduce Jenny to his parents. And so Sumit the Scammer and Jenny the Grandma carried on through several episodes of the show.

A large number of K-1 visas are requested from India.  “Before 2016, a couple like Sumit and Jenny would have had a reasonable chance of getting a K-1 visa for him,” says Ben Ives, Founder and CEO of RapidVisa, one of the largest online portals which deals with K1 visas. “With the Trump-era, it’s become a lot harder to get a fiancée visa.”

“There has been a considerable push-back against granting visas to non-European countries, particularly Muslim majority states. One of the problems Indian applicants for a K-1 face is the fact that the average American doesn’t understand the diversity of India and assumes most people from the sub-continent are Muslims.” 

“And India is the only country in the world where parents get involved in the K-1 visa process,” says Ben, with a smile. “They will pay for it, or do all the paperwork, ask questions about the process, etc.”

RapidVisa introduced me to Priya, one of their International marriage and fiancée visa success stories. Priya is a British-Indian woman married to an African-American US spouse in the military. 

“They did some thorough vetting when we applied for my fiancée visa,” Priya recalls. “We had to tell them how we met, details about the relationship, nicknames, show tons of photographs, etc. I think my own family gave me a tougher time than the embassy, though—they didn’t know how I would adapt to the cultural differences between the UK and the US. 

It took a bit of time adjusting to the different system here–getting a social security card, insurance etc. Apart from that I was welcomed with open arms.  In fact, I’ve felt more discrimination in the UK than I received in the United States.”

“I knew I had really arrived,” Priya said with a laugh, “when someone from my husband’s family remarked that my English had improved considerably since I had come to the US.” 

Jyoti Minocha is an DC-based educator and writer who holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins, and is working on a novel about the Partition.

Edited by Contributing Editor Meera Kymal

Five Ways Men Can Get Over Fear of Rejection

No one likes feeling rejected by another person, it creates feelings of anxiety and sadness. For men, rejection can affect how they feel about themselves as men and could take a toll on their self-confidence. Therefore, many times men refuse to approach a woman they find attractive or want to get to know. This is unfortunate, since they may be missing out on a wonderful opportunity to create a loving and fulfilling relationship. That being said, there are ways men can mitigate this fear of rejection.

1) Tell yourself: It’s not you, it’s her.

She may not be interested in getting to know you for a variety of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you. For instance: she’s already seeing someone, not interested in dating anyone, or maybe she just had a horrible day at work. Whatever the reason, her turning down your attempt at flirting may have very little to do with you personally.

2) Fear is far worse than reality.

When you see a woman that you may be interested in dating, approach her immediately. If you wait too long, fear will set in and you’ll drum up all kinds of excuses to not approach her.

3) Rejection happens to every man.

You are not alone. Every man who has attempted flirting has been rejected at some point. It does not matter how handsome, wealthy, or witty he may be.

4) Don’t base your self-worth on others’ perceptions.

As much as rejection can hurt, keep in mind that this person doesn’t know the real you. When a woman is approached by a man, if she is interested in dating him she has to make a snap decision based on little information.

5) Learn to dread regret instead of rejection.

A powerful practice to adopt is to consider the risk of regret more so than the risk of rejection. Think to yourself: how much will I regret not talking to her later? We lose every shot we don’t take; and we tend to regret the actions we don’t have the courage to execure more than those that we do.

Don’t allow the fear of rejection to paralyze you. Have faith in the knowledge  that you’re worth getting to know.

Jasbina is the founder and president of Intersections Match, the only personalized matchmaking and dating coaching firm serving singles of South Asian descent in the United States. She is also the host of Intersections Talk Radio. Jasbina@intersectionsmatch.com.

The Dil Mil-lennials

I peered into the screen myopically. There were pictures of girls swishing backwards and forwards. My son’s finger moved at a demonic rate. “Look at this app, Amol.” He was in a meeting with his intern, an intern hired by my millennial son to experiment with the factors that went into snagging a date. “It’s a match!” flashed the screen.“Your picture from your college days is getting more matches.” Amol had been experimenting with different photographs to see which one had a higher success rate. “What! I don’t like my picture from UCLA. I look too fat in that one.” The girls apparently disagreed, going for the rounder Disneque profile.  While the intern was re-engineering the online dating profile, optimizing it for algorithmic love, sending kisses down the wire, however, turned out to be not so easy.14

Repeated use of the stock email response locked the app into loops. It came to the conclusion that a robot had created the profile and it shut out the user. Thus ended the very short internship.

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“Millennials are undermining tried-and-true dating rituals,” lamented The New York Times’s writer Alex Williams. “Raised in the age of so-called hookup culture, millennials—who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down—are subverting the rules of courtship. Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” subverting tried-and-true dating rituals.” “It’s one step below a date, and one step above a high-five.”

“The new date is ‘hanging out.’” Denise Hewett, 24, an associate television producer in Manhattan, who is currently developing a show about this frustrating new romantic landscape, was told by a male friend: “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing—going to an event, a concert.”

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The millennials or the generation born roughly between the year 1980 and year 2000 are also known as generation Y, generation we, and the Peter Pan generation. The oldest members of this generation are approaching age 34; the youngest are approaching adolescence. This generation now making their passage into adulthood are confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change, says Pew Research Center’s report that looks at the values, attitudes and experiences of America’s next generation: the Millennials. These young adult “are the first generation in human history who regard behaviors like tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era, but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding.”

They have a phone strapped to them as an adjunct body part. They fall asleep texting and wake up with their finger on the smart phone button. In fact they live their lives in a world of online chatter. As per Experian, U.S. smartphone owners aged 18 to 24 send 2,022 texts per month on average—67 texts on a daily basis—and receive another 1,831. Pew found, “It’s not just their gadgets— it’s the way they’ve fused their social lives into them.” The smart phone is used less to make calls and more as a hook into the web of social networking and conducting their love lives.

Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University suggests sixty-seven percent of American millennials and seventy-five percent of online Indian millennials say they’re in love. These “digital natives” are happy to announce it to the world, sharing their love on Facebook. Forty-one percent of American millennials who are in love update their Facebook status weekly. Sixty-one percent of Indian millennials in love say they update their status (at least) weekly. Millennials between the ages of 28-32 are more likely to report being in love than millennials ages 18-22.

“Online websites and apps are the tools my generation uses to meet up,” explains my millennial son. Websites like OK Cupid and Coffee meets Bagel and apps like Dil Mil and Tinder match thousands of boys and girls. Grouper arranges a group date. Three men and three women meet at a restaurant in the hope that at least a couple of people in that combination will click. Coffee Meets Bagel sends members a “bagel” every day at noon, which is basically the pictures and profile of someone who fits the criteria that they had picked. If the bagels like each other, a private line is created where they can message each other.

The fastest growing free dating app in the United States is Tinder. It has gamified the dating game. Users download the app on their iphones, sign in using their Facebook ids thus sharing their name, photos, age and sexual orientation with Tinder. They are immediately shown dozens of pictures of persons of their preferred sex. They can swipe right if they like what they see or swipe left if they don’t. According to Bloomberg Business Week: “Tinder is a pathologically addictive flirting-dating-hookup app.” The average Tinderer checks the app 11 times per day, seven minutes at a time, thereby spending more than an hour a day “swiping” potential mates and chatting with matches in the app, according to Rosette Pambakian, vice president for corporate communications and branding at the app’s Los Angeles headquarter. The app makes 22 million “matches” per day, processing a staggering 1.5 billion “swipes” left and right daily. The company says it knows of 50 marriage proposals to date.

Tinder is available in 24 languages with approximately 22-24 million users. It is estimated that Tinder will reach 50 million users by the end of 2016. According to CNN, Tinder is growing its user base in India by 1% per day and is a huge hit in cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. The difference between the Indian online millennial and the US one is that Indian online millennials remain more traditional in as much as they are either single or married, says Peter Boatwright of the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.  In the U.S., living with a partner is higher than in India.  There are many more in the U.S. who simply say they are “in a relationship.”  Online millennials in India are having children earlier than are their U.S. counterparts as well.

In a highly mobile world migration from India to the United States is swelling the ranks of the millennials in the US. Behavior and values mingle and create new dynamics.

On one date, that was arranged online, a girl showed up for the date wearing a sari, surprising the 27 old Bay Area resident of South Asian descent.

This generation has embraced the responsibility of arranging their marriage themselves. Dusting off their glasses, they are hitting the beauty parlors and the hairdressers. Clicking their pictures and making their profiles, they are fixing rendezvouses and meeting boys and girls on their own terms.

“Because millennials don’t respect authority, they also don’t resent it. That’s why they’re the first teens who aren’t rebelling,” says The Times. MTV president Stephen Friedman, 43, who now includes parents in nearly all the channel’s reality shows says, “One of our research studies early on said that a lot of this audience outsources their superego to their parents. The most simple decision of should I do this or should I do that–our audience will check in with their parents.”

They are mindful of their parents’ opinions. Dil Mile is an app specifically designed for the South Asian millennial. It aims to help every desi “20-something-year-old find someone who Mummy and Papa will approve of,” says Brown Girl magazine. 24-year-old Kamaljit (“K.J.”) Dhaliwal, who launched the app wants to help his brethren find someone “easier and faster.” K.J. worked in NYC and Philadelphia in the investment and trading industry before he moved to the Bay Area and closed angel funding valuing Dil Mil at 5 million USD.

Inter-racial marriages are not frowned upon by these citizens of the flat world. However, Cameron Okeke, senior at the University of Chicago believes that the notion that their age group is the most “tolerant” generation should be taken in context. “I think that love may be blind, but I think relationships aren’t,” Cameron Okeke, senior at the University of Chicago said. “Relationships don’t just run off your love, they run off understanding and reasoning and compassion. I feel that we may be progressive cognitively, but we’re still programmed the same way, we’re still exposed to the same insecurities of different races and how they’re supposed to be,” Okeke said to the University of Illinois Daily.

“Let’s have a look at online dating,” says Amne Alrifai, 20-something-year-old-Muslim-Lebanese-Australian-Daughter-of-Migrants scientist in her blog Unveiled Thought. “You realise you’re ready to find Mr. Right (or Mrs. Right—this is an equal opportunity blogsite). Your friends convince you to sign up to a dating website … So how is matchmaking by your parents or their friends different? I … I can’t believe I’m actually saying this—but I think it’s exactly the same … My dad and I have our ups and downs, but he’s my hero and loves me so much and knows me so well. Having him as a bouncer for my heart is sounding like a great idea. Knowing that he’ll interrogate any potential suitors and ensure that the man I end up with comes from the top shelf and not from the bargain basket is pretty comforting.”
“If my parents introduced me to a suitable boy,” says a Fremont twenty-four-year old resident not averse to being introduced, “it would take the work out of it for me.”

Shuttled from activity to activity with no down time to just hang out, they didn’t learn the art of flirting and romancing. According to researchers at the University of Michigan, from 1981 to 1997, “free” or “unsupervised” time in the typical preteen’s day shrank by 37 percent. As they enter adulthood, smart phone in hand, they scan the room to see if “it’s a match.” “You’ve got mail” is so passé.

Ritu Marwah has pursued theater, writing, marketing, startup management, raising children, coaching debate and hiking. Ritu graduated from Delhi with a master’s degree in business, joined the Tata Group and worked in London for ten years.

Millennials are Crazy in Love at Home and Abroad

 

Pittsburgh, January 30, 2015 – They are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers and are less likely to get married than previous generations, but that doesn’t mean Millennials are afraid to use the “L-word.”

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According to new data from the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, 67% of American Millennials and 75% of Indian Millennials say they’re in love. And these “digital natives” are not shy about sharing their love on Facebook:

·  41% of American Millennials who are in love update their Facebook status weekly.
·  But … 61% of Indian Millennials in love say they update their status (at least) weekly.
·  Meanwhile for those unlucky in love, only 34% of American Millennials and 44% of Indian Millennials not in love update their Facebook status weekly.

·  In both the United States and India, Millennials between the ages of 28-32 are more likely to report being in love than Millennials ages 18-22.

“There is a lot of a discussion today about Millennials, relationships and marriage. This is an interesting look at what Millennials’ views are on romance,” said Peter Boatwright, co-director of the Integrated Innovation Institute.  “Though just a glimpse into two cultures’ young adult population, it looks like they’re ‘feeling the love’.”

The Integrated Innovation Institute’s Millennial Segmentation Study is a first-of-its-kind, ongoing study that takes an in-depth look at the values and behaviors of Millennials in order to better understand and prepare companies and others serving them. The study surveyed 2,000 men and women, ages 18-34, on a variety of topics including professional pursuits, financial habits and purchasing behaviors, health attitudes, beliefs about God and social media engagement, among others. Previous infographics illustrated Millennials’ attitudes toward love, religion and finances.