Tag Archives: online dating

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

The Arrangement of Love

While talking to a friend in distress over dating dilemmas, I confessed that if life had not taken the drastic turn that it did for me, I would have perhaps resorted to the age old comfort of an arranged marriage. I could clearly see her disbelief as she jumped out of her chair, because my story was a wildly adventurous one of moving across the globe for an interracial love affair that evolved into marriage. But like everyone else, I have thought a lot about the what ifs of life. “How could you say that? How could you ever let someone else be liaison between you and your soul mate?” she gasped. “Well,” I said, “Isn’t that what dating websites do?”

I remember when dating websites like shaadi.com first showed up in India. They were a joke. I heard lots of aunties and uncles smirking at the prospect of a computer medium finding a right match. And yet I was interested to follow its development as a phenomenon in modern India.

A person enters their own information and what he or she would like in a partner. Issues like social status, money, looks, expectations and family values definitely play a role in the selection. A search engine acts much like an old, pan chewing, all knowing match making matriarch and produces options for consideration. Isn’t this what the idea of arranged marriage is?

Arranged marriages are most prevalent in India, China, Japan and predominantly eastern cultures. But unlike popular belief, arranged marriages date back to the 5th century in England. Their exposure in Victorian England is no more well known than being the subject of various romantic novels including Jane Austen‘s iconic classic Pride and Prejudice. Royal families across the world including the English monarchy have practiced arranged alliances and even practices like bride price aka dowry!

The West sometimes sees arranged marriage as a primitive and forceful proposition where the bride and the groom have no choice other than to submit their lives (without any say) to a partner who almost definitely will not be suitable. Parents are seen as controlling (yes, sometimes they are, but not always) and children as voiceless puppets. A drab life of no love and happily never after. Well, reality begs to differ. I think modern day arranged marriages are just means to find a partner. There is room to meet, date and weigh the prospect in a rational way.

Finding love is hard. Very few souls are blessed to find their soulmates very early on in life. Or how many of us can really walk into a bar and pick up the next super model and marry him or her? The pressure from society to be in love, to always be dating and the assumed pity when we are single is very hard on anyone, let alone young people. In a world of many options, where even finding the right breakfast cereal takes a lot of research, how are we expected to find life partners in a heartbeat?

Popular culture, even today, makes us think that there is something wrong if we have not been chased in the rain by a lovelorn secret admirer and if we are not happily married to him soon after. Love is not such a jackpot. If you ask any couple married long enough, you will find that a successful marriage is not an accident. It does not matter if you are head over heels in love with someone before you marry them or if your love grows and evolves after being married. Love is work. Period.

Relationships work or don’t work regardless of how they came to be. I wish there was a formula, but there isn’t. And that’s what makes it more alluring, more challenging and all the more human.

Why not then accept help? Why not allow channels to open for people to come into our lives, how they do so does not matter. It could be your long lost aunt or a friend calling with a proposal, a cheesy matrimonial ad, a new dating app, or even that supermodel at a local bar! You just don’t know.

Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Yoga International, Khabar Magazine, India Currents and anthologies of poetry and fiction.