Adulting, and Dating
This week, I had a personal revelation. Our parents do their thing, either intentionally, or not. But we are adults. Our focus as adults must be building a muscle to thrive independently. It is as much their doing as it is yours if you are still letting them dictate choices in your life.
So, this week, I have four short stories to tell, all of them unfortunately real. This isn’t me just contemplating. If you identify with this, then this is a prescription for you to seek help.
Story 1: Living in the shadows
I was once contacted by a father looking to get his son married. The father was an interesting person with a very strong personality. The son’s description sounded like a small dark shadow of his personality.
When I spoke to the son, I decided to give him a fair chance. Since I work only with people who are looking to get married themselves, all my communication going forward was with the son alone.
I presented him with a couple of proposals. Both times, the guy wanted to consult with his parents before communicating his own thoughts. I felt a huge sense of relief when these proposals didn’t go through. The universe had saved these women from my misjudgement.
I realise that it takes immense courage to break free from parents with strong personalities to carve out your own, but most people don’t even try.
Story 2: Blissfully unaware
I was contacted by a bride’s father who had expressed an interest in my client. This father insisted that both parents meet before the boy and the girl meet. He wanted to ensure that there was a compatibility of status with the in-laws. He also spent the next 20 minutes grilling me on my client’s career and then concluded that this proposal wasn’t good enough.
I am pretty sure that the bride had no idea what her father was up to behind her back. Through other sources, I later found out that the daughter dated a guy who is no different from this guy. If only it was the daughter who’d met this guy, and not her father, may be my client would’ve had a shot.
But, I am glad he didn’t.
I’ve had the exact same story with a mother as well. And I’ve noticed this happens very often in affluent and so called “liberal” families.
Story 3: Assurance, or over-compensation?
After an initial assessment call, my client and I had jointly agreed that my client would start dating without involving his parents as it was an important life experience. Despite having liberal parents, he’d missed out on growing up independently.
So, I connected him with someone that I thought he could start talking to independently. Before he could respond to the proposal, his mother called me. The mother and son do not live together. The mother called to assure me that she was completely fine with the son talking to this girl, and making his own decisions. She really only wanted what was best for him. Strangely, I felt anything but assured.
Story 4: Blurred boundaries
Among the beta users on Dinner Club, there was one person whose profile stood out. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy who’d missed out on opportunities to socialise or have a perspective to dating that an average guy his age would.
I was thoroughly impressed that he’d had the awareness and inclination to take control of his situation. I was committed to help.
Last week, I’d a date set up for him. He reached out on the morning of the date telling me that he had to back out because his parents didn’t agree with his approach.
It broke my heart. Have you ever seen a scene in the movies when someone is falling off a cliff, and another person is trying desperately to pull them up, and the hand slips, and that someone goes plunging down. It felt like that.
All these stories are clear cases of lack of boundaries between adults, and their parents. These people don’t live in large joint families in villages to pay no heed to drawing up boundaries that are functional for living our city lives.
I get the need to preserve culture, and connections. They don’t need to come at a cost of living our individual lives. It’s not one or the other. This isn’t about parenting or this isn’t about culture but this is simply about adulting, and especially in the context of romantic relationships.
If you are 25 or older, single and still living (physically or mentally) with your parents, there are a few things I’d urge you to do before going out to finding a partner:
Learn to be an adult, on your own
Sort through the baggage that you will take into relationships
Build the capability to receive feedback, and nurture relationships
The market provides us with feedback, but only in terms of a yes or a no.
The market doesn’t tell us why someone’s rejecting us or why we’re rejecting someone. Without real feedback, we’ll keep going round and round in the market with very little luck. Even worse, we may end up marrying someone whose parents make for better spouses to our parents, rather than finding ourselves a suitable partner.
When you can’t get feedback from the market, seeking professional help can be immensely valuable. A few people are fortunate enough to access therapy and coaching, which is a safe space to introspect, and build capabilities to access timely feedback and take action on our own.
After all, this is one of the most important decisions of your life, and there’s no shame to receiving guidance from a professional. We all have a shot at building a better future for ourselves, so we must not miss out on it, if we have a chance.