A lot of people on M.B.A. tell me that they hate being on matrimonial apps because it’s filled with parents. When I am on Iyer-Matrimony, I can see why but otherwise, I didn’t think it was a widespread issue until recently.

In the last couples of weeks, I’ve had quite a few clients who are looking for life partners in the 25-30 age group. In preparation for my conversations with them, I went to scout the market only to realise that all my advice around avoiding parents on matrimonial apps simply crumbles for this age group.

The sheer number of parents standing guard I tell you.


Parent managed profiles have a certain format to them…

“I have made this profile for my son/daughter who is working/studying in <insert city>. Here is a short 500 word essay about the rest of my family”

Based on the detailed description of the groom’s brother-in-law, you hunt down the groom starting from LinkedIn and you sneak your way into the groom’s Instagram profile. What do you find? The boy in a tight embrace with 5 different girls. Now you go back to the 500-word essay but there’s mention of only one sister here.

So, uncle, who are these other girls?

Are you sure your son wants to get married?

…or are you just on Parent-Tinder for casual meaningless horoscope exchange?!

Indian uncles and aunties love attending functions and parties

Children’s marriage is yet another way to expand your scope of invitation. If you find suitable “beegru” or “samdhi” (roughly translates to relatives of the child-in-law), you can attend more such functions. Why do you think parents say, if you want do love marriage, do off but preferably same caste? They want to grow deep tranches into the other family, and attend every function there is on that side of the family.

I am only half kidding.

On the other hand, people also get insanely excited when they find multiple common connects with the prospective match’s family and forget all about the compatibility between the bride and groom. It’s not just because finding common connections helps build trust, there is a sick thrill to it in itself.

I was once a part of a bride/ groom seeing ceremony, and we spent the first 30 minutes discussing who all we know in common before we could beat the sheer awkwardness of the event and discuss the two individuals in question.

Marriage is the union of not just two people, but of two families

Sometimes people take this a little too seriously…

  • Oh ho, you are also deputy general manager. good good. #metoo

  • yes yes, my wife is also a devoted housewife

  • wow, your mamaji was a high court judge

  • whatttey, your other son-in-law is also IIT wa? then ok, you deserve my son

  • your extended family is settled in US and all ah? sakkath, full hi fi you are

The point is, you have no clue who the bride/ groom is and you have to make an assessment of who they could be based on the relatives’ professional details, but this makes little sense today.

As a matter of policy, I only work with people who want to get married themselves, and do not engage with parents beyond lead gen. Hence, I am largely oblivious to the extent of parental involvement as of 2021. But I wanted to see beyond my own experience and so…

I decided to look at data.

I pulled out a small sample of 150,000 profiles from a top matrimonial site of Brahmin brides and grooms across India and across top 5 countries abroad.

Here are a few interesting things I found:

  1. Only 50% of all profiles are self managed. Given that until a generation ago, this was probably less than 1%, it is definitely some progress. Of course, we have a long way to go.

  2. While 57% of men’s profiles are self managed, this number is only 22% for women. I am guessing this can be attributed to concerns around privacy.

  3. Amongst NRIs, only 27% of profiles are self managed vs 51% amongst resident Indians. I’ve heard about people moving abroad to be spared from marriage. So, is it possible that these are just parents playing trump cards with horoscopes?

  4. The highest % of parent managed profiles (55%) was found amongst 26-30 yr olds.

  5. Tam-brams have the highest % of parent-managed profiles at a whopping 78%.

These trends also help explain my own frustrations with assisting clients in their partner search. I may have added value to an individual client by taking away the pain of interacting with parents, but I probably only added to the overall market problem.

Most of my clients are in their late twenties or thirties, by which time most parents would’ve given up and the only parents I ever deal with are the ones in their heads. The parents’ voice is so deeply ingrained for some people that it takes them a long time to come to terms with the fact that they’re now adults and can make decisions independently without the approval of their parents.

This is everything I live for - helping people adult.

As much as I love Indian culture and the importance we place on families, I think we don’t do enough as a society to make space for our individual identities.

The first opportunity you have at fiercely protecting your own individual identities is when you get into a serious committed relationship with another individual. So much of what you want from a marriage is shaped by your family, and the society at large that you forget to optimise for yourself.

I work on bringing the focus back on you.

It isn’t about whether you should get married or not, but it’s about finding out who you really are, owning it 100% and building a toolkit for making decisions independently and confidently as an important stakeholder in your own life.

Finding a partner is just incidental.

More from Shapely Gal

Here’s a little sneak peak into some of the projects I’ve been working on…

  1. New Look: A year into the pandemic, it was time to let go of all things that no longer spark joy, and treat my website to a new look.

  2. Ask Auntie: This is my weekly Q&A series where I answer the most frequently asked questions about love, dating, relationships and marriages.

  3. Arrange Your Own Marriage: I am doing re-runs of this course on Instagram. In case you missed the series on Youtube, here’s a link.

Sneak peak into what I’m reading/ watching/ listening to:

The Psychology of Money by Morgan House: Although there wasn’t a lot of new information in the book, it’s definitely an interesting read especially if you’re going through some sort of mid-life crisis.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: This book has been a bit of a slow read for me, but my first on Russia, so I should be able to get through it and tell you more next time?

Coursera: For the first time in years, I managed to finish a course on coursera. Actually not one, I finished two. I am onto my third course now. So, if you’ve got questions on psychology or queering identities, you know whom to ask ;)

Shapely Gal song of the month: Graveyard by Halsey.

Shapely Gal is a monthly newsletter that discusses love, relationships, marriage and the various markets these are traded on. This newsletter is a concoction of observations, theories, ideas, real stories, figments of imagination and sometimes just rants on romantic relationships.