There’s no such person on Earth, ok?

Hello hello. Winter is here, are you all gearing up to mate? Ok may be not. Atleast meet, maybe?

Well, I hope so.

I on the other hand, have tucked myself well into a shell this winter. This month has been full of introspection, thanks to three triggers over the last couple of weeks. I have been thinking a lot about relationships, marriages, and why modern day marriages are so complicated to be arranged.

Trigger 1: The dating report

A lot of people shared this dating report with me. It’s got a lot of numbers, graphs and all that jazz but mostly very little new information. My first thought when I read it was “Meh, tell me something I don’t know”. Then I was wondering why I felt that way, and so re-read it. This time around, I realised that this report was talking about friction in the market and how some of these points of friction had been solved by modern day dating.

Having been in this space for over 6 years now, I am so stuck in my ways. I have a view about what the problem is and I have been busy attempting to solve for it. Just as everyone else. That’s the problem with being too passionate sometimes. Honestly, there are so many points of friction in the market, some bigger than the others, that really need solving. That too, much more than the ones I am trying to solve for. So, it made me pause, take a step back and think.

I’m still thinking. So, may be more about it when I’ve thought?

Trigger 2: The podcast

This time on The Knowledge Project podcast, Shane Parish interviewed Esther Perel, a renowned psychologist from Montreal. Her claim to fame is this TED Talk, or that’s what I think. It’s a brilliant take on infidelity. In this podcast, she talks about relationships, desire and so on. She said something brilliant - Previously, people loved someone and married someone else because what we seek in love (uncertainty) is wildly different from what we seek in a marriage (stability). For the first time ever, we seek both stability and uncertainty all at once in a marriage, which makes modern day marriages complicated in a way that they never were.

I wondered if this problem actually exists in the marriage market too. People looking for wildly contrarian qualities in a potential spouse, making it almost impossible to find this person and having to employ people like me.

She: You know, the guy is just really great on paper. Well educated, well read, liberal and doing okay career-wise. But you know, I don’t feel excited about being with him. He’s probably a tad bit too practical and boring for me. It feels like we’ve already been married for a decade now.

Me: Wait, isn’t it great that you feel that way? I mean, if eventually practicality is more important, isn’t it great that you get to see it right away?

She: No, I am okay with dealing with it eventually, but not in the beginning. I want excitement and butterflies at least in the beginning, so I can look back fondly at why I was with him in the first place.

Trigger 3: The conversation

I had a conversation with someone who used to previously run a start up in the matrimonial space. We chatted about the market, and the points of friction that continue to exist despite being over two decades since technology intervened.

He said something interesting, or I don’t know if it was my interpretation of what he said - Traditionally, we “selected” partners from the handful we had an opportunity to meet/ connect with given the lack of a larger network. However, today, thanks to the internet, that network has increased multi-fold and our arranged marriage brain doesn’t really know how to deal with the volume. So, we use the obvious strategy of elimination to arrive at a reasonable volume of prospects to choose from. Except, the process becomes asymptotic, thanks to the illusion of endless swipes.

It’s been the only useful conversation I’ve ever had with anyone in this space. I’ve spoken to founders of several different apps/ sites and I think every single time, everyone has been so obsessed with the problems they are trying to solve that I hadn’t met anyone speak so dispassionately about the market.

No wait, he was really passionate, may be also because he sees himself re-entering at some point. He brought a very complementary view to mine, that probably added value to our conversation. I know I want to re-invent the space, with not very concrete ideas on how. I could appreciate our discussion a lot more since it wasn’t weighed down by our individual baggages. At the end of the conversation, yet again, I wanted to pause, take a step back and think.

The three different triggers made me start wondering about what makes finding a match utterly challenging for some people despite networks being much larger than they were a few decades ago, thanks to the internet.

Is it you? Or is it the market?

Let me lay it out there right in the beginning, that it’s not you.

It’s market design.

(Oh lord, I really hope this doesn’t make my husband plug a link to his book in the comments section now)

They create an illusion of infinite choice. They fundamentally alter the way you choose by driving you into an elimination mode rather than selection. They make us feel so powerful, and entitled. They re-enforce a belief that it’s okay to want what you want and the app will eventually find you what you asked for. Sometimes the app will even make you believe that it is all part of the machine learning to help bring you closer to your soulmate, but honestly, the only thing that the machine learning can do is to get the app some funding, nothing else.

You are on your own.

Am i being unreasonable? Am I being too dreamy? Unrealistic? Have you ever thought this way? May be this one is for you then.

Let’s say you are looking for a well-educated, well-read and well-travelled successful IAS/ IPS/ IRS officer who is between 25-35, whose native tongue is Hindi and lives in Mumbai, and has had an upper middle class upbringing. Also, let’s imagine you are quite successful yourself, and you totally deserve to be with this person.

In 1980, your family would have put the word out, and you’d get 4 or 5 prospects (if lucky) that would vaguely fit this bill (maybe not IAS, but some govt/ PSU job, who knows), you’d pick one, marry and move on with your life.

Now, in 2019, it’s highly likely you won’t find this person.


Think about it - how many such people do you think really exist now, and are single? 5? What are the odds you’ll find some fault in them? 90%? That leaves us with one man. Next, what are the odds that this one man will like you? 50%? That leaves us with half a man. That’s not even a full person. But wait, we’re not done yet.

Next, what are the odds that this half man is on the same platform as you are and that too, at the same time and you happen to find each other?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

I could make a McKinsey case out of it, but let me give you the answer anyway - There’s no such person on Earth, ok? So, why then do you think you need to marry this man?

Today’s dating sites and apps are clearing houses. They are built to clear the commodities in the market.

So, if you are one of these trying to make a very niche trade, good luck. Wait, I don’t mean it like that. You will meet someone. Someone nice too. But I can assure you that you will almost NEVER meet who you set out to meet. Sorry.

Right, what now?

You have two options:

  1. Don’t settle: If you know what you want, and firmly believe that this person you want is really out there, wait. Don’t be in a hurry. You’ll meet him. Someday.

  2. Settle: Figure out what parameters in your search are worth relaxing, and anyone who fits the bill, give them a chance. Once you have a shortlist, select rather than eliminate, because you aren’t selecting candidates for JEE advanced. You are choosing that one person amongst the 1 person you want to be with amongst a handful of possible matches.

If you can’t decide between the two, come to me. But if you do decide on your own, remember to make it work. If you can’t, again, you’ll have two options. But remember, you’ll be back to square one. Just saying.