Modern love: Dating trends to keep up with

Perhaps, it is time to write an obituary for the traditional dinner date

66-Car-rides-over-caviar Illustration: Job P.K.

Modern dating is hard. Earlier, you brought her chocolates and roses, opened the car door for her and, when she wanted to take it to the next level, invited you home for ‘coffee’. Well, the rules have changed. Today, in the age of ‘Netflix and chill’, relationships are a maze of complex terminology and the dating etiquette needs a manual to decipher. Take the term ‘situationship’. Do you know what it is? Well, neither do we. Not quite, anyway. Enter Dr Antonio Borrello, an American psychologist, relationship coach and YouTuber. In one of his YouTube videos, he explains what it is and describes the seven signs that you are in one.

“I guess you could call it a pseudo relationship,” he says. “It is somewhere in the middle―between friends-with-benefits and a committed relationship. You start seeing a person, you go on dates and you start doing things regularly. There’s definitely a chemistry that leads to physical intimacy and sex. But there is no talk of commitment, relationship, exclusivity or future goals.... The chances are, if you have dated recently, you have been in this place and you know exactly what I am talking about.”

Tinder would agree. According to its 2022 ‘Year in Swipe’ report, young singles say that situationship is a valid relationship status. “Tinder saw a 49 per cent increase in members adding the new relationship intention to their profiles and over one in 10 surveyed young singles said they prefer situationships as a way to develop a relationship with less pressure,” states the report.

It is difficult to say whether the situationship is here to stay. But you know what is not? The traditional dinner date, which might be on its death bed. “For millions of young adults who started dating in the lockdown, 2022 was the year they returned to real life. Unlike previous generations, young daters today are setting their own pace and rules about love, life and everything in between,” says Taru Kapoor, general manager, Tinder and Match Group, India. “Tinder’s ‘Year in Swipe’ report revealed that in 2022 young daters were looking for shared experiences and casual activities to make the most of their first dates, with mentions of ‘picnic’, ‘stand up’ and ‘coffee dates’ increasing in Tinder India bios.”

For Dattavi Jariwala and her fiance, Vikas, their love was sealed over long car rides. When they first started talking, they would text each other till 3am. Once, after getting three hours of sleep, the duo went on a ‘car date’. Vikas picked up Dattavi from her hostel at 6am, and they just randomly drove around, with the early morning fog misting the windshield. Finally, they reached a canal bridge, where they stopped the car and spoke for hours. “We did not see a single person around us and it felt like we were in some other world,” says Dattavi. “We loved that place so much that we went there on many dates, when we would watch movies in the car or organise small picnics.”

Antra Srivastava, who works in operations management, and her partner, Nishit, enjoy going to concerts and shows for dates. Recently, they had a blast at a Prateek Kuhad concert in Gurugram. Recalling an exceptionally memorable date, Antra says, “We were chilling in a cafe in Manali when we decided to explore the place. We walked from Old Manali to Vashisht. The hike is beautiful with apple orchards on both sides. We had to cross a river on a dilapidated bridge. I get anxious about doing anything adventurous, so Nishit found a restaurant hidden in the woods, fed me and then took my hand, asked me to close my eyes and helped me across. It was magical.”

If it is long bike rides for senior quality analyst Bodhisatwa Malik and his girlfriend, Stella, who live 25km apart in Kolkata, it is board games for Chennai-based couple Harsha and Pratik. “We played a few games together [at a cafe called Dialogues where I met Pratik],” says Harsha, a teacher. “We got to know one another better and started dating. As the relationship progressed, we found joy in other things, like painting and cooking.” According to Malik, while cafe dates have their charm, if you want to have long conversations, then the ghats in Kolkata are a great option. “Many times, we have ended up at one, like the Ganga ghat, and spent ages chatting over chai.”

Dr Chandni Tugnait, life coach and Tinder’s relationship expert, says that the widespread isolation, uncertainty, and social distancing of the past two years have contributed to feelings of restlessness and a desire for change in how people approach dating. “The pandemic had highlighted the importance of human connection,” she says. “The isolation and seclusion definitely increased people’s interests for first dates to be more about activities, and daters are now picking more interesting, unique first date activities that help them really get to know each other. For young adults, these new forms of dating may be what they need to establish more profound, authentic connections with others in a low-pressure way. Additionally, this gives a sense of adventure and excitement to meet new people while understanding what one’s own dating preferences are.”

And what do these young couples talk about while they are on their dates? Apparently, not about heartbreaks, superhero movies or Taylor Swift songs. They discuss heavy-duty issues like the Ukraine war, climate change, gender and mental health. “People have successfully tried to ward off these topics for ages, but not anymore,” says psychologist and relationship counsellor Ruchi Ruuh. “Due to the advances in social media, youngsters have stronger and more polarised views on social and political issues. We can tell about a person’s mindset based on what political party or leader they follow.”