Ghosting, proxy-relationships and more

Before we talk about love, sex & a world of cuddles, there are many a puddle that an allegedly epic romance must step over first. The ME vs WE team rage on - as people learn to turn the page or set the stage for ‘whatever comes next’. A romance is fleeting but a love story is meant to be eternal. To understand new couplehood trends, here are some key insights that I have earmarked based on my relationship counselling practice -

GHOST STORIES ARE REAL! – Ghosting has become a cold mannered and popularly chosen punishment method in relationships. This takes many forms. Beware the devastating double blue tickmarks of Whatsapp! A partner may punish their counterpart by reading a message and then choose to deliberately not reply promptly to keep a conversation in limbo and keep their partner wondering if ‘something has gone wrong’. This leads to anxiety in many cases and is a disturbing footnote in the book of ‘passive aggressive arm twisting tactics’. A starvation of affection dooms relationships where ‘an instant answer’ is seen as an insurance policy before the relationship loses steam! To keep a partner or conversation hanging is thus deemed the adequately cruel punishment for causing disappointment. It’s used to induce a panic and drive home the lesson - ‘he/she should think about what he/she has done & therefore not replying will give him/her the right message!’.

ARRANGED LOVE IS BACK! – Arranged marriage is no longer being frowned upon as archaic or oppressive as families and friends play matchmaker and Facebook and Instagram are used as clever stalking devices to suss out a prospective partner, their world, their priorities, their temperament so as to pre-screen who fits the bill. There are online networking forums where women connect with other women to match-make for each other or introduce each other to ‘decent men’ from their social circles. This is deemed as a progressive and safe way for ladies to vouch for someone and proceed with educated caution. Romances can either wither away or blossom soon after such tech and network-of-trust enabled affiliations are sparked. There are choices to be made & the range is limitless. Swiping on dating apps is soon becoming old-fashioned!

BOUND BY A CAUSE– Couples are learning and leaning towards shared causes as a way to keep the romance strong and alive. Strict gender based roles are dying out. Everybody earns, cooks and pays the bills! After observing an elderly generation of temperamentally ill-suited matches – merely sticking together merely for the kids, due to social pressures, fear of loneliness or for financial reasons, couples are turning to shared pursuits and projects - such as animal rescue, world travel and couples’ blogging in addition to embracing group hobbies like playing boardgames, trekking, fitness endeavours etc. to revitalise their love for each other. With an ever growing platform where online meet-ups lead to a range of activities for people with different tastes, there is more visibility for all sub-cultures (such as cosplaying or online gaming) since there are WhatsApp groups for everyone and everything!

TEXT BASED PROXY-RELATIONSHIPS – Many younger couples (especially in their teens) are growing to prefer tools such as Video chat and late night text messaging rather than meeting up face to face. A couple can now make up and break up without having ever met each other even once! There is enough information being shared on social media for much about a person to not feel like a surprise any more. There is an intense fear of rejection and wanting to prolong the magic and illusion of being there in each other’s life for these young couples. Attention is available at a premium these days due to the fleeting gazes of most people who have garrisoned their reputations and PR activity on popular social media apps like Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s manicured. It’s filtered. It’s preferred. Couples prefer the comfort of the glass screen as it controls the tempo and intensity of the overtures that they may initiate or invite and if things go too fast or get too torrid for comfort, there’s always the block button or the deniability claim of ‘not having met up enough’ for it to be or feel like a ‘real relationship’. App based nudged that involve the sending and receiving of sweet nothings – over text..such as “I miss you” & “I want you in my life” coupled with bursts of video chatting means that you can have your love story from the comfort of one’s bedroom is being seen as more practical. Bursts of attention are channelled through devices as opposed to the old fashioned way where you like someone and simply take them out for a meal or a cup of coffee!

POPULARITY VOTE CONTESTS – A screenshot from a text message can just as easily be sent to verify one’s romantic fallbacks and decisions. Imagine someone on group chat blessing a decision to proceed romantically with a certain chosen someone. This kind of hobnobbing and interference can spell doom on a relationship as what should be private between a couple becomes a spectator sport with ring side seats with family, friends and even ex-partners involved in the scrutiny process of what needs to be done to further legitimise the relationship.

As relationships change with technology, the need to feel cared for remains the same across time and place. Is there a simple solution to the complex matters of the mind & the heart? I guess we’ll find out one intention & tricky habit at a time.