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When I stepped into the matrimonial market, I didn’t really know what to ask people. And if you’re sailing the same boat, let me rescue you!
2020 was the year I officially kind of gave up on my search to ever find the love of my life organically. Mind you, I was still on dating apps but it was time to call in the troops – my parents and matrimonial websites! Well, honestly, initially, none of us were very serious and it served as a fun activity to do during the lockdown.
I was under no pressure to get married or to even date. But we were all trapped at home, no one was stepping out, so matrimonial sites became our one source of entertainment. It was fun, the whole looking at a person’s profile and trying to figure out if I’d want to talk to them, let alone spend the rest of my life and all that. (The filtering process was a whole different level of fun, which deserves an article/book of its own!)
Soon enough, the rishtas started coming in, rather staggering in. While some were just plain ‘OMG NOOOO,’ there were others who were interesting and people I could see myself at least conversing with.
Often, the conversations flowed but sometimes, they were just stunted and boring. Well, if you know me, you KNOW a stunted conversation basically means I do not find you interesting at all.
But it also means I will most definitely have a set of templated questions that need to be asked. Ranging from their favourite colour to their opinion of global warming to their favourite author, I will want to know it all. (It will later be rehashed with my best friend, obviously!)
So the questions were asked and discussions were held and conversations were rehashed. But quite often, these felt like interviews and less like ‘rishta talks.’ Though I am not sure how rishta talks go, these just felt like me interviewing them. Nonetheless, I was okay with it. Not like I wanted to marry any of these men, anyway!
Until one day, when a conversation changed my life and perspective.
I spoke to… let’s call her my cousin who I’ve looked up to for the most part of my life. She’s had an arranged marriage too and has the same political and religious beliefs that I do.
In the middle of the chaos of my parents looking for grooms and me rejecting them all, she came like Marie Kondo to help me clean stuff up! Over a conversation that lasted over an hour, she told me a few things I needed to keep in mind before saying ‘yes’ to the man I would probably marry.
And since good advice needs to be shared, this is my good deed of the week. Most of these things aren’t things that parents will tell you simply because it may not really strike them. It didn’t strike mine, so…
These aren’t fool-proof methods and might not even work for you but they did help me.
Secondly, I am strictly writing from my own perspective – that of a cis-gendered straight woman looking for a groom. However, the questions can absolutely not be gendered. These are questions that might work, regardless of gender.
Thirdly, all of these are after you’ve spoken to this person for a while and decided to meet. The pre-meet lessons are a whole article altogether. (Would you want to read that?)
Let the lessons begin!
You’ve regularly begun talking over video calls and have decided that it is finally time to meet them. Meeting the first time has set off butterflies in your stomach and now you’re worried that the conversation might not be the same as it is over calls.
But fret not, for I have a few questions you can ask your potential partner when you meet them but before you decide to marry them. These are questions that may or may not help you make your decision while you stare at them and figure out if your uterus is jumping.
Before we move on to the questions, look at them – really look at them and see if this is someone you can envision yourself waking up next to. His (Or hers) will be the first face you see when you wake up and the last one before you go to sleep. I know how incredibly superficial this sounds, but hear me out.
This is important because I personally believe that that’s how you start your day and if you do so with a smile on your face, nothing like it! (Well, this coming from someone who wakes up grumpy every morning, may not be the best advice, but trust me, it is) You need to like their face. That’s it.
So we’ve gushed over how good they look, look at how they treat the servers wherever you are. Are they the kind to click and snap their fingers or are they the kind and nice ones? I know it seems insignificant, but trust me, it matters.
Now you’ve sat down, they pulled a chair for you, how chivalrous! You’ve ordered and you need a conversation to ebb and flow like a river descending from the hills, which are alive with the sound of music! Start small. Make small talk. Ask them their opinions on certain things around you, then move on to the bigger ones.
Weave it into a normal conversation and ask them their political ideologies and beliefs. It need not align with yours as long as the two of you respect the other’s opinion. But only until a limit.
I know from personal experience that someone like me will not adjust very well with someone who is a completely Right-leaning person. Similarly, I don’t think I’d be able to gel well with someone who’s got extreme Left ideologies.
However, given how sensitive this topic is, I’d suggest you be very very careful how you word it. Your ideas may not match but as long as you’re able to respect each other and have healthy discussions, it’s all that matters. The same goes for their family, actually.
Political ideologies are done and now we move to the other sensitive topic – religious beliefs. You need not have this conversation on the same day, meet them again and then talk about this.
Once again, it isn’t necessary that both of you have similar ideologies. You may be a complete atheist while your partner may be bordering on agnosticism, talk it out with them.
Ask them if their family has a weekly prayer/pooja and if it is absolutely mandatory for you to attend. Have a conversation and figure out what you want, then figure out what the two of you want and have a mature discussion with the family.
When discussing with the family, try not to use the Madhur approach and become too aggressive. Instead, note down what you want to say, hear them out and logically explain your ideas. It isn’t always going to be a pleasant conversation but don’t let it affect you too much.
A lot of us are used to living on our own, away from our parents, largely due to our jobs or education, but what happens when you get married? Have this discussion before you decide to marry them. And honestly, wanting to stay away from the family doesn’t make you the evil DIL from Baghban, it just makes you someone who knows what she wants.
Secondly, ask them about their dependency on their parents – both financial and general. Now by general, I mean the ‘basicest’ things! (Yes, I made up a word but you get what I am saying, don’t you?)
Cooking, using a washing machine (you’d be surprised how many people don’t know this!), driving and sewing (not major stuff just buttons or rips). If they don’t, ask them whether they’re willing to learn.
Thirdly and most importantly, ask them how close they are to their moms – you wouldn’t want to marry a mama’s boy, would you? No one will openly say that ‘Oh yeah! I am a mama’s boy.‘ There are tips and tricks to find that out and often, it’s very obvious too! (Think Salman Khan from Hum Saath Saath Hain or Roshesh Sarabhai from Sarabhai Vs. Sarabhai.)
All you need is someone who is independent yet loves and respects their parents and yours. That’s it.
Speaking of family and parents, there’s another aspect you need to check while talking. Notice how they talk about their friends and their own exes, especially their exes. Not that you’d want anything to do with it, but quite honestly, aren’t we all over men calling their exes ‘crazy, psycho bitches’ for asserting themselves?
In general, look at how they talk about women. If he says, “XYZ rose to power coz she slept with someone!’ or ‘since she got the promotion, she’s turned into such a bitch,’ run, girl, run!
And if it is possible, meet them with their friends once, see how they are around there. See what kind of friends they have – birds of a feather, flock together, remember? This may seem insignificant but it matters in the long run since, you know, you’d be married to them?
As a person, mental health and mental health issues are things that are close to my heart. So I make it a point to tell the person I am talking to (after a significant number of calls) about my issues. How they react to it helps me decide whether or not I want to continue with this or end it right there. (I have templates for this too.)
While speaking about mental health and the like is a completely personal choice, I would suggest you talk about it – whenever you are comfortable. Ask them if they have any questions about it and whether they’d want some time to think it through.
At the same time, if they share their experiences with you, you need not overcompensate for it. Just talk it out and ask them questions you think need to be asked without being insensitive. Give them the space you’d expect them to give you after a conversation like this.
Well, this isn’t really an exhaustive list at all and there are quite a few points that I haven’t added here for the fear of boring you all. But these are the few things that have definitely helped me (mostly) reject a lot of men.
Marriages and building towards it is supposed to be a happy process, don’t let it stress you out too much. Take a long deep breath and before anything else, ask yourself, is this what I wanna do?
And that’s it for my quota of gyaan for the day! Do let me know if there are any other things I ought to add and if we need a whole new piece on what to do BEFORE you start talking to someone!
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Shubh Mangal Savdhaan
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Reader, writer and currently an Associate Editor at Women's Web, I survive on coffee
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