Will We Ever Find Love Like Our Parents Did?

Love and Sex

Will We Ever Find Love Like Our Parents Did?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Earlier this week, while celebrating my parents’ 24th marriage anniversary, I had a sobering realisation: My parents had been together for over three decades, while my relationships seemed to come with a three-month expiry date. Meanwhile, my parents had first dated for seven years and were now completing 24 years of marriage together. To my friends who tagged along for the free kebabs and booze at the anniversary party, the idea of being with the same person for 30 years seemed harder to stomach than a packet of uncooked Maggi. How were my parents so happy spending their lives together, while my generation runs away from commitment as if it were a jail sentence?

The last time a girl asked me where our relationship was headed, I experienced my very first blackout, minus alcohol. My vision blurred, my hands began to spasm, and I fell face-first into the plate of mashed potatoes on the table. I was single by the end of that evening, but at least I learned something about myself: Commitment scares the crap out of me.

I’m not the only fashionable commitment-phobe whose greatest fear is being emotionally invested in a relationship. Like me, so many other 20-somethings are just swiping, texting, sexting, and ghosting their way from one relationship to the other, leaving people behind as each one temporarily fills the emotional void that failed relationships create. Meanwhile, my parents began seeing each other long before the dating landscape was tainted by pervasive FOMO, rampant ghosting, and sexual promiscuity brought to you by the dating app of your choice. The obstacles they faced in pursuing their love interests were very different from ours.

To begin with, dating was taboo back then, while it’s just the norm for us. In fact, my mother might forget to pay the electricity bill, but she’ll never forget to take jibes at me for not having a date on Friday night. “Kya hua? Aaj ‘I won’t be home for dinner’-wala message nahi bhejoge?” she’ll ask, trembling with barely concealed laughter. Thanks, mom.

The irony is that though dating has never been easier, finding somebody you want to be with has never seemed more difficult.

Even common displays of affection, like holding hands, a peck on the cheek, snuggling in a movie theatre, or a simple hug were things that couples weren’t “allowed” to do. But today, parents don’t seem to mind their kids hanging out with a member of the opposite gender in their rooms with the doors closed.

Even though we have everything our parents didn’t, somehow we still fail to form meaningful relationships that last longer and fill our emotional voids. The irony is that though dating has never been easier, finding somebody you want to be with has never seemed more difficult.

An essay on Inc.com titled “Millennials Have a Serious ‘Failure to Commit’ Problem”, quotes Andrew Harris, a PhD professor at Crown College, as saying, “Research seems to indicate that Millennials tend to put off commitment until somewhere in their mid-twenties.” That’s something that rings true for me, not just for relationships but also deciding what restaurant to order lunch from. Just like Tinder, the wealth of options on Swiggy seems to paralyse me before I can make a choice. Perhaps the problem is one of too much convenience. In making dating so easy, we’ve made it paradoxically difficult.

Of course, there are millennial couples who seem to have been in relationships since the Stonehenge was being built, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go tell my current girlfriend that I might be ready for dinner at 8, but I’m not ready to put a label on it just yet.