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Are you ignoring the red flags in your relationship? Here are the new dating deal breakers

From harbouring problematic political leanings to expressing intolerance towards certain communities, a single writer tells us what prompts her to swipe right or left in 2021

When I was younger, the traits and flaws that made me say “No thanks!” to a potential partner included the garden-variety thoughts: “He’s nice but too needy” and “I can’t do long-distance” or the obvious “Good hygiene is non-negotiable”. Standard stuff. Now, I am far more prudent, which is both a blessing and a bane. For one, the stakes are higher because I'm looking for something long-lasting. I don’t want to waste my time on someone who is born into financial privilege and constantly harps on it. Or moon over a man after a single glass of wine, when his eloquence transforms me into a rom-com cliché of a woman.

While I know more about what I want and what I’m likely to be intolerant towards, it’s a perpetual dilemma to date in the digital era, where inflated egos are paired with unrealistic standards. There's also the swipe left-right fatigue, polarised perceptions of right and wrong, and the illusion of infinite options. As if that wasn't enough, the pandemic brought with it fresh dating idiosyncrasies. During its zenith, reckless social distancing behaviour became a potential deal-breaker for many. Anti-vaccination leanings were thrown into the mix too.

In the current socio-political climate, everything, from your relationship history to your religious beliefs, serves as a bibliography of your values, and in turn, as a deterrent or catalyst to move to the second date. An hour into dinner with a guy who was perfect on paper, I couldn’t help but get into a heated argument with him over a cause he supported on social media but didn’t seem to engage with beyond his bio—a classic case of slacktivism. Suffice it to say, things didn’t work out. Was it even possible that such a trivial disagreement had cratered into a canyon? “It is a big red flag when someone can’t think for themselves or doesn’t have their own voice. Gone are the days when people settled for mama's boys or daddy’s girls. Today, people are actively looking for partners who are independent, even with their thoughts and opinions,” answers Tanya Percy Vasunia, a renowned psychologist and published researcher, briefly assuaging my angst.

Beyond the usual no-nos

“Society has really evolved, and so has the way we pin down potential partners. Especially in India, there’s a lot of conscientiousness coming into play for the younger generation. There’s more awareness and acceptance towards people, more so towards mental health, which has completely changed the dating game,” Percy Vasunia adds. The end of 2019 and most of 2020 was punctuated with undisguised bigotry and content and misinformation which promoted hate. “Any form of extreme response, whether it’s racism, sexism or a phobia of a particular community, has become one of the biggest deal-breakers since COVID-19 hit. This can be directed towards any community, LGBTQIA+identities or even a particular ideology,” the psychologist explains. “Millennials and Gen Zers no longer tolerate rigid, hateful mindsets. They want more congruence with their relationships.”

Percy Vasunia also acknowledges emotional unavailability as a murderer of even the sweetest, most tender bud on the vine of romance. “With the coronavirus outbreak, the ability to be emotionally aware or sensitive is a big deal. I recently had a client who recalled her traumatic dating experience with someone who wasn’t able to express himself. Although she really liked him, she couldn’t handle the lack of emotional availability. Naturally, she called it off,” she reveals.

Disconnect to reconnect

The important thing to bear in mind is that even if you’re a woke dater with a progressive view of the world, it doesn't give you a free pass to flout the basic rules of engagement. “Constantly talking about your ex on a date is an age-old deal-breaker. It's not just unromantic, but also very rude. Sharing a detail or two may be alright, but anything beyond that might indicate that they may still be preoccupied with their ex. More importantly, this means that they are not in a healthy space to start dating again,” notes Tanisha Ghura Kanani, co-founder of dating site, Not So Arranged. She also recommends keeping an eye out for signs of patronising or outright rude behaviour, especially if your date seems to enjoy punching down. The idea of a relationship should be to provide support, not stress. Look out for people who are condescending not just towards you, but also others. "The lack of common courtesy towards staff or despising someone based on their financial status, caste, creed, colour or profession also speaks a lot about someone’s character. Don’t settle for someone who lacks kindness and compassion,” she cautions.

Throughout 2021, singles have primarily turned to online dating platforms to forge connections and find a semblance of normalcy in a world that is topsy-turvy. And although the smartphone plays the protagonist in developing a connection virtually, the chemistry can soon fizzle out if you’re glued to your mobile in person. Video calls and chats give us a two-dimensional view of a person, which is great to get to know them, their personality, their interests, their dislikes. But online dating lacks the missing piece of the appeal of the physicality of a person. "There are so many little things that add up to establish a real spark between two people. This includes the way that they move their body, the way that they touch you, the way they make eye contact, the way they make you feel when you’re close to them. So, if someone is constantly on their phone on a date instead of exploring your little quirks in person, whether a professional commitment or personal, it should be a huge red flag,” finishes Priyanka Ghura Kuka, who co-founded Not So Arranged with her sister, Ghura Kanani.

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