"When I started dating, I was about 20 and didn’t think much about a future with him."
Dating and Desi relationships can be a complicated affair. Especially, when it comes to relationships with love and sex before an arranged marriage.
Most of the time, dating in the Desi community is still a secret romance and will seldom become family knowledge. Usually, if one or both parties involved know they are going to have an arranged marriage.
This specific kind of relationship explores experiencing love and sex or either, whilst knowing that the relationship itself is temporary and limited by time.
Restrictions which act as the barriers to stop the relationship from having a future include religious differences, caste, nationality and yes, in some cases class and status.
So, is having a relationship with love and sex before getting married to a completely different person worth it?
The trait of having this kind of relationship in Desi life has been going on for centuries and is nothing new. But are they more the ‘norm’ now or are people questioning their purpose?
It’s fair to say, that meeting someone, getting attracted to them and then dating them is not something that does not happen, Of course, it does. But this is more about the context.
Whilst some Desi men, still have that desire to ‘have fun’ before settling down, it is also something Desi women are becoming more akin to, where they will happily have a relationship knowing it is not for keeps.
This kind of relationship is very common amongst young South Asians and even in the UK, USA and other countries
It can start in school years when adolescence is prime and then take place at college and university, and subsequently even in working life. Especially, since women are marrying later and experimenting more with their own desires and needs.
Miriam, a 19-year-old student says:
“I’ve known my boyfriend since school. But there is no way I can introduce him to my mum and dad. They’d disown me. So, we just meet and enjoy our time together until it ends.”
Jaspal, a 20-year-old says:
“I’ve dated a number of Asian girls from different castes and religions. And it wasn’t like they did not know what they were doing or what they wanted. They were up for it as much as I was, fully knowing it wasn’t going to last.”
The opportunity to experience love and sex with someone to whom you are attracted to despite their nationality or background such as caste or faith can be an exciting one for many. Leaving behind the notion of what is right or wrong.
Meena, a 23-year-old pharmacist, in favour of them, says:
“Most of the time it is about learning about yourself too and in a way preparing yourself for the future when it comes to marriage and its challenges. Both emotionally and even sexually.”
The sex element in this kind of relationship has developed much more than the past. Desi women want to experience it too, like men.
Kammy, a 21-year-old student says:
“Having a relationship for fun and sex nowadays is not uncommon. But it leading to marriage is a battle that you cannot easily win, especially, if he is of a different religion or caste. You still end up doing what your family wants to keep the peace.”
Except for the girl who wants to ‘save herself’ for her future husband and will not partake in full sexual intercourse – but may enjoy other physical activities with the guy.
There are many who have such relationships and then happily split, valuing the experience they had from the love and sex, while it lasted.
Sujata, a 23-year-old banker, says:
“I’ve had a number of relationships with a few men to date. I don’t see anything wrong with dating or full on relationships, even if you know there is no future in them. Why? Because everyone is different and you can learn so much.”
Karan, a 21-year-old student says:
“If you know the constraints from the start. You both know what you can and you cannot do and what to expect. Once you know this, the rest is up to you to get what you want from it. Mostly it does involve going out, having sex and being with one another to share fun times.”
So, what is the attraction for these relationships before marriage? Is it not better to just find someone who you think you can marry? Like someone who is ‘safe’ i.e. within your specific backgrounds such as caste, religion or status?
The freedom of love and sex are quite centric to these relationships to make them worthwhile.
Many Desi people who have been in these relationships feel that both people get the opportunity to freely experience love and sex with someone they like rather than someone who is most likely chosen for them by family.
Fahad, a 20 year-old-student says:
“If you know you are going to marry someone to please your parents, say like a wife from abroad. It’s up to you if you want to have some fun with like minded girls freely, isn’t it?”
Rukhsana, a 21-year-old says:
“I know lots of girls who date knowing they are going to marry someone else. I think it’s the only time you can have love and sex with someone you fancy, who isn’t the same as background you.”
These relationships do work as long as both parties stay clear from expectations of each other.
Falling in love is not a crime here and is natural, but if it becomes obsessive and having one person in need of more from the other in such a relationship, can quickly make things difficult.
Tina, a 23-year-old, says:
“When I started dating, I was about 20 and didn’t think much about a future with him. We both knew we had cultural differences but were attracted to each other. I then fell deeply in love and wanted more from him. Knowing we could be with each other, it led to him starting painful breakup.”
Sajid, a 22-year-old fitness instructor says:
“I dated a girl from a different caste for a few years. We did everything, shared everything. I did want to marry her but she couldn’t commit due to fear of her parents. I was quite hurt. Since then I’ve never looked for long-term relationships.”
In fact, a definite end of such a relationship is usually when one of the parties is succumbed by the family to marry. At this point, the relationship which probably shared love and sex, fun and romance, all comes to an end.
Davinder, a 26-year-old, says:
“I loved my boyfriend and I did everything to make him happy. I was hoping it would last. But in the end he had an arranged marriage. And I even attended his wedding as a ‘friend’, which was really to help me get over him.”
Kulbir, a 25-year-old IT programmer says:
“I met someone at Uni and while knowing we were not culturally compatible, we started dating. Thought of it as a Uni romance but we carried on after for years until when she told me she was having arranged marriage. What happened after that was devastation and panic. I even told her to elope with me. But she chose family over me.”
This is a common thread in Desi relationships which are destined not to last, due to the way culture and society suppress such unions.
Engaging in these relationships is always down to individual choice but many do not see the point. Because why be with someone you are not going to be serious with or just be with for ‘time-pass’?
Those for them would most likely argue, this type of relationship allows you to explore who you before marriage. It can suit both people who are happy to share a friendship, romance, love and sex without the added pressure of committing to marriage.
Relationships are hard work, but this Desi version of relationships can be even more complicated or in fact, an ideal for those who accept their limitations.
It is in essence, the likely a matter of principles and values versus the urge and desire to experience a relationship whilst acknowledging there is a loss at some point.