It was different in the old days. Boy and girl set eyes on each other, boy and girl took a shine to one another, boy and girl got hitched. These days, right from the first date, a million things can go wrong - and that's not even counting the new sticky situations that crop up as times change. Here are five new dating dilemmas - and how to deal with them.
RULE NO. 1: Drop out There was a time when a date ended at the door of a woman's home, even if she lived halfway across the city. But these days, a couple tends to part ways at the door of the restaurant or multiplex they've been at, each going their own way. "There's less of an obligation to see the woman all the way home," says IT professional Andrew Dias. "I might see her into a cab, but I think it's too patronising to assume she can't get home by herself."
Copywriter Ragini Yadav agrees with Dias. "There are times when I would like to be dropped home, like when it's very late," she says. "But not every time. I see no reason to drag my fiance all the way home when I know he'll just have to go all the way back again."
According to Dr Tushar Guha, chief psychologist and MD, Nrityanjali Education and Management Services, this is one instance in which women have been taking the initiative. "Unless it's very unsafe, women don't have a problem going home on their own," he explains. "That's because they also want their freedom."
RULE No. 2: Kill bill Banker Sharad Bansal isn't surprised that his girlfriend of six months pays her own way on dates. After all, more and more 20-something guys know that these days, men are no longer expected to "woo" their women by paying. The modern woman is happy, even insistent to pay her way. This, says Dr Guha, is a consequence of the need for everyone to have their own measure of independence and self-respect.
But there is one exception. "If a guy is laid off or fired, his girlfriend should not offer to pay or split the bill on a night out," says Dr Guha. "This becomes an ego issue. A man who has been made redundant may not even want to meet his girlfriend, and I know of cases where guys have borrowed money to show off on dates." His advice for women confronted with such an issue? "Tread carefully. And if you feel your man will not accept the situation, just meet for coffee."
RULE NO. 3: Stay cool When crazy work schedules led to Swapnil Deshpande and his girlfriend only seeing each other for a few hours every week, his desperation to spend more time with her drove him to suggest that she spend the weekend at his place. But it backfired. "My girlfriend was horrified," he recalls. "Maybe it wasn't the smartest idea to suddenly pop the question. After all, we hadn't known each other very long." But no such fate overtook Amar Desai when he surprised his girlfriend with an overnight trip to Lonavala. "We've been dating for three years now, so it was time we took the relationship to the next level," he explains. "We enjoyed the trip, and plan to do this more often."
According to Dr Guha, while invitations to stay over or go on overnight trips are more common now, they should only be made once a couple have achieved a comfort level with one another. "Women are generally afraid to be invited to a guy's home," he explains. "Many women will assume that a guy is too 'fast' if he suggests that she stay the night."
RULE NO. 4: Ring the changes So what if you don't want to marry. Consider living in instead. Live-in relationships have become common. Even the Supreme Court has given them legal sanction. So there are couples who shack up together to see if they are compatible, like Aarti and Sandeep Tavadia, who lived together for seven years before tying the knot. Sometimes, couples who are informally or formally engaged, move in before the wedding to save on expenses.
However, still others like Shyla Mascarenhas and Adrian Fernandes are choosing a live-in relationship as a permanent arrangement, not something that will lead to marriage. "We neither of us feel very strongly about marriage," explains Shyla. "But we have been dating for over eight years and felt this was a convenient arrangement. It was a natural transition." People appear to accept it, though Shyla says wryly that the neighbours will bring up the M word frequently. "They'll say things like 'home loans will be cheaper!'"
RULE NO. 5: Bless the child It's no secret that some marriages do not last for ever. Which means that you may well end up dating someone who has kids. "This is actually more common than you would think," says Dr Guha. "What happens in a situation where one person has kids is that both parties, especially the person who is the parent, moves forward in the relationship very slowly."
Mayuri Sen, whose mother had a second marriage, says meeting the kids and getting to know them is an indispensable part of such a relationship. "If you are looking at a long-term commitment, then it has to be a slower process because you are dating a family," she explains. "The person has to be quite sure that the kids are okay with him or her before proceeding further."If there is tension, Sen advises starting over. "Show exaggerated levels of affection and be prepared to meet the person halfway," she advises. "And it's not necessary for everyone to have a great rapport right off. Sometimes, it's okay if you can be in the same room and make conversation