“Treat yourself to a little retail therapy”, goes the snazzy tagline. An invitation for harmless indulgence, especially if one is just window-shopping. But things turned sinister when I spotted not one, not two but many married couples on dating apps. And what piqued my curiosity is that many of them have their wedding picture as their profile picture or have written a short bio mentioning they are married. I kid you not, I’ve seen atleast ten profiles of married men with their newborn clinging onto the dad adoringly and no, that is not a borrowed cute nephew they are posing with. The accompanying albums show their wife in tow, sporting mangalsutra, vermillion and even honeymoon photographs!
I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. This wasn’t a clandestine affair where the married person would pretend to be single. Then what is it? An announcement of an open marriage?Or done out of spite or to hurt?Ordone in a fit of rage?
My confusion was brought to rest when a married couple admitted together that they were both on a dating app. I paused; these were people who got married just nine months back. The wife shrugged and said “It’s just window shopping. No big deal.” The husband agreed, “Yeah, I’m on it for a while now.”
Window-shopping a.k.a. looking at other desirable partners despite being married. A synonym for ‘checking out’, or much more? A lot of questions popped up as I wrestled with my conscience. What is permissible and what is not? Married couples believing it’s just harmless therapy, looking at other people and not just checking out but also befriending these people.
Getting married is a conscious decision; a commitment one makes to the other person.A promise to be together through sickness and through health. And yet, if one has this ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ thought playing at the back of one’s mind, can one truly be happy with what one has? There will always be more attractive people out there in the world, but if there is an incessant need to keep looking out for something better, it would be harmful for both partners.
“Why the need for the market survey?” I asked my married friend. She said, “Being swiped right is a validation that I’m desirable. Don’t we all love getting compliments from strangers?”
So it is a narcissisticneed to be flattered, a boost to one’s vanity that one seeks.
Maybe couples should compliment each other more and make attempts to make the other partner feel special. Then possibly, one might not feel so hungry for validation from strangers.
My friend said it also gave her a sense of power to be able to reject men even now. Ah, so the power game which she misses now, after being married. Similarly, married men miss the chase, the hunt, the conquest that follows. So I gathered that both men and women replicate the heady days of their courtship via these dating apps, after their marriage.
It also worries me that the dating apps are the new passive-aggressive means of bargaining that married couples employ, to wrangle promises out of each other. I know a married couple where the wife joined a dating app after a fight with her husband. Later she showed him the number of men who had eagerly wooed her on the app. She used that ‘proof’ to try to underline her importance, her beauty and to threaten her husband to ‘not take her for granted’, and humiliated him further by stating that there was no shortage of men. She then flung the phone at him and claimed there were ‘better options’ and she could walk out of her marriage at the swipe of a finger.
Needless to say, when ‘window shopping’turns into a weapon for negotiations in a marriage, it is no longer a harmless game.
And cheating is not just physical but emotional too. Even engaging with a stranger on dating apps can often blur the lines between what is permissible and what is not. Instead, couples could brainstorm on how to spend time together, rather than apart, that too with virtual strangers.
After a while, even window-shopping for clothes is no therapy, because it entails looking at a lot of price tags and craving a different life. Whether window-shopping for goods or people, it only makes us feel more dissatisfied with life.
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