Struggles and Scars

Why it is difficult for older women in India to find partners

Why is it difficult for older single women in India to find partners, especially compared to their male counterparts?
thinking woman

(Names changed to protect identities)

Akelepan se khauf aata hai mujhko
Kahan ho aye mere khwabon khayalon….

It gets lonely after 40

The silky voice of Jagjit Singh wafts across the room as Naina Kapoor sits in a dimly lit corner of her house, her eyes fixed on the raindrops that splash on the glass against which she rests her head. Forlorn and distant, she is often engulfed by such lonesome thoughts that drive her into a state of compulsive restlessness. Despite being a successful media professional in Mumbai, at age 44, Naina is single and has till date not found a partner for herself. Neither have her parents. “It gets really difficult at this age,” she says, “Lot of things change. You as a person change. You’ve lived alone too long and you fear adjustment with a man who too has been single until now. Parents have given up on you, blaming it all on your destiny. You are too busy with your career to look around. Moreover, everyone around you is married!”

Related reading: Single and willing to wait at 35

Why is it so difficult after 40?

Single, after 40, what makes it difficult for an Indian woman to find a partner? Says Ritu Arya, 42, professor of music in Rajasthan, “It’s tough to find a guy of your choice at this age and if by any chance you happen to like someone and the other person rejects the proposal, then you end up pining for someone like him because at such a late age, you did end up liking someone! Men, of course, do find matches at a late age also. Also trust is a major factor. At our age, it becomes really difficult to trust someone easily; you don’t want to compromise in a man-woman relationship at this stage.”

“At our age, it becomes really difficult to trust someone easily; you don’t want to compromise in a man-woman relationship at this stage.”

Reema Agarwal, 48, professional lawyer in New Delhi, reiterates, “After 40, there is a social stigma attached to a girl’s marriage. The Indian society strongly upholds that a woman above 40 is way past her child-bearing age.

So, arranged matches hardly come by. A man of 50 also desires a woman in her 30s and he often manages to find one.”

It might be the qualification

Whatever the case, as age progresses, finding a life partner of one’s choice does seem a distant dream. States Naina, “Generally girls who remain single until this age are all very highly educated and to find an equally well educated groom becomes almost impossible. You are naturally looking for someone who is on par with you.” Reema agrees, “Especially in the baniya community, boys and girls are married very young. After 40, rarely are desirable matches left.”

Women thinking
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Another strong point that makes Reema almost cringe is this – “Men tend to have a fixed notion in their head that women over 40 have lost their sex appeal; their bodies are no longer thin and petite and they no longer look like trophy wives.” On a more sombre note, she cites instances where the girl financially supports her family and with progressing age, the parents may give up looking for a partner for their daughter for obvious reasons. “In such cases, usually the girl at the right age was not given the freedom to choose her life partner and later she loses the ability and confidence to do so,” says Reema, “Our society is still caste based and parents often want their daughters to marry within their community. This results in delayed marriage and many times marriage doesn’t happen at all.”

Related reading: “Single women are not leading their lives pining away for a man” – Author of the book Status Single

When there’s no one to share with

And so there are a whole lot of well educated, financially independent, smart, good looking and extremely health conscious women in their 40s in our country today who are still waiting and hoping to find their life partners. But meanwhile loneliness has crept into their lives and they deal with this deadly problem in their own way. With high demanding jobs, a family of parents and siblings, friends, social gatherings and social media, where and why does loneliness creep in? “There is no one to share your heart’s feelings,” smiles Ritu. “Apne mann ki baat kisse kahen. People react saying, ‘arre isko iss umr mei bhi shaadi karni hai. Ab kya karogi shaadi karke’. These kind of statements make you retreat into a cocoon and force you to not open up about your feelings. And you embrace loneliness.”

For Reema it is the fact that one does not have a husband and children to shower love and “one doesn’t know who to share all the love with. All your friends are married and busy with their lives. They may become insecure having an unmarried friend around.” For Naina it is the lack of communication within the family too that results in loneliness. “Your siblings are busy with their own lives. You can’t talk about everything with your parents. So you kind of distance yourself.”

struggles n scars native

Related reading: How to not feel lonely when you are single and looking for love

Find other things to do?

But surely there are ways to combat this. It really is not the same thing as having a man to share your life with but then each of us has to go on. “One can join similar singles groups, do some social service or even join politics,” laughs Reema, “That can never leave any scope for loneliness.” Daily riyaaz keeps Ritu busy and also works wonders for her mind, as dance does for Naina. “I also learn classical vocal music, do some piano, yoga, meditation and lots of reading,” says Naina. And yet, it’s not the same thing. Naina gets up to change the record. And Elvis Presley croons –
Are you lonesome tonight,
Do you miss me tonight?…

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3 Comments

  1. India is not a country geared for the single life! You are right, people stay in bad marriages because we are just not a single-friendly nation. Also a single person is seen as a somehow lacking to be single. The blame is always on the single. Nice piece.

  2. Patriarchy and what else and if I go to talk about it people will consider me a feminist so it is just an horrible truth of our society and we can do nothing to change it.

    1. Mahatma Gandhi had said “Do unto others, what you want done to yourself”. Follow this rule. If you cannot change society, at least you can change yourself. Maybe after you change yourself, people who love and care for you will start liking you.

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