How to Explain Modern “Dating” to Your Desi Parents


There’s a reason South Asian dating memes are so popular – it’s because we can ALL relate to the crazy reactions and rules that our desi parents have about dating and getting married.

Navigating dating and marriage timelines with desi parents is like playing an extreme sport – they want you to focus on school and your career until you’re in or out of college, but then instantly learn how to talk to the opposite gender and find a life partner within a couple of years and settle down. Some of our favorite sayings and concerns:

  • You can date after you’re married
  • Why have a boyfriend or girlfriend when you can be “friends” with different people? 
  • It will distract you from your studies, you can date in college
  • What will people say if they find out you have a boyfriend?
  • Don’t be so picky or all the good ones will be taken!

To be fair, it’s understandable that dating is a foreign concept for immigrant desi parents because it’s not their cultural norm. Arranged marriage has been the standard for generations, and even the few love stories that did make it through were generally kept under the radar and had a short period of courtship.

We have a few ideas on how you can talk to your parents about this “forbidden” subject – if they can wrap their heads around it, they might lay off while you try and figure things out your way, and give those arranged marriage warnings a break!

First, prime them to the idea of dating by framing it in the context of what they care about and understand – eventually finding someone you can be with long-term.

  • If you’re facing extreme shaadi pressure, start by explaining to your parents that you exploring your options and want to go on dates in order to find the right person
  • Mention a few friends who’ve gotten married to someone they met either online or through casual dating to help familiarize them with this concept (and help it have some credibility!)
  • Also throw in a couple of horror stories of people who either rushed too quickly into marriage or were pressured into marriage by their families (to help reinforce the importance of taking your time to see people).

Walk them through what a date looks like (maybe leaving out some of the PG-13 details) so they know you’re being safe

  • Introduce them to the different options for dating that you are currently exploring, whether it’s blind dates with friends of friends or different dating apps
  • Tell them dating apps are like the modern day version of the aunty rishta network. They’re just helping surface compatible people!
  • Explain that you meet people over a drink or dinner to learn a little bit more about them and their interests, as well as their families

And then finally the hardest part – slow their roll when you start seeing someone exclusively

  • Desi parents want you to lock that ish down asap, and have a hard time understanding why you need a “trial period” once you’ve found someone. If possible, give your new relationship some time before letting your parents in the loop. This keeps the pressure off while you’re still trying to get to know each other, and saves you from having them drop marriage hints to your partner three weeks into dating. 
  • Once you’ve built a foundation, let them know you’re seeing someone. If they ask to meet them, tell them you’re taking things slow and that you’ll introduce them if things take a turn for the serious. Explain that both of you need to be ready for this next step and you don’t want to complicate things while you’re both figuring out if you see a future together.

If things don’t work out, clearly outline the reasons and explain that your happiness needs to come before society’s expectations and their desire for grandchildren asap. Unfortunately in desi culture it is common to blame the women for being too picky, or difficult, or unwilling to compromise. But it’s 2020 goddamnit, so don’t be ashamed to be forthright about what was missing and hold out for what you need!

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