In the fall of 2006, a new cafe, “Inch”, had opened in Bangalore and I went there with a friend. This boy had picked me up in a car, ordered my drink for me and even paid the bill—basically everything a 19-year-old broke student could have ever asked for. This was the very first time I was going out with a male friend and, that too, alone. In a way, we can say that it was my very first “date”.
As you can imagine, I was overjoyed at the thought of being in one of the coolest areas (CMH Road or 100 Feet road in Indiranagar, I can’t remember!) in a cafe (OMG!) with a cool dude, all for the very first time. My apologies if I sound like I am 19 all over again. The cold coffee was great and the conversation was fun. As he dropped me off, he gave me a tight hug and I couldn’t wait to run home, just to start texting him to indulge in an in-depth analysis of the date and wonder at what point we should be informing our parents on the progress of our little relationship of one afternoon. Except there was one tiny problem—I waited all evening for him to text me first but I never heard from him.
Later that evening, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and so I called him and pretended to have misdialed (duh!), but it turned out that he was busy picking up litter for his cat. At first, my mind started racing; I started exploring the possibility of me having been not pretty enough or interesting enough for him and also wondered if he was just one big player (read jerk) and so on. It never occurred to me that he genuinely enjoyed the afternoon for all it was worth and that was that. It took me several years and some role reversals to realize that the problem really was that this guy and I had very different relationship quotients (RQ).
While it was my FIRST date, it wasn’t his first date. Naturally, our expectations from it were very different. When I realized this several years later, it turned out that my date wasn’t such a jerk after all (given that we continue to still be friends!) and there was really no reason for my confidence to plummet by his actions (or the lack of it, in this case). At that point in our lives, our RQs were very different—mine was far lower or less evolved than his, and that was that.
We often underestimate the need to match relationship quotients among couples because they usually aren’t as apparent as body mass indices or bullet points on a resume. The difference between the relationship quotients of two people in a relationship is precisely what determines its health; while a person with more relationship experience might miss the finer subtleties of love, the less experienced are more susceptible to getting hurt. To illustrate the importance of matching RQs (in heterogenous relationships), let me use a two-by-two matrix (I love my matrices and no, I don’t work for BCG) to explain this—female RQ on one axis and the male RQ on the other.
If both partners have low relationship quotients, they come with low expectations, and most things can seem magical like the stuff we see in romantic movies—dreamy and filled with mush. On the other hand, if both partners come with plenty of experience, and thus high RQs, it will result in a partnership of convenience, devoid of butterflies in the belly.
The off-diagonal elements of the matrix are asymmetric; a man with a much higher RQ than a woman will result in a bitter breakup because women are anyway more self-critical and not receiving the attention they deserve in a relationship makes them more desperate, making things worse. A relationship where a woman has a significantly higher RQ than the man can result in the man being “friendzoned” because men have a harder time understanding women and their intentions, resulting in men being led on for longer.
Today, it might be quite impossible to really “match” RQs of both parties, but I would still emphasize this matrix so people know what to expect before they get into a relationship. Expectation management is one of the first steps to making any relationship work (personal or professional). So, if you are an inexperienced newbie on the block, you need to know that you will not be picking wedding venues after your first date and if you are a pro, keep in mind that the other party might be making wedding plans during your first date and the more you lead them on, the closer you will be to your honeymoon.
Most online dating websites discount the importance of matching RQ. OKCupid is one of the few dating platforms that tries to assess people’s RQ while making matches by providing a feature to make your relationship intentions apparent—casual, short-term or long-term. This makes us reach out to people with similar intentions. However, when there’s a need to state something explicitly, you can be sure the accuracy of such information will be quite low. Nonetheless, it is an indication of the challenge one is signing themselves up for and that trumps the truth.
Priyanka Bharadwaj, author, is the founder of Marriage Broker Auntie, a wing(wo)man service for arranged marriages. Founded in 2013 as a personalised matching service, Marriage Broker Auntie now focuses on coaching people and helping them make decisions on finding a life partner.
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