x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The perfect partner? These days that's just a fairytale

'Hmm, no, she's too old"; or, "Hmm, no, he doesn't make enough money"; or worse yet, especially in a Muslim setting: "Is she too independent and mixed with too many guys?" If the answer is yes, then rest assured this lady will have a difficult time finding any suitors.

'Hmm, no, she's too old"; or, "Hmm, no, he doesn't make enough money"; or worse yet, especially in a Muslim setting: "Is she too independent and mixed with too many guys?" If the answer is yes, then rest assured this lady will have a difficult time finding any suitors. It has become harder and harder to meet the "right person". I have heard this statement in a variety of languages and, surprisingly, by both sexes.

The other day my Russian friend was reading out to me the results of a study on relationships, which found that Russian men see today's women as "intimidating" and "too career orientated", which makes the men less keen to commit. Apparently they prefer the "simple, quiet" type, who "needs" them - or rather, is dependent on them. "It takes a really secure man to commit to a beautiful, smart, successful, and independent woman," my friend said.

I asked around among my friends about what they think the reasons are for such a large number of singles struggling to find someone "special." According to those of my friends who have been married for at least five years, the "market has changed": it is now more difficult to find single men because women outnumber them, especially in the Middle Eastern countries. "There are just too many choices out there now, and they are out and about, most of them even forward where they like to be noticed and even pursue the guy," said one of my Emirati friends who has been married for 10 years and always likes to say how much the world has changed since his single days.

As for the wives, they think we singles have it "great" and should stop complaining. "You are living your life not tied down to someone's else whims and mood swings," one of them told me. "Marriage is over-rated." Of course, they didn't answer the question of why it has become difficult to find someone. Instead they are telling us single people just to live it up, and if it is "meant to be" it will happen. If not, tough luck.

I asked my single friends if they thought it had become difficult to meet a serious partner, or whether it was just a matter of perception. One of them has been asking her mother to start looking for her after failing to meet anyone on her own. "It has always been difficult," she said, "but now that family safety net, where family friends often end up marrying each other, is disappearing, and expectations are just too high by both sexes."

It is a jungle out there. It is always so exciting at first when you meet someone you click with, and they seem to like the same things as you and you enjoy each other's company until either or both start over analysing and perhaps going through a mental check list, finding flaws or bringing in baggage from a previous relationship and boom, the awful break-up woes and sorrows. One of my male friends, a heartthrob bachelor who claims some woman is always trying to "hook him", loves to observe how a woman's mind works by flirting with her and watching how she reacts. "Why should I settle down with one, when I can meet someone different and interesting each week?" he says.

Something has changed. Social norms have been revised and people's priorities have changed and so have their experiences. And we all know just how much experiences shape us and our perception of what we need in our lives. I listened to the things my single friends said about what they looked for in a partner, and "someone sweet who understands me" is not the whole truth. Some single men admitted they wanted a good cook, "like my mother", from a good and influential family. Yes, these days men analyse the social standing of prospective partners as women do. They're looking for a woman who can help them to get ahead, even if they don't admit it to themselves.

My best friend told me that this whole expectation of a Prince Charming coming to rescue a poor and abandoned Cinderella is often unrealistic. "A prince will usually end up marrying a princess, to keep the wealth and status within the family," he said, and he should know: he is a member of a royal family himself. So perhaps that's it. Realism is putting a damper on romance, killing off some of the potential fairytale relationships out there.

rghazal@thenational.ae