‘Timeline Decline’ trend: How Indian women are reclaiming agency in romantic relationships

‘Timeline Decline’ trend: How Indian women are reclaiming agency in romantic relationships

Studies by Bumble show that women are choosing to opt out of traditional relationship timelines and milestones.

At a chic café on Church Street in Bengaluru, 29-year-old Anjali, a product manager at an edtech startup, sits alone at a table overlooking the street. She's scrolling through her phone, not for the latest tech news, but on a dating app, pondering over her next date. Unlike her friends, many of whom are married or engaged, Anjali is unhurried about her relationship status. She's part of a growing tribe of Indian women who are redefining dating on their own terms – they want to have fun and get to know someone better before they commit, being a parent is a decision they are yet to take, their financial independence is more important than emotional companionship and they would rather be single than be trapped in a bad relationship.

A new dating trend ‘Timeline Decline,’ reflects this shift in the narrative for women and how they are choosing to opt out of traditional relationship timelines and milestones. According to a recent study by Bumble, 36% of Indian women are now dating at their own pace, a significant departure from the past.

Newfound confidence and clarity

“I realised that my journey to love doesn’t have to follow a predefined path. Every new date or a swipe on my dating app is a step towards discovering not just a partner, but a partnership that respects who I am and what I aspire to be. It's not just about finding love, it's about finding someone who understands that my career, my dreams, and my independence aren't just a part of me – they are me,” says Anjali.

In cities, where the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity is most evident, this trend is particularly noticeable. Bumble's studies reveal that 62% of Indian women are upfront with potential partners about their goals regarding romantic milestones, indicating a newfound clarity in their approach to relationships. “I realised that my journey to love doesn’t have to follow a predefined path. Every new date or swipe on my dating app is a step towards seeking not just a partner, but a partnership that respects who I am and what I aspire to be,” explains Anjali.

Financial independence and career

In a society where marriage is projected as the ultimate goal for women, 43% of Indian women now cite financial independence as a key reason for defying traditional relationship timelines, while 42% want to focus on their careers. Education also plays a pivotal role here, with 28% of women choosing to complete their education first. This makes the emphasis on personal growth over societal expectations extremely clear. Furthermore, the aftermath of toxic relationships drives 22% of Indian women to defy conventional timelines, signalling a shift towards self-care and healing from the gendered expectation to be selfless.

Women who choose to marry in their own time face stereotypes of being too ambitious or career-oriented (41%), having financial issues (40%), or being too picky and unwilling to adjust (32%). However, these stereotypes are increasingly being challenged.

For most women, this shift is not necessarily about rejecting marriage or long-term commitments as much as it is about coming to terms with their aspirations. While 67% of the women surveyed are looking for a long-term relationship, only 30% are actively seeking marriage. This 'Timeline Decline' signifies a broader desire to reclaim autonomy and exercise agency in romantic lives, challenging and flipping traditional gender roles.

Reclaiming agency

Bumble’s India Communications Director Samarpita Samaddar, encapsulates this sentiment, noting that the trend reflects a significant shift in dating as women are increasingly looking inward, trying to take agency of their romantic lives. “This doesn’t necessarily mean women don’t want to get married, they are prioritising their financial independence and careers and placing themselves at the centre of their lives, wanting to date in a way and at a pace that works best for them. Bumble was built on the foundation that traditional gender roles are outdated and should be challenged and flipped, so we couldn’t be happier to see this trend gain momentum for women in India,” she says. 

These trends suggest a radical, hopeful shift in how Indian women approach relationships. 

This movement, while still in its nascent stages, is a powerful indicator of how women like Anjali and countless others across the nation, are not just seeking partners. They are seeking respect and growth with a companion.

In doing so, they are not only challenging the status quo, but also taking the lead for many women who may be looking for solidarity and moral support.

Disclaimer: This article is published in association with Bumble and not created by TNM Editorial.

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