The search for a life partner that involves dating is not necessarily the best option for many first-generation Indian Americans in the U.S. Torn between cultural values hammered down by their parents, and the American method of trial and error, many South Asians find refuge in Jasbina Ahluwalia and her company, Intersection Match.
The firm is the only premier matchmaking and dating coaching firm for Indian singles in America, Canada and the U.K. Ahluwalia has pioneered an approach to matchmaking that aims to merge the best of East and West.
Ahluwalia talks to SEEMA about the experiences that led to the formation of her company in 2007, and why people need her help in spite of the various dating platforms being available in the palm of their hands.
You have had a pretty diverse professional career — going from law to radio, and now playing Cupid through Intersection Match. Take us through this journey.
I had the typical career trajectory of an Indian-American growing up in America in the late 21st century — as a philosophy grad student-transitioned-lawyer-transitioned-medical student-transitioned-matchmaker and dating coach.
In all seriousness, I find that my myriad educational and professional experiences allow me to relate first hand with our clients; and I regularly apply the reasoning skills I have honed as I coach our clients.
What inspired you to start Intersection Match? Was it a result of your own personal experience?
“Don’t date, don’t date, don’t date… OK, now get married.” That was the refrain I internalized growing up in America as a first-generation Indian American.
That guidance freed me up to focus on investing in my studies, career, extracurricular activities, and developing strong relationships with family and friends. These investments helped me in developing a strong sense of self. I thoroughly enjoyed my twenties, spending the bulk of my time in fulfilling relationships with friends and family.
Dating took a backseat to practically everything else I did. Not surprisingly, with the limited investment I had made in dating throughout my twenties, and my lack of interest in pursuing traditional means, I found myself single at the age of 30, with limited dating and relationship experience.
To my parent’s considerable relief, at 30 I felt ready to invest in developing a serious relationship. Fueled by my internal motivation to find my special someone, and a complete lack of interest in pursuing the traditional means of an arranged marriage, I did what I had found served me well in other areas of life: I proactively directed time and energy into my dating adventures.
My dating adventures culminated in marriage. In anticipation of raising kids in the future, I began to explore opportunities to have more control and flexibility over my schedule, while at the same time pursuing my long-burning desire to create my own venture, helping people in a high-impact and meaningful way.
It hit me very soon thereafter, that my experiences successfully navigating the dating and relationship world, together with my desire to serve and great interest in interpersonal dynamics, uniquely positioned me to fill the void existing for Indian singles for whom arranged marriage did not resonate.
My new direction in creating Intersections Match was an ideal convergence of my passions, interests and values.
What did you discover was missing for people in the search for a life partner, and how did you try to rectify that through Intersection Match?
Every step in our process addresses different things missing for people in their search for a life partner:
1. The first step in our process helps clients clarify their values, life goals, and needs in a relationship; as well as any relationship patterns;
2. The introductions we make for clients gives them access to people who share their values and life goals;
3. After each introduction, we speak independently with the client and their match to both learn the interest level in pursuing things further so no one’s left guessing, as well as identifying anything our client may be doing or saying that could potentially be getting in their way;
4. The coaching provides support through the ups and downs (without support, it can get tempting to quit or self-sabotage); as well as strategies with respect to the blind spots and any limiting beliefs holding them back.
In this day and age of social media — Tinder, Grinder and the rest — how is that people have to still come to you? What do you provide that they can’t find themselves?
People come to us for various reasons. Some are high profile, and/or for professional reasons can’t date online, and have tapped out their personal networks. Some don’t have the time to spend countless hours on dating apps, but prefer to spend their limited free time getting to know people with real potential, instead of spending time trying to find them in the first place. Then there are some who simply want to expand their options. Some highly value the ability to get feedback after meeting someone, instead of just guessing whether or not the other person is interested. There are those that have been dating on their own for a while and have figured out they could use some support. Some have not dated for a while or have limited dating experience and want guidance. Some are super selective. Some are dating online unsuccessfully due to ill-serving pictures or communication patterns. Some are privacy-conscious and/or high-net worth and seeking a confidential and discreet service. Finally, there are some that can use guidance regarding gender dynamics.
What are some of the biggest challenges in finding a partner today, based on your experience?
Different people face different challenges — the list is as long as the diversity among humans.
For some, the paradox of choice kicks in. Online dating can give the illusion of unlimited options, which can make it difficult to select. For others, they’re ruling out people based on snap judgments, or preconceived notions and stereotypes. Some stay too long in a relationship because they’re hoping things will change, or fear there may be no one else out there for them. Some are blinded by chemistry, and dismiss or fail to address fundamental disconnects. Then there are those that don’t know how to express themselves and communicate effectively. Some are carrying emotional baggage from past relationships, and some get emotionally invested in a relationship with someone who’s not invested in them.
What is the top 5 dating advice that you would give to an individual that you find is the most essential?
- Approach dating with a spirit of adventure and growth, versus attaching oneself to the outcome of each date.
2. To maximize your chances of finding a partner embodying your essentials:
— be clear regarding the “why” underlying each of your essentials;
— and be flexible about everything apart from the essentials.
3. Don’t assume anything, i.e., you’re in an exclusive relationship, he or she wants kids, or you share the same mindset because you share the same religion.
4. Focus on what a prospective partner does rather than just what he or she says.
5. Don’t project what happened with your last date or relationship on the person you meet now.
You provide individual time to your clients. How do you manage to devote so much of it?
We have a global team working within their zones of genius with respect to all different aspects of our comprehensive service fulfillment, so I can focus on giving 1:1 support and guidance to our high-level clients.
Are criteria like caste, color and religion still prevalent in the search for a life partner?
Caste does not tend to be a factor for our clients. In terms of physical characteristics, complexion, at times, is mentioned, although body type and height tend to be prioritized most frequently.
Tell us a little about yourself, your family, your passions, and interests?
My passions at this stage of life are family and work — which involves meaningful interactions with family members, clients, colleagues, family trips, and supporting kids with their passions and school commitments, which at this point, in our active boy/girl twins’ lives means tons of basketball tournaments.
What do you do to let your hair down?
Hang out with my husband and kids, visit our family members, keep in touch with friends, movies.