The other day, I came across a Hindi web series named #LoveBytes on YouTube. The short episodes were a definite plus point but what intrigued me the most about the show was that it was based on the life of a live together couple. The first season of the show was an entertaining watch but more importantly, it also got me thinking about how live together couples are judged and misunderstood constantly for living together without marriage.
A widely circulated post on the social media highlights the contrasting situation that a majority of Indians seem to face in their lives. From childhood, they are taught to not interact with strangers; however, once they attain what is considered the marriageable age, they are asked to interact with several strangers in order to determine which stranger they want to live with for an expected period of the rest of their lives. While such posts showcase the ability of Indians being able to laugh at the absurdities in their own culture (in the mainstream sense, which is not to take away from the diverse strands that our culture has had, including those with room for live-in relationships), it also throws light on a serious issue that is plaguing India’s youth. Persons belonging to the older generations with their entrenched traditional views of love and marriage are today posing obstacles in the path of the younger generation who want to lead their lives based on their own comparatively progressive views about the ideas of love, commitment and marriage.
The very same set of relatives insisting on you settling down is the first to begin cursing your idea of beginning a live together relationship. You may be wondering about the reason for the huge resistance to live-in. For the most part it seems that the word live-in comes with an attached ‘Log kya kahenge’ (What will people say?) tag. The argument of the conservatives in this case is usually that living together before marriage is morally incorrect in addition to being socially unacceptable. One thing that they tend to forget, however, is, that the societal mindset is continuously evolving and it is naïve to attempt to restraint this change based on the ambiguous morals of a somewhat hypocritical society.
For a generation which grew up actively observing life through American sitcoms, the idea of a live together relationship is nothing new and usually not objectionable at all. The fiercely independent individuals of today are substantially different from the societal norm abiding generation of the yesteryears and that is where the root of the conflict lies. Reflections of this intense conflict can be found in the attitude of landlords and landladies who show serious reservations in providing accommodation to an unmarried couple. The consistent requirement of marriage still looms large while searching for a house for a couple who want to experience living together before marriage. The sense of taboo surrounding live together couples blinds conservatives against the fact of the matter which is that live together and marriage is essentially the same except that the latter only provides a legal and societal mark of acceptance to your relationship with your partner. (The law of the land too however is beginning to breathe legitimacy into live together relationships by recognizing claims like maintenance and child custody between partners of live in relations.)
Another misconception which continues to largely persist is that live together relations are only for having ‘fun without taking responsibility’. (‘Fun’ in this context usually refers to the sexual genre of activities.) While ‘fun’ may or may not be a part of the parcel called live together relationship, accountability and dependence are always key elements. Just consider a situation of you living in an apartment with your roommate. Just because you aren’t legally obligated to take care of your roommate does not mean that you will not. While live together relationships at the core are easily comparable to living with a roommate, they are much more.
Adjustment and cooperation forms the cornerstone of a live together relationship. You may argue that a marriage too requires the same and provides a sort of permanency to the relationship. Going by the increase in rate of divorces I would say that is a weak point to put forward and that is exactly where the advocacy in favour of live together relationships comes in. The instances of getting married without actually knowing the person and later not being able to cope with the changes in their persona forms the gist of most divorces. Be careful however to not consider the previous statement as being applicable only to arranged marriages. While arranged marriages are a quite frequent victim of this problem, the issue persists within love marriages too. Often, people believe that the way that a person is during courtship is the type of person he or she always is. They forget that time changes and persons change similarly. Moreover, during the period of courtship, humans have a tendency to act in a manner so as to please their partners as a means of increasing their chances of entering into a committed bond. Live together relationships provide an opportunity to romantic partners to learn about each other in a much more nuanced manner and make an informed decision about the future of their relationship. Moreover, such relationships can equip a couple with several life values which the conservative societal elements often fail to impart.
It is reasonably presumable that a person cannot maintain a facade 24×7 for months on end. So when you actually live together with the person to whom you are romantically inclined, there is a better possibility of knowing the true him/her as compared to getting to know him/her simply through a fixed number of dates each month. Having your romantic partner live together with you is also likely to expose your vulnerabilities on account of someone entering so close inside your personal domain. Therefore, not only will you be able to understand different shades of your partner’s character, you may also end up learning something new about yourself. Finally, one must acknowledge that the cost of breaking up in a live together relationship is much lesser than the expense of walking out of a failed marriage. The emotional cost in both cases tends to be similar but the social and economic costs in the latter tend to largely outweigh those in the former. Logically thinking, therefore, the risk of entering into a live together relationship is less than in case of a marriage. In fact, a live together relationship prior to marriage can contribute to a much smoother marital life since there are lesser chances of unexpected and perhaps disturbing discoveries regarding the character and characteristics of your partner.
Attempting to curb live together relationships is simply put an unnecessary intrusion into the private domain of two consenting adults. The thought that a couple needs societal validation in order to have a proper romantic relationship after a particular age is extremely absurd. Now, while it would be incorrect to enumerate only the good about live together relationships, it must be noted that almost all of the ‘bad’ can be dealt with easily. If you say that the surprise element will be gone after a few days of living together and the relationship will grow stale, there are two answers to your claim. Firstly, the same is likely to happen in case of marriage too in the absence of an effort both partners to keep the spark alive and, secondly it is generally safer to not get surprises (considering that a live together relationship may evolve into marriage) than to take a chance and get bad surprises later. If you say that it is wrong because the society says so, I would like to point out to you that it is we who create the society and it is our collective morality that forms societal perception of each social occurrence. Hence, if possible, we should try and analyze a situation before passing moralistic judgments about it. Ultimately, it boils down to one thing that I would strongly recommend while dealing with the question of live together relationships—live and let live. If you do not like the sound of such a relationship, then do not enter into one, but just because you do not think that it is the right option, it does not mean you have the right to discredit a couple which chooses to live in with each other.
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