It clearly marks a progression in societal mindsets, when actor Kareena Kapoor talks about living-in with Saif Ali Khan for five years, and no one bats an eyelid. They only got married later after deciding to have children. Many urban professionals are embracing this idea.
While centuries-old matrimony norms are indelibly coded into our behaviour patterns, the same doesn’t hold true for living together without marriage. It is a relatively new addition to our social and legal systems, and I see a glaring lack of awareness around the expectations and rules of living in among my clients. The fact is when it comes to being in a committed relationship, the only difference lies in the nomenclature: spouse or partner. But when you co-habit as a couple, the experience and expectations are really the same.
A couple client of mine, G and V, have been living together for the past five months. G is a pet parent to a golden retriever called Bruno, who obviously moved with her to V’s house. However, in the past five months, V has shared zero responsibility of Bruno. To him, this is still his girlfriend’s dog. I am not surprised that this behaviour is concerning G a lot. From finance to extended family dynamics, there were many things that G and V addressed before they decided to move in together after dating for three years. But G’s expectation that V would embrace Bruno with open arms as his own was not discussed. According to V, he did his bit by letting Bruno come into his home. Is this a situation they would have faced had they gotten married instead? Yes.
When B and N decided to live together, they bought an apartment. Financial responsibilities were divided equally and other responsibilities like interiors and paper work for the house were divided as per skill set and choice. N picked the interior work. He was good at it and had more clarity on what he wanted. However, he did expect B to help with the final selection after he had shortlisted the furniture, wall paper, art work, and more. B just could not make time to do this due to her work schedule. N thinks that’s an excuse for her lack of interest. “Isn’t this their home and shouldn’t B be more collaborative in doing up this house?” asks N. Again, this is an issue that many married couples also experience in their relationship.
The difference is that while married folks take it in their stride, live-in couples get insecure about the longevity of their relationships. Despite the increasing rate of divorce, the ceremony of marriage still gives the illusion of permanence. Even after you have lived together for several years, people around you, and often the partners themselves, expect that there will eventually be a wedding.
As a believer in love, and not ceremony, I see no difference between living-in and marriage when it comes to building a life together. However, there is definitely a huge difference in the way your external environment reacts to you. For instance, B and N have had quite a hard time registering their house in both their names without having a “relation” to each other. They are obviously not siblings and they don’t have a marriage certificate.
The law might have given a green signal for live-in relationships (in 2015, the Supreme Court of India made a landmark judgment in the case of D. Velusamy vs. D. Patchaiammal, where it recognised that a long-term live-in relationship could be considered a valid marriage under certain circumstances). But this seems to have been ignored in everyday life. From hospital forms, registration of property to even restaurant feedback forms, the word “partner” has not found a mention yet. For now, I feel that couples who live-in are doing themselves a great favour. It is indeed a healthy approach to know if you two are compatible enough to be in a strong and committed relationship. As things stand, the decision to get married or to live-in depends on the couples’ confidence levels – together and individually.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org