LIVE in LOVE out?

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Before actually tying the knot, most people want a companion to spend those lonely nights. The truth of the matter is that few young people wait till their wedding night to see if they are physically compatible. From there, it’s a short step to moving in together and testing the waters to see if you match on so many other levels. But is India ready for such a modern outlook? What about family, school-friends and colleagues; will they be supportive or judgemental? And finally, what kind of stress does it put on your relationship?

Maya Roy, an advertising professional, says to young lovers, “Unless you are serious about each other, don’t do it! The good thing about live-in relationships is that you get to know each other really well. But because you are not married, neither of you is obliged to put up with each other’s bad moods and baggage. So unless you are planning to settle down with the person, it is the worst thing for any couple!” Roy advises that couples stick it out for a year before getting married as even live-in relationships have a ‘honeymoon’ period where everything in the beginning is beautiful.
But the freedom of living together for couples may be limited to metropolitan cities where there is relative anonymity and freedom in one’s movements. Somya Mathur who is engaged to be married says, “Guys prefer live-in relationships but girls do not. It’s ok in metropolitan cities but in smaller cities like Jhansi, where I am from, people don’t even want you to meet your fiancé too often before getting married. But I think living together is a great idea. You can get the experience of what it is like to live with that person, understand their culture and values and figure out if that is the right match for you.”
But even in cities, the trend is not as common as some may think. In Mumbai, the cost of real estate is enough to deter most from moving out of their parent’s houses till settling down themselves. Beverly Fernandes says, “In a country like India, most people do not leave their house very early. The situation is that even till the age of 28, guys are living with the parents. Add to that the cost of real estate in Mumbai, which doesn’t help!” Other than these deterrents, most communities are traditional and while they may turn a blind eye to young lovers on the seashore, they do not sanction a live-in relationship. Marinha D’Abro says, “The Pope and my mother say no…”
“Live-in relationships are not ok – Don’t marry if you don’t want to, but living in is not the solution”. These were the words my father said to me; a man who for the most part has been broad-minded and liberal. In fact he has more often than not embraced new-age lingo, fads and most importantly, mindsets. This was not an easy thing, especially when you’re nearly 70, but he always managed well; which was why his words hit me like a bolt from the blue and naturally led to a debate. Living in makes perfect sense, I argued. It was the only way by which one could get to know his/her partner well enough before taking the relationship a step further. Otherwise it would simply lead to discontentment later, and then, as statistics prove, divorce. If after marriage one had to live together in any case, then a live-in would basically serve as a template for what one should expect post the big leap.
To be fair, my father heard me out patiently whilst I raved and ranted and claimed he was being prehistoric. And then he said something to me which momentarily stumped me. “Do you know what the main problem with your generation is,” he asked. “Your complete and entire lack of commitment.” I was horrified. What did he mean by that? I was as committed as any other. I was committed to my job, to yoga, to dance. “That’s not what I am talking about,” he said. “When I say lack of commitment, I speak of your relationships with people around you. If this was not the case, you would see for yourself that a live-in is nothing but a marriage, sans the commitment.”
Now, I wasn’t sure what my argument should be. Was my generation really unable to commit to relationships? Wasn’t that a gross generalisation? There were many successful marriages even today. And many believed in the institution too. But then the same statistics I had been flaunting moments ago came back to haunt me; that it’s better to get a divorce than suffer through a bad marriage; that a pre-nup was simply a wise decision because it helped to save on alimony. But I couldn’t help wonder, did we in the modern world simply reach for the easy way out? Marriages are broken for such frivolous reasons nowadays. Is keeping the toothpaste cap open reason enough to end vows which are supposedly valid through seven lives? Is ‘compatibility’ suddenly a term so abused in the context of divorce that it’s become difficult to define the parameters for it?
It is true that our generation has it easier. Today, separations are the rule rather than the exception. Divorce is not taboo and multiple marriages are common. I was forced to ponder; had all of this truly improved our lives? Are we a happier generation? And if not, why? By and large, our mothers would claim their lives were happier than ours. How often have we heard our mothers say if things are not really working out then you must ‘adjust’? We refuse to do so and brandish our feminist streak saying, why should we! But somewhere I think we have forgotten one thing – and that is how to maintain a relationship. Of course, there is a way out, and of course, that is easier. But it takes mettle to actually make a relationship work. And that is something that requires a great deal of commitment.
Before you think I gave in to my father’s argument, let me tell you I did not. I tried to logically establish my viewpoint saying, “Well then, are you suggesting you should stay in a marriage where the husband beats you?”
My father I think was a little exasperated by then. “These are extreme situations you are referring to,” he said, “And that was not my point. What I was trying to explain to you is that you would not stay in an abusive live-in relationship either, would you? A marriage which is suffering extreme circumstances must be terminated. But what is not acceptable is to walk into a relationship predicting doomsday at the very on start. And that is what a live-in relationship is. It is a classic example of giving up on something even before it started. By not showing enough confidence in your relationship to commit to it, you will by default look for it to end.”
It’s true that we live in a cynical world. I must admit that after listening to my father’s argument, I wasn’t entirely convinced that he was right; but I could not entirely negate what he said to me. Is it time now for us to relearn how to make our relationships work, no matter what? (Even an open toothpaste cap?) And not in a half-hearted manner, but in true blue filmy style; dil aur jaan se. Are we ready to commit to a relationship with every bone in our body? Maybe it’s time to relook at what we think a relationship should be. Maybe our mothers were right – maybe in adjustments one can find true happiness. Because, often, the alternative is being alone.

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Celeb live-in files
Ranvir Shorey and Konkona Sen Sharma were living in for a while before tying the knot. Shorey threw off the secrecy and told the media, “My girlfriend stays with me at my apartment. We have been living in for quite some time now.”

Bollywood heart-throbs John Abraham and Bipasha Basu were reportedly living together for eight years before they split up last year. We think they were the hottest couple to cohabitate under one roof in a long time, so it’s just as well that they didn’t burn down the house!

Volume 1 Issue 5

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