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Thursday, October 24, 2019


Will you ignore the barbs?


Most open to assault, the live-in is full of situations and sensitivity
TSI EDIT BUREAU | Issue Dated: May 13, 2007
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Will you ignore the barbs? It’s such a tentative moment that often it begins almost by default. Either the woman or the man drops by one evening, stays back and sets a precedent. Once a memory has been created, the mind and body repeat the action and over some days, a live-in relationship has been established. There are, of course, endless reasons why a couple opts for live-in. But, if both are single, marriage is an option that isn’t closed.

“We wanted to check our comfort levels. Ravi and I wanted to live on our terms. We saw no problem because we were not considering starting a family,” said Hema, a software expert who shuttles between Chennai and Gurgaon in the course of her job. But, there’s a catch. The couple is not certain if a live-in is what they want after, say, a few years. By then, priorities will change in the face of an improved lifestyle and the urge for children. The flexibility of live-ins is an important factor. On most accounts, it perhaps makes the couple feel good. But when sensitive decisions have to be taken, arguments tend to centre on a perceived lack of respect for the other.

“I would definitely think twice if Ravi didn’t want to convert our relationship into marriage if I wanted to,” says Hema. This is one of the weaknesses in a live-in. Such an arrangement allows the partners to walk out at will, unlike in a marriage where legal, economic and social implications have been known to trigger second thoughts.

In India, political outfits have targeted live-in couples on various occasions, the newest being two Hindu-Muslim couples, one each in Bhopal and Surat. Critics of live-ins tend to say that casual partners may be subconsciously suggesting that they will walk when they choose to. The issue of children is another sore point. Given the social and legal ramifications of having children out of marriage, couples prefer to marry before procreating (single mothers like Bollywood actor Neena Gupta are an exception). Then, there is the conditioning. After long years of behaviour on display and word of mouth communication, women fear that they are more open to physical and sexual abuse in a live-in.

Of late, the Union government has begun to legally recognise live-in relationships by providing safeguards for women on par with those enjoyed by married women. This overdue step at least puts India on the path to a mature understanding of people’s choices. Love, of course, is the biggest reason of all. When two consenting adults decide to live together, it really shouldn’t be anyone else’s problem.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017