Are live-in relationships a litmus test for marriage these days?
Rahul Patnaik*, a 25-yearold Delhi resident, compares his live-in relationship to the beta version of a website. He calls it a trial period, during which you can check whether the website has any bugs. “You see what living with someone feels like, before getting the marriage tag,” he adds. A musician, Patnaik has been sharing an apartment with his girlfriend for two years now. “My mother was always cool, but my father had issues. I didn’t tell him about it for the first six months,” he says. Finally, when he did inform his father, Patnaik says he wasn’t “scared”. “I am living on my own. I’m not asking them for money. And I’m not doing anything wrong,” he states.
A few kilometres away, somewhere in central Delhi, 25-year-old graphic designer Tahira Baheti* has been living with her partner, Aavan Singh*, for over five years. Interestingly, she also lives with her boyfriend’s parents. What began as innocent sleepovers at Singh’s house, gradually “spilled onto other aspects” of her life. Baheti says, “I started teaching his sister, shopping with his mother, and helping his dad with work. After college ended, his parents told me to not look for another apartment, and move my stuff to their place.” The parents’ intention, though, was not to get the couple married, instead let them spend time with each other.
Today, several unmarried Indian couples live together in metropolitan cities, with the consent of their parents. Living together has become a tried and tested formula. Last year, even the Supreme Court ruled that live-in relationships have become “an acceptable norm”. “It is like getting married,” affirms Patnaik.
But societal pressures often force many to refrain from talking about it openly. Some people, however, feel that a live-in relationship is a decision against marriage. But, is it?
Is a live-in relationship being looked at as a prerequisite for marriage in India? City-based psychiatrist and sexologist Shyam Mithiya disagrees. “It is definitely a step towards marriage. I have seven to 10 patients who live together. Their intention, while moving in together, was to get to know each other better. Eventually, they got married,” he says, adding, “Moving in with someone is not easy. Only people who are serious about their relationship and are thinking long-term do it. It is also more common among couples who don’t live with their families.”
NATURAL NEXT STEP
Meanwhile, in Mumbai, Kanishk Sharma* (26), a consultant, has just moved in with his girlfriend of several years. “It’s been three months. But we’ve been dating for a long time, so moving in was a natural progression of sorts,” he says. He hasn’t thought about a wedding yet, but he affirms his intention is a “long-term cohabitation”. He adds that his life has become “more adult than it was before” and that while he and his partner had a “rocky start”, “things are getting ironed out now”. “I know what I want out of a life partner now,” he adds. *names changed on request
Moving in with someone is not easy. Only people who are serious about their relationship and are thinking long-term, do it SHYAM MITHIYA, PSYCHIATRIST AND SEXOLOGIST TODAY, SEVERAL UNMARRIED INDIAN COUPLES LIVE TOGETHER IN METROPOLITAN CITIES, WITH THE CONSENT OF THEIR PARENTS.