Live In Relationships – A Debate

As someone who questions everything all the time, I have watched a lot of videos of many spiritual gurus, read their books, heard them speak and this includes Ramdev, Sri Sri, my namesake from Brahmakumaris and of late, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. It is not an endeavor but my natural disposition to take from these, what resonates with me, rather than to idolize the person himself.

When I came upon this video by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, I was forced to reminiscence about the time when I discussed live-in relationships with my father. This was at a time when marriage was a frequent topic of discussion. However, it was also at a time when teenage hormones were buzzing and the idealistic concept of love was blooming in my heart. My belief was (and is) that a live-in relationship is the purest form of relationship. This was one discussion where I do not remember much about what my father said, perhaps because he feared the ire of my mother, who felt that such thoughts should not be encouraged.

Before I go into why I feel that live-in relationships (and of course I mean relationships between two sexually active partners and in contrast with a marital live-in relationship), watch the video below. I feel I do much more justice to explaining my point of view when in debate or healthy argument, than in a standalone statement.

I am going to take some of the statements made here and give my personal take on those:

Marriage is also a live-in relationship

This one I agree with completely. Yes, marriage is a live-in relationship unless the couple is separated. And so is the relationship of a mother and child when they are staying together as are other relationships like mother-in-law and daughter-in-law when they stay in the same house or two siblings too. All these are live-in relationships. The only thing that differentiates the other relationships from marriage is that in marriage, the government and the legal system are involved!

Why do we involve the society, the legal system and the government in this whole affair? Is there a sibling certificate to establish that two people are siblings? Are we somewhere not saying that we know that a sexual relationship is likely to be difficult to sustain and therefore let’s legalize it before it starts?

Marriage helps in guarding against impulsive behaviors

When two people get married, it is a social affair too. The marriage is not really taking place between two people, but between two families or two extended clans. Therefore, when ugly situations arise in a marital relationship, there are the cousins, parents, siblings and other people who come to the rescue in trying to solve the issue or in other words, put pressure on the husband or wife to ignore the issue and continue the relationship. If a relationship between two people needs to support and convincing power of other people to be sustained, should it really be sustained?

It is also mentioned in the video that when you walk out in a huff after an ugly encounter, there is no coming back. That is so not true! Just as you can rush off to your mother’s house after a bad fight and come back later in a marriage, you can do the same in a live-in relationship. The only difference is that in the latter case, you don’t come back because someone gave you 10 points (some of them really mundane and ‘practical’) why you should stay with the guy or girl. You came back because you realized on your own that you do not want to stop living in with your partner over a spat that you had.

Living in relationships are essentially relationships with no commitment

This is the one thing that really got me to write the post. A live-in relationship is not one without commitments. There is a commitment that has been made and there is an explicit or implicit understanding between two people that they want to live together. This commitment is made without the coercive attempts of family, friends, the legal system or the government. It is based on a personal desire to spend a large part of your time with one person. A live-in relationship is not a one-night stand where you meet someone, have sex and leave the next morning. A live-in relationship is not a relationship with no commitment, it is a relationship with no bondage!

Live-in relationships provide no security

And marriage does? A marriage which is abusive remains intact for many years because there is no easy way of getting out of it. A marriage where there is no love continues because you have no real reason to give your family members about why you want to leave. Even the legal system does not grant a divorce easily if one person files for divorce because there is no love.

So yes, if you want to call marriage a forced security between two people, you may say so. And what security are we assuring? Security that you will not be questioned by society or security that you will have someone to have sex with every night? There can obviously be no security that the system can provide that there will be love.

With this security there is also a huge possibility that it can be taken for granted. A spouse needs to be given the bare essential attention and love that is necessary to not tip the scales. So stay away from issues that can tip the scales and all will be well. For example, these days physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism and some extreme cases have become acceptable reasons for filing for a divorce. The important thing to note is that this was not the case a few years from now.

Security also is not something that an external entity can provide. Have you not seen men or women who are extremely jealous if their partners even speak to the opposite sex? Are they secure? Insecurity does not stem from the actions of another person. It stems from your own lack of confidence. Someone who has that personality will be insecure even in a contracted marriage with a prenup. And those have the confidence will be secure in ‘anytime walk-out live-in relationships too.

Live-in relationships are calculations about who is bringing in what

Live-in relationships are not calculated relationships where you are calculating what the other person is bringing to the table. In fact, each brings what they can and when you feel that it is not working out for you, you can decide to leave. There is no definition of how a live-in relationship should be.

A marriage, on the other hand, becomes a calculation over time, especially when there is no love or respect. You then start thinking of logical and practical reasons to stay together. You convince yourself that the marriage is in your best interest. You think of the change you will have to go through, the house you will have to keep yourself, the money you will miss and a whole load of other stuff.

Additionally, a marriage is a relationship that is ‘defined’. In every society there are said and unsaid rules about what a husband is ‘supposed’ to do and what a wife is expected to do. A husband should provide for the family. A wife should cook healthy meals. And this is much like almost every other ‘defined’ relation we have. Siblings are supposed to support each other. Parents should have the same behavior towards each of their children. (Really? – do we have to operate within defined boundaries of relationships or can we please be individuals who create real and natural bonds with other people?)

Very much like a friend, a live-in relationship has no or minimal definitions. These definitions, if at all, are created by the two people getting into a relationship. Those boundaries are not defined by other people, society or government. And that is why two people can decide how they want to come together!

PS: The only exception to the rule that I make with regards to this is when two people have a child. Once that decision is made, the pair owes it to the new life to stay together (albeit in a positive environment and not a toxic one). Sometimes the legal system has to be used to force them to do so to ensure that there is enough practical help for the child to grow up. Unfortunately, the legal system cannot enforce the ‘love’ that this new life needs!

13 comments

  1. Once upon a time marriages were sealed sacraments. No option of what if, except when spouse dies. But modern relationships rendered marriage too a relationship. A relationship, so called live in, open, closed, etc., All lie on one single foundation. “Let’s try”. The try aspect has inherent “failure” as one of its probability. So, of fails, the patterns choose others. So in a million peopled world, they choose so called “right” partner and test and if fails repeat. You see how flawed this process is? To choose right person, probability is nearly 0 (say 100people to try/1000000people that exist). And even after we considering them almost right, we failed. Even if successful, we may fail along the way. Just like modern day technology, we deal human relations. Instead, if a sense of purpose to build a strong society and my earlier point of symbiosis is kept in mind, marriage becomes a means for betterment of life and thus, our life has no trials or errors but only few amendments and hence will never need “what if”, just the flow of life. That’s why elders are more happily married than the younger who are often sadly breaking up I feel.

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    • Are the elders really more happily married or are they just better at accepting their ‘fate’? Do the women in the older generation just believe that they don’t have a choice since they may not be financially independent or for some other reason? It is always due to a compulsion that one will stay in a marriage that is not fulfilling, be it finances, children, societal pressure etc etc. Which is why one looks for a reason that cannot be justified to end it. How many people live in marriages that don’t life them but bring them down? The question is ask is why? What is so sanctimonious about a legal bond that is made between two people with the govt ad witness? Bleh!

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  2. When a white paper is shown with a small black spot, it is present human trend to see the black dot. They forget the white paper. The same question I can put – how may modern people are happy with their choice of lifestyle? The answer to yours and mine is equally probably 50%. It is your projected mind that suggests elders were pretending. Neither can you nor I argue for them. So statistically 50% is best answer , for we can not interview all humans.

    Now, the question of living with a partner needs more thought. Is it just for happiness? If so, humans are doomed. They can’t find happiness in people. Happiness lies in them. The one who can’t eat a whole meal, is happy with 1bread. The one who can eat, is unhappy with excess meal. So, happiness lies in us, the way we treat life. But question of marriage for elders or ancients who deviced it was a scarament. A sacrament is a sacrifice of self into unity.

    Imagine two icebergs in an ocean. As long as there are two bergs, they have a distance between them. They can collide at any point of time. Friction occurs. But when they melt into one water, ocean exist and no more collision. This was goal of married life.

    Now, this root princple of people apply, to life, they will build a healthy society. If not, society breaks. I am not saying no problems exist. But ability to withstand and solve problem happens only by properly understanding the purpose of need of another human in life.

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    • In present day world whthr you call itarriage or relationship, most of them don’t have this root of oneness in their thought. They have more “individuality” and “space” in their thoughts. Is m speaking as to true meaning of marriage. If that principle is applied in relationship too, then it becomes a marriage in true sense. We made marriage loose it’s meaning.

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    • Not at all was I implying that one should look for happiness in the other..spouse or otherwise. But when you come together as two individuals, the 1+1 should be 2 I’d not more (whole is greater than sum of it’s parts). Any relationship that depletes the individual is a disservice to self…and marriages becuase of the innate legal aspect are tough to get off. Would we shirk to abandon another friend or human who was torturing you physically or mentally? Why is that acceptable, easier and okay…and why the major noise about marriage being sanctimonious and ‘made in heaven’?

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      • I’m case of torture, and stuff yes I agree. But I. Saying the probability that this can happen in a marriage is same as in a live in relationship. But in a marriage to leave is difficult for small issues. But relshps or live-in stuff, leaving is quiet often because the underlying escapistic thought. The will to stay and rectify is less compares to marriage. Don’t you think? Yes one needs to find happiness. But if they start that journey with a thought that they have easy escape, how can they stay firm is my question?!

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      • Absolutely, the same can happen in live in relationships as well. What I don’t appreciate is that a relationship has to be given a legal status so that it becomes difficult for a person to move out. Should not that be a decision one takes on his/her own? Why the compulsion? Like I mentioned in the article, the only reason I can think of is a child. But there are ways of ensuring a child’s well being without making marriage a legal thing. Also, believe me a child’s well being is GREATLY compromised in marital relationships that are toxic. So it defeats the purpose anyway.

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  3. Hmm if legality is the concern, I second you. I was speaking from psychology of types of relations humans have now.

    Well, child is another topic. Like Why he has no say on if his/her parents should stay together because they brought him into world without his permission :p. I will reserve it for future inquiry when you write on relevant topic again.

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