Friday, March 31, 2006

Living In - Social Sin or Non-Confirmist Commitment?

A lot of people debate hotly on whether living-in beats marriage or not.

What I fail to understand is why it should be anybody's business but that of the two people who decide. I come from a not small family, which is mostly composed of busybodies whose life-sparks would be extinguished if they could not settle other peoples' lives for them, and I married into a huge family, which is comparatively less opinionated, but is quite as concerned about What People Will Say. I say this just so that nobody can accuse me of not knowing of what I speak. I suffered therefore I know. Wherefore I shall pontificate. Whereinafter you may comment.

But (and returning to English) I cannot understand why, in this age, parents are so gung-ho about What People Will Say. For one thing, offspring are leaving the nest at younger and younger ages. Folks leave to study (like me), to work (like many of my friends), to get a life (almost all of my social circle who have managed to move out). Given the preponderance of nuclear families, it is also given that there are fewer people to handle family problems.

Example: Son wants to marry ineligible woman.
Earlier: Throw the family at him. Let the elders have a go at him, in the meantime you can also emotionally blackmail him along with your sister-in-law and his various other aunts and uncles. Convince his favourite cousins to point out the error of his ways. Faced with the collective manpower, he may (and often did) back down.
Now: Throw a fit. Call up his aunts and uncles in other cities/ countries. Bear with their sympathies and eventually give in (usually with a bad grace).

Now picture this: Daughter wants to move in with boyfriend. Chances are, if the daughter was brought up well, her choice in men is not too bad. The boy might be from a family as 'good' as if not better than the girl's. They are probably both self-supporting adults, and have been used to living by themselves for a few years now.

What are the possible objections?
What People Will Say
What Will People Think
What It Will Do To Our (parents') Social Standing

None of which are, strictly speaking, entirely valid, except in rather selfish ways. What people will say is unimportant since gossip does not take into account past merits and is therefore useless to depend upon. What people will think is largely dependent on how the parents take it. This is a mistake many parents make -- if they hold their heads high, no matter what their personal opinion of their children's actions, it is difficult for the malicious to do much actual damage. As for the social standing bit, let's be a little objective here -- do you really care about your standing among people who will willingly denigrate your babies just for lack of another topic of discussion at a dinner party? It all really depends on how you take it.

Mind you, personally speaking, I do not think a live-in relationship would work out so well for me. I tend to get insecure all too easily, and I find, when V and I fight, the fact that walking out is not really an option helps me to eventually calm down and explore other possibilities. (Like, rat poison in his coffee. A quick swipe with a knife in the middle of the night.)

But I do not have a problem with live-in relationships as a concept because I know several couples living like that, and they are all inherently not very different from V and me. They have their fights, they have their problems, but these are the problems endemic to all relationships. They do not have parties any wilder or any more outrageous than those thrown by married couples, and their lifestyles are often a little quieter than that of married couples since they are constantly forced to be on the defensive. And funnily enough, a lot of live-in couples often have marriage as an eventual goal, to be entered into when they have enough money/ whatever. Basically, they are people, just as 'normal' as any other, and their choice of habitation does not give anybody else the right to discriminate against them.

If you are considering mving in with your partner, you might want to read this article.



me-jhantu-nahi-hoon said:
Consider this: you and your partner are living together, pretty happily, away from the condescending eyes of all those elderly/non-elderly folks. even better you dont even stay in India which makes the whole thing so much great for you. But then after a fairly lengthy period of living together time, one of you suddenly gets the news that ur partner has broken the news to her folks and theres no way that this relationship can go towards fulfillment. Wht do you do then? Do you curse like hell on the day you decided to move in?
Its all very nice to day dream abt how it wld be great to find out if ur compatible/not by moving in (mockturtle) but then at the end of that period if one of u have to move-out against ur wishes that wld be a real real pain.

Maybe it makes more sense to consider the fall-outs of moving out after moving in rather than think abt what people wld think if u moved in with ur partner. Makes more sense to me anyday.
Response: I wrote in the assumption that the couple chose to live together rather than marry because for whatever reason they are not ready to take that ultimate commitment but they are ready to take on the responsibility of running a joint household. That usually says you are reasonably serious about your relationship. So, if later your parents object (which you might even have anticipated) would you be so ready to give up on a relationship in which you invested so heavily?

If your parents' preferences means so much to you, and you have an idea they wouldn't like your partner, perhaps you shouldn't be entering that relationship in the first place.

I'm afraid Mockturtle misinterpreted me a bit, because to me, living in is a decision taken with as much consideration as that of marrying. I don't see it as test-drive, because once you move in you are already signalling a strong commitment. Test-driving would be to maintain two separate establishments while spending the occasional night/weekend at each others' places. Do you see the difference?

Most live-in relationships fail because couples don't see the level of commitment required. In my opinion, living in requires greater mental strength and commitment than living in a marriage, because when you feel like giving up on a marriage, the thought of all those endless processes which are required to end it gives you pause, so you usually give your relationship another chance. When you are just living together, there is nothing to stop you from packing your suitcase and calling a cab. A decision that is often regretted later, but is in itself a very final sort of thing.

6 comments:

MockTurtle said...

I think living in for some period of time should be made compulsory before marriage.
It's the only way you'll actually find out if you are completely compatible. If you can love someone after having ample opportunity to see all their flaws, then you know you are ready to be married.

jhantu said...

Consider this: you and your partner are living together, pretty happily, away from the condescending eyes of all those elderly/non-elderly folks. even better you dont even stay in India which makes the whole thing so much great for you. But then after a fairly lengthy period of living together time, one of you suddenly gets the news that ur partner has broken the news to her folks and theres no way that this relationship can go towards fulfillment. Wht do you do then? Do you curse like hell on the day you decided to move in?
Its all very nice to day dream abt how it wld be great to find out if ur compatible/not by moving in (mockturtle) but then at the end of that period if one of u have to move-out against ur wishes that wld be a real real pain.

Maybe it makes more sense to consider the fall-outs of moving out after moving in rather than think abt what people wld think if u moved in with ur partner. Makes more sense to me anyday.

Sue said...

Mockturtle - It wouldn't work for everybody. I told you, it would personally make me feel very insecure because unless I myself have very strong, binding ties, I often break loose. And sometimes, just being love isn't as strong as you'd think.

Jhantu - Yours deserved a longish reply, so see the addendum to the post.

indianpeppone said...

With sooo many conscience keepers around, i really dont think that living in is an option in a place like India ..... a lot of my friends do it, but i have rarely seen them actually get married to one another. Mayb its the hassele free goodbye option.... ppl do tend to leave at such a small issue that would b a regularity in a marriage. And i certainly dont believe in complete compatibility, its a total myth propogated by the person in the relationship who doesnt compromise.

Nautilus said...

Hi Sue, wandered into your blog today...haven't yet gone through all the posts...but I will, one of these days :-)

Living in is tricky business...I have known a lot of young Indian couples (all living abroad) who lived together...only two got married (against their parents' wishes!). The rest parted ways, owing to many reasons.

One of the biggest reason was family visiting. Everytime, one side of the family showed up, one of the partners had to clear up the house leaving no trace of his or her existence! This is such a humiliating situation! Very few people, specially girls can deal with it!!

On the other hand I know two couples who live together in a conservative city like Hyderabad. The difference is that, they are 40 something,professionally successful, divorced or widowed or estranged from spouse. They have no desire to get married again or have children(been there, done that) and they have found someone they can peacefully co-habit with sans the trappings of a marriage. Its very refreshing and liberating to watch them.

So, Sue, do you think successful live-in relationship has anything to do with maturity/age?

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