​​​​​​​The rise of live-in relationships in India

a couple looking at their house

Live-in relations in the country are on the rise, with more and more couples willing to try it out before their marriage these days. But the entire matter is much more complicated and multi-layered than what it seems to be.

First and foremost is the social and moral stigma that is attached to live-in relationships in the country, given how marriage is a sanctimonious act. Next is the legal aspect of a live-in relationship, and the unclarities and ambiguities that surround it. Under all these problems and dilemmas is the very experience of being in a live-in relationship and getting to know your partner better, which is, after all, the entire rationale behind the concept. However, it is a great misfortune that before couples can arrive at this bliss of getting to know each other better and enjoying themselves before marriage; they need to go through an endless array of problems, which can be really trying and testing.

Here is a close look at the live-in relationship culture in India, and how the society is dealing and coping with it.

What is a live-in relationship?


A couple in their new house


The basic concept of a live-in relationship sprung up when people decided to try to see how living together with their partner really is. This helps them to know their partner better, and learn whether or not they are compatible. Also, in an age where relations have become so much more modern and open, it perhaps makes sense to live together with your partner if that is what the two of you want.

In other words, a live-in relationship is one where a couple cohabits without marriage. They choose to live as a married couple, without being bound to one another by either law or religion. 

The arrangement is, of course, entered into by mutual consent from both sides. And the reason behind agreeing to do so can be anything from not wanting to deal with the obligations and conditions of marriage, to simply trying to test compatibility before entering the wedlock. 


Are live-in relations legal in India?


Legal framework of the country


Indian law gives no legal definition to define the hypothesis of a live-in relationship. Thus, nothing is black or white here, but only shades of grey. And this is also why live-relationships are shrouded in ambiguity.

  • However, under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the residents of the country are assured with the right to live with a partner of their choice. In fact, this forms an integral part of their right to life and personal liberty.
  • Moreover, in more than one ruling, the Supreme Court has held that live-in relations are not illegal. The court has observed that living together is not a crime or an offense. 
  • However, even the court does point out that this might be socially unacceptable or questionable in the Indian context.

All in all, two consenting heterosexual adults have all rights to choose to live together, even though this is largely perceived as immoral

The law also extends legal protection to women who are in a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’. The key takeaway here is that not all live-in relations qualify as those 'in the nature of marriage', and this is when matters become complicated. Unfortunately, the law is silent when it comes to same-sex couples too.

Bigamous or adulterous live-in relations, or even those relations that involve an underage partner, however, are considered illegal.


Why does society object to live-in relationships?


A grumpy old man


Indian society has largely not been able to accept the concept of a live-in relationship. There are many factors that come into play here.

Firstly, marriage in our country is a sacrament, and never a contract. This is also why pre-nuptial agreements in our country are not legally acceptable. As per our traditions and religious books, as well as epic and folklore, marriage is a huge part of our lives; and we have been taught to respect the very sanctimony and institution of marriage. Thus, choosing to live together without being married is a blasphemous act, which no man or woman of honor would commit.

Consequently, couples who are in live-in relationships are frowned upon and are often treated as outcasts by society.

Moreover, live-in relations are a largely western concept; and members of the elder generations naturally resist giving up, to accept their culture as our own. For people who have spent the majority of their lives tied up to someone else, sacrificing and compromising to make a relationship work; they simply cannot understand why today’s generation cannot do that.

A live-in relation does have certain clauses to it, that for an instance might make one believe that it is a totally casual and unserious arrangement. For instance, a partner can choose to walk out whenever he or she wants to, without any legal formalities. Then, there are of course much lesser rules and obligations that in general govern any live-in relationship. All of this makes the society believe that a live-in setup is one that has been created by the young adults to find ways to fool around, and hence it is next to impossible to get them to approve of it, or even approach it with a newer and fresher perspective.

Why does today’s generation want to have a live-in relationship?


A happy couple


A lot of millennials out there today think that marriage is very obligatory and restrictive. A live-in relationship helps them to, therefore, solve this problem, by living in a marriage-like setup, without getting actually married.

This being said, there is, of course, a lot of love and mutual respect that is involved in any live-in relationship. Today’s generation is not really afraid of commitments and relationships per se, it is just that their way of expressing their love and commitment is very different from the older times. And a live-in relation allows them to do that much better than a marriage. Not that those who are in serious live-in relations ever take advantage of the absence of legal marriage to not fulfill their responsibilities. They just prefer the lesser responsibilities and lack of legal hassles that are associated with a live-in relation.

Also, a lot of people want to see what it is actually like to live with someone for the rest of their lives before they tie the knot. Marriage can be a really scary thing, given how it is such a huge affair in our country. A woman not just shifts houses, but in essence learns to live with a family that is not her own, in completely alien surroundings. In such a case, a live-in relation just helps the couple to settle down a bit and learn to know how to ‘live together better’ before they get the family and society involved. This is why you will come across a lot of couples who intend to get married later on enjoying a live-in relationship at the moment.

 Summing it up, a live-in relationship can be a really beautiful thing, and should not necessarily be associated with a lack of seriousness or commitment. The way today’s generation chooses to live and love is totally different and unique and deserves all our support with no judgments. Period.