Why Must Society Still Frown On Live-in Relationships?

Live-in relationships between consenting adults are not considered illegal under Indian law. Yet, they are far from getting social sanction.

A young couple I know closely, Rahul and Sonal (names changed), are in a live-in relationship. The couple is compatible and committed. Yet, the partners are unable to get married because of parental opposition. Both of them are in their late twenties and financially independent. Instead, of waiting indefinitely for parental consent, they have decided to live together.

What’s wrong with that? How are other people impacted by their decision? Why must ‘society’ interfere in Rahul and Sonal’s life? While I may indignantly ask these questions, I also realise that I cannot look at this sensitive matter so simplistically.

Live-in relationships between consenting adults are not considered illegal under Indian law. Yet, they are far from getting social sanction. Not surprising, as the law has always been one step ahead of social acceptance.

Social disapproval

Despite live-ins becoming increasingly common these days, society still frowns on them. The reasons are not hard to pinpoint. One, society believes that these relationships challenge the need for the institution of marriage, one of the fundamental bedrocks of traditional living.  Two, there is a perception that live-ins are a liberal western concept that is corrupting Indian society.

Three, live-ins are associated with loose morals. Four, it is believed that since partners can walk out of live-ins easily, there is no security or stability in such a relationship.

That’s why couples in live-in relationships are often ostracised and face discrimination. House-hunting in most urban centres is a nightmare for them. They may raise eyebrows in social situations, except when they are with peers. At times, being live-in partners could lead to awkwardness in professional life.


Let’s discuss each of these reasons. How strong is the institution of marriage really today in India with divorce rates soaring? Even when unhappy couples do not opt for separation or divorce, it’s an undeniable fact that they are unhappy. Why must we bolster society with the institution of marriage if marriages all around are breaking down? If there is domestic violence in a marriage?

Coming to the second point, as a society we have been influenced by western norms and practices for a long time. These days, eastern norms are gaining ground in the west. This is part of the inevitable process of globalisation. Unless we want to insulate our country from anything foreign, and live like the proverbial ‘frogs in a well’, we have to let in the liberal winds into our windows. Besides, live-in relationships of various kinds were not unknown in ancient and medieval India.

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Third, why must live-ins be linked with a lack of morals? Yes, live-ins involve sexual relationships but so do marriages. What makes one right and the other wrong? Four, security and stability are associated with a relationship not with its social sanction.

Positive factors

Why do youngsters today go in for live-ins instead of marriages? One common reason is they want to test the compatibility factor and take an informed decision before committing to a legal union. In a live-in, each partner gets to know the habits and expectations of the other. Partners sort out how to divide and handle domestic responsibilities which often become contentious issues in a marriage. In this context, popular American advice columnist Ann Landers has famously said: “All marriages are happy, it’s living together afterward that’s tough.”

Some other valid reasons for live-ins are that a couple is giving career a priority at a particular period in life. The need to become financially secure delays marriage, if it is on the agenda. The couple is not yet ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage. Many youngsters do not believe in the institution of marriage anymore having seen friends and family members go through bad marriages.

I am getting a little mushy in the end. Who can forget the love factor? Live-in relationships are often very loving, where partners give each other the space and respect they need and cherish. My analytical left brain and emotional right brain come together in one thought – I root for Rahul and Sonia’s decision. I can’t not.

Image source: by shylendrahoode from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro

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About the Author

Aruna Raghuram

I am a freelance journalist and write on parenting, personalities, women’s issues, environment, and other social causes. read more...

31 Posts | 22,894 Views

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