Marriage is an institution, as I have already discussed before here, that is structurally exploitative (of women or those who play women in it), oppressive (of both parties) and confining (because marriage is tied up with social status, larger kinship networks, social legitimation and much else).
A live-in relationship is conducted on terms you decide on yourself, it is open and you can walk out easily at any point and there are no expectations imposed on you by any institution that defines your relationship.
The choice between the two is a no brainer as far as I am concerned.
Yet millions of women prefer marriage. However, even if you are one of those dumbfu^ks who insists on getting married, it is often good to begin with a live-in relationship with the guy because that’s when you learn whether you are really compatible at all: whether he cleans up after himself in the loo, whether he lifts the seat lid before peeing, whether he snores, whether he helps in the kitchen, whether he helps in house work in general and, most importantly, if he is any good in bed.
As a trial run, a live-in relationship seems to me essential.
But why marry at all?
Why do you need a stamp and state approval for your relationship? Does your relationship have no meaning till it is legitimised by a piece of paper, some witnesses and the rest of the world endorsing your misery?
Yet we are so psychically wedded to the institution of marriage that even when we claim to offer a ‘progressive’ judgement on live-in relationships (as maverick, conservative, homphobic judge Markandey Katju thought he was doing in D. Velusamy vs D. Patchaiammal), we legitimise only those live-in relationships that most resemble a marriage: stable, long-term, monogamous.
It is as though Indians cannot think outside the frame of marriage. I recently met a heterosexual couple who lived together for seven months and yet did not have sex because they decided to have sex only after marriage. I could not believe their stupidity. Surely the whole point of living together is to see, among other things, whether you are sexually compatible. They’ve just got married. I predict a life of immense unhappiness for them unless one of them is smart enough to get a divorce.
Indeed, marriage may be the best way to kill a healthy relationship, not least because stupid Indians (pardon the tautology) hang so much on it. In North India, the way to cure an errant son (and practically every North Indian son is errant) is to get him married. As if that will cure his stupidity automatically. Marriage is seen as a magic potion that will solve every problem. Yet marriage actually compounds problems. This is why every other day, one reads in the newspapers of couples killing each other or themselves or filing complaints against each other. This is why the women’s cells are teeming with women complaining about their unhappy marriages.
Yet marriage is all we want. A student who divorced her douchebag husband and now volunteers at a women’s cell in Delhi says women marry, get beaten, divorce, marry again and complain again. It is as if logic escapes people.
With marriage comes dowry, expectations of progeny, family expectations. A live-in relationship requires no dowry, no family, no societal expectation of children. Everything in a marriage seems irreversible or reversible only with great difficulty. Everything in a live-in is easily reversible. Yet almost no one chooses live-in relationships and even when they do, they end up marrying as with every stupid Hindi film on the subject.
These films just play on the titillation a live-in relationship causes in the average Indian. Why is this? Because there is a sigma attached to to live-in relationships. It is as if we do not want freedom, are scared of it and resent it in others.
We love our slavery, we love marriage. Every man cheats in marriage (and hopefully many women too) but we would rather live these dishonest double lives than the honesty of a live-in relationship.
We are truly the sickest people on earth.