The following poem called the Gestalt Prayer, was printed on one of the coffee mugs
I picked up in a supermarket. It said,
“I do my thing, and you do your thing,
I am not in this world to live up to
And you are not in this world to live
Up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance
We find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.”
This could easily be the philosophy of “live-in” partners. The last century has seen a radical change in attitudes towards time-honoured institutions like marriage. Living-in is catching on in our cities, and young people think nothing of moving into a free-love relationship, with no strings attached.
The arrangement goes by different names. Living-together relationships (LTR.) are different from de facto marriages, which are merely Common law marriages. Here, the man and woman call themselves husband and wife, though there is no legal licence that seals the relationship. Like some of the liaisons in Bollywood, the public accepts them as husband and wife.
A Contract cohabitation involves two people in a master-servant relationship. The master may be the man or the woman. A written contract specifies duties, salary, perks, leave, medical benefits and length of contract. There are probably clauses, which deal with premature termination of contract.
Many tend to blame the Feminist Movement for the devaluation of marriage. Germaine Greer derided the “middle-class myth of love and marriage,” and dissuaded women into entering “socially sanctioned relationships like marriage.” If they were inadvertently caught in such a trap, there should be no qualms about running away.
Nearer home we have Radha Thomas who says, “Marriage is nothing but someone else’s rules imposed on you by society. Living-in relationships are nothing out of the ordinary.” (Savvy July 1998.)
In their book “Open Marriage – A new lifestyle,” (Evans 1972) George and Nena O’Neil call marriage “ archaic, rigid, outmoded, oppressive, static and decaying,” and think monogamy should be wiped out.
But long before them, Sigmund Freud was convinced that sexual liberation as against sexual restraint was the panacea for all human emotional problems.
Bertrand Russell was also a champion of greater liberal sex. He said, “Adults have the right to cohabit, as long as they don’t have children.”
The Yuppie generation is an ambitious, work-oriented class by itself, which is hell-bent on reaching the top of the career scale come what may. Heady on power and wealth, they have neither the time for moral commitments, nor life-long monogamy. They cannot lose sight of their hopes and dreams for the sake of a legal document. They have no time to play loving husband or doting Dad to a brood of brats.
Many educated women have chosen a “career-only” role, and are happy in it. A career provides the opportunity to remain single. Marriage is perceived as a threat to their career goals. They have economic independence, personal freedom, and glamorous social lives. Husband and children would only disrupt a pattern to which they have grown accustomed. Sexual liberation provides pleasure without commitment. And since everyone is doing it, why not they? However, there is the likelihood of working their way into the feminist cage of unrealistic expectations and a warped understanding of love, which could distort their value systems.
Secular Humanism is another ideology, which has created a lot of confusion in the area of sexuality, because it depends entirely on the wisdom and ability of man. The rights of the individual must take precedence over everything else, no matter what destruction it leaves in its wake.
The advantage of a live-in relationship is that it is not oppressive. In fact, it is considered a liberating experience. It gives individuals their own space for growth, and great scope for creativity. Partners usually have the same level of intelligence, and consider themselves equal. They are not the “clinging-vine” types who need constant attention and reassurance. Neither is the woman into mothering the man, knowing full well that this could jeopardize her erotic role. Both partners value their independence, and yet remain good companions and friends. Each looks to his/her fulfillment, and is blind to the underlying selfishness in their individual characters. Children don’t figure in their equation, as responsibility is furthest from their minds.
Some live-in relationships do end up in marriage, especially if the woman falls pregnant, or the couple decides to start a family. This happens when there is stability, and a deep commitment to each other.
But the majority, are only looking for a short-term ‘high.’ Having made what is sacred commonplace, they move on to new partners. Sex is reduced to a mere biological function, that can be had anywhere. There are no ties that bind, and boredom, sets in because of very little personal investment.
Some split because of quarrels over finance and sharing of expenses. Going Dutch may not be acceptable to one partner who gets a lower salary than the other, and whose requirements may be lesser. Division of household chores may also become a bone of contention.
There could be temperamental incompatibility, with one trying to boss over the other. Quarrels may become frequent, or there may be long periods of silence, or even violence. Quirks of character considered cute earlier in their relationship, may start to annoy. Familiarity as they say can breed contempt.
Some psychologists argue that when there is mental compatibility alongside physical proximity, the relationship lasts. And the supposed sage of all wisdom Mahesh Bhatt concurs, believing sex is more about “mental mating,” than the physical act.
Living together doesn’t constitute marriage. It is an arrangement between two consenting adults, who believe they can get out of a relationship whenever they choose. Many believe that sexual experiences before marriage will help select the right mate when the time comes to finally settle down. But how many such short-range live-in relationships must one experience, before the right choice is made?
Living-in has been made easy through permissive legislation. Article 12 of the Indian Constitution legitimizes this freedom between two consenting adults. A few years ago, Justices Markandey Katju and R.B. Mishra of the Allahabad High Court, passed the following decree, in the case of Payal Sharma of Kanauj District of U.P, who was living with her lover Ramanand Singh. The decree said, “The woman is a major, and able legally to make decisions about her life. She should be able to cohabit with a man of her choice.”
The couple was given police protection.
Technology has certainly come to the aid of such relationships. The problem of unwanted pregnancies is taken care of by various methods of contraception. Should a pregnancy occur by accident, abortion having been legalized, is available on demand. Infections like STD and HIV can be prevented by protected intercourse and antibiotics where necessary.
Voices defending morality are lost in the war-like cries of a libertine society. Even religious institutions, which once advocated chastity, are silent, for fear of alienating young people. The media glamorizes such life-styles.
Living-in brings with it poor gains, but a plethora of psychological problems like disillusionment, insecurity, guilt, depression, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. Eventually, it is the woman who suffers both physiologically and psychologically. She will never be the same again, and even if she opts for a marriage later, her guilty conscience might stand in the way of a happy, fulfilling union.
Timeless standards cannot be ignored. Glen Campbell may tell us otherwise.
“ Its knowing that your door is always open, and your path free to walk……..Its knowing I’m not shackled by forgotten words and bonds, and the ink stains that have dried up on some line…….that keeps you gentle on my mind.”
One ancient prophet said, “Woe unto them who call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
What is legal is not always moral; what is possible is not always prudent. The “I – Me – My” syndrome has become contagious in today’s society. The world would be a better place if life is lived in ways that enhance our dignity and self worth