Marriage is the only stringent condition for divorce; the rest are variables. Once you are married, then you can divorce. Divorce rates across the country are on the rise and that too for very mundane and silly reasons. Also on the rise, along with divorce, are commitment phobia and live-in relationships.
Things are wonderful during courtship and engagement days but when the reality of marriage hits the couple then things fall apart. Living in a temporary fantasy world is acceptable, but living in permanent reality is becoming increasingly unacceptable. The very stability of marriage is under threat.
Related reading: I lived-in for a year and I’ll never regret it
A couple from Kerala recently bore testimony to this. They had an 18-month engagement, but drew apart within the first three months of marriage “due to irreconcilable differences”, with the wife moving back to her maternal home. They then waited for the statutory period to apply for divorce.
During the engagement, most of their conversations were about wedding planners, invitation cards, trousseau, menu and honeymoon destination. They had forgotten to concentrate on the purpose of the wedding: the marriage. When they came together under one roof they hardly knew each other on an emotional level, they only knew each other’s food choice, colour preference and dressing styles.
The big fat Indian weddings of today are putting more pressure on managing the event, rather than managing the marriage. The irony is that a long engagement period is the norm today for couples “to know each other better.” But in reality how many do get to know the other better?
So why is it better in a live-in relationship? Why did such a middle option between singlehood and marriage arise? The very nature of living-in is that you are keeping the exit door open by saying, “If it doesn’t work out we can always walk away.” Which means it is a testing ground for compatibility. In a live-in, there is a lot of emotional room and space for each other for commitment phobic individuals. But it is yet to be accepted in Indian culture, because there is a lack of commitment and the status of children is unclear. One client from Bangalore explained, “An engagement is not like living together. During an engagement it’s the long hours of phone calls, coffee outings, movie shows and occasional clandestine sex. While in a live-in, you know the person a lot more. It is essential to know how the person eats, does she snore, how she brushes her teeth, is she organised, how she communicates, how she handles anger, how she manages crises.” This was a client with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, obsessed with cleanliness, who couldn’t get along with the unhygienic habits of his partner. So they went their separate ways after a year of living together, without the constraint of legality holding them together. Quite often, even in a live-in relationship, the actual mental compatibility of couples isn’t revealed, because they aware of the goal of marriage and they don’t want to jeopardise their chances by being themselves.
Related reading: Love, live-in and lying to parents
What was okay before marriage isn’t acceptable after marriage. Couples are more forgiving during the romantic high but after marriage they expect life to revolve around the four walls of marriage. Romance drives courtship days, while sacrifice and compromise have the driver’s seat in marriage. When couples fail to switch to the needs of the driver’s seat and put seat belts on, then the difference widens and they have to apply the brakes on marriage.
Compatibility and communication provide stability in marriage. When two individuals come together, difference of opinion is bound to arise; your sticking together will depend on how well you can communicate those differences, what you are willing to let go and what, as a couple, you wish to hold on to.
It’s not only in marriages that there are divorces; there are plenty in live-in relationships too. In a live-in relationship, the couple is left alone to deal with the grief of the heartbreak; in a divorce the entire family and neighbourhood is part of the decision and therefore in the limelight too.
In India, getting into a live-in relationship is considered as shameful as a divorce; so when a couple living-in part ways, the society is happy that the evil no more exists. And the same society tries to keep a couple in a marriage, because divorce brings shame along with it.
Jaseena Backer is a consultant in human behaviour and family welfare, touching upon lives through relationship management.