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Different views on live in relationships

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3624 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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From Marriage to Live-in………… What Next? Change is a rule of life. Any change brings with it some kind of controversy as it disturbs the existing order of life. In Marxian philosophy it is the interaction between thesis(existing order) and anti-thesis(new change) resulting into a new mechanism called as synthesis. When any economic change takes place, it brings with it social and moral changes too. Globalization is such a phenomenon of this century which has resulted into a chain reaction of social transformation in India with special reference to family and marriage system.

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Globalization is a term used for a number of economic, social, technological and political changes on a world scale. These changes have impacted human relations in the Third World countries in general and India in particular in an unprecedented way. In the process of globalization, many family ties are lost forever. Globalization has stressed all relationships. In family life, the formerly dominant values of loyalty, duty, obedience, and self-sacrifice are slowly being displaced by the standards of personal fulfillment, companionship, sexual gratification for spouse, equalitarianism, and compatibility, at least among the upper classes in developing countries.

Man is essentially a social animal. Life for us is a long journey full of challenges and problems. We do not want to wade through it alone, but crave for company and loyalty of another individual who will provide a shoulder to lean on and share some of our responsibilities. Thus, the institution of marriage was created in which two adults of opposite sex formally tie the knot in a socially and legally accepted and enduring bond that is meant to last an entire lifetime.

However in the last few decades of globalization, this time-tested arrangement has come under threat. Unbelievable as it may sound, marriage has begun to lose its importance and sanctity. People today express openly,” Do we need to get married at all when we can have everything that marriage offers without formally tying the knot? The Secular education and scientific temperament of people which make them question everything and women have become independent socially and financially and see no problem in living alone. As a result, live-in relationships have become quite common.

The legalization of ‘live-in’ relationships in Maharashtra has raised a great controversy all over India. But then the question that arises here is, why is it that more and more people prefer to have a temporary live-in than to have the permanent baggage to a marriage? How come a society as conservative and as traditional as the Indian society has given place to an idea as modern as ‘live-in’? Marriage is considered to be the sacred bond between a man and a woman. So is the concept of ‘live-in’ immoral? When the government is ready to acknowledge the existence of live-in relationship in India and is making legal arrangements, why has it become a social issue? Marriage or a live-in relationship is a concern of two individuals and the role of society has to be the least in a democratic set up of India where we guarantee certain freedoms to individuals and one such freedom is to choose your life partner. Whether you choose a marriage or a live- in kind of arrangement, it should not lead to one as ethical and moral and the other as unethical and immoral. I think this is and should be more logical way of thinking.

Different views on Live-in Relationship

There are many individuals and couples who are in support of the legalization of live-in relationships in India today.

Famous film maker, Shyam Benegal “It a very good step as it will not only protect the rights of women who enter into a live-in relationship but will also be helpful to the children from such relations in getting their rights in future.

Marriage Counsellor Mangala Samant, “Nearly 20 per cent of IT professionals prefer to have a live-in relationship before getting married. Prolonged working, stressful lives and an inactive social life are some of the reasons for this trend.”

Famous Social Activist Shobhaa De has commented that the dynamics of marriages have changed mainly because women are now financially independent and therefore in a position to question the old chauvinist order created mainly by men. Thus Women who have now certain amount of bying power and dispensing power too, find some space to decide which type of relationship they wish to choose. They feel that they can also choose partnerships as per their convenience.

According to a Survey by The Journal of Marriage and the Family, live in’ relationships are weak commitments.

Social Geographer Soma Das says that people who opt for live-in relationships do so because they do not believe in marriage.

Live-In Relationship

The twentieth century recorded certain changes of far reaching importance in the family system specifically in India under the influence of globalization, westernization, industrialization, modernization and greater population mobility across the sub-continent. Ever since then the Indian family has progressively confronted and combated various kinds of problems and challenges. The Indian society has experienced over a period of a centaury great changes in social norms that appear to be far greater than the expectations of Indian sociologists and anthropologists. The reasons for these far reaching changes were

Disappearance of traditional joint family from the urban scene.

Increase in the life expectancy of women from 23 years in 1901-10 to 65 years (it is higher than that of men by three years) in 2009.

Rise in the proportion of female headed households, decrease in the average age of household heads.

Increase in the incidence of separation and divorce, greater tension and conflicts between wife and husband as an outcome of marriage.

Increased freedom of marital choice.

Greater involvement of females in decision making process.

Increase in the mean age at marriage of female from 13 years in 1901 to 18 years in 2001.

Rise in the level of female education.

These dynamics reveal the whole range of changes in the family system- its structure, functions, core values and regulative norms. This has resulted into a substitute for the deep routed family and marriage system called as a “Live-in Relationship” The legal definition of live in relationship is “an arrangement of living under which the couples which are unmarried live together to conduct a long-going relationship similarly as in marriage.”

In present time more and more couples choose not to marry, but they desire to have long-term relationships without marriage. Thus they live together without being married, just like spouses. This arrangement is termed as ‘Live-in Relationship’. Live-in relationships among urban, educated, upper-middle class young people began as a declaration of independence, as a way of keeping away from the ‘shackles’ of institutionalized marriages. In fact, it’s a willful rejection of the institution of marriage, and of the restrictions and inequalities it has come to stand for. Live-in relationships, pre-marital sex, divorces, words that were taboo just five years ago, define the changing face of relationships in India today. Live-in relationship is a very progressive concept that gives couples the time to find out if they are compatible.

Some statistics

A United Nations Population Fund study found that 60% of married Indian women were victims of rape, beating or sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands.

In 2005, the National Crime Records Bureau recorded 155,553 crimes against women. The real figure may be much more as a large number of cases that go unreported due to the fear of social stigma.

According to Kavita Jain, an expert, certified counselor and trainer on subject ‘Parenting’, 60% increase found in live-in relationships in India since 2004.

According to the census of India data, of all the households nuclear family constituted 70 percent and single member or more than one member households without spouse (or eroded families) comprised about 11 percent. The extended and joint family or households together claim merely 20 percent of all households. This is the overall picture about the entire country, whereas in the case of urban areas the proportion of nuclear family is somewhat higher still.

The available data from the National Family and Health Survey-1 of 1992-93 (henceforth NFHS) suggest that joint family does not make up more than five percent of all families in urban areas (Singh, 2004:137).

In Maharashtra, a state that has witnessed two out of every five marriages end in divorce, according to figures from 2005.

Reasons for increasing Live-in Relationships in India

Economic Factors

Tremendous growth of Indian call centers in the last few years resulting in considerable socio-economic and cultural developments in Indian society

No legal hassles, financial complications or complex negotiations for dividing assets and debts between the partners

The increased career options available to the Indian youth have helped them improve their personality, knowledge, become more mature and ready to take different challenges

Key changes brought by the BPO industry as increased financial independence of today’s youth. (on an average a call center employ earns anywhere between Rs 10,000-15,000 and lives with his family, it translates into a higher purchasing power.)

The impact of consumerism on the financially independent youth is clearly visible. The general trend is to spend eating out, entertainment, buying branded consumer goods or electronics or even buying a car or house. (motto of ‘live life king-size’.)

Both the high income group and the lower income group are in a position to readily accept newer kinds of relationships. A girl from a poor family in need of shelter without much hesitation can consider no harm in living with a man of a slightly higher financial status without marrying him.

Frequent switchover of jobs

Increased opportunities for the economic emancipation of women via lucrative jobs in emerging services and information technology (IT) industry through globalization (in Maharashtra, where the female workforce mans the IT, outsourcing and services industries)

Social Factors

Divorce cases are on the rise as the present-day couples believe that it is better to end a relationship than carry on with the burden of a dead relationship for life and the couples do not hesitate to seek divorce at the slightest provocation

The long and odd working hours, and ‘too soon and too much’ of a responsibility, snacks at work impacts on the mental and health conditions of these people. Their working hours also give them hardly anytime to interact with their families or friends

Change in social equilibrium: The BPO sector employs thousands of women every year, providing new and convenient forms of work for women, which helps them take care of their family in better manner. The call centers also prefer women as they are perceived be more hard working, patient, loyal and with better interpersonal skills than men.

Though there are many families who perceive employment in a call center for women a ‘taboo’, this perception is slowly changing. Due to the international secure working atmosphere, higher salaries, gender-neutral (Zero-tolerance for sexual abuse), free pick-up and drop-off facility at home, BPO is viewed as ‘the’ choice for a majority number of women.This has helped them have more confidence, a positive attitude and outlook towards life and helped in the overall empowerment of women

delay in the age at marriage, higher rates of marital disruption and more egalitarian gender role attitudes among men and women

Today, career is everything for Indians. Marriage can wait, hence, they prefer live-ins “Career has become their focus point, and rather than getting married, they accept live-in relationships as a part of their lives,”

relationships are becoming more cross-cultural, they are also more contractual now, probably leading to more clear-cut expectations from each other

Subjective Factors

Avoiding responsibility as the prime reason.

Lack of commitment

Disrespect of social bonds

Lack of tolerance in relationships

Element of convenience.


No need to surrender any rights or accept any obligations.

Test of emotional and physical compatibility

Freedom to the partners to walk out of the relationship as and when they want.

Live-in-relationships are not new in our society. The only difference is that now people have become open about it. Formally they were known as “Maitri Karars” in which people of two opposite sex would enter into a written agreement to be friends, live together and look after each other. Ancient Indian laws contained the concept of the Gandharva Vivah(consensual marriage) A change is visible in our society from arranged marriages to love marriages and now to ‘live-in-relationships’. All these were the same live in relationships but less explicitly expressed. When live-in relationships first came out into the open in India, it created an uproar, with accusations of it being against Indian morality and culture. As the decades have gone by, the number of couples opting for cohabitation, without the strings of marriage, has increased significantly. It is a trend that is more evident in the last decade. That the Indian government has recently recognised live-in relationships on par with marriage, in a new law on domestic violence proves that this is a growing social reality. With this frame of reference let us turn to marriage system in India.


A marriage is taken as a life-long union for the couple, as it is a sacrament, rather than a contract between the couple to live in a social union so long as it is cordially feasible. Even in the event of frequent mental and physical torture, most Indian women persist in marriage, According to the 2001 census, India consists of 192.7 million households spread over 0.59 million villages and about 5,000 towns.

Reasons for the long lasting of Marriage System in India:

Remarriage of divorced or separated women is quite difficult.

Women have not been entirely averse to cohabitation as the socio-cultural norms have always attached a certain social stigma to divorce.

Substantial benefit marriage offers to the couple is emotional commitment and support.

The partners demand loyalty and bare all their secrets to each other and share their finances to buy assets for the family. There is no other relationship that can match the emotional support, social recognition and legal rights that a marriage provides.

Social and Legal recognition.(The society recognizes and respects the relationship).

Marriage is protected by the law and both the partners have their clearly defined rights and obligations.

Strict provisions to take care of children, upbringing in case of parental divorce.

Lot of money and effort to dissolve a marriage because it is a very formal and water-tight arrangement. One just cannot walk away lightly.

Children need security of home , raised by both parents for best results. Home is something to come back to, after a grueling day and for children to thrive.

For the sake of future generations it has to be preserved with all its sanctity.

People had both respect for and fear of social values and public opinion.

System of religious belief has provided enough sustenance to the institution of marriage and family

However, the relatively higher divorce rate in cities, connote that marriage is an institution in trouble, or else expectations are so high that people are no longer willing to put up with the kinds of dissatisfactions and empty shell marriages that the previous generations tolerated. High rate of remarriages clearly means that people are sacrificing their marriages because of unsatisfactory relationships. Our whole socialization is such that for any unsuccessful marriage which results in such violence or divorce, it is always the woman, who is held responsible. Cultural beliefs and traditions that discriminate against women may be officially discredited, but they continue to flourish at the grassroots levels. Family relations in India are governed by personal laws.

This social transformation thus underlines the need for a substitute for marriage in terms of a live-in relationship which has an edge over marriages like,

It gives the partners a chance to understand each other. The partners are free from any social obligations and can hence live without any guilt. They reduce the number of divorces and the mental torture families go through. It reduces domestic violence as the partner can leave anytime

Marriage does not offer personal freedom to partners as a live-in relationship does

You need not stick together if both partners are really incompatible. The trauma is much less than divorce because divorce itself is hurtful with false allegations and counter allegations making it a cruel battle of wits where no one wins.

Apart from these advantages there are Bottlenecks of Live-in Relationship in India.

The biggest drawback is the social stigma in Indian society. People have yet not accepted this form of relationship.

Custody and status of children

Because there is no social responsibility, the partner is free. He/she may make misuse of this fact and constantly change partners.

Can definitely hurt sentiments of many communities.

In a country like India, where love is not merely give and take, it is doubtful that living relationships can always succeed.

When the couple is married, they may not be able to give up the social and domestic responsibilities which they could casually bypass while in a living relationship.

A Live-in relationship is not as open in India. It may cause a sense of discomfort to people living around.

Most of the times, living relationships goes against the family. By the time the family accepts, the couple may loose interest in each other.

Individual choice has always been subservient to the communal sentiment or public opinion

In January 2008, the Supreme Court validated long-term live-in relationships as marriages. A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat with P Satasivan declared that children born out of such a relationship will no longer be called illegitimate. Legalizing ‘live-in’ relationships has generated a fierce debate across the society with a section hailing it as a pragmatic move while others fearing that it will destroy the sanctity of marriage. In a country like india this is one of the odd step taken, but still its a better one. After 61 years of independence, Indian women are increasingly realizing their rights and exercising personal choice. In a bold move, the Maharashtra state government recently proposed an amendment of Section 125 of the Criminal Penal Code to protect the pecuniary and other interests of the “other woman”, with a change in the definition of the “wife”. The legislation seeks to provide security to women who enter into cohabitation with a man out of choice or may have been hoodwinked into it. The bill now awaits the approval of the federal government and the president’s assent. Live-in relationships have been part of the Indian ethos for a long time though a legal sanction has always been lacking. Live-in relationships may have attained legal recognition, despite the controversies surrounding it but whether it has social acceptance is another issue altogether.

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In a Parliamentary Democracy of ours, legalizing of such a relationship itself is advancement and perhaps it is time to re evaluate our notions of marriage and work with natural forces rather than against them. It is ridiculous to deprive adults around age thirty to remain virgin if they don’t get married. It’s against nature. Perhaps time is ripe to rethink the meaning of marriage; time to give two adults choice to look for compatibility before they exchange vows to remain forever with each other. All these concepts are too progressive for our present-day society and will take some time before finding universal acceptance. But the very fact that these phrases are being openly talked about confirms that the concepts have arrived. Commitment is an important aspect of any relation. Any relationship, whether a live-in or marriage should ensure that it causes no domestic violence, that leads to mental imbalance and psychological differences in children.

In terms of Karl Marx’s doctrine of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis, the live in relationship is anti-thesis of the family system based on marriage as a thesis and a synthesis is awaited in terms of Universalization of this concept in a country like ours. Perhaps the synthesis would be the wide acceptance of the term DINK (Double Income No Kids).


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