Marriage counsellors turn live-in partners

Marriage counsellors turn live-in partners


Meet Prasanna (45) and Shubhangi (39), who conduct workshops on Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) as well as provide professional counselling services to patients. Ironically, they also counsel couples to save their marriages.

“There is nothing new in what the Supreme Court has said, the Bombay High Court had said the same thing earlier. It is a fact that you cannot stop two adults from living together,” says Prasanna.

Why live-in relationship, when you can actually get a divorce and start a new life? “No, it is not possible in my case. I am too attached to my family, my children, parents and relations. So divorce is ruled out. But at the same time, my commitment to this relationship (with Shubhangi) too is real and serious. So this is what can be called a via media,” Prasanna said.

His wife too appears to have reconciled to the situation. A leading family lawyer in Pune pointed out that there have been several cases of abandoned wives where the husbands just leave their families and go away to start a new life. “What is the point in asking for a legal separation or divorce, when the need for such a legal stamp may be for the person who is walking out of marriage, and not for the abandoned wife,” she said.
When asked whether live-in relationship is just a matter of convenience or a preferred way of life over marriage, Shubhangi said “it is both. In a regular marriage, there are so many requirements that one has to perform as a wife or a husband, just because the two are legally married. In live-in relationship, the responsibilities towards each other are very much there, but there is no compulsion to perform in a certain way.”

What about legal complications? “Yes, there are complications, and those who want to get into this kind of relationship must know it and talk it over. For example, having children out of this type of relationship is a no no. Also, there are monetary risks. If the earning partner just walks out, then it can create serious problems.”
Will you still advocate live-in relationships? “Yes, why not. In fact, if anybody comes to us for counselling before entering into such a relationship, we will certainly help him/her just as we counsel couples before they wed,” Shubhangi said.

It is not that live-in relationships are restricted to big cities or metropolis. There have been plenty of cases where the boy and girl started living together a few months before marriage. Although families, particularly from the girl’s side, do not approve it, there is not much opposition as the two are either formally engaged or are going to get married. And eventually they, indeed, get married, like Aparna and Tushar.

‘We share a great relationship’
»Tattoo artist, photographer and management consultant Preetam has been in a live-in relationship for two-and-a-half-years now and recommends it “because it gives a couple the exact picture of how your life is gonna be after you sign that piece of paper”. With no plans of marriage on the anvil, Preetam says he and his partner share “a great relationship”.

‘I hide my ring finger’
»“I hate dentists! After a wisdom tooth extraction, she spent the night at my place and....,” trails off Rohan, a young graphic artist with a wacky sense of humour and devil-may-care attitude.
What do the neighbours think of the tooth fairy who then moved in wand and all? “Well, Anu aunty downstairs thinks we are married. I hide my ring finger at all times.  And the white guy upstairs is cool,” he insists.
As for his folks, they “seem quite all right with the idea of me living in with a woman whom I plan to marry. I think they have seen and come to understand that I’m a lot more responsible and level headed now”.

‘It started with a few nights together’
»Ujwala, marketing consultant, has been living in with her boyfriend Raul for almost a year in conservative Chennai.
“It started off with him spending a few nights at my place, and gradually his things came in. I gave him some cupboard space, and he moved in completely,” she recounts in mock horror. Ujwala says that even in nosey Nungambakkam, no one — including her landlord — has “issues” with her live-in arrangement.
“The landlord respects my privacy, and asks no questions. The neighbours did look at us strangely for a while, but they never said anything to us directly.”
Ujwala’s parents, however, don’t really know the extent of Raul’s moving in. “They assume we spend a lot of time together especially since we got engaged a while ago,” she adds.
The Supreme Court observation on live-ins makes no difference, she says as she always looked at it as a personal choice.

(Names changed on request)

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