Living together unmarried, taboo in India

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Living with your boyfriend or girlfriend without being married? It’s still a taboo for most Indians. But a growing number of couples are daring to make the move.

Taken from Love Matters

“It’s a constant battle”, says Amrita about her parents insistence that she get married. She and her boyfriend Avinash, both 27, want to wait. They live together in Delhi and have full-time jobs in the fashion industry.

“It came as a shock when I told them we live together,” she says. “I try to explain it with practical arguments. We save money and I tell them honestly we would spend most of our time together anyways. They are not completely okay with it, but I did not leave them much choice.”

It’s because both of their families live far from Delhi that the couple can share a house. “If my parents lived in Delhi, I wouldn’t have a choice but to stay with them,” says Amrita.

“My older brother has been a huge help. He’s met Avinash and convinced my parents that he’s a trustworthy guy, and that it’s safer for me to live with him now I’m in Delhi.”

Amrita told her parents about her relationship with Avinash a year before she moved in with him. At first they found even that hard to accept. Avinash’s family feels the same.

The couple has been together now for five years. As time passes, the pressure to get married builds. “Sure we want to marry eventually,” Amrita says. “But right now we want to focus on other things. We’ve both set certain personal targets, things we want to accomplish career-wise. Our parents don’t understand – they tell us we can do all of that after marriage.”

Disguise the truth
Because of the disagreements, Amrita and Avinash haven’t been able to visit each other’s parental homes. “My aunts and uncles all live there as well and they don’t know about our relationship yet. So my parents wouldn’t be comfortable with me bringing Avinash home,” Amrita explains.

Even in Delhi, the couple sometimes disguise the truth about their living situation. “Our maid, for example, probably assumes we’re married. So does our landlord. Just after we had agreed to take this place, an older lady in the family asked how long we’d been married. We told her we weren’t, and the expression on her face changed. But I think she liked us and luckily she didn’t make an issue out of it.”

Between the couple and their parents, one area remains in Amrita’s words, “grey”. “We don’t discuss sexuality with them. And when they come and stay with us in Delhi, Avinash and I sleep in separate rooms.” She smiles: “Whether, they are in a state of denial, or blissfully ignorant, I don’t know.”