‘Bachelor or family?” The question is familiar to anyone who’s tried to rent a place in Delhi. Hotel executive Nitin Kapoor (name changed on request) faced it when, after living in a “poky little room in Lajpat Nagar” and with his girlfriend living in a PG, they decided to move in together.
“It was a big step; something we’d have dilly-dallied over in any other city but it made practical sense in Delhi. We’d been dating for years, and paying money separately for terrible accommodations,” he says.
Three years, two apartments, and a few dodged visits from parents later, they tied the knot. But living in with your lover isn’t always hunky-dory. What if you break up? Who keeps the toaster? Who gets the LED TV you both paid for? What if your parents decide to say, “Surprise!” and pop-in for a visit?
As rumours surface of yet-another celebrity couple parting ways after living in (actors Abhay Deol and Preeti Desai are rumoured to have split up), we look at the risks and benefits of living together.
Step one: Moving in
Once you’ve decided your relationship is at that stage, moving in sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Well, not always. When Aditi moved back to Mumbai after studying in Chennai, her boyfriend Stuart mustered up the courage to tell his parents they wanted to live together. “They threw a fit,” says Aditi. “So, instead, Stuart moved in with a friend, said so to his parents, and then we moved in together,” she adds. But finding a house still proved hard. “We had decided to say we’re engaged. But after agreeing to give us his flat in Chembur (Mumbai), an owner turned us away at the last minute. ‘We can’t have a non-married couple. That too, a Hindu and a Christian’ was the logic. “Next time, we just said that we’re married,” says Aditi.
Setting the rules
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Split all costs...” is the rule Avni and Manish live by. Avni says, “Some people stop splitting costs, but that’s a mistake. Never become a liability. Every now and then, we take each other out for drinks or dinner, and it still feels like doing something special. It stays fun.” Avni says that it’s also important to give each other space. “You’re always coming home to the same person, so it’s not a bad idea to sometimes do your own thing,” she adds.
And then the final transition
Arguments go both ways on the debate of whether living in helps when (and if) you decide to get married. The New York Times, in an article on ‘The downside of cohabiting before marriage’, talks about its negative outcomes. In what researchers term the ‘cohabitation effect’, it’s argued that couples who live together before marriage tend to be less satisfied with the marriage itself. But there are benefits as well.
Another couple in the city, Meghna and Mohit, who lived together for three years before marrying, say not much has changed for them. “We already knew our daily routines — how we like to spend our time off, and little things like that,” says Meghna. She adds that living in helped her discover things about Mohit: “From the fact that he tends to leave his wet towel on the bed to realising that chicken biryani was his comfort food — I learnt things I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
5 rules to live (in) by
*Evaluate your equation: Have you dated for long enough? Do you know each other well enough to start living in?
*Split costs: You don’t want to deal with the bitter feeling that you’re ending up paying more.
*Maintain separate social groups: If things go wrong, you don’t want all your friends to have to pick sides.
*Come up with a story. Stick to it: “When did you get married?” “Where did you go for your honeymoon?” If you’re saying you’re hitched, be armed with answers to these questions.
*Adjust: We get it that you’re not ready for the compromises that marriage might bring with it. But, if it is a trial run, divide household chores, and don’t be as messy as you were when you were staying with roommates.
Clinical psychologist Varkha Chulani believes that living in can work as a set-up to get to know each other better. She says, “As long as the goal is of a long-term commitment, there’s nothing wrong with it. Having said that, marriage is often associated with sacrifice, adaptation and the fear of getting stuck. Living in has none of that. So, even if you realise you don’t get along, there’s no staying together for the sake of children, and no complications such as alimony.”