We agree, marriage is for the birds; and except for exceptions like the crows and vultures, eagles and cranes who mate for life, most birds know better. What with all the swipe-ing left and swipe-ing right, it’s more about bed-fellows-well-met, and no thought of the ever-after.
Yet, conditioning can’t be denied. And sooner or later the moving-in happens. Living-in is the new buzzword, and even parents who see marriages melting faster than ice in the Antarctic are beginning to turn a blind eye. Or nod approvingly, and hopefully.
But believe me, the no-strings-attached state of bliss comes with its own strings. That, often, for a woman, can be tied to an anchor. Not the kind that moors you. But the kind that drags you to its depths.
So, from the wisdom of the wise, those who have lived-in and learnt, some words of…well… advise:
A look at the dos
Do hold your own. Which means, hold on to what you enjoyed in your single state: me-time, financial independence, your pet hobbies et al. Do keep finances separate. If you do start a joint account for convenience’s sake, ensure it remains strictly utilitarian. The rest of your money is yours. In your name, in your account.
Do keep in touch with family. They are your safe harbour. Unless, of course you have been disinherited/ostracised/ pronounced dead by them. Still, keep the lines open.
Do your bit; phone messages and emails work well. Even if they don’t get responses. Do go out with friends. With and without partner in tow. You are, technically, still a free bird, remember?
Do share work stories with partner. Helps keep perspective. His. That you have other orbits beyond his.
Take one day at a time. That way the years ahead will (hopefully) take care of themselves. Do take time off for fun trips together…and alone. Do fight, argue, but clear the air.
Do compromise on food likes and dislikes. It’s part of the fun of a relationship.
Do learn something together. Helps teach you to support each other. Do talk. On everything that concerns everything, but particularly your lives.
Now for the dont’s
Do not get pregnant. Well, at least not till you both want you to, have thought it out, and can follow through on the line of thinking.
Do not give in to role playing… you are not a wife, he is not a husband. And that was a conscious decision. Yours…plural. Remember it. Do not let him role play. By making you accountable for his clothes, keys, notes… you know the drift… you are not his mum, either.
Do not buy expensive stuff for the ‘love-nest’. That’s for the married types, if they plan to stay married. Do not bring family peeves into the home. ‘Your mum’, ‘my Dad’ and the rest of the clan is a red flag. Such plaints best avoided.
Do not nurse grudges. If you could discuss ‘not getting married’, you can discuss irritations, anger issues…Do not let resentment simmer.
Do not let his family judge you. And do not judge his. Do not let his family invade your life. Adopt you, patronise you. You have not married him; so his family has no rights on how you should behave with him/them.
Do not feel insecure. Or make him feel insecure. You made a conscious choice after all. Do not let the romance die. Work at keeping things fresh. (Easier said than done, though, but not impossible.)
Do not forget that living together does not mean you won’t have leaky taps, fused bulbs, washing and cleaning and dusting. Work out the details of who does what, and when.
Enough now with the instructions. No, they are not coming from a one-sided, feminist point of view. Just that women tend to start off as independent and self-reliant, but along the way, start becoming pliant as doormats, courtesy (a) love; (b) conditioning; (c) insecurity; (d) genetic makeup (tick any applicable and be warned.)
A little awareness, we are told, goes a long way. PS: Married people are allowed to read this. It works just as well for them.
The writer is a Consulting Editor with Penguin India