Living together

By Angela Seneviratne

A very interesting topic came up in the world’s favourite “F” word of social media very recently on what people thought of couples living together. I was pleasantly surprised that most women of this exotic land, some of them married, were in favour of partnerships on a serious level, but without the ties of matrimony.

Living together is after all, the only way one could fathom another human being in the most intimate way and would know every single idiosyncrasy there is to put up with for life, or else, for as long as it is bearable.

As long as there are smiles across the breakfast table and love in one’s porridge, everything would be just fine. And if at some point disagreements get too hard to resolve and lead to a breaking point, all one has to do is to pack up and leave, it is as easy as that!

Marriage, however, though legally binding, has the disadvantage of becoming an arborous exercise when one wants to extricate one’s self from if things go haywire. The very thought of the expenses on both sides to so much as file a divorce case is a deterrent (not if one practices the faith of Islam, it is agreed), followed by the various payments in maintenance and alimony to the woman. That, in itself is cause for annoyance and hatred, because one almost never hears of the amount claimed being paid! This is a lifetime of a feeling of short change as it were.

Divorce, it must be stressed, is only permitted on three grounds – adultery, malicious desertion, and incurable impotence. What if the couple are not compatible and have quarrels on a daily basis? What if the man is a drunkard, a narcissist, an abuser? What if all the causes are other than those three stipulated causes? Does either of the parties have to finally resort to one of them to process the divorce?

The Roman Dutch Law on which our justice is based is one that determines that the woman and child must be provided for – which is a good thing – but then, the amounts that the court sees fit, are far less than the actual cost of living. That is funny isn’t it!!

What do they expect a child to do if the guardian cannot afford life? But does life stop just because the parents are hauling themselves to court to be freed of each other?

No. The child will still have to be fed, clothed, sent to school, and for tuition if need be, sent for extracurricular activities, books, and other necessities to be bought for, medicals to be looked after, and all of the other numerous things that have to be executed. The ball of life has to just keep rolling, it has to get done. And nothing comes free.

Don’t forget that all of the time that the divorce case is being heard (running into years sometimes), there is no income at all, unless a separate motion is filed only for maintenance.

The social stigma in Sri Lanka is quite another matter. A divorced woman is at the receiving end of snide remarks, while a man is not. Very recently, some anonymous couple made such vicious remarks on me just because I married more than once. And yes, to men who have been married before, and divorced, what were they expecting? Should I have sought a spring chicken of 18 years instead?
How do I know this? I’ve been there, done that.

So to get back to the topic, living together is definitely minus all the harangue if they don’t have children, if they do, proof of parentage is sufficient to claim maintenance.

There were some puritanical comments on the preference of marriage to living together and the reasons being analysed as one will not change partners as often as when unmarried if things go wrong!! Say what? Living together is as serious as a marriage, but without the legal bindings, that is all.

One would not live together with every one that passes by the doorway, surely. And then, nothing stops a person from marrying again. And again, for that matter. It is the choice of the two people and it may or may not work, as it does not come with a guarantee card.

Living together is as legal a partnership as any other in western countries and the rights are that of a couple. This was, after all, the accepted norm of things in this land too, until some bright spark brought the registration of marriages into practice. No one said anything at that time, did they?

So dear hearts and gentle people, I shall leave you with that question mark in your heads until next week. Living together?