Live-in relationships in India

Live-in relationships- Pros and Cons of Live-In Relationships

This article is written by Swati Thakur. The article will lay out what is Live-in relationship and the legal viewpoint of Live-in Relationships.

The Supreme Court of India in 2010, gave legal recognition to the live-in relationship in the case of S Khushboo versus Kanniammal. The Supreme Court categorized live-in relationships as domestic relationships which are protected under the protection of women from the domestic violence act 2005.

There was a time when a live-in relationship was a concept existing only in western countries but in the present time, you can see many live-in relationships even in India. Live-in relationships are becoming more common nowadays. 

Living in relationships in India make conflict between law and morality. According to the law, living relationships are legal but if we see this relationship from the perspective of morality, it is an immoral act.

In this article on live-in relationships in India, we will see the legality of live-in relationships in India and the pros and cons of live-in relationships. 

Meaning of live-in relationship

A live-in relationship means living together before marriage. It is a domestic cohabitation between unmarried couples. 

In simple words, a live-in relationship is a relationship where two people decide to live together as husband and wife but without marriage. These live-in partners live together for a long period of time in a room. They also make physical relations with each other. 

Categories of live-in relationships

If we see live-in relationships broadly, they can be categorized into three distinct categories to understand the type of live-in relationship. 

  • Live-in relationship between an unmarried couple
  • Live-in relationship between two individuals in which one or both are married
  • Live-in relationship between same-sex partners

These are the three types of live-in relationships where the most common is the live-in relationship between unmarried couples. 

Nature of live-in relationship

Since society came into existence, it was known to everyone that only two people make physical relations together after their marriage. This marriage can be done in two ways: arrange marriage or love marriage. For India, there was no culture of live-in relationships. It was seen only e in western countries either by social media or for their lifestyle. 

We cannot ignore the fact that there would be many Indian people who are still unaware of the concept of a live-in relationship. Many people are not acceptable to live-in relationships in India.

The couple who are staying together in a living relationship, performs every duty together that should be performed by a married couple. The law does not define any specific period for couples to live in a relationship. 

Live-in relationships in India

Our country India is following its patriarchal culture. Even after the independence of India, we have stuck to century-old drafted laws. Therefore, it is not shocking in India that we are watching couples facing problems due to live-in relationships.

Marriage is considered sacred in the Indian country. Marriage is a relationship between two people that is legally and socially accepted by society. So you can imagine how a society can accept two people living together without marriage. 

There are no laws in India for the regulation of live-in relationships. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of India is giving its judgments from time to time and helping the couples for the growth of live-in relationships in India.

Advantages or reasons for live-in relationships

There can be a number of reasons for which the couple come into live-in a relationship. These are some following reasons for live-in relationship:

To check Compatibility

When a person starts living with another person 24/7, both people get to know about each other. They can know the habits of each other and figure out if they can stay in a relationship of marriage with each other or not. If the couples after staying in a living relationship for a couple of months and decide that they are not compatible with each other, they can easily move on from that relationship. 

Test for marriage

When boys and girls enter into a marriage relationship, they face many problems and questions from their relatives and family members. But if they are in a live-in relationship, we can easily test that but problems they can face if they get married. 

Also, there can be a possibility that one of the partners is cheating. If the partners are already married, they have to choose the option of divorce with the help of court or divorce mediation in India. But if the couples are in a live-in relationship and find that one of the partners is cheating, we can easily move on. 

To check the responsibilities

Many of the marriages failed due to the reason that the couples failed to take the responsibilities. These responsibilities can be related to family or even financial burdens. The couples by staying in a living relationship can easily figure out whether they can take all these responsibilities or not. 

Remove social pressure

Marriage comes with lots of pressure from society and all families. But there is no pressure in a relationship. The couples can live together without involving their families in the relationship.

To check the bonding

Trust and bonding between couples are one of the best methods to stay in a marriage relationship. The couple who are dating and living together uh can check their bonding and trust level with each other. If the couple figures out that their bonding is strong, they can take the next step and get married.

To check the duration of the relationship

Generally, it happens that we come into a relationship due to attraction from each other. But after some time this attraction comes to an end and the relationship becomes boring. Living in a relationship helps both the couple to check whether they love each other or it was just attraction.

No stamp of divorcee

One of the best things about living in a relationship is that if the couples agree on a point that they are not made for each other and move on from their living relationship, there will be no tag of a divorcee for both boy and girl. They can come into a relationship with another person. 

Help to build unity in diversity

When a person leaves the house he or she meets new people. There can be chances that he/she may Love somebody from a different culture, religion or caste. Such couples can come into a live-in relationship to know about each other by knowing about their habits, cultures and it helps to build unity in diversity. Because if one couple from different religion or culture Mary with another different person, it will make a strong bond between their families and other persons may also attract towards the culture of other people.

To spend quality time

Some live in relationships just to spend some quality time with each other. In modern times, couples stay with each other in a relationship so that they can support each other for their work or solve mental stress. 

No contractual relationship

The main advantage of a live-in relationship is its non-contractual characteristic relationship. In India, marriages are considered sacred as well as a contract between the two parties, which just like any other contract has its legal implications if any of the parties does not abide by the terms and conditions. In a living relationship, such kind of contractual liability is missing and therefore couples are free to operate their relationships as per their own needs.

Disadvantages of Live-in relationships

Major mental distress

We cannot deny that the biggest disadvantage remains the social stigma that live-in relationship couples have to go through. From finding a decent place to live in to constantly being judged by the people around them these couples go through major mental distress.

Status of the children

Another disadvantage that cannot be ignored is the status of the children born out of live-in relationships. Even though the court recognizes children born out of such relationships as legitimate but studies show the children from such relationships go through major mental stress and do not get to enjoy the childhood that every child deserves due to the taboo that the live-in relationship carries with it.

Lack of commitment

One more con that can be addressed in the case of living relationships is a lack of commitment. For some couples, it can also be an advantageous situation but it can be the biggest disadvantage if the partner is not fulfilling his commitments.

More Flexibility

Flexibility is the hallmark of a live-in relationship but too many loopholes sometimes cause the relationship to tear apart. Where walking out of a relationship is also taken as a pro it also serves as a con in many cases as some people find it very hard to break up after taking a leap of faith and making plenty of changes in their respective lives, but then again this disadvantage is not especially associated with the live-in relationships, even marriages face the breakdown!

No support from Families

The biggest disadvantage of live-in relationships is the lack of support from families and friends. It causes the couple a lot of mental agonies and sometimes is also the reason for the downfall of their relationship.

It is not compulsory for couples who are living in a relationship that they have to marry each other. If both are ready to get married only then they take the next step and can do simple marriage or court marriage in India. But after staying in a living relationship for months or years and they find that they can’t marry each other or they are not a good match for each other, they can move on to find a new partner for each other.

Case Laws related to Live-in Relationships in India

Even though most of the laws in India are regressive but the concept of live-in relationships seems to be slowly developing not only among members of Indian society but also in Indian law. Live in-relationship between consenting adults is no more considered illegal under Indian law.

S Khushboo v. Kanniammal 2010

The Supreme Court of India for the very first time in the case of S Khushboo v. Kanniammal 2010 gave legal recognition to live in relationships by categorizing them as “domestic relationships protected under the protection of women from violence act 2005. The court further held that live-in relationships come within the ambit of the right to life and joined under article 21 of the Constitution of India. The court also said that live-in relationships are the act of two adults living together in any case, which cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.

Indra Sharma Vs VK Sharma

It is a landmark case of a live-in relationship in which the Supreme Court delivered its judgment by referring to section 2 (f) of the protection of women from domestic violence act 2005. The court categorised the live-in relationship into two categories. The first one is the domestic physical relations between two unmarried individuals and the second one is domestic habitation between a married and an unmarried individual or between two married individuals. It is also interesting to note that the Supreme Court has only given recognition to the former and not the latter.

K.S.P. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose

The two judges bench of Supreme Court held that: “When the woman is aware of the fact that a man with whom she is in a live-in relationship and you already have a legally wedded wife, is not entitled to various benefits available and also to those who enter into a relationship in the nature of marriage.”

Kusum Vs State of UP

The fact of the case is that a female named Kusum was making physical relations with a person for 5 years. The woman was seeking protection under a live-in relationship.

Allahabad High Court gave its judgment in the case and held that since the marriage of women was not legally dissolved, therefore her new relationship with another person cannot be said as a live-in relationship and hence it does not cover under the section 2 (f) of the protection of women from domestic violence act 2005.

FAQ Related to Live-in Relationships

Is a live-in relationship is legal in India?

Yes, The live-in relationship is legal in India. Article 21 of the constitution of India provide the right to life. Two adults living together as a couple cannot be considered illegal or unlawful in the eye of law.

Is a live-in relationship good for an unmarried couple?

Yes, the live-in relationship is not complicated as marriage. The couple can know about each other while staying together.

What is the age for a live-in-relationship in India?

A person who has reached the age of majority can come into a live-in relationship. The age of the majority in India is 18 years. It means, a person who is 18 or above 18 can come into a live-in relationship with his/her partner who is also 18 or above.


After reading all the related facts about the live-in relationship in India, we can say that the position of live-in relationships in India is evolving at a slow rate. The patriarchal setup of Indian society is making trouble for live-in relationships. So, it might take more years to normalize the idea of a live-in relationship in India and will also help judges to interpret the statutes in more liberal ways to protect the live-in relationship in India.

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