Coping with generational morals on living together before marriage - Are we Tamils socially behind in the way we accept things?
It comes down to the fear of being looked down upon - how we pick and choose between the decisions that are best for ourselves versus others.
Abisha Vignabalan
Toronto, Canada
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It is agreeable that at one point in time, the whole idea of premarital cohabitation was very taboo. In order to do so, a lot of families expected their children to have some form of legal documentation holding the relationship together prior to even going forward with the whole idea. But why is that piece of paper even necessary especially in today’s day and age? Why is it so hard to see the benefits that come about from living together? One reason being our Tamil societal stereotypical perceptions merely existing and getting passed down through generations to us. 

It is all in the way one views another as an individual, looks at their family, the people they surround themselves with, where they live, and even their past choices they have made that bring about this hesitation. A larger percentage of older individuals in the Tamil Community are against the idea of living with someone without a marital title to go with it for one sole cause - the fear of being looked down upon. Especially amongst other older Tamils because it is so hard for them to differentiate us as a separate individual with a separate identity that is unique and different from our families as a whole. If we do something they do not condemn, they fear people will connect that choice or action to how they raised their own, which is fair in a way. 

However, it is not their opinion or view that is incorrect, but rather it is their views being very restrictive, not allowing the acceptance of others and their values to coexist in society that is wrong. As we grow up we are instilled with certain thoughts and practices to mold us into who we are. We each have distinct values that help us in the way we react to certain things as well, but it is important that these thoughts are open to changing with societal adaptations. In a perfect world everyone should be okay with others making certain choices even if they would never do it themselves. 

A question that constantly arises is why are Tamil people so against even accepting live-in relationships prior to marriage as a smart plan prior to officially committing to each other? What better way to get to know someone as well apart from moving in with them? 

“Getting married is easy. Learning to live together is hard.” - Anonymous

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In a recent poll conducted over TamilCulture’s Instagram, 47% said they would absolutely live together and that it was a must, 18% said it was not for them, and 36% said it depends. Diving deeper into some of the more detailed answers we received, people were emphasizing the need to learn their significant other’s living habits, who they truly are as a person, and how the environment or shared space brings out a lot if you are really trying to get to know someone.

“That is the real test to see if you are both compatible.” - Anonymous

We interviewed Ashana, a Tamil Canadian, who dated their ex-partner for about 2 years prior to choosing to live with them. She describes the reasoning behind doing so as an economic decision, as they both were living in close proximity to one another already downtown, and she owned her place and preferred sharing rent with them as she transitioned out of a job. 

However, between them marriage was never discussed at the initial stage. The benefits the decision brought outweighed a lot of the cons anyone would consider in her position. She didn’t have to constantly go back and forth, and she mentions how it was a great way to test how they both would share a space together. They both took it one day at a time, without putting a timeline on the arrangement. Given that her partner was previously married, she accepted that marriage would not necessarily be the end goal given his experience, but stayed open to it based on how things worked. As an independent woman who lived alone, lived in other countries by herself, her family adapted to her ways of making decisions appropriately for herself in other areas. However, the elders were definitely not happy compared to her younger cousins when they initially found out that she was living together with her partner.

After a year, she realized this was someone she couldn’t build a life with for 25+ years. A big reason in terms of compatibility was that they prioritized family life, socializing, and domestic duties very differently. 

The honeymoon phase of any relationship which lands around the 2 year mark may have people in relationships thinking they are ready for marriage. Ashana who underwent that is now rather thankful that she followed her gut and lived with him first because had she jumped right into marriage with this person without living with them first, she knows she would have stayed much longer in fear of getting divorced/all the work that comes with dissolving a marriage legally. Also, in the process would have made them, herself and her family absolutely miserable.

“I think people need to start getting comfortable with disappointing people or not being liked. These are things which will inevitably happen when you try to do things which don't fit a prescribed social narrative, but are necessary for your own personal growth and long-term happiness, which actually make you a much more family-oriented and non-toxic, loving person to your family in the process. This is especially true for Tamil women who are held to such high standards of being a 'good Tamil girl' with people constantly saying you should not wear this, do not stay out late, don't drink, preserve the culture etc.” - Ashana

Being very strong-willed is something it truly took, especially when you have the utmost respect for your family as Ashana did. She felt the need multiple times previous to this to push through and do things she wished to prove and demonstrate she is capable of making choices that don’t lead to negative outcomes.

Looking back, she places a lot of importance on having those difficult conversations early on and communicating certain points effectively without getting overly emotional by saying things like “I am never talking to you again.” Things take time, and can be learned or adapted to if communicated correctly, which is her positive take on this topic. 

Her piece of advice as she ended off “is to explain to your family what exactly you're planning to do, but know that there might be a period where you have to experience negativity. You have to stay strong and know that most things are temporary and people usually come around in the end.”

Abisha Vignabalan
Toronto,  Canada
Abisha holds both a Bachelor’s of Business Administration and Master’s of Business Admi...
Abisha holds both a Bachelor’s of Business Administration and Master’s of Business Admi...
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