Sadhguru answers a question on whether a live-in relationship or cohabitation is better than marriage, and looks at how each individual can choose consciously.
Questioner: Is it better to go for a live-in relationship than marriage? It’s often done in the West and they normally just take up a partner and prefer to go for cohabitation vs marriage which takes more commitment.
Sadhguru: Let’s look at the very fundamentals of what marriage is. Why has marriage come up in society? After all, why is it that you want to be with the opposite sex? It is just nature’s trick so that you can reproduce. Nature wants you to reproduce, so it is playing a chemical game with you to get you attracted to the opposite.
A man is opposite to a woman only on the physiological level. In no other way are they opposite. But we have made such a big issue of it. It is a simple difference nature has made for the perpetuation of the race but because this need is there within you, and because you have a few more sensibilities and stronger emotions compared to an animal, we institutionalized our sexuality. That is what marriage is. And because we have to nurture our children and bring them up, unless there is a committed atmosphere, it is not going to happen properly. So we created this institution of marriage so that your sexuality and caring for progeny is also handled, and children grow up in more stable atmospheres.
If you just look at these physical needs as what they are, they won’t be with you for too long. They are strong during a certain part of your life. After that they fade away. But now you have been told that without a passionate relationship, your life is empty. Because of this, no matter what you do, even if everything in your life is happening beautifully, but you don’t get into some relationship like this, you feel like you are missing something. It is not so, but society is training people like this.
You must learn to look beyond the brain-washing that society has done to you, whichever society it is. Only then your intelligence will function. It is time you thought fresh, free from all those things.
Live-in relationships, a substitute for marriage?
A certain part of the population is trying to demolish the institution of marriage because of how marriage has been misused. The so-called rebellious ones think marriage is bondage, so they don’t want marriage. They want free relationships or cohabitation or whatever. Rebelling without any purpose doesn’t mean anything. It is just the ego. The ego always wants to break everything and do something new. But if you carry on with this new thing for 10 years, this will also become old and miserable. Even couples who are in a live-in relationship are fighting with each other. So, these problems are not because of marriage. It is because of people’s own incompleteness and immaturity.
I would say that demolishing the institution of marriage would be foolish right now because you still don’t have a good substitute for it. It is something we created for our convenience, but still you don’t have an alternative better than that. With the alternatives that have been created, there is so much struggle in people. People thought they could be with anybody, but they struggle, they fight, they have their jealousies and all sorts of problems. Isn’t that the reality of the world? Seeing all this, the institution of marriage was created.
With marriage, there was some sense of commitment. That commitment pulled you back if you went off the way. It put you back on track a little bit. Uncommitted relationships can cause an enormous amount of insecurity in people. This is what has happened in the West. Relationships have become so painful because they are constantly uncertain. People may do something because it seems fashionable right now, but most people do not have the stability of mind to handle such uncertainty. Desperately trying to hold on to somebody all the time just destroys a human being in so many ways. When he is constantly uncertain, a human being’s capability to live comes down dramatically.
Human beings have so many complex emotions. If you just leave it to run riot, most people will become insane. There are a few who are free from this but 99% of the population is capable of going insane if their emotions are not somehow organized and channelized. The institution of marriage was created to handle all this. Unfortunately, like so many things, this has been misused. When I say misuse, I am not talking about just women having suffered. Man has also suffered. It is just that women are a little more vocal about their suffering.
Once it happened, in one of those woman’s liberation movement speeches, a real hard-core woman’s libber was giving a whole speech about how the women of the world have suffered in many different ways. There was one meek little man sitting in the front row. After all this bombastic speech, the man raised his hand meekly. The woman asked, “What man, what is it?” You know, he is seen as a “creature” there. He said “I know one way that women have not suffered.” “Which way is that!” “They never suffered silently!”
It is not just that one suffered, the other also suffered but the other was made in such a way, he cannot make an investment of his suffering. He is ashamed to say “my woman is making me suffer.” He feels he will become less of a man if he says that. But it is easier for a woman to say it out. So, both have suffered and misused marriage in different ways.
Once misuse comes in, some people will say “we must end marriage because this is causing suffering.” I would say, don’t destroy any institution unless you have a better substitute. If you have risen in your consciousness in such a way that you have absolutely no sense of possessiveness, you have no need to belong to anyone, if you have that level of consciousness, then you just live. But that is not true with most people.
No common prescription
This is why in Indian tradition, we created a certainty to relationships. Once you are married, it is for life. There is something very beautiful about it, but at the same time, if it becomes a source of exploitation, it can become very ugly. So which system is better? There is no system which is good in the world because every system can be exploited and misused. At the same time, every system can be used to live wonderfully. What we do out of it is the whole thing.
So, whether a live-in relationship or cohabitation or whatever is suitable or not is an individual thing. There is no common prescription. But from what I see, most human beings don’t have the stability of mind to handle constant uncertainty; they will go mad, which is what is happening in the West. Too many people are going insane simply because they are not able to handle the uncertainty of life. Your economic situations, your social situations, even your physical situations are uncertain. But if at least in your emotional situations there is some stability, it gives you a base to live your life more effectively. If you do not need it, it is up to you. It is individual but most people need it.
Editor’s Note: You can find more of Sadhguru’s insights about relationships and how they can become a possibility for inner transformation in the ebook “Compulsiveness to Consciousness.”