Cohabiting: To move in together or not?

If you ask people if couples should live together before they get married, a debate will likely ensue. Many have strong beliefs regarding this, especially for religious reasons. But putting this aside, what are the pros and cons of pre-marital cohabitation?

Gerald was dating his campus girlfriend for two years when they conceived and had a child together. Even though they had plans of getting married at some point, their relationship never really worked out and they eventually parted ways. 

 

Recently, after years of being apart, they thought it wise to make up, especially for the sake of their child. However, because of lack of financial means for a proper wedding, they chose to cohabit with intentions of legalising their union at the right time.

 

The downside of their decision, as he has come to realise, is that society is somewhat frowning upon them with some condemning them for choosing to ‘live in sin’.

 

Cohabiting is defined as the state of living together as a couple without being legally married. Though not as outlandish as it was in past years, some societies, like in Rwanda, are to some extent still against it.

Cohabitation is believed to be one of the best ways of testing a couple’s compatibility for marriage.  Net photos

Counsellor Shadia Nansasi says some couples who choose to cohabit tend to deem it a better option than marriage because of various reasons. She recommends, however, that before taking this step, couples need to look out for particular realities.

PROS

Intimacy 

Nansasi says couples who stay together before getting married have a chance to know each other better before taking the bold step of marriage.

“People get to know more about each other when they stay together more than when they are just dating. So, some people choose to cohabit so that they get to know their partner closely,” the counsellor says.

She is, however, quick to add that even with this type of closeness, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful marriage when people decide to eventually take vows.

Financial support

For some, living together allows them to gain financial stability. Couples that stay together generally split bills between each other; for instance, when one pays rent or water bills, the other can handle groceries, among other expenses. And for this reason, some choose this option because of this appealing advantage as it takes away the financial burden off of one person, yet there is also no spending on legalising their union.

Preparation for marriage 

Cohabitation is believed to be one of the best ways of testing a couple’s compatibility for marriage. It is one way a couple can possibly know if they are well-suited to stay with each other as husband and wife, that is if they have plans of legalising their staying together as a couple.

Lesser mess in case of a breakup

Since couples that cohabit are not lawfully bound to live together, they can easily break their commitment in case things fail to work out, and this wouldn’t call for lawyers or seeking court settlements as it mostly is with marriage.

CONS

Not a guarantee for marriage 

Sylver Mugabo is still single, however, he says, cohabiting can never be an option for him.

“Regardless of what it would require of me to marry my partner legally, I am willing to do it all,” he says, adding that though some people go for this option as a test for marriage, it doesn’t necessarily end up in marriage.

“It’s all about commitment, not all couples finally get married after they choose to cohabit,” Mugabo says.

Limited commitment 

Mugabo also points out that with cohabitation, it is more like a trial and error method, hence, there is always limited commitment since a couple knows that there is an easy way out. 

“Though there is always a level of uncertainty with all relationships, there is even less conviction for couples cohabiting. Unlike with marriage, there are no clear goals for the future and with this, a couple mostly lives in the now,” he notes.

Unclear boundaries 

Diane Uwamahoro is set to be married next year, she explains why she can’t consider the option of cohabitation because to her, such unions are more like ‘open relationships’ where couples are not restricted by boundaries of a legal union.

She notes that for the success of any relationship, there is need for particular principles that don’t necessarily apply to those who are merely cohabiting.

“In such cases, chances of infidelity are high or even worse, toxicity is bound to develop in the relationship. Though marriage is not immune to this, the basics of its foundation, such as respect and commitment, offers a couple the right direction,” Mahoro says.

dmbabazi@newtimesrwanda.com

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