I grew up knowing that when a woman moved into a man’s house or vise-versa, they were duly declared married, never mind that most of those marriages never lasted long. In the community’s eyes, you were so and so’s wife or husband.
My friend Sam tells me that any decent man will make a ‘decent woman’ of his partner by informing both his and her parents of his intentions before taking her to his home.
I guess many women do not get that ‘honourable’ option because it is either their men moving in with them or they cunningly stealing into the house. It is easy.
First, she will leave a tooth brush, then a shirt, then a pair of sandals and the next thing the man knows; even her cat has made an abode in his house.
I suppose it would be okay to cohabit if we all lived by the same definition of the word and agreed to the same rules. However, I have discovered that many cohabiting couples are often of different frames of mind on the entire arrangement.
For some men, once a woman moves in, she becomes wife whether she understands that at that moment or not.
In other cases, once a woman moves into a man’s house, she is telling him that she is now his wife and the sooner he understands it, the better.
A number of couples believe that cohabitation is their way of marriage. They are, by all means a couple, just unwed. In short, they are a couple, just not conforming to anyone’s expectations such as signing legal papers, taking cow offerings to in-laws and declaring their love before a priest.
They believe that not having made it formal does not in any way amount to less commitment.
Cases abound where one partner is deluded into believing that cohabiting is the closest they will ever come to marrying the other person.
In their minds, they are married to that person and trust that hopefully some day the other party will get over his or her hang-ups towards declaring a formal commitment and walk down the aisle.
A lot of times for the non-committal party, this is just a temporary commitment that serves their purposes for that moment, a warm, loving, family-like yet temporal relationship.
They love their partner enough to not mind sharing a home with them for a time, but either their mind is not so fixed on the future or they have evaluated and decided that the other person does not belong in that future. They then default from making that lifelong commitment.
The other party, most times the woman, lives her life married, introducing the party to family and friends, possibly bearing him children in the hope that this will convince him to stay.
Sometimes the non-committal party discovers that they have spent so much of their lives with this other person and walking away becomes impossible.
Eventually, the arrangement ends in a customary marriage of convenience. Those who drift away may end up marrying the next person they meet implying that the past relationship was just a holding area before the right person happened their way. Some couples use a cohabiting experience as an opportunity to try out marriage.
For others, cohabiting is a step before marriage because they do not have the money or time to organise a wedding at the moment, as they settle in the workplace, complete school or just sort through their emotions. In the interim, they do not mind sharing a bed, bathroom, living expenses and responsibilities.
I suppose the most refined form of cohabitation is where both partners understand that it is a convenience union: two students who want to cut costs of living; two friends who like each other’s company for the moment but understand that it is a phase because in the future they are likely to meet other people, fall in love with them and marry them; or just two people trying to beat this November cold.