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Cohabiting affairs on the rise

04 Mar 2017 at 07:01hrs | Views
It is women's month and most women are in celebratory mood.

Some are single, some are in relationships, some are engaged, some are married and others are cohabiting with their partners.

Cohabiting began a long time ago and in Shona culture it is known as 'kuchaya mapoto'.

In the past, the term was derogatory and tantamount to promiscuity, but nowadays it is a common practice that is subtly gaining social acceptance.

What is cohabiting?

The term is commonly used regarding unmarried couples who choose to live together without officially getting married.

Over the years, social values have been evolving, making this an increasing popular option for people in long term or permanent relationships.

On the international scene celebrities like musician Shakira and her Spanish boyfriend, soccer star Gerad Pique, opted for cohabiting instead of the proper marriage.

"We already have what is essential, you know? We have a union, a love for each other, and a baby. I think that those aspects of our relationship are already established, and marriage is not going to change them," said Shakira an interview with The Sun a couple of years ago.

Even the oldest Kardashian sister Kourtney refused to get married to her on-and-off boyfriend Scott Disick with whom she has three kids, saying marriage has too much pressure.

Why are people cohabiting?

There is no doubt that marriage is a big commitment that has its bright and dull attributes and most people can be cautious before jumping in.

However, the recent trends suggest that more people seem not only anxious about the prospect of marriage, but are also shunning it.

Some people from rich background are pessimistic about marriage because of the requirement to share property after divorce. There are people in this bracket that prefer cohabiting, which does not have serious attachments.

A young man from a famous rich family who declined to be named said he will not commit himself to marriage, but wants to share his life with someone he loves.

"I have seen people getting into marriage for material reasons. There are ladies that pretend to love you because of your belongings and social class. Such women are not committed and they do not have true love," he said.

"When there is no true love, divorce is eminent. When divorce comes, you share property. That means you are losing property to someone who never loved you wholeheartedly. I will prefer cohabiting with someone who really loves me. We can work together and if she is intelligent she will be able to amass her own wealth through me and no one will be worried about the other's property in the event that we separate."

Cohabiting has also become popular at local universities where, due to swelling enrolment numbers, some students get accommodation outside campus.

Most students stay together to cut costs and the daring ones are taking advantage of this arrangement to live with their boyfriends and girlfriends.

Although some of these lovers eventually get married during or after their study periods, most of them go separate ways after graduation, which makes the practice immoral.

"Students in universities normally share rooms in order to cut costs, but they are also taking advantage of that to live as lovers as they do not have parents or guardians to supervise them," said Tariro Mswazi contributing to a debate over the issue on Facebook this week.

Another Facebook user Akina Msao also shared her concerns over how this trend was mostly affecting girls.

"It is sad that these young ladies in universities do not see how badly it affects them. As parents, we send our kids to universities for them to learn not knowing that they are going there to be wives. They will be cooking and washing for boys while these boys are concentrating with their studies. In the end, some of the girls lose focus," she said.

One of the major reasons for this increased interest in cohabitation is not only the fear of the marriage union itself, but concern for the possibility of its collapse.

A young man, Charles Chirambe said cohabiting is a way of getting to know a person better before committing to marriage.

"It is a great way of knowing someone on a deeper level, their mannerisms and a lot of other things that you would never see while courting," he said.

He is of the opinion that many people choose cohabitation as a way to test-drive the relationship before getting married. In the ongoing Facebook debate, Alex Musa also supported the above notion.

"The rate of divorces these days is ridiculously high, mostly because people are rushing into marriages before getting to know each other. What other better way of knowing each other than cohabiting," he said.

In other words, it may be the looming possibility of divorce that is driving some people to choose the question, "Will you move in with me?" over "Will you marry me?"

Even people who have no personal experience with divorce (say, of their parents or friends) are concerned about it happening to them so they prefer to cohabit rather than marry

Others fear marriage in a larger sense, and opt to live together instead of tying the knot at all because it is easier and does not have commitment clauses.

"It is easier to enter into a cohabiting than a marital relationship because formal ceremonies and social recognition are not required," said Tanatswa Kaondera.

Can cohabiting replace marriage?

Although cohabiting has a fair share of support, most people are against the practice.

Most people believe in officialising their unions through marriage. They view cohabiting as immoral and a way of exploitation.

Tsitsi Clare Madondo values the difference between a boyfriend and a husband.

"I am indifferent on that issue because it has become some sort of marriage. Once they start staying together they start thinking they are already "married". I personally would not give a husband's benefits to a boyfriend and that includes staying together. For me cohabiting is a no-no," she said.

Wendy Chimonyo was very direct about her feelings on the topic.

"It is a no-no whether we are in 21st century or not. It is inappropriate. As long as partners are not married they should not stay together," she said.

Model and media personality, Nomusa Nyathi also voiced her opinion about the topic.

"Cohabiting — no matter how sugar coated it is, no matter how overrated it is, no matter how 'it is a better way of knowing your partner', no matter what — it is fornication. If he loves you so much, why doesn't he just put a ring on your finger," she said

Most people stand on their cultural grounds about the issue

Porcia Mutunzi said cohabiting is wrong and not culturally accepted for true Africans.

"No, it is honestly not right if your cultural position is African. It is a desperate measure where maybe one in the relationship wants benefits from the other," she said.

Tariro Mswazi also stands on the cultural ground saying cohabiting is not for Zimbabweans as the culture is different from the West.

"People are adopting the Western culture, which doesn't suit us at all. In Western countries they do not pay 'lobola' making cohabiting very normal for them, but in our culture lobola should be paid first before living with your partner," she said.

Some are religious about the issue.

"Culturally it is not acceptable. Actually people are taking it to be a modern norm but it is not. Even in the Bible it is not allowed because this will obviously lead to sin. I do not think it is ideal and people should not just copy what other races do without considering their culture and also what the Bible says," Amiey Cuteyy Sithole said.

Although some do not support the idea of cohabiting, they distance their reasons from culture.

Music producer Tash Mungoshi said cohabiting was a recipe for disaster.

"Recipe for disaster. Just look at Westerners to see how messed up cohabiting is. But then again it depends on how you and your partner understand each other and your goals as a couple. If your guts are certain, then I do not see any problem. The problem comes when you end up separating after having shared the same bed outside marriage," he said.

"In terms of culture, I can say culture evolves so we cannot really hide behind cultural values and norms that most of us do not follow. I feel if people want to play the whole culture card, then we should strictly adhere to our cultural values and not pick out bits and pieces to suit our current situations and do without the rest of it," he said.

Geena Zulay Mafuya agreed with Mungoshi.

"We wear Western clothes, use Western gadgets, eat Western meals, speak Western languages, have Western weddings, do practically everything as the western but all of a sudden we should not cohabit because it is western. That just spells out hypocrisy. If you want to be cultural then go all the way not be selective. If I cohabit with my boyfriend what is important is my happiness," she said.

Of course people are different and have different opinions about the topic.

However as people have their differences on the issue, the Zimbabwean law is very clear that cohabiting is not marriage.

As they say: "Kubika/ kuchaya mapoto hausi muchato. Umasihlalisane kaso mtshado".

Source - the herald
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