What do you know about cohabitation?
Cohabitation is when two people decide to live together. It does not even have to be romantic; you can cohabit with a sister or friend.
I just feel that in religious countries, I stress this, cohabitation is a term used for people having sex and living together at the same time. It is supposed to be a bad thing and I don’t know why.
So, what is your general view on cohabitation?
I have no problem with it. I think that two adults have the right to decide how they are going to live their lives.
There is all this pressure to get married and all you are doing, in my opinion, is pandering to social whims, which I think is a very stupid thing to do, when you only have one life to lead.
So you can decide to get married and it was a big mistake and then divorce is a very tricky process. So sometimes I think it safer to cohabit.
Tradition has for long dictated on marriage. Don’t you think this is the norm to be followed?
People have their reasons for doing so but we can’t know because those are their reasons. It is not our business… [laughs]
I am very much anti-tradition. We live in a global world where you are lucky enough to break away from a part of your life where tradition is necessary to protect you.
There is no need for us to pander to tradition and we did not follow tradition.
Our lives are going to continue peacefully. I actually want to do research on this. I think it is a circle of stupidity.
In a society like Uganda, weddings are looked at as prestigious. What does a cohabiting couple that does not have money do?
That is a very good excuse. Weddings here are too expensive and you have to involve the whole clan, look a certain way and then integrate it with western tradition.
It is only one day for crying out loud! Why should you break the bank? People have money but cohabitation allows you to escape the burden to pay for a wedding, which is sneaky but clever.
We have seen churches that encourage cohabiting couples to get married. Ever heard of mass weddings?
I am an atheist but I support churches that do that because you are providing a service. There are people who want to get married but do not have money. If the church wants to provide, then by all means, let them. I am pro-people doing whatever they want.
There are schools of thought that believe that marriage provides a cushion legally, especially for children.
From a legal stand point, when it comes to asset sharing, children have more financial stability. But a piece of paper is never going to buy emotional stability. It is just a myth.
And do you think children who grow up in cohabitation settings end up that way?
Humanity is so complex. You cannot assume anything. Some people choose a path in their lives that is completely opposite from what their parents chose. I think that is a myth.
Some people think cohabitation encourages infidelity more than in marriage.
[Laughs sarcastically] That is a lie. There is no piece of paper in the world that is going to stop a person from straying. I don’t know who sold people that lie. You can’t believe that marriage is going to insure fidelity.
If that were the case, the figures that show that HIV is rife in married couples would not be true. I need to do a study on this because do people bury their heads in the sand like ostriches once they have a ring on their finger?
But married couples are said to be more responsible than those who are cohabiting.
That is nonsense. When you have a partner, whether you are married or not, your life is going to change. It is not just about you.
That argument only works if you are comparing individuals who are still single and those who are not. I am not going to live with a man and not have discussions on whether the fridge should be filled with food.
If you are single, your priorities are different. When people are married, it does not mean that they are more responsible. There is no law that can be applied to that. That argument for me is totally baseless.
So all in all?
There is too much moral policing in the world, which needs to be stopped. Ugandans are extremely hypocritical. People who go around saying marriage is good and cohabitation is wrong are lying to themselves.
It is more like an attack on sex before marriage. It is also an attack on adults who want to break away from traditional norms. I think people should mind their own business.
By Christine Katende
‘If you can’t afford a marriage, do not enter it; do not live with your so-called partner’
What is cohabitation?
In my terms, that word does not exist. I grew up in a staunch Christian family of a responsible father and mother who were married. So technically, I do not have a definition for cohabitation. However, from what I hear, I think it is when people live together and have children before getting married. Am I right? [Pauses]
So, what is your general view on cohabitation?
For one to have children outside marriage is not good. First and foremost, I am a staunch Christian and I believe in the marriage institution. What the Bible teaches us is that one has to first get married, and then have children.
Isn’t that being too harsh?
I don’t want to sound judgmental but I believe children would grow up far better in a marriage setting than in cohabitation. Marriage brings stability, focus and togetherness in a family. Imagine a situation where one is not married, they have children and somehow, he goes off and sleeps with another woman and they have children. Honestly, there is no gel at all, which is confusing. The children grow up without appreciating their environment.
But the only difference between a married couple and those cohabiting is a legal instrument. More like same script, different cast?
When you are bringing up a child in a marriage setting, there are certain values that a father and mother impart, for example saying ‘thank you’ or not talking back at elders. But in a cohabitation setting, it probably happens but the chances of some of these values not happening are high.
There are people who have been cohabiting for more than five or 10 years.
I am not disputing that people have been cohabiting for years. Yes, you can get it right but it would be preferable in a marriage setting because the advantages are more. Nowadays men are lazy, unlike our hardworking fathers then. They drink, don’t look after their families and women and in the end, run away.
How do you expect people to get into marriages yet they do not have the financial backing for weddings?
Ahaaa… This is the best question you have asked me. If you cannot afford a marriage, do not enter it; do not even sleep around with any one or live with your so-called partner. Let that partner of yours sleep at theirs and you at yours. Please, let us not water down the marriage institution. Let us not give an excuse for not getting married. And I wonder why marriages are expensive, which in itself is a different topic. Why? It is because of our madness that we have made marriage expensive.
If it is one’s choice to put the wedding on hold and cohabit, what is wrong with that?
Please if you are not ready, perfect! First make your money, and then you go to Olive and ask for her hand in marriage. Do you know that my wife and I did not cohabit? I stayed at my father’s place and she stayed at her parents’ until we got married.
But not everyone has money for weddings.
Cohabiting has increased irresponsibility. You get comfortable because instead of buying a plot of land for your family to start building a house, you are so comfortable with the situation in the muzigo [shack house]. When you quarrel with the woman you are with, you jump off and look for other women. Really, who do you leave your family with? So when you die, uh huh? There will be women and children at your burial fighting. But you as a man, what did you do while you cohabited?
To cohabit or to get married? That is the question
I advocate for marriage, period! I am not saying that marriage is a bed of roses. Of course, you’ll find difficulties. If dealing with a three-year-old is difficult, how about a marriage that lasts for 50 years? But the positives are huge too. Being a Christian-leaning society, the Bible commands us to get married. Secondly, if you want stability, not for you as such but for your children, then marriage is the way to go. Because I am married to this woman and she has my children, I am forced to be responsible. Most cases of jumping up and down are in cohabiting because there is no bond. When married people get children, their focus is, “What do I leave for these children?”
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON COHABITATION?
“It doesn’t make sense to live with a man without your parents’ blessings. The bad side is that even if a man beats you, you can’t report him because no one knows you as his wife. Also, there cannot be trust and love in such a relationship,” Blessed Nyesiga, Businesswoman
“I don’t support it at all because in cases where a man dies, the woman’s relatives steal the property. Then if you happen to live with this woman for like five years but fail to marry her legally, she will claim for a share of your property,” Charles Mawanda, Boda boda cyclist
“I think it is fine as long as both of you agree and love each other. When a man decides to move in with you, it helps you learn each other better and whether you can live together or not. Getting married instantly does not give you chance to know who this person is,” Dorence Batenga, Student
“It is good because it gives you a chance to ascertain whether you will manage her standards in terms of costs and morals. However, it is against God’s will and can delay official marriage,” Ivan Mitara, Voice Coach
“I have no problem with it because it is very cost-effective - no introduction and wedding ceremonies involved. It is about two people agreeing for life to go on. No stress,” Prince Mbidde, Self Employed
“Cohabiting is not good because you might end up being used. The more you stay with a man, the more he discovers the wrong side of you and realises you might not be a good wife. A man should get you from your parents’ home,” Fahari Mahoro, Mobile Money Agent
“It is okay, so long as the couple agrees and loves each other. People in such a relationship may stay together longer than those who are legally married, because they respect each other and still have the hope of wedding some day,”
Shellah Kabugo, Farmer
“Cohabiting involves two unmarried people living together in a sexually active life. The problem is that it’s never recognised by the church or the law. I don’t support it because it earns you no respect from society and your parents,” William Tomusange, Student