Why do people prefer cohabiting to marriage?

Saturday June 19 2010

By AGNES K. NAMAGANDA

Most, if not all women want and appreciate the benefits that come with marriage, that is if there is love, respect, honesty, communication and commitment. And if every single woman found someone who loved her back in equal-or more-measure, someone who would commit to her for the rest of life, then most women would gladly get married.

But even without these qualities, many women are willing to get married for the sake of going through a wedding experience and the status it gives them thereafter as Mrs-so-and-so. Don’t we see it on local television during wedding programmes when many a woman gushes about how grateful she is that her man has finally married her as if he’s doing her a favour? Inspite of this willingness on the side of women, cohabiting is still very much a preferred fall-back for a number of reasons.

Many men claim they are not financially ready
Whether unprepared financially or emotionally to deal with the challenges of marriage, many men give this as a reason for not wanting to commit. Surprisingly, such men usually want offspring as a demonstration of your love. Jessica says her boyfriend badly wanted a child from her. He said they would formalise the relationship thereafter.

Well, Jessica conceived their second child a few months after giving birth to the first and the third one too in quick succession. The father of her children says he’s now busy with establishing financial security for the family and ignores her whenever she brings up the issue of an official marriage. She does not want to separate her children from their father and does not have the financial muscle to look after them just in case she walks out and he refuses to support her. Women in such situations feel forced to cohabit.

Hopes to win the man over with time.
“He never asked me to move in, I made the decision. He’s the man of my dreams and I am hoping that as he sees me every day, he’ll get it that I am the right one for him too,” admits Harriet.

Like Harriet, some women acknowledge that their boyfriends have been very honest from the onset. They are not sure whether marriage is what they want but the women are sure of the men, so they go for it and start cohabiting. The wait is even made more worthwhile when the man can ably provide for her, buy her a car and start her a business. What is important to note is that this strategy has worked for some of them, they squeeze a commitment (read wedding) out of him later.

Independence
There are a good number of corporate women who after going through a series of heart break have concluded that a committed relationship may only exist in the next life. They probably put in a lot of effort to make these relationships that were a signed paper away from marriage, work. They now want flings and casual relationships. Yes, a pregnancy here and there might occur but so what? They can look after these children without any help from the men. They consider it far much better than investing heavily and getting equally disappointed. In case of infidelity or a scandal, they can move on without trying to break the attached strings that result from marriage.

The fear of divorce
Most women are so convinced all men cheat but will still tighten their belts and storm into marriage deciding that whether he cheats or not, she’ll stay. Others do not have these guts. When they have a relationship considered good enough, they would rather not rock the boat. And if they do not have any family pressures, they thrive on this course. They may set up businesses together, have children but never ever formalise their union.

Lack of role models
Of all the relationships she’s seen in her life, Jennifer does not know of any where the man didn’t stray. She’s just indifferent to the idea of a man saying he’ll commit happily ever after and yet she cannot see herself staying when he cheats the way the women she knows did. “Why enter a battle field when you know you’ll lose?” she asks.

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