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Why cohabitation isn’t such a good idea

W e’ve pretty much heard all the arguments about why people choose to move in together before marriage, and we find none compelling. The common reason people give is that since they have intentions of getting married anyway, moving in together will help them get to know each other before actually tying the knot. The idea of course is that “test-driving” one another before marriage would translate to some form of “practical training” for when they’re married.

Granted, other people decide to cohabit because they have no interest in getting married in the first place, they say. But while we respect people’s choices and we understand we might have different approaches to life, we just don’t believe in moving in with someone and live like a married couple but still believe you aren’t married. Strictly speaking, you are married. You may have slid into it through the window, but you are married.

We believe the concept of marriage is not a social construct, but is God-instituted. Even without relying on biblical argument, it’s just illogical to believe society constructed marriage. In fact, marriage doesn’t even begin with the family. Rather, it’s the other way round. Family begins with marriage, and it’s the family that actually constructs society.

In its essence, marriage has less to do with the ring, and more to do with the spiritual attachment you cultivate with another human being. It’s a soul tie that binds the two of you for life, outside of the ring.

The ring, certificate and ceremony are important facets that formalise the institution and outwardly ratify the internal work of marriage. These facets are meant for social, legal and financial purposes in order that you are accorded the formal status of marriage. And indeed, that status is absolutely necessary for you to orient your brain as a married person and conduct your life normally as such. However, marriage is essentially a spiritual union far more than it is anything else. That’s what we believe it was meant to be from the beginning, hence there were no rings then.

The institution of marriage, in its formalised state, reliably creates the social, economic and affective conditions for effective parenting. Being married changes people’s lifestyles and habits in ways that are personally and socially beneficial. Marriage is a “seedbed” of pro-social behaviour. Furthermore, marriage generates social capital. The social bonds created through marriage yield benefits, not only for the family, but for others as well, including the larger society.

However, all credible research generally points to the fact that people living together before marriage actually increase their prospects of divorce once they are married – if they ever get married at all. Many of them don’t even get there. And all that “test-driving”, is just a copout from making the bold commitment of a traditional marriage, and a free-pass to getting all the home benefits of being married without actually being formally married.

I ncidentally, it’s women that tend to be frustrated with this arrangement, and end up being hurt. Once they are caught up in a vat ‘n sit situation, because of the complexity and non-descriptive nature of the relationship, the brain orients the cohabitation relationship as marriage. Naturally, women tend to act like wives as he acts like the king of the castle – nothing different from playing house, really. There are serious and real expectations created in the woman’s mind as she tends to forecast the cohabiting arrangement as marriage – or at least a lifetime partnership. She then gradually views herself and projects a posture of the legal wife.

There are other reasons we believe cohabitation is a bad idea.

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

For someone that opts for this type of a relationship with the view of getting married, this is a bigger risk than actually getting married. Many people often end up getting too comfortable with the living arrangement, and then don’t see point of getting married. Who can blame them for not putting a ring on it, when it actually feels like they already are married?

Less likely to get married

All studies show that only about half of people who move in together actually end up getting married.

Higher chance of divorce

While living together can give you an idea of what it will be like to live with your partner, it does not guarantee success. A simple google search on academic studies will show you that people who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced than those who don’t.

You miss out on the newlywed feeling

Because you lived together before getting married, you don’t really get to experience that newlywed feeling.

No real commitment

If you are looking for a long-term commitment then living together might not be the best idea. While married couples tend to work harder at their problems, it is sometimes easier for people who are just living together to walk away for the smallest of issues.

No legal protection

Cohabitation doesn’t automatically amount to common law marriage. In fact legally, to our understanding of family legislation, there is no such thing as “common law marriage” in South Africa, no matter how many years you may have lived together. Cohabitation does not create any automatic legal rights and duties between the two of you during or even when the relationship has ended. Without a legal cohabitation agreement, you remain painfully exposed in that type of a relationship should or when the relationship end for whatever reason. You may also have no claim on your partner’s estate in case of death.

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