Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cohabitation, an alternative to Marriage?

Posted in: ,
When I told Atala about the recent news about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, he asked; "I thought they were married?" No, they aren't, and even with this engagement, marriage is not assured. It's interesting that it is their children who are very keen for their parents to get married, probably from what they see around them, from friends, classmates and other sources.


Now Atala is not alone in thinking Pitt-Jolie are married, what with them having been together for seven years and having six children, both by birth and by adoption. At the same time, the couple are not the only people who fore-go legal marriage and go for co-habitation.

This type of cohabitation goes beyond just living together for a few years as a test-run for marriage, or with the goal of getting married and then starting a family. In this type of cohabitation, some couples just rule out marriage in the short term and dive straight into making a home and having children together. They either do not believe in marriage as is, or they think it will harm their relationship.

This is in contrast with one or two older couples I know who got married in their forties and fifties when they already had grown up children. Their own stories were along the lines of, "we simply couldn't afford a marriage when we were younger" or "My family did not accept her/him and we just eloped." These group of people are not flat out against marriage like the previous ones.

But they all still make me wonder, is it really necessary to get married? After all, there is what is known as common-law marriage where after living together for a number of years, a couple's arrangement can be legally protected. In some places like the UK, I hear co-habitation is becoming more common, either as a matter of convenience for some, or as a pathway to marriage for others.

Whatever the reason for cohabitation, I think it's imperative to have a conversation with one's partner about what it means for both. If the goal is marriage, as it often is for many women who cohabit, then this should be reflected, with a conversation on goals, expectations, etc. A recent article on the New York Times pointed to lack of such a conversation as the major downside of cohabitation.

Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.

WHEN researchers ask cohabitors these questions, partners often have different, unspoken - even unconscious - agendas. Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage. Source

The article above believes that cohabitation is here to stay, and suggests things that couples intending to live together can do "to protect their relationships from the cohabitation effect". However, while commitment may have gotten a new definition for some people who choose to live together first, I think it will be a while yet before marriage is overtaken by cohabitation.



35 comments:

  1. Live-in partners seems to be the mode for young couples here in the UK. I get a lot of 'my partner and I' stories. I would wager that the two partners are not always 100% into it. One would likely want marriage more than the other but is willing to take the compromise if that's all they can get.

    Meanwhile I almost wish Angelina and Brad will maintain status quo. Wont it be just sad if they join the Hollywood statistics after this.

    p.s. Morbid of me isnt it, to be thinking of divorce even before the marriage has happened right? I know. Hollywood cynicism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't really blame you for the last sentence. For the couples in Hollywood, divorce and second/third marriages are more like a badge of honor.

      Delete
  2. I think it blows many minds that brad and angelina are not married for some reason I also thought they were. I think the pomp and ceremony associated with marriage is what makes it more real so to say to me than cohabitation. As a guy I feel if i am cohabiting it is easier to break up than if we were married.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not just you, a lot of people thought the same. Apart from the pomp and ceremony is also the legal implications of breaking up after a marriage.

      Delete
  3. Thanks Myne for this post and dealing with such a sensitive issue.
    It would be unrealistic of me to say there aren't extreme cases where people are forced into cohabilitation.
    But I think the essence of marriage is it's sacredness. And the reason we are having less people digging the institution called marriage and a higher rate of divorce is cause we as humans are fast forgetting the deeper truth this life-metaphor is pointing to. Once again thanks for this post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would actually argue that there is increase in divorce because people want to live their life to the fullest instead of being chained down to unhappiness.

      Delete
  4. When i heard Brad and Angelina were engaged i was confused cuz i thought they were married too lol. Then i thought, whats the point if they've made it this long with no issues. While i'm not really down for the whole cohabitation/common-law marriage thing, i've seen way too many couples hit divorce court after shacking up for decades only to get married and subsequently divorced after only a few months. I think for some people there's just something in the brain *usually the male brain* that is freaked out by the idea of having that actual title. Because honestly, if you've been sharing a bed, bodies, an address, bills, responsibilities, all that while, i don't see what difference making it official does. but then again, that argument can go both ways.

    sorry for rambling, its almost 6am and i haven't slept yet lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it really confusing that a lot of cohabitations who go on to get married often break up within a few months. I think marriage makes people's expectations to rise unrealistically.

      Delete
  5. Angie and Brad might just be scared they might just divorce after marriage. It is the curse of Hollywood marriages. I never thought Brad and Jennifer would divorce. They appeared so in love. And Seal and Heidi? Almost unbelievable. I do not support cohabiting but I have no issues with it. It all depends on what the couple thinks is good for them. I do believe marriage is sacred and honorable. And like you said, the couple should talk about it cos most women cohabit with high hopes of getting married very soon.
    Nice article Myne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Lily, I totally agree with you.

      Delete
  6. Co-habitation wouldn't actually determine whether or not a marriage would work or not.In my opinion,dating should terminate the need for co-habitation.If you date a person for a reasonable period of time,you wouldn't need to indulge in co-habitation.Finally,co-habitation will never be a substitute/alternative for marriage,marriage doesn't have substitute.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would just like to mention that common law marriages were abolished in England and Wales by the Marriage Act 1753. Under property law, cohabiting couples are afforded no protection and in the case of a break up, the aggrieved couple (usually the woman) would have to seek a remedy in equity e.g. arguing that a resulting trust arises from her contribution to the purchase of the house that they shared.

    From a personal viewpoint and as a lawyer, cohabiting is a bad idea. Especially where a woman moves into a house that is already owned by the man. Even where there are kids involved, the general approach of the court is that taking care of children is not a good enough reason to give the woman an interest in the property.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing that insight, Anonymous. I am also learning.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Anon. That is a very important issue you've raised. I don't support co-habiting and this has been long before I became a Christian. I just don't get why a man would want me to live with him but no enough to marry me, I mean, what ties me to the relationship? Why should I work extra hard to maintain the relationship since technically, I'm a free agent?

      Yes marriage is scary but that is why its only real men with cajones who get involved in it from the get go and when it is built on Christ. He can help work out the issues that arise and in a real Godly relationship, there should be no mention of violence, abuse or infidelity because there is no way any of that represents Christ

      Delete
  8. Hmmm...as a Nigerian with deep traditional values, i am AGAINST cohabitation. Marriage is sacred and ordained by GOD HIMSELF.

    The woman is mostly at the receiving end: another woman can usurp her from the house anytime,with the words 'YOU ARE NOT MARRIED TO HIM! Such men end up marrying women they met barely a year ago, because the 'spark' is still there which makes it exciting, unlike in co0habitation where the 'excitement' has dwindled down.

    As for jolie and brad, which them the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sorry i didnt mean to laugh nitty... i know it was a mistake.. but its too funny "which" I know u meant "wish". it happens to me too, I WILL think of a word and the spelling is totally different.. lol.am glad there are many that makes this mistakes too. x

      Delete
    2. DOHK! you no serious at all! if i catch you where you dey laugh ehn?......ahahahhaa..yeah! it was a honest mistake! ..always in a haste atimes....wish them the best, abi 'winchy' them the best?....anyone you like, choose ooo...#naughty grin#

      Delete
    3. Oh, I laughed out loud. I get what you mean, Simply Mee.

      Delete
  9. I see a lot of people co habit these days, i think cohabiting doesnt make marriage last longer when they eventually get married

    I wish brad and jolies the best, i hope they dont join the rest of hollywood divorce stories

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. divorce ke? they are not married. it would mean break-up.....

      Delete
    2. I really don't think also that if affects it either way.

      Delete
  10. for me especially in african get married and don't co habit. cos marriage is the only legal thing that helps a woman.
    www.secretlilies.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm really used to seeing these two like this- Brad and Angie. They make marriage seem unnecessary. My friend's co-habiting at the moment in the UK (her parents don't know) and I remember telling her to please not get carried away and make sure she gets married. They are getting married in a few months. That's a happy story.

    Sad story- My neighbour (in lagos) sent his gf out of the house after about 2 years of living together. He got married a few months later to another girl who was preggers for him. I think marriage would have prevented that at least to an extent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm happy for your friend and wish her a great marriage. As for the one in Lagos, I hope she can move on. I honestly don't think marriage would've prevented the man from making another woman pregnant. I just means she would've been chained to an unfaithful man/unhappy marriage and answering Mrs in name only.

      Delete
  12. I am currently cohabiting and my honest advice especially to ladies is to avoid it by ALL means possible. I had to pack out at a point when it seemed he was not serious about marriage and now we alternate between his house and mind. we are set to wed but am the one who is excited and he's not.Till date it feels as if I am the one pushing him into the marriage. I try not to talk about wedding plans often so that so that he'll not say I forced him into marrying me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hi Anonymous, are you really sure you want to get married to this man, at least right now? He doesn't sound ready.

      Delete
    2. Do not dare get married yet, all I see even with my tired sleepy eyes is DANGER!!! RED ALERT!!!!!

      Delete
  13. Omg!! What's the point!! Someone needs to rule out the old traditions about couple getting married. It mostly ends up in bitter divorce anyway. Co-habitation I think is the best. Am a married woman but I wish I wasn't because my seperation is not going down well

    ReplyDelete
  14. Co-habitation I think is the best. Nobody respects marriage anymore. It always end up bitter and divorced on the line. Even married couple in Africa that force themselves to stay married are miserable..the guy sleeping around.,the wife babysitting the kids and crying her heart out..so what's the point of getting hitched?
    Sandra

    ReplyDelete

Click Post a Comment to share your thoughts, I'll love to hear from you. Thanks!

*Comments on old posts are moderated and may take sometime to be shown. That's just because I want to see them and respond to you if necessary.