Love is an important part of our lives. Without it, most of us feel empty. We spend most of our time with the people we love and adore. We speak of our life partners from when we are just but young children. The issue becomes a little bit tricky when it comes to choosing how to start living with the people we love. Society has its different perception on starting relationships. Some prefer first getting to know each other before they can make it official, also known as cohabiting while others decide to just go for it and get married.
Saad Nagawa, a mother of three says she and her soul mate were cohabiting before they were officially married. She chose this because she felt safe and comfortable with her partner and wanted to take it one step at a time to avoid any form of regrets but after their wedding, everything took a bad turn. “It’s like he had been covering up so much and his true colors were finally starting to be exposed.”
Nagawa confides that her husband was acting like a total stranger. He did not believe in any of her dreams, later alone involve her in any decision making in their home claiming that her opinion didn’t matter at all. In her case, cohabiting didn’t help much but as a married couple, they had to fight through all the challenges and push. Right now, they are celebrating four years in marriage.
Ruth Nakato on the other hand wedded first before she started living with her partner. She says that she was in love and having dated for over 4 years, they pretty much knew each other. However, living with her husband came with challenges. She says it was hard at first but ultimately, they learnt how to live within each other’s space. After finding that middle ground, the couple is now more stable and continues to build their marriage with their one-year-old daughter.
Most cultures in Uganda do not approve cohabiting. It is seen as a shame to your parents and family members and a sign of disrespect to cultural norms. The Baganda refer to it as “kawundo kakubye edilisa” loosely translated as an accidental marriage well as those in the western part of the country use the term ekinyandaaro, an isolation term for a couple that went into a marriage unlawfully had children.
Mr Twaha Mukisa, a spokesperson at cultural ceremonies says cohabitation is just an evil imported idea. “The right way is to go through the right procedures, talk to the family members of both sides and even talk about the bride price otherwise if it’s not that, then whatever you are doing is just shameful.”
In Islam, it is described as “haram” to mean something forbidden. Searching for wealth is one reason people give for choosing to cohabit first however, the Quran 24:32 says, “You shall encourage those of you who are single to get married. They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants if they are poor. God will enrich them for His grace. God is Bounteous, Knower.”
Pastor Patrick Nagawa of the University Christian Fellowship says the church has never and will never support cohabiting.
“Those who engage in the activity do it out of ignorance and are acting like thieves. Just stealing someone’s daughter without paying dowry and of being together as a couple has never been lawful without going through the necessary steps.”
He says the right way is to go through church so that you can be officially bonded with God’s blessing. Pastor Patrick adds that most couples cohabit because of the fear of going through with a wedding that doesn’t live up to people’s expectations but a wedding is not necessarily about how much you have. It is about the pure intentions of the heart. He concludes by recommending counselling to cohabiting couples out there so that they get to know about the benefits of a lawful marriage.
However, for many lovers, cohabitation gives them a chance to see if marriage would be the right step for them to take. Although this works for some, the stakes are high.
We spoke to some people and this is what they had to say;
“The largest of the offenses of cohabiting is that you are defying your religion and culture when it comes to the Ugandan setup,” Mr and Mrs Muyirima, a married couple with four children says. To them, there is a reason as to why society has some fundamentals and for a relationship to be successful, it needs to be done the right official way.
Mr Muyirima also says that sometimes, time may be wasted and the relationship never yields to marriage, which causes emotional and psychological pain for the people involved.
On the flipside, when you wed without cohabiting, you can learn together. You get to explore ideas and new things together as a team. Marriage is a pillar that strengthens couples to go through any sort of challenge together. For Faima Nakagolo’s parental home, every girl must be married off immediately after university. Therefore, her parents linked her with a family friend of the same age when she finished school. After a short period of getting to know each other, they got married. She says although they thought it wouldn’t work out at first, eventually, it did
“There is something about marriage that motivates you to push through every difficulty with your partner instead of giving up,” she shares.
If we are to learn anything from these stories, we can conclude that whether you cohabit first or wed immediately, there is no guarantee of having a successful marriage. What matters is that the couple works hard through thick and thin to see their marriage grow into a more formidable partnership. That said, what we are left to weigh the costs that come with either cohabiting or wedding first.