In society, some people cohabit just for the mere preference of living together without the benefit of a legal union.
While some people believe that cohabiting will lower their risk of divorce, others do it for convenience, financial savings or companionship.
Bishop Chris Suya of the Malawi Assemblies of God at Berachah International Assembly serving at Nkolokoti argues that most men go for cohabitation because of laziness in making a commitment to a woman.
“I noted that cohabitation is mostly initiated by men while women comply for fear of losing the relationship. Most men use cohabitation as a training ground for marriage. So, they use one woman to experiment and they marry another woman to practise what they learned previously. If you ask most women, they will tell you it was never their intention, but they just complied,” he explains.
Suya notes that many couples hide behind the pretext that they do not have money to do a detailed wedding, which is a misrepresentation of what a wedding officiation is.
“Wedding officiation is not about spending. It’s simply coming before the Lord with a few witnesses to make those precious vows, committing to each other that you will stay together for as long as you live,” he argues.
Suya considers cohabiting as a cheap way for men to enjoy the privileges of marriage without making a commitment to the woman.
“This way, the woman can become the victim because she may feel used after the man changes his mind over the relationship. The woman has offered sex, companionship and even financial resources sometimes only to end up in frustration. Officiating a marriage offers some emotional security for women and so, when the couple is simply cohabiting, the woman may be unstable emotionally,” he says.
Religiously, most churches regard cohabiting as fornication as it falls in the category of premarital sex, making it sinful.
Marriage education and research network director Daniel Chibwana says many cohabiting couples simply avoid having children and when they are tired of each other, they break away without holding each other accountable for their actions.
“Cohabitation is not new in Malawi. In fact, most marriages are rather cohabiting than living as husband and wife. In our language we say anangotengana. People say cohabiting is good because it gives people the opportunity to get to know each other better. Others further argue that no party is yoked to the other and that one is free to move on with his/her life when they feel like it. I do not share such sentiments because of the many serious repercussions that follow cohabitation,” Chibwana argues.
He further observes that by cohabiting, the couple admits that they need each other, but are too selfish and immature to decisively commit themselves to each other.