Cohabitation on the increase

HARARE - When Willard moved into Tafadzwa’s flat, he had promised her they would get married within a year. Although she had an engagement ring to show for it, today, six years down the line, the couple are yet to be married.

Although Tafadzwa was initially excited about the idea, today she felt used and unclean.

In today’s society, cohabiting has become “the in thing” with most young Zimbabweans moving in together during their college years.

“When we moved in together he was everything a woman could wish for, but now all he does is use me without even paying lobola. He not only disrespects me, but my parents as well,” Tafadzwa says.

Although the country does not have ready statistics of couples who stay together but are unmarried, it is a very common phenomenon at most State universities and among college educated couples.

Last week on  Wednesday, Zimbabweans took to Twitter to express their views on the topic under the hashtag Kuchaya Mapoto (#KuchayaMapoto).

Most of the participants were youths and the general sentiment was people had turned to kuchaya mapoto (cohabitating) mostly because of the current economic problems.

“In most colleges things are tight so people inevitably move in so that bills can be split, but it reflects badly on the girl culturally,” said a female Twitter user.

While others agreed with this sentiment most users said they found it practical for couples to move in together to “learn a partner’s habits.”

The topic got heated and Zimbabwe Trends reported it was trending on the social networking site.

Zimbabwe is a largely cultural and Christian society, and moving in together is traditionally frowned upon by most segments of the society.

However, most young couples have chosen to defy culture and take a “test drive” approach to marriage.

It is not hard to see why cohabitation is becoming popular, due to the biting liquidity crisis the country is experiencing; most are in it to pool their little resources.

An American survey conducted in 2013 found that around two-thirds of those in the 20s believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.

However, according to psychologists, it does not necessarily work like that.

On the contrary, several studies show that couples who live together before marriage are actually more likely to split once they do tie the knot.

Maita Mugido, a local psychologist told the Daily News on Sunday the couples who lived together before they married report lower levels of satisfaction afterwards.

“You see the thing is men and women often start living together for different reasons, and this is the point things start going south.

“Women tend to agree to live together because they think it will lead to marriage. But they still want a man to pay lobola and man-up to provide and protect them,” Mugido said.

She noted for males, however, cohabitation may be a way of actually putting off commitment because they are not sure they actually want it.

“In this light, people who live together first are more likely than those who do not, to fall into marriage instead of actively choosing it.

“When the guy gets into a cohabitation set-up he tells himself it is enough but the woman thinks it’s just the beginning, and the man ends up succumbing to marriage,” the Harare-based shrink said.

Mugido also said resentment was common in both partners as expectations grew beyond the accommodation of reality.

Patrick Moyo, a Mutare-based pastor said he sees this all the time with couples who visits him for counselling.

“Many couples may have been together for four or five years and encounter difficulties. But instead of wondering whether their problems are the signs of something not being right, they get married in the hope that everything will magically get better.

“This is not the right frame of mind to get into a marriage, staying together when a couple is unmarried is downright wrong, and is not advisable,” the clergyman said.

Haruna Kudumba, a traditionalist also advised against “moving in together” saying it was a blatant disregard of cultural values.

“When our elders say a woman must be married first, they were not crazy. A woman cheapens herself by living with a man who has not paid lobola for her,” Kudumba said.

However, other schools of thought maintain cohabitation is still a pathway to marriage for many college graduates, while it may be an end in itself for many less educated women.

According to a South African survey conducted last year, half of couples who cohabit marry within three years, if both partners are college graduates.

Couples who marry after age 26 are more likely to stay married for more than a decade.

“Cohabitation is increasingly becoming the first co-residential union formed among young adults.

“As a result of the growing prevalence of cohabitation, the number of children born to unmarried cohabiting parents has also increased,” the study said.

By the beginning of the last decade, a majority of births to unmarried women were to mothers who were living with the child’s father. Just two decades earlier, only a third of those births were to cohabiting couples.

The study found that 62 percent of women ages 25 to 44 were married and 8 percent were cohabiting.

Most students at State universities find cohabitation normal, despite the fact that most change partners every other semester, a situation health workers say is causing the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

“Incidences of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) are rife among students at Zimbabwe’s various institutions.

“You can even see from the viral homemade sex videos that students are cohabitating, but government is not doing anything about the phenomenon,” said a Gweru-based health worker who preferred anonymity.

Some students are being forced into cohabitation with older people who rent flats in town or full houses in return for sex.

A report by the Student Solidarity Trust on the life of female students at the University of Zimbabwe concluded that desperation has forced students to do things “they would not do under normal circumstances.”

“Many students are aware of the dire effects of their sex escapades by consorting with gardeners and older men for cheap or free accommodation, but at times they have no option.”

Comments (10)

The last two paragraphs of this story are very touching to me. I used to be at UZ, so I can appreciate how sad the situation is. I am a financially-stable single professional man. I invite all those affected female students to contact me by posting their details on this page. I will email them and we will take it from there. This is an entirely serious offer. I will keep on checking this page during this week.

coolman - 30 September 2014

Lets do the proper thing. Get married and discover and not the other way round. It was never meant to be a trial and error.

Meso meso - 30 September 2014

@Meso meso, you should re-read your message, my friend. Marriage should only happen once you have dated for two or so years, so that you will "discover" whether you want to spend the rest of your lives together. That way, you marry someone who attracts you and engages you on more than one level. So if cohabitation is the only way to know that you love the woman with all your heart, then go ahead and stay together.

fireman - 30 September 2014

I encourage our young ladies to read Steve Harvey's book " Think like a man, act like a lady" before entering into a serious relationship. Think about your life long term rather than 'current economic problems'. Young ladies can share accommodation & expenses among themselves and keep themselves for Mr Right who will honour & respect not use you.

saundy - 3 October 2014

The major problem with kuchaya mapoto is that it's like an EXPERIMENT: "if it works we'll stay together but if it doesn't then we'll move on" Guess what, the strange thing with any relationship is that if you entertain an "opt-out" possibility, more often than not, that relationship will NOT last!!. Marriages that are based on a strong "for better or for worse" foundation are more likely to last than this kuchaya mapoto business. The undeniable truth is that in such a relationship THE WOMAN COMES OFF SECOND BEST coz the man will have the privilege of enjoying sex but without any firm long-term commitment!!

ZVOKWADI - 17 October 2014

ZVOKWADI YOU ARE SOUNDING AS IF WOMEN DO NOT ENJOY SEX

NANA - 13 November 2014

@coolman How do you want to 'take it from there?' Iwe bhambi iwe, kana usingagone kupfimba usade kutore advantage yema UGA akarohwa nemadhadha paInvest Coleji of Zimbabwe wazvihwa?

UBA - 16 March 2015

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