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TrySex marriages

By | August 29th 2010

By Harold Ayodo

No money, fear of commitment by the man, fear that the man will move on to another woman, a pregnancy, desire to be together now instead of later, testing the waters... all these are excuses used by men and women in what is commonly referred to as 'come-we-stay' marriages.

Often, one or both individuals involved in these temporary unions are in it for a short while as they wait for Mr or Miss Right to appear on the horizons. For many, this search continues forever and ultimately, sometimes 20 years down the line, they realise that the partner they have been living with for all those years, the partner they have children with, is, indeed, the one.

For others, come-we-stay marriages end in disaster and heartache. However, unlike ‘legal’ marriages, the partners walk away with more baggage than when they first walked into the union and, for some, worse for wear.

Nevertheless, the fear of making a life-long commitment (and spending a lot of money in the process) only for the union to end in divorce with the accompanying painful distribution of matrimonial property and custody battles for the children has spurred on the trysex marriages for decades.

Surety of commitment

According to sociologists and scholars who study human behaviour, an increasing number of single men and women want surety of commitment before tying the knot, so they opt to move in together with their partners in the quest to know each other better.

"Come-we-stay marriages may appear fun because both parties show their best sides during the lifetime of the temporary marriage in the hope that the union will end up in a statutory marriage," says University of Nairobi scholar and consultant sociologist Dr Agnes Zani.

Further, the belief that either one can walk away any time increases the mystery of the union.

"Cohabitation does not have the same commitment pressure as that in statutory or customary marriages where spouses feel the need to show society that their union is working," Dr Zani says.

If research is anything to go by, a recent survey by Infotrak shows cohabiting couples are happier than their counterparts in ‘legal’ marriages. The study revealed that 45 per cent of ‘come-we-stay’ marriages reported more happiness than their church-wedded colleagues (43 per cent), those who had undergone civil weddings (42 per cent) and those married under customary law and were, therefore, potentially polygamous (41 per cent).

"The study split marriages into four categories – civil, ‘come-we-stay’, church and customary," Dr Zani says.

Most of the people interviewed were in customary marriages while 26 per cent wedded in church and another 16 per cent were joined together through civil weddings. A quarter of the respondents said they were involved in a ‘come-we-stay’ relationship.

According to Dr Zani, cohabitation has advantages and disadvantages.

"Initially, some women visit their boyfriends and begin to leave some of their items or clothes behind. Before long, they are living there permanently without being engaged or securing a formal agreement on marriage," she adds.

According to relationship experts, communication is the most important quality of any relationship. Couples should, therefore, set rules and parameters on how they intend to live. Thus, expectations of what each individual hopes to gain from the romantic relationship should be placed on the table before consenting to live together in a trysex marriage.

Interestingly, more young people approve of these temporary unions even as the church frowns on them. Just recently, Fr Vincent Wambugu, secretary of the Kenya Episcopal Conference (the assembly of Catholic Bishops), objected cohabitation.

"Marriage should not be taken that casually. It is a blessing from God and you cannot cohabit for two years then declare you are married," Wambugu said.

That decree, however, is not enough to stop people from engaging in try sex marriages.

Paul Otieno, 37, and Maureen Wanjiku, 34, both ICT specialists working in Nairobi, are one such couple. Five years ago, they decided to move in together because their families and relatives did not approve of the tribal ‘merger’.

"We have lived together for five years and have a three-year-old baby, but our parents still seem to think our marriage cannot work," Paul says.

Nevertheless, he is contemplating formalising their union at the Attorney General chambers or go to church with just two witnesses as required by law. Maureen says their relationship has been smooth as they share expenses and respect each other.

For some women, the desire to engage in trysex marriages is due to the alarmingly high rates of separation and divorce among married peers.

Share expenses

Millicent Munyao is one such woman whose friends are either in struggling marriages or divorced after what she calls "marrying in haste".

"Some of my friends got married in a hurry then things broke apart sooner than they expected," Millicent says.

Her friends’ experiences have strengthened the belief that living together with a prospective spouse for some time helps one make the right decision on whether to marry or not.

For Carolyne Mugure, cohabitation is not bad especially for couples in their 30s although the main objective should be ‘legal’ marriage in the end.

"A church wedding should crown a relationship to ensure the institution of marriage is respected," Carolyne says.

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