Mo & Phindi are relationship strategists, radio contributors and co-authors of the book Love Isn’t For Cowards. Today in their column for Weekend Post they give their views on why moving in with your partner before marriage is unwise.
So, how long is your engagement again? But hasn’t the date long passed yet? Or is he still “applying his mind” while he’s enjoying all the “benefits” since you’ve moved in together, have a child and are living as a married couple?
Well, maybe it’s time you face the possibility that perhaps “the day” will never come for one or another reason. And that, while we’d love to tell you to keep the faith that things will work out for the best, things might just not.
And living together even having had a child as though you’re married doesn’t mean you are actually married.
It simply means you are very vulnerable and have exposed yourself and the child to untold risks should things go wrong. It also means you have way more than the fairy tale wedding dream you ought to be concerned about at this point.
Cohabitation is not recognised as a legal relationship in our South African law.
Living together before marriage means there is no law that regulates your rights as partners in your type of relationship. This means unless you are specifically and legally recorded as an heir or beneficiary, you won’t be able to inherit from your partner in case of death, for instance.
This also means despite the amount of time you may be living together as an unmarried couple; it does not translate into a “default marriage”. There is therefore, no legal duty of support between the two of you, and the laws that protect individuals in a marital relationship would not protect you.
You have fewer rights
For example, if one of you were to pass away while living together, without leaving a legal document, the remaining partner has no right to inherit under the Intestate Succession Act.
As a cohabitant, you also cannot rely on the provisions of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act to secure maintenance in the unfortunate eventuality of your death or your partner’s.
Furthermore, there is no obligation for either of you to maintain the other, and you have no enforceable right to claim maintenance.
South African banks do not normally allow joint accounts for couples who stay together before marriage either.
Hence your approaching him about marriage, uncomfortable as it may be, needs to purposefully display your insecurity around your future and that of your little one.
If he dismisses the idea of marriage for any reason at all, then the two of you need to work out a legal plan around property ownership in case your relationship fails.
We strongly recommend you see a family lawyer.
We believe that moving in with your partner before marriage is unwise at various levels. It has been shown that living together does not help you prepare for marriage, nor does it help you avoid divorce.
Furthermore, having a child outside the commitment of marriage is also not very wise, and we discourage it even in 2017. Not only is it an unfair burden on the child, it is also a very terrible bargain for you.
There’s too much scientific evidence in South Africa confirming the wisdom and value of the traditional practice of raising a child in a marriage commitment.
Children do much better when lovingly raised by their married parents at most levels irrespective of the financial situation at home.
Furthermore, the vulnerability of having a child outside wedlock leaves you with no leverage to keep your partner in the relationship.
Women who choose to have kids outside marriage generally tend to think pregnancy is about them, and far less about the child.
It’s not a shock in 2017 to find a woman who, after evaluating her financial stability and age, decides she wants a child even if the relationship with the father does not work out.
Furthermore, you may need to appreciate that not everybody has had the opportunity of witnessing a healthy relationship in his or her life.
Consequently, he may have developed a very negative view of marriage. He may still desire the companionship, but sees marriage in a negative light.
Does he really love you?
You also have to genuinely explore if he really still loves you.
This may probably be the hardest pill to swallow for you, but in our opinion is one of the most common reasons guys drag the decision to tie the knot. He may just care for you but doesn’t see himself committed to you in marriage.
You may have to face the possibility that what you provide is enough to keep him around. It just may not be enough to get him to marry you.
He may also not be interested in marriage because you taught him how to be comfortable with things as they are. He is enjoying the benefits and will ride this out for as long as he can.
Because you are already behaving as a wife to him, even though you are not, you have given him no reason to wish to marry you.
At the end of the day, you have to make a decision about your future and importantly, that of the child. If you decide to go along with the relationship, be prepared to live an unfulfilled, and perhaps resentful, life with him as you’ll feel cheated of what you believe you deserve.