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Regional News of Friday, 15 July 2016

Source: thefinderonline.com

1.6m Flee from marriage

Marriage counsellor Frank Adofoli has warned that the increasing acceptance of cohabitation by society is destroying the fabric of marriage.

He said the rate of marriage would decline in years to come if the trend is not reversed.

According to the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 1.6 million (1,632,141) cohabitation existed as at that time.

In an interview with The Finder, Counsellor Adofoli said most co-habiting couples lose interest in marriage after years of staying together due to the bad experiences they go through during cohabitation.

According to him, the various reasons for cohabiting should never be a stumbling block to marriage.

“Marriage is not a business. Your needs should not push you to stay with someone who has not performed the necessary marital rites.

“Parents should teach their children about value, respect and dignity”, he emphasised.

Counsellor Adofoli blamed the rise in co-habitation on the lack of education and awareness on the important role of marriage in sustaining societal growth.
This growing phenomenon has been attributed to factors such as financial reasons, parental influence, need to test compatibility before marriage, fear of being cheated on, companionship and nearness, as well as the ease to break up than divorce.

Counsellor Adofoli averred that people need to be educated on what marriage is and the adverse effects of cohabitation on a relationship.

He noted that counselling before marriage is not entirely necessary, but there should be intensive education, more seminars, talk shows and awareness about marriage right from the basic education level.

“Most people see marriage as palm wine that needs to be tasted before venturing into it, which is very wrong.

“Not staying together makes a marriage work. Co-habitation does not make a marriage successful”.

“Date without staying together; you can study the person before getting married through his friends and relatives,” he added.

The number of persons involved in this act is quite enormous, and the spate is overwhelming.

Some cohabiting couples shared their reasons with The Finder.

Financial Reasons

A co-habiting couple at Ashalley Botwe, a suburb of Accra, confirmed that they are living together because they cannot foot wedding bills.

They revealed that they had planned to get married several years ago, but they couldn’t bear the budget that comes with it.

Another cohabiting male confessed that he cannot provide the items he is required to present to the bride’s family. He said, “I have been handed a list of expensive items to buy.

“My income is less than that so I have told her we need to live together for the mean time.

“I am still saving up to get the items ready so we get married. She is helping me out financially too,” he revealed.

Abigail, a trader in Kumasi, pointed out that she is an orphan with no accommodation. “I have a child and my earnings cannot pay for rent, utilities and also cater for my child. I am staying with my child’s father because of this,” she noted.

These reasons provided are heartbreaking. But is there nothing that can be done about it? Parents should reconsider the number of items they require from their son-in-law-to-be. In an era of economic hardships, some parents still try to extract much for a wedding. Does it necessarily have to be a big event? Is it compulsory to have a white wedding in the midst of hundreds and thousands of people? The answer is no.

Our tradition does not impose this on us. A simple ceremony with both families present is all it requires. The most important part of the whole thing is that the bride price is paid and is recognised by society. As my pastor always preaches, “Don’t force yourself; if you don’t have the finances, come to me with your partner and I will bless it for you”.

Parental influence

This is one reason that still sends chills down my spine. A parent can encourage his or her daughter to stay with a man in order to push him to marry her. Are they not aware of what the scripture preaches? This is a very sensitive matter that needs to be addressed by religious leaders and members of the family.

Parents are to be respected, but if a parent goes out of the way to do this, what dignity is left in the society? Persons who face this situation from parents should try hard to protest against it.

Test compatibility before marriage

During the survey, about five persons owned up that they want to know how marriage feels like, therefore the need to stay together before marriage.

Researchers in the past years have identified this factor as the most prevalent reason among cohabitants. A female private legal practitioner commented on a radio programme that staying with one’s partner before marriage exposes one to his or her flaws.

There has been several controversies regarding this, but it still stands that it is not necessary. A lot of resource persons who are seen as role models have ideas that is impacting negatively on the youth. How then do they escape from its claws? The only way out is intensive education against it.

A lot of religious leaders have shared their views saying partners can study each other without necessarily staying together. Most people have misconceptions about cohabitation and marriage. Some people think staying together before marriage makes a marriage work, but no, it rather makes it fail. Men easily get fed up in a relationship. Research has shown that people who cohabit before marriage have a high tendency of divorcing after two to five years of marriage.

Fear of being cheated on

A lady admitted that she does not want to give her partner a chance to cheat that is why she lives with him. Faulty reasoning is the root of all mistakes. A man who is determined to cheat on a lady will do so even if you have been sewn up together.

Ladies, do not live with a man who has not married you because you think he will cheat on you. Married men even cheat, what more an unmarried man. Live separately. Love and marriage is designed by God. If he is not yours, don’t force it. Living together will rather worsen it as he will get fed up in no time.

For companionship and nearness

Most students are found in this situation. I must confess, nothing feels good than spending a quality time with your loved one. I would not give up that chance, but is it worth it?

There have been several instances where I wanted to live with my boyfriend but my religious morals would not allow me. Most students I know with this cohabiting countenance boldly say that they want to spend quality time with their boyfriends or fiancées.

They claim to have insufficient time together if they live in separate homes. That may be true, but the dignity and respect is being erased.

Easy to break up than divorce

It is not the fear of marriage. It is immaturity and irresponsibility. Some men think divorce as relating to marriage will make them lose a lot. They have cited that there is not much to lose if the relationship does not end up in marriage.

Others think it is hard to decide on a divorce and it takes years to finalise.

It doesn’t just end there too; it will always be a part of your life: a divorcee.

Most people say they cannot get married because a divorce is more painful than a breakup. But should people even think of that when it comes to marriage?

That is why it is advised: study your partner without staying together, from his friends and relatives years before deciding on marriage. It will save you from ending up in a divorce.

Some students in a hostel in Asylum Down in Accra have stated that renting hostels are expensive so they do not see why they should spend a lot on rent when they can move in with their boyfriends and save that money.

Three students I encountered also shared that it is difficult to get accommodation so they have no choice but to cohabitate.

In the community where I reside, almost half of the residents are in this act, with about a quarter of marriages also emanating from co-habitation.

The 2010 PHC also signalled that the country is religiously populated, with only 5.2% being non-religious.

This means that 94.8% of the population is religious. Christianity, Islamic, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, among others, frown on cohabitation.

Despite how religiously inclined we are, this disdainful practice has come to live with us and it is now viewed as a necessity in a relationship.

The Bible teaches that in order to avoid sexual immorality, we should marry.

1st Corinthians 7:8-9 of the New International Version reads, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.

But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion”.

Though not accepted by our various religious affiliations, the co-habitation syndrome seems to have infused our blood and DNA.

The worst culprits are students. There are hundreds of students out there who are living with their boyfriends. The majority of female students in senior high schools in Kumasi live with their boyfriends. Two of these girls are now mothers still living with the fathers of their babies. The worst part is they did not complete their education.

It may seem prevalent among the youth but the adults are no exceptions. There are three women in my neighbourhood who got married after years of staying together. Not only staying together, but after having two to four children.

One may ask, why the increase in cohabitation? Is it as a result of civilisation and globalisation? Is it as a result of copying blindly? Or is it mere disrespect for our religious morals?

Why the increased spate in cohabitation in recent years?

Research has shown that cohabitation has increased by almost 900 per cent in the last 50 years and there are several reasons accounting for this. Co-habitants have posed numerous unfounded reasons for living together.

A school of thought has blamed it on changing social values stemming from globalisation and civilisation. Another has cited the fear of marriage as a factor for living with the opposite sex while others say they want to spend more time with their significant others.

Co-habitants have posed that their reasons for staying together without marriage is sounding though it is abhorred by religion and social values.

The way forward

We must remember our virtues and values. Marriage is graceful and bestows happiness on couples.

My fervent hope is that the Property Rights and Spouses Bill which, among other things, will protect co-habitants, especially women, in the event of a break-up, never gets accepted in our body of laws.

We should opt for marriage and not this abhorred act.

It also requires collective efforts to flush out this humiliating act. As said by Counsellor Adofoli, education and awareness about marriage should be intensified. Religious groups are principal in curing this ailment.

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