I have had a come-we-stay relationship for the past two years, and my man does not want to commit. My mother however is now advising me to quit it and live alone. Do you think I should quit?
It is perhaps the simplest questions on the surface that turn out to be most complex and sometimes most controversial.
Whatever answer we give you today, another expert will have a different view which could quite easily be legitimate and in some cases more appropriate to your needs.
Any answer given in other words is the product of the sum total of the experiences of the person giving the answer.
If you posed the question to your mother’s pastor, his answer could well be the same as that of your mother.
For good measure, he might give you a long lecture on the sin of “come we stay relationship”.
He might even persuade you to join his Church and to commit to a monthly token for the sins you have committed over the past two years.
If on the other hand you put the same question to your aunt, she might start off by reminding you that “all men are the same”. They must be treated like children, and must be guided by women at all times.
In her case, this method worked well when her now husband would not commit after two years. She stopped using the pill, got pregnant and for the last 25 years, and three children later, their marriage is stable if not entirely happy.
After all she concludes, what marriage is happy all the time? Get pregnant and shut up. At least you have a man.
In between these rather extreme positions, is a large number of other possibilities that could shift the balance one way or the other.
You might start off by establishing in your own mind, the reasons you set yourself up in a come-we-stay. For some women, this arrangement has convenience because it removes them from a hostile set of parents.
If, for example your parents make it difficult for you to lead the life of an adult, you could experience this as a push factor into a come-we-stay arrangement.
Other women go into a come-we-stay because of pull factors. They are so deeply in love that they fear losing the guy to other women. They move in to protect their find!
For yet other women, the decision is purely financial. They have dated for say, two years, and discover they are paying for two flats when they only sleep in one flat at a time.
Simple math tells them to move in together, save the rent of one flat for a flat when they get married (eventually).
As you can see, come-we- stay arrangements have many origins including the often quoted reason of simply trying to find out “if we are compatible and can live together for life”.
In this line of argument, the couple settles on the opinion that since life is too important, one should not start off with a stranger. Live with him to know him before you commit.
You tell us that you have lived with this man for two years, without telling us how long you had agreed with him as to the timing of decision making.
Had you asked him, perhaps he would have told you five years would be the timescale for him to be absolutely sure that he wants you for life!
A further consideration is how the two years have been. Are you both happy or have you given him reason for doubt. As you well know, not all come-we-stay arrangements end up with commitment.
In a sense, the very basis of the arrangement is experimental in the sense that it will either work or end up in failure. If all such arrangements ended up in commitments then the institution would not exist.
If you went to a lawyer with your question, he might persuade you to sit easy, if you still love the man.
Although the Marriage Act (2014) recognises only five forms of marriage (Christian, Civil, Customary, Hindu, Islam), the courts have continued to recognise (in some cases) the doctrine of presumption of marriage.
If for example you have lived with this man, and your parents, friends and the general community treats you as man and wife, then it can be assumed that you are such. Getting children cements this presumption further.
The decision as to whether you stay or quit is one that only you can make. Good luck.