I recently came across the 2016 WAKENYA report by Consumer Insight Africa, and I found it fascinating that 7 out of every 10 Kenyans prefer either a ‘come we stay’-union or traditional marriage over church weddings.
According to the Marriage Act, you are considered legally married once you have lived with someone for 6 months.
I tend to think for most Kenyans, when you fall in love, the modus operandi is: live together? Sure. For how long? Time will tell.
It is really vague and non-committal.
There’s a chap I know who was having a casual sexual relationship. There wasn’t much emotion; they were more like sex buddies than anything else.
The lady got pregnant and the guy thought he had to make an ‘honest woman’ out of her. She moved in, had her baby and they lived together.
Now this is where the dynamic baffled me. They lived and raised a child together. Their families knew they were together and interpreted it as a marriage; even before her dowry was discussed.
But they lead separate lives.
No pet names, no future plans together. These guys were still sex buddies with the convenience of sharing rent.
They spent more time working on individual paths for their lives. One partner wanted to leave the country for further studies, the other was thinking of moving to a different city.
The one thing they agreed upon was that the son would be under the mother’s care and dad would send the child’s upkeep wherever he was. That was it.
I thought a union meant complete compromise and planning your lives together, whether you have a child or not. Not these two.
So was this ‘come we stay’? They were living together. They had a child together. But they had no emotional bond.
I once asked the guy after he had left the country what exactly she was to him. He said she was a cool pal, and they just happen to have a son together.
‘Will you start a family with her when you return home from school?’ I asked him once. ‘No, not really, it was good while it lasted,’ he responded.
‘What? It’s not like it was anything serious!’ he retorted.
He loves his child, and he will provide for him, but he doesn’t see why he needs to physically be there for him.
He also said being with one woman for life was something he had no interest in.
I respect that – you don’t have to get married. But being comfortable parenting from afar without any effort to be there for your child is damaging to the boy’s development.
I think the ‘come we stay’ is our grey area as a generation. It’s like marriage with training wheels: you can remove the training wheels and ride into a marriage or keep them on and still enjoy the non-committal ride.