Why you must cohabit before marriage

Wednesday March 18 2020

I’m all for living together before you tie the knot to avoid surprises. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH


A reader emailed and said that he and his fiancée have been thinking of moving in together this year – you know, take things to the next level.

They haven’t set up a wedding date though because, well, they are Kenyans and an engagement never means a wedding; it means an engagement and it can be anything between one year and life. The Kenyan way is to keep it open.

Anyway, he wanted to know if I think moving in is a good idea. I told him it’s a good idea for him but a terrible idea for her.

I think it’s a bad idea for her because he will not be in a hurry to commit to a date for the wedding.

Why would he when he will be having someone worry about what he will eat for dinner and where his socks are kept? He might even get his house decor spruced up – old curtains thrown away, new carpet and utensils – and turned into a dwelling for humans and not wolves.

Most acutely, moving in is good for him because he will learn beforehand what he’s getting himself into. There are certain things that you will never learn when you meet thrice a week for two hours or an over an odd weekend, and the sooner you learn them the better.

If you ask the camel it will tell you that it’s the small things that broke its back. It’s the small things that irritate you. Like someone who sleeps with their mouths open. Or slurps their tea. Or belches loudly. Or someone who doesn’t wash their knickers immediately she removes them but soaks them in a basin until the weekend when she washes them at a go and hangs them on the balcony because “that’s where the sun is.” Or a loud chewer.

If you live together you might discover that she is completely incapable of shutting up, which could be a problem if you are a melancholic or whatever you call those people who abhor humans and the sounds they make. She will want to talk through the news. She will want to talk in bed when you want to sleep or read.

She will want you to sit with her in the kitchen and keep her company as she talks. She will want to talk about her day in greater and mundane detail. Talk, talk, talk. If she spies a pocket of silence, she will fill it with talk.

And if you don’t say much she will ask you what you are thinking for umpteenth time and insist that you are “not yourself ” which will irritate you more. Maybe you can live with that, maybe you can’t, but you will never know if you don’t live together.


Sometimes you discover that she is the type that buys small items. Small soap, small jam, small peanut butter, small toothpaste, small petroleum jelly, small packets of milk… and you can’t wrap your head around that.

It could be because that’s how she was raised or it could be that she believes that there is no point buying anything big because the world might end tomorrow and it will go to a waste. And that irritates you, because it makes you feel like you are in boarding school all over again.

You might also discover that she likes to sleep. She can sleep at 8pm and wake up at 9am the following day, have breakfast and sleep again until 2pm, then make something to eat and then go back to sleep until 5pm then wake up and order in and eat while watching TV then when news starts at 9pm, start talking and not stop until midnight.

There are other traits that you might discover with time, like sleep-walking. Or talking and singing in one’s sleep. Or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder where she will wipe everything clean with disinfectant – including you, sometimes.

You might discover that she has certain expectations of you; that you take turns to do dishes and iron and cook. If you are a modern chap that shouldn’t be a problem, but if you were raised by wolves in a cave that might be a challenge.

You might also discover that because she grew up the only child, she likes hosting, she likes having lots of people in the house and any weekend you will be having all manner of strange people with dodgy hats in your space, opening your fridge and touching your plants, because she’s got a warm heart that embraces people.

She could be a cat lover who brings in five cats and takes in any stray cat because she believes humans reincarnate as cats.

So yes, I’m all for living together before you tie the knot to avoid surprises. The downside is that this might also work against you; she might just discover your horrible domestic quirks and flaws and decide that she would rather live with wolves than with you. So go for it.