By Helen Ovbiagele

This club of young graduates and professionals of both sexes came together to form a group with the singular aim of using talks to help young people make the right choices, and hopefully, have a better life. They hold their ‘enlightening’ talks on different subjects, every three months in a small school hall, and they graciously invite their parents, friends and relatives to come listen to them.

I attended one of their talks recently, courtesy of the mother of one of their members, and the topic was ‘Why You Should Live Together Before You Marry!’
When she showed me the letter of invitation, I was startled.

“What sort of topic is this? It seems this group of young people have concluded that it’s best for dating couples to live together before getting married. This is against everything a good moral upbringing stands for. Your son belongs to this sort of club? You and your husband allow him?”

“Not a son; a daughter, Helen. Our last-born, who’s 24, is a member of this club. I’ve attended two of their talks, and I was impressed. They take it in turns to give talks on etiquette, choices of career, how to prepare for a job interview, Assertiveness, how to build up your savings, health conditions, etc. However, I don’t understand why they brought out this subject, and in the way they couched the title. As if living together before marriage is the right thing to do.”

“What did your daughter say about it? Is this her view too? Would you allow a child of yours to do that?”

“Of course not! Male or female; there should be no experiment of marital life before tying the knot. She still lives at home under parental control, so, I doubt if she would have the courage to ask to do that, even if she believes in it. Anyway, come hear what they have to say. My husband who’s attended one of their talks and had been impressed, has said that he doesn’t believe in the title, and as such, he wouldn’t be attending. Come and keep me company, if for nothing else.”

“Are older people allowed to give their opinion?”

At the meeting We were welcomed courteously into the venue, and just before the talk began, their chairperson stood up to appreciate the presence of parents and other older people there, including some religious leaders, saying that they would be quite grateful if we heard them out objectively, without judging their stand.

There were four members, two of each sex, to explain the group’s stand.

“Our elders, ladies and gentlemen,” began a female speaker, “we must acknowledge the fact that there are more broken homes in the world today, than homes that are intact. As a result of this, we have maladjusted young persons all over the place. Single parenthood can’t be helped when it’s caused by the death of a spouse, but when parents are living apart because of the now popularly preferred reason; ‘irreconcilable differences’, a child becomes distressed and traumatized, as he’s torn apart emotionally between father and mother. This of course leads to all sorts of social problems.”

“So,”continued a male speaker, “our members came together to debate the reasons for more and more homes being fractured, and concluded that it’s because the couples had not really known each other well because they had been living apart. You can be together for many years, dating, but not really know the other person. When we’re dating, we’re normally on our best behaviour, in order to impress the other person. Your house is spotless when he/she visits, and you strive to make the right impression in all areas of life, and convince the person you’re dating that you’re the right person for him/her. ”

“But after the wedding, sometimes even on the wedding night,” continued another speaker, “you begin to see another side of your partner that you never knew existed. Supposedly little things like bad hygiene, heavy snoring, untidiness, flashes of irresponsibility, disloyalty, etc., begin to surface. You’re highly disappointed, and you begin to wonder how you’re going to stand all that for the rest of your life. The union could begin to head for the rocks straightaway. Our daddies and mummies are more tolerant and long-suffering; so, they persevered and stayed. But subsequent generations have not been that patient hence the rising increase in broken homes.

Our generation want a good deal here and now. In marriage, it’s best to know how compatible you both will be in many ways, before you take those vows. You can’t accurately assess the other person without living together. When you live together, there’s no way that a deception can be sustained for long. The guards are bound to slip sometime, and you get the real picture. It’s then left to you what to do. To stay, or to beat it fast.”

“I know that what some of us young people here, and certainly our elders would be asking is the issue of abstinence from intimacy before marriage, which has become the popular belief of today. All I can say is that that is left to the individual couple, because whether you live together or not, intimacy can still take place. Living together makes is more possible, but that’s where will power can come into play,” continued the fourth speaker.

Justifying new values
“Waiting until marriage before living together is old-fashioned and out-dated in this present dispensation. Parents should know that due to accommodation problems in higher institutions of learning, boys and girls pair up in off-campus accommodation. Some of such couples go on to marry and have a blissful union because they’ve had time to study each other well. In the western world, most couples live together/are living together before marriage, even big names. Prince William and Kate Middleton did it; Princess Zara Phillips and Tindall, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, etc . If it doesn’t work out, then you can leave without going through the messiness and upheaval of a divorce.”

There was silence then an applause after the four completed the talk.

Upholding old values
The audience was then asked to speak. You can guess what happened. The clergy people present spoke through one person, condemning the whole concept, and saying that it was ungodly and an abuse of the institution of marriage. A parent stood up to say that if this is the sort of thing the club concocts, they should disband as they were going to infect the society with bad moral values, and breed a promiscuous generation.

Exactly, no matter how you package the concept of living together before marriage, it cannot be right for the society. We shouldn’t ape the permissiveness and decadence of the western world. The old values of strict moral values which we’re struggling to uphold here, are still the best for the institution of marriage. Living together before marriage is not going to ensure a happier and a more long-lasting union.

It is the individual attitude in the union that would determine the way it goes. The concept may not affect the man much, but think of a situation where a girl would have lived with several boyfriends. Those number of times would be counted as marriage for her, and she may end up like a much kicked around football which nobody wants; even if her moral values are better than those of the girl who had stayed with the parents all along. Hypocrisy? Maybe.

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