Oops, she's pregnant! Should you now consider marriage? - Experts weigh in on co-parenting dynamics

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Experts say pregnancy isn't a good enough reason to get married.
Experts say pregnancy isn't a good enough reason to get married.

They were never in a relationship. They are not in love.

They had sexual intercourse and now there is a baby on the way.

Actors Thabiso Ramotshela and Olerato Motsoane, who play Morena and Popi respectively on The River, are a sad picture of two young people who are now getting forced to get married because they had sex and she is pregnant.

A highly pregnant Popi and her family arrived unannounced one night at the Mokoena home, telling them that Morena had made Popi pregnant. Morena initially denied paternity, but has since accepted his fate.

Her father has now said that no child of his will have a baby out of wedlock and that the two youngsters need to get married.

The pair are married and Cobra, played by Presley Chweneyagae has kicked him out of the house. Banishing him back to Refiloe, in their old family shack, for him to live with his new bride and wait for the birth of their first child.

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In more real circumstances, some have found themselves having to face the reality of welcoming a baby, after only a casual sexual encounter. Whether it is a one-night stand, or a casual physical relationship, mistakes happen and suddenly two strangers have to raise a child together. 

Drum speaks to psychologists about whether today’s society still has room for marriages that are arranged or even forced in some cases, because of the circumstances.

Rhodes University’s Mandisa Ndabula is a counselling psychologist and says having a child is not a good enough reason for people to get married.

“A child can be conceived because people had sexual intercourse, that does not mean they love each other and that they want to build a future together. There is no guarantee that just because people had sex, then they are in love,” she says.

Mandisa says there are times were people start a marriage and they are not in love, but they grow to love each other as time goes on.

“Love has to do with familiarity. There are many people we like or even love because we are familiar with them, because we have spent extended periods of time with them. In previous generations, people would get into arranged marriages and would spend a year or two with the person without loving them, but as time goes on, the love develops and grows.

“There are still some churches today that do arranged marriages,” she says.

Children need to see love modelled, says Mandisa.

“Children do not need to grow up in a house with people who are constantly fighting because they do not love each other. And if the marriage fails, it’s the children who will suffer because the parents did not love each other in the first place. Children are better off with unmarried parents than being in an unhappy home,” she says.

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Dr Joshua Ndlela, a psychologist in private practice as well as Unisa’s student counsellor, says love is not only about feelings and affection, but also about commitment.

“People can sleep together without any commitment to each other. Pregnancy cannot then be the base for that marriage because they are not committed to each other. Pregnancy can be a result of desire at a certain moment without any feelings being involved.”

He says whenever people get into a relationship, they need to define their expectations.

“There is the primary relationship, which is what the two people who are in love have, then there are secondary layer relationships that can be born from that. Children form part of the secondary layer relationships, and they cannot be used as a foundation for the primary relationship.

“Even if people do not have feelings for each other, they can still co-parent together. Having a baby together is not a reason to get married.”

He adds that a divorce hurts children more than unmarried parents.

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