A young woman I know got married in a lavish church wedding in 2019. She had met her future husband at a church conference in 2018. They were both young graduates who were keen to start their climb up the corporate ladder. In order to give them privacy I will give them aliases. I will call the young woman Sarah and her future husband David.

Their marriage seemed like a match made in heaven. They were both very good-looking, they belonged to the same church denomination and both were raised by strong women.

They wanted to get married almost immediately. The only thing that stood in the way of that was the fact that they lived in different provinces. Sarah was raised on the KwaZulu-Natal coast while David had always lived in Johannesburg.

While Sarah applied for a position in Johannesburg, they planned a big Zulu wedding. The weekend visits to each other were frequent. Sarah was impressed with how neat David’s place was. He would always give credit to his mother on receiving compliments about the neatness of his house.

They got married without having lived together so the cracks in their union appeared almost immediately. David was the indulged youngest son of older parents. His mother adored him a lot and she had a key to his heart and house. She was retired and she would come into his house weekly to do his laundry and cook and clean.

When he got married, he did not ask for the key back and one day Sarah had the fright of her life when she was working home because of COVID. David’s mother had let herself in and expected her new daughter-in-law to ignore work and come observe her while she taught her how to cook his favourite meal. Sarah was taken aback but did not want to be impolite but she was seething as she was instructed to fry and chop and season in her own kitchen.

After the meal was cooked David’s mother left and Sarah felt offended. She could not wait for David to come home so she talk about the ordeal of having to stop her online work in order to take involuntary cooking lessons. When David came home, he seemed excited that his mother had come to cook. So Sarah did not have the heart to complain. She mentioned that she was uneasy about her new mom-in- law having a key but David explained that he needed his mother because he was messy and hated house chores and that his mother was neat and enjoyed being needed and took pride in making sure her son’s house was spotless.

David explained that this had always been the arrangement for years and that he needed someone to pick up after him. The argument was ridiculous to Sarah; David was 27 at the time they got married. She felt he should be able to clean up after himself. David was not convinced. He wanted his mother to continue coming in to cook and clean he explained that Sarah’s work was too demanding for her to be able to cook the elaborate meals he preferred.

So for months and months Sarah tolerated this third person in her marriage. David’s mother was lovely enough but also extremely territorial with her son and his house. She would clean and scrub and shift things. When she went back to the office Sarah would sometimes come home planning to cook a meal but often she would realise that her mother-in-law would have gone in to cook for them.

In the end, she told her husband David that she wanted her mother-in-law to hand over the keys so she can cook and clean her own house. David made it clear that he will not help out with anything domestic. That if Sarah wants his mother out the picture she has to accept that she will do all the house chores on her own. That he is not interested in being domesticated.

Sarah was so sick of the constant presence of her mother in law that she opted to take over all cooking and cleaning in addition to her fulltime job. Soon she discovered how messy David is, picking after him constantly made her less attracted to him. They would constantly fight about his untidiness and he would retort that he was not inclined to learn to be better organised because the person in his life who kept him organised was his mother and Sarah had chased her away.

The resentment grew on both sides until they decided to get divorced.

My contention is that they should have cohabitated before marriage so Sarah could know how embedded David’s mother was in his life. Had she stayed with him before marrying him she would have realized how crowded a future marriage would be with a mother in law who wants to be the centre of her grown son’s life.


Read about green flags in relationships here

Tell us: Do you agree with the author that couples should live together before marriage? Why or why not?