VietNamNet Bridge – The number of couples who cohabitate before marriage has rapidly increased in the Western world, and the practice is becoming common in Viet Nam.
In fact, cohabitation is even seen as a normal step in the dating process among some young people throughout the nation, particularly in big cities.
Opinions on the subject are mixed in Viet Nam, however, particularly among the mothers of young people who intend to cohabitate, although the issue of fertility seems to be having some influence on their attitudes.
A recent survey showed that the rate of childless couples in the country has gone up by 8 per cent, according to Dr Le Vuong Van Ve, director of the Andrology and Infertility Hospital of Ha Noi.
It means that more and more couples are facing infertility, causing Vietnamese women to become obsessed, including the girl’s future mother-in-law.
As a result, the news that a son’s girlfriend has become unexpectedly pregnant during their cohabitation is often treated as good news. The couple’s wedding is held and the mother turns into a mother-in-law and grandmother.
In fact, some mothers nowadays even recommend their son’s cohabitate to be sure of the future daughter-in-law’s fertility.
In one such case, Hoa, aged 54, from Ha Noi, said her first son and his wife haven’t had a baby although they have been married for five years, raising doubts over the daughter-in-law’s fertility (in the son’s mother’s mind).
So, as soon as her second son took his girlfriend to meet the family, Hoa said she firmly encouraged them to have a baby before getting married.
“I absolutely support them in their love but until they have a baby I am not willing to hold their wedding.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of! Both of them are grown-up,” said Hoa. “But the baby will be the only ticket that could determine whether their wedding will be held or not.”
No one knows exactly when cohabitation began in Viet Nam. Some say about 10 years ago, and then it sharply increased in several big cities such as Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang City.
It is thought to be widely practised among students, some from their first year at university, which can give parents cause for concern.
In one such case, Dung, 45, from the countryside, couldn’t accept her son’s cohabitation, although when the girl was three-month pregnant Dung promptly arranged their wedding.
“My 20-year-old son and his girlfriend had premarital sex while they were too young to have a good understanding of sexual health,” said Dung. “Why didn’t they wait until the ring was on their fingers?”
Dung said living together before marriage (which has not been formally condoned by the authorities) was contrary to the traditions, habits and customs of the Vietnamese.
“Our relatives and neighbours are going to sneer at us if they knew that my future daughter-in-law cohabited. How could I show my face? I allowed them to get married because of the innocent baby in her womb,” said Dung.
Love between man and woman is a precious joy that people spend a lot of time and effort looking for and then cultivating. However, there is a perceptive difference between love in the Western culture and love in the Eastern culture.
Westerners find a freedom and satisfaction in love that is of great importance in their life and they often cohabitate to enjoy their relationship to the fullest. So much so, that marriage in the West has become of secondary importance, with many couples happy to delay or even forgo the ceremony altogether.
Such is the case that the laws in most Western nations recognises defacto and marriage relationships equally in law.
In Eastern cultures, however, feudal reflections which influence customs run contrary to cohabitation. Nevertheless, Eastern societies and ways of thinking are changing rapidly as people becomes more aware of Western lifestyles.
In fact the world is getting smaller as technology draws us closer and customs merge. Cohabitation has crossed the divide and is becoming more acceptable in Viet Nam as the new generation accepts modern trends and behaviour. Soon it will be commonplace and mothers-in-law will have stories to tell of their own cohabitation.