Colombia’s Conservative Views on Relationships
When I first visited Colombia, I had been seeing my Colombian boyfriend for about three years. You would imagine that after three years it was obvious that we had shared the same mattress more than once. Regardless, when I arrived to his welcoming home, I was immediately shown the way to a separate bedroom.
“This is going to be an interesting stay!” I thought to myself.
I didn’t understand why this was happening. Coming from a different culture, I had been treated like an adult and free to make my own decisions since I was 18. I almost felt as if I was being punished by being made to sleep in a separate bedroom. Luckily, I had been prepped with previous knowledge from ‘Meet the Parents’, just that in this case, I unfortunately, was the Focker…
I later came to understand that this was nothing personal and no my mother-in-law was not holding some vendetta against me. It was simply because in Colombia, a country of conservative beliefs, more often than not, it is only socially acceptable for couples to share the same bed once married.
Hence this immediately explains the very lucrative business of cheap “love” motels all over Bogotá, allowing young adults to escape social expectations and hide from their family’s prying eyes. These motels let young couples be intimate without the compromise and pressure of society. This goes to say that if any accidents happen during this period, it is expected for the couple to get married in order to make the woman an “honorable” one. Having children out of wedlock would be greatly frowned upon.
As it is not well seen for unmarried couples to share the same bed, it is safe to say couple vacations are out of the question! This is why to my disbelief, I commonly find women in their mid and even late 20s and early thirties having to lie to their families of their whereabouts. Vacation plans turn into long weekends at so and so’s house, or simply going on vacation with a group of friends (and forgetting to mention Don Juan will be there too). It’s almost like couples must go through an extended period of their teenage years: having to hide, lie and escape behind their parents’ back. And being realistic, it’s as if this was expected of couples, with so many rules and restrictions put in place.
LIVING UNDER THE SAME ROOF = MARRIED
Being part of a relatively modern Colombian family, I do not share the same fate of many Colombian women and happily live with my boyfriend…and NO we are not married. (Gasp!)
However, under the eyes of Colombian society, it seems that we are. People who know we are not married assume we are living with his parents, and to those whom I explain our living situation, automatically categorize us as husband and wife. (Y tu esposo en que trabaja?!) Colombian couples who have been dating for several years will still be living at their respective parents’ house. They do not see the need to move in with their boyfriend/girlfriend and only think of doing so once married. I would be horrified if I found out my partner was a lazy mess only once we were married!
Although it’s strange to call my boyfriend my husband, it seems that now it’s not so far from the truth. To apply for my residency, we were obliged to sign a civil union. In Europe, this very same contract was created for same sex couples, in order to provide equal rights and benefits similar to those of married couples, but without the hassle. Obviously, it doesn’t serve the same purpose here..
Here in Colombia, this civil union or ‘union libre’ turns into a legalized marriage contract after only 2 small years. This means that the government automatically marries a couple that has been living under the same roof after only 104 weeks!
Who really believes that after 2 years time, it’s a sure thing that the relationship will last ’til death do us part?
It’s a pretty terrifying thought to think the government makes such an important life decision on your part. No one is to define your relationship after ‘x’ amount of time for you. But the formality of the document goes to show just how conservative Colombia remains. And if you do get a ‘union libre’ be sure not to let the date pass by innocently, because after there on out, everything that’s yours is mine, and everything that’s mine is mine too 😉