A cousin is someone you grow up with. In most communities across the world, relationships with cousins are frowned upon. In these circumstances, is it okay to date your cousin?
In case you have already fallen in love with them, you are in a tricky position. Even if biologically speaking there is nothing wrong with dating your cousin, social norms may make it harder for you. Managing and overcoming the disapproval and resistance of families and society can take a huge toll on your mental well-being.
If you find yourself in such a situation and want to know the rights and wrongs of dating your cousin, read on. Here you will find enough information and guidance to make the decision on your own.
Is it a sin to fall in love with your cousin?
Dating and marrying your cousin was considered normal until the late 19th century, barring some periods in history when cousin marriages and marriages with close relatives were prohibited. With the advent of the railroad and opportunities to travel far and wide, social norms started changing, leading to people marrying outside their bloodline.
Also, the advancements in medicine made it clear that marrying your cousin can increase the risk of genetic disorders (birth defects) in their children. In fact, a marriage between first cousins doubles the risk of children being born with birth defects.
All these lead to a shift in societal perspective about dating your cousin. This began to be judged unfavorably and looked down upon.
However, in many parts of the world, marriage between cousins is permitted and even encouraged. This is mostly done to keep the family property from getting divided and within the family.
This may make you wonder about the reason for double standards.
Despite the big fuss about dating your cousin, there’s nothing wrong or sinful about dating or marrying your cousin.
Here are a few reasons why dating your cousin is okay.
Why is dating your cousin okay?
1. Love should be unconditional
The best way to live, they say, is to follow your heart. You may have fallen in love with your cousin despite being aware of all these restrictions and repercussions. When this is the case, it would be unfair on you and your cousin to stop loving each other just because society frowns upon cousin relationships.
You must have grown up together and have so many shared memories, interests, and hobbies. You may not remember when your relationship turned romantic. In such instances, you don’t need to consider societal perspectives about your relationship. So long as you are sure about your love for each other, you can go ahead with it.
2. Will bring your families closer
This is the reason why in ancient times, cousins married each other. The same reason will work in today’s modern times as well. However, this will work only if both families approve of your relationship. If not, you have an uphill task on hand.
As you already know each other and the families well enough, you will find it easier to integrate and mingle with each other. There won’t be any surprises in store for you as is the case with a relationship with a stranger.
To avoid bad blood, you can break the news to your respective families before you actually go dating your cousin.
Why is dating your cousin not okay?
Let’s play the devil’s advocate here and look at the other side of the argument.
In the US and European countries, dating or marrying your cousin is frowned upon today. Even if this practice was prevalent in the 19th century, it was discontinued later as people started traveling because of better connectivity.
Here are some reasons why you should not date your cousin.
1. Goes against societal norms
Our society runs on certain unwritten rules that all are expected to follow. According to the current societal norms, dating your cousin is considered incorrect. Though most members of society are not aware of the reasons behind this rule, they still believe in it and frown upon anyone who doesn’t follow it.
This means if others come to know that you’re dating your cousin, they will start gossiping about you and you will be judged for it. So, you need to be ready for this before going public about it. Or else, you are going to have a tough time managing societal pressure.
You also need to be aware that despite such overwhelming negative perspectives about cousin marriage, many cousins still do get married.
2. Your families have to face the music as well
When two cousins start dating or get married, the story doesn’t end with them. Their families are also dragged into the middle of the gossip and judged. This may not be what they bargained for. Your families may find it too much to handle and in turn, may put pressure on you.
Moreover, if you decide to break up at a later date, it’s going to affect your families even worse. Even if they don’t want to be part of your story, they may be forced into taking part in it and share the blame. Family holidays and gatherings will never be the same again.
3. Your children may have a higher risk for genetic disorders
This is one of the genuine reasons for not marrying your cousin. Studies reveal that first cousins share 7-12% genetic material. This translates to a heightened risk for genetic disorders in children. This risk is much lower when couples are not related to each other.
There is also a high risk of miscarriages. Some even raise the question of ethics in bringing such a child into this world.
Dating your cousin – What is the big fuss?
Growing up in many families, we often heard our parents cautioning against the idea of marrying or dating your cousin. While this sentiment is prevalent in numerous conservative societies, there are individuals within these communities who challenge the notion that cousin relationships are inherently problematic.
For instance, within my own Iranian family, a notably religious and culturally sensitive environment, we have witnessed three marriages between first and second cousins. This illustrates that even in a place where such concerns are deeply rooted, some individuals choose to embrace cousin relationships.
On a global scale, various countries have taken diverse approaches to cousin marriages and marriages with close relatives. China, Philippines, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, and several other regions have imposed strict bans on the practice. In contrast, the United States exhibits a more varied landscape, with 24 states prohibiting marriages with first cousins. The District of Columbia and twenty states permit cousin marriage; 6 states allow first cousin marriage under special circumstances.
Conversely, cousin marriage has been allowed throughout the Middle East for all recorded history. In countries like the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Yemen, first cousin unions are more widely accepted and considered less problematic. These societies hold more favorable views on cousin unions.
Interestingly, some West African nations even have a saying that reflects their positive perspective on cousin relationships: “Cousins are made for cousins.” This adage highlights the diversity of opinions and practices surrounding cousin marriages across different cultures and regions.
What changed the societal norms about cousin relationships?
The question of dating your cousin has been a long-standing debate spanning decades and centuries. It’s a topic that has been subject to various restrictions and prohibitions throughout history, with one notable instance occurring in 506 AD when the Roman Catholic Church banned the practice of people dating or marrying their cousins.
Remarkably, a staggering 80% of marriages in human history involved cousins. This statistic is quite astonishing. Centuries ago, when the world was less interconnected, people didn’t venture far from their local communities to find a spouse.
Between 1825 and 1875, a significant shift occurred in Europe and North America, where it became increasingly common for individuals to pursue relationships and marriages outside of their own families. This marked a notable departure from the previous trend of cousin marriages and marriages with close relatives.
The transformation continued after 1875, as advancements in mass railroad travel made it easier for people to connect with potential partners who were less closely related. This shift in societal norms reflects the evolving perspectives and practices surrounding cousin relationships over time.
Is it normal to experience sexual attraction towards a cousin?
There is no inherent moral or ethical issue with experiencing sexual attraction towards a cousin. It’s important to differentiate between cousin relationships and those involving siblings, which are fundamentally distinct. First cousins typically share around 12% of their genetic traits, while second cousins have about 3% genetic similarity. Third and fourth cousins have even lower genetic similarities, often as low as 1%.
However, it’s worth noting that when there is a higher degree of genetic similarity, such as in the case of closer relatives, there may be an increased risk of genetic abnormalities in offspring if a romantic relationship leads to procreation. Therefore, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the attraction itself, individuals should be aware of potential genetic risks if they decide to pursue a romantic relationship with a close cousin.
What can you do when you’re sexually attracted to your cousin?
Do you have romantic feelings for your cousin? Before dating your cousin, consider these important actions:
Seek Guidance from Your Parents: Start by discussing your feelings with your parents. They might initially be surprised or uncomfortable with the idea, but allow them some time to process the information. In due course, they can offer valuable advice and insights.
Prioritize Family Harmony: It’s crucial to remember that it’s often better to face initial awkwardness with your parents than to risk causing a significant family upheaval later on. Open communication with your parents can help prevent potential drama with family members.
Reflect on Your Choices: In a world filled with countless potential romantic partners, carefully contemplate the consequences of dating your cousin. While you may share affection and admiration, it’s essential to consider the broader implications and long-term effects on your family relationships.
Remember that mutual feelings alone should not necessarily dictate your actions. Taking a step back to examine the bigger picture can provide valuable clarity in making this important decision.