Single, Married, or Concubine?

We recently returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. Before I get to the heart of this piece, let me just say the people and country of the Dominican Republic could not have been nicer. The weather was warm and wonderful, and the sheer joy of the Caribbean was most enjoyable.

Like every country globally, the DR has entry and exit requirements. However, due to the wonders of technology, one can complete these tasks—which seem designed primarily to create bureaucracies—online. No longer are you forced to fill out these tedious forms by hand.

Now we’ve traveled all over the world and have completed such tasks in countries where the Immigration and Customs people are smiling and welcoming and places where they are not smiling and carrying automatic weapons.

But my recent experience in the DR was most memorable because of one particular question.

Under the heading “Civil Status,” one must choose from five options; Single, Married, Free Union, others, or Concubinage.

DR Form

I was a bit taken aback by this option. I didn’t know concubinage was still practiced, let alone lawful, in most countries. The legal definition of concubinage is

“In contemporary civil law, concubinage is a legal term that is sometimes used for an interpersonal, intimate relationship between a man and a woman, or, depending on the jurisdiction, unmarried couple, in which the couple wishes to cohabit but do not want to or cannot enter into a full marriage.”


Definition of concubine

a woman with whom a man cohabits without being married: such as
a: one having a recognized social status in a household below that of a wife

Who knew? I had a much different concept of the practice.

I wanted to ask one of the immigration officers how many concubines they have entering the country each year but decided not to when I arrived. Maybe I could send a request for the information to the Dominican Embassy in Washington to find out.

While waiting to pass through Customs and Immigration in the DR, I tried to pick the concubines out of the crowd. There must have been a few of them, judging by the age difference between some couples, or perhaps it was just true love of the December-May persuasion.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t see any obvious younger men/older women pairs. Perhaps women know better? And there is no comparable term for a male that relates to concubine, imagine?

Even Shakespeare had his Sonnet about such love,

Beated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity” (Sonnet 62) 

So there you have it, concubinage is alive and well and sunning itself in the Dominican Republic.

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