In matters of the heart, there is little accounting for who you might fall in love with. Even after you have scoured the world, you may decide on someone closer home as the right partner for you. Dating a cousin usually raises eyebrows but it nevertheless is more common than people think. So if you are dating a cousin or wondering if you should, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Potential for a consanguineous relationship
A consanguineous relationship is one where the partners are related by blood or in other words descended from the same ancestor. So even if you are casually dating a cousin, the potential is there for a consanguineous relationship. According to genetics, consanguinity is defined according to the amount of shared identical DNA or the genetic material between two individuals. In scientific terms, this refers to partners who share the inbreeding coefficient of F 0.0156 or more. For all practical purposes, consanguineous unions are defined as those which are contracted between biologically related second cousins or nearer. Consanguinity is an important legal concept laws since certain societies use it while considering if two people can be married or how a deceased person’s property may be inherited in case of absence of will.
Be prepared for an ambiguous response
If you are dating your cousin, it is better you prepare yourself for a certain ambiguity in response from friends and acquaintances. While it is none of their business who you are seeing, the fact that you are dating a cousin may raise a few eyebrows and lead to whispers all around. This is because a relationship with a blood relative is considered undesirable or at least odd in many societies. Even though it is not taboo as an incestuous relationship, still dating a cousin may subject you and your partner to some uncomfortable questions. However the most difficult reaction could come from your families. It could come as a shock to your parents – and those of your dates – when they realize that their children are dating their cousins. Members of the same extended family being in a romantic relationship is not particularly a pleasant thought and there could be strong pressure from your parents – and your extended family – to stop seeing your cousin. Whether you give in to such pressure or defy them would depend on how deeply you feel about your partner and whether you can support each other should your parents decide to cut you off from family resources.
Don’t do it for the wrong reasons
Sometimes people are attracted to doing things they are not supposed to do. The taboo and the forbidden at times work as strong forces that draw you towards a particular kind of behavior. Ask yourself if your wish to date a cousin is motivated by similar reasons. If so, it is better you put an end to it. If the only reason you are dating your cousin is that you like the thrill of the forbidden, then you are cheating yourself as well as being unfair to your partner. In then end this kind of relationship based on a shallow sensation and momentary high cannot last. On the other hand if you love your cousin because of the values and interests you share and because you like to be with each other more than anyone else, there is no reason why you should not keep dating each other. As with other kinds of relationships, let the love and honesty in your heart be the guiding factors when you are faced with the question of the future of your dating relationship.
Consider the legal aspect
Legally there is nothing wrong with dating a cousin. However if you wish to take your relationship to a more committed level, you need to be aware of some of the legal consequences of marrying a cousin. In United States, certain states prohibit consanguineous marriages by law. There are various degrees of consanguinity and while some states may simply disallow marriages to brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers, other states extend the prohibition to first cousins as well. On the other hand some states require genetic counseling before legal union can take place while a few require proof that at least one potential spouse is infertile. You can find out more about family law in your own state by contacting a legal services office, a law school that offers legal services to students and the public, or searching your state's homepage on the internet. You can also look it up under "marriage" or "domestic relationships" in the legal statutes for your state. The Canon law of the Roman Catholic Church in fact has annulled marriages between first cousins and banned marriages within the fourth degree of a consanguineous relationship since 1215. And even though dispensations could be granted to get around legal barriers, they became harder to get the closer the couple are related.
The Medical angle
Whether or not you are planning to marry your cousin, take birth-control precautions if you are in an intimate relationship with him/her. This is because medical science has found that children born out of consanguineous relationships are more prone to certain genetic disorders like autosomal recessive disorders as well as other to conditions like increased mortality, morbidity and greater susceptibility to infectious diseases. It is this fear for the health of future generations that lies at the heart of social disapproval for cousin marriages. So if you and your date are in a sexual relationship, consider genetic counseling. A genetic counselor is a nurse or doctor with special training or expertise who will perform tests and learn about you and your partner's family history. With a clearer picture of the risks your offspring might face, a counselor can help you reach a decision that keeps in mind your well-being, that of your partner, and if you choose to go down that path, of your children as well.