Skip to comments.FIRST-PERSON: The truth about cohabitation
Posted on 01/09/2007 5:15:22 PM PST by Tim Long
SARALAND, Ala. (BP)--The number of unmarried couples living together in America increased tenfold from 1960 to 2000. The U.S. Census estimates that about 10 million people are living with someone of the opposite sex. That totals about 8 percent of U.S. coupled households. Most unmarried partners who live together are between 25 and 34 years of age.
It once was stigmatized as "living in sin" or "shacking up," but now cohabitation has replaced dating. It has become mainstream as a way to discover if a person is a suitable partner for life. While marriage as an ideal is not dead, it does seem to be staggering and falling into the ropes.
According to USA Today, more than two-thirds of married couples in the United States now say they lived together before marriage. The number of unmarried, opposite-sex households is rising dramatically.
A crisis of confidence exists among younger Americans, not just in the institution of marriage, but in the process of finding a suitable life mate. The most divorced generation in history is struggling to trust the traditional courting process, choosing instead to dive right into the most intimate aspects of a relationship. Thus, some argue that since divorce is a reality, it makes sense to measure compatibility, and what better way to discover compatibility than to do a trial run at marriage. There is great confidence today in this new found process, but the question is, does it work?
In a groundbreaking study that examined the effects of cohabitation on the long-term quality of marriage, the Alabama Policy Institute (API) conducted a study of more than 1,300 married couples. The results are eye-opening. The study shows that the longer a couple cohabits before marriage, the less satisfied they are with their marriage. John Hill, API's director of research, said, "Specifically, couples who cohabit before marriage tend to be more depressed, more dependent and are more likely to believe their relationship will end as compared with married couples who did not cohabit." The API study indicates that in times of stress and conflict couples who cohabitate are more likely to handle their conflicts with heated arguing, hitting and throwing. According to USA TODAY, couples live together about two years and then either marry or break up.
Marriage is more than who you sleep next to and with whom you may share expenses. It is the deepest sharing of the most intimate part of your life. This is not easy to graph on a chart, but every human soul longs for it. God created us for intimacy and He built an environment in which we can experience it. Cohabitation has all the powerful elements that make up intimacy but lacks one major ingredient -- commitment. Commitment is the fence that protects, the lock that guarantees, and the alarm system that ensures that vulnerability is not easily compromised. Marriage is a covenant of mutual protection, devotion, sacrifice and love. It is binding for this very reason. It is not only safe for our most vulnerable moments but also for the most vulnerable people in the world -- children.
When we remember what marriage was designed to do and who designed it, the contorted, sophomoric logic of those who conclude that living together is a good choice evaporates. It is not inconsequential that the loss of confidence in marriage coincides with a loss in confidence in God and the Bible. The children and grandchildren of the sexual revolution need to examine what that revolution has caused: a skyrocketing divorce rate and a frustrating loss of intimacy. The best experiment may be to experiment with the ancient writings of a timeless God who loved us enough to construct a safe place called marriage in which to flourish. --30-- Ed Litton is the senior pastor of First Baptist North Mobile in Saraland, Ala.
Given the existing family law - both in its text and in its practice - it is amazing that the numbers cited are not 10 times higher.
This is old news I thought. Haven't there been studies concluding pre-marriage co-habitation correlates with increased divorce rates for at least ten years?
you gopt that right. Love is the triumph of hope over experience. (or so I'm told)
'the Alabama Policy Institute'?
Guess that's how it is over in bama,
but in the rest of the lower 48--and PR
the Hawk flies free! ;<)
Or maybe it's just being one sort of person or another. Hard to say.
One thing not having premarital sex does is build trust. If your husband/wife showed the discipline to abstain from sex with you prior to marriage, 30 years later when they have to go out of town you will trust them to not cheat.
Auburn was nearly called that until 1960 something. Alabama Polytech Institute = Auburn University...
My wife and I lived together for nearly two years before we were married. This was back in the early 1970's ... the term most popular in that era was 'shacking up'. We've been happily married (well, we've had our moments) for nearly 33 years. It worked for us ...
Indeed there have, although it's very difficult to determine cause and effect from such studies.
If two people live together for years before getting married, and basically act the same after they got married as they did before, I could see why divorce would be likely. In many such situations, the marriage is largely an afterthought to the relationship--a sort of "oh why not". Cohabitation without marriage is an arrangement of convenience: "I'll love, honor, and cherish you as long as things don't get too rough". Getting married after a few years, if not accompanied by real changes in the relationship, could be closer to "Well it doesn't look as though things are going to get too rough" than to "I am going to be faithfully yours as long as we both shall live, especially when things get rough as they are almost certain to do".
It should hardly be surprising that an attitude of "Things don't seem too rough" would lead to divorce. On the other hand, I don't know any good way to predict how people will perform in hard situations; if they naturally occur and a couple survives, that's a good sign, but I wouldn't think it wise to create them artificially.
Makes sense. After enough time, they realize their improbability of trading up and settle for what they have. Such settlements are often pregnancy driven. Even after saying their I do's, they're probably wishing that a better deal will eventually come along.
In some ways I feel like an oddball for having shared an apartment without consumating the relationship. It worked well for me and my wife, but I've not read any discussion anywhere of taking that approach. Is there some reason it wouldn't be a good approach for others to take?
Good point. By the time I moved into the new apartment with my fiancée I wanted her, forever, and nobody else. Even if someone who somehow managed to be more intelligent, witty, cute, and alluring had suddenly taken an interest in me at that point, I wouldn't have cared. I had chosen the person I wanted and she had chosen me. I wasn't hoping for something better, since I already had the best.
Of course, some people do shack up with the idea that it's a good way for them to pass the time until they find something better. And on the surface such behavior is perfectly logical. On the other hand, even though cohabitation will make it harder for either person to find anyone better, the attitude of "passing time" will mean that when someone does find someone who seems better (as will likely happen at some point) the relationship will be doomed.
Thanks for the info.
My dad used to say, "there's on free lunch", and "try it before you buy it has nothing to do with dating." I know he was right on the money.
The Bible provides that if a man deflowers a virgin, her father may at his option either compel him to marry her, or make him pay the 'bride price' without marrying her.
Indeed, it seems to me that while men were permitted to marry non-virgins if they so chose, the act of deflowering a virgin effectively consumated a marriage (whether the couple had been ceremonially married before the act or not).
A logical system. A major purpose of marriage (if not the most important) was to allow men to know that any children their wives bore would be theirs. A man who took a virgin wife could be sure that she wasn't pregnant with someone else's child. Consequently, virgin females were highly desirable. A man who bedded a virgin would greatly diminish her chances of taking anyone else as a husband--thus the requirement that the man either marry the person or pay compensation for her reduced marriageability.
Numerous studies confirm this particular one.
In a theological sense, that G*d thought enough of the issue to issue a commandment, it can be said to have already been studied at the highest level.
Ironic that soft science PhD's confirm the most basic element of Judeo-Christian life, as well as one of the Commandments. Publishing that result must have deeply distressed their little Marxist egos.
Cohab is extended rehab of men who cannot grow up, and it almost always fails.
This study uses data from the first wave of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), which was conducted by the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin between March 1987 and May 1988. Since previous research suggests the effects of cohabitation on marital stability are limited to the first 10 years of marriage, data from only the first wave were chosen to acquire the largest number of participants who had been married the shortest amount of time.
That's pretty much ancient history.
It appears that what the study may have found is that people in the group studied who were more emotional/volatile tended to cohabitate before marriage -- perhaps because they were more cautious about commitments or perhaps because they had parents whose volitility led to divorce and/or marital discord. Moreover, by eliminating every cohabitating couple who stayed married more than 10 years, they eliminated a huge percentage of the happily married cohabitators.