Wednesday, April 18, 2012
A dirty little secret...
In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.”
About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce. But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.
The dirty little secret is that cohabitation is an enemy of a happy marriage. It has been known for a very long time but the assumption was that those peddling this truth were merely naysayers trying to steal sexual happiness and an adventuresome spirit away from youth. That is another dirty little secret. Those who insist that cohabitation is an enemy of marital happiness are not trying to prevent sin (a laudable goal, to be sure) but to assist those seeking to be happy in their lives as husband and wife, joined together until death parts them.
You can read it all here (from the New York Times). It is not the stuff of religious nuts but credible study and very secular researchers. There are differences to be sure -- male to female, religious to agnostic, but one thing they all seem to agree on is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse. In other words, marriage suffers from an idealized relationship compared to relationships which, for all intents and purposes, looked and acted like marriage but without the conversation, commitment and community recognition. These low-cost, low-risk living situations both become a mine field to a happy marriage and a trap which is hard to get out of -- they hold cohabitators captive.
Cohabitation is here to stay and, therefore, so is the disappointment when the cohabiting decide to tie the knot and find out that the person they married is the same old flawed individual they were living with all those years. One of the things that sustains a young marriage through its rough time of adjustment is the honeymoon (not the trip but the time of newness in which the relationship is fresh and love is willing to overlook wrongs and irritants and make sacrifices). There is no honeymoon for the cohabiting who marry. There is only the same old same old. What began as a test become the predictor of the future -- not for good but for ill. Without anything hidden or any surprises to be revealed, the cohabitors are left with only the past as their future.
BTW... what is so severely disappointing is that Christian young folks and their parents had accepted the fallacy of cohabitation leading to happy marriage and even encourage cohabitors to marry and make legal what is immoral and, not to be forgotten, a marker of sure disappointment to come.