Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A dirty little secret...

Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing. But when you talk to people in their 20s, you also hear about something else: cohabitation as prophylaxis.

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.


Anonymous said...

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.

You are far too generous, Pastor Peters. Modern parents actively campaign against marriage. These people aren't dumb. They know sin certainly isn't being avoided by delaying marriage. Sin is merely less visible due to contraception and abortion. No, this is straight up idolatry. Parents want successful kids with good jobs and marriages that appear perfect. If you have to turn a blind eye to your children's multiple sex partners as they practice to get it right, well, you can just imagine that they are really just waiting for marriage rather than well,... It is just a big, don't ask, don't tell, fa├žade of propriety and success. Parents are a huge part of what is driving this trend. College students know that their parents strongly object to their marrying before graduation. So strongly that they will be cut off if they marry and will be scorned even ridiculed. Now if they just keep their mouths shut and just have sex with their girlfriend/boyfriend. Well, then the checks keep coming and the smiling parents and the adulation... Fast forward. Even after they have finished college they have been conditioned to this behavior, it just continues until they find someone "good enough" to marry. Maybe it takes several tries of someone good enough to sleep with, but not good enough to marry.

Pastor M said...

Sorry Anonymous but that's just a load of pig crap masquerading as an opinion.

I know many parents of young people who are living together and I don't know a single parent, at least in the church, who isn't unhappy about it. It may be parents outside the church do encourage this among their kids. But very few parents within the church do so.

Rev. Roderick Schultz said...

I am currently reading a book entitled "The Ring Makes All The Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage" by Glenn T. Stanton, Moody Pub. 2011. I have found it to be a great resource on the consequences of cohabitation. The book contains a lot of statistical data while remaining easy to read. It is well-sourced with many options in each chapter for further reading/study. Here's just one of many great little quotes that fill the pages: "Marriage involves things the cohabitating couple, or at least one of them, would rather not deal with. That is why cohabitation even exists"
As the subtitle suggests, the book doesn't delve much into the sin aspect of cohabitation but rather focuses on the consequecnces of that sin.

Anonymous said...

I know many parents of young people who are living together and I don't know a single parent, at least in the church, who isn't unhappy about it.

Oh, I totally agree. They want their son/daughter to find someone better and get married. However, living together is a consequence of the training that came before. It is the manifestation of a worldview that is opposite of the sentiment of better to marry than suffer from lust, etc. Today's view is that people need to wait till they are "ready" aka successful. So, success is the idol.

Anonymous said...

I asked a nice high school girl in my congregation which did she think would upset her parents the most, which is the most socially unacceptable to people in our culture.

a) teens in high school having sex

b) teens in high school getting pregnant

c) teens in high school having abortions

d) teens in high school getting married.

Without hesitation, she answered,
d) getting married.

But it is the only one which is actually a biblically approved way of dealing with teen sexuality.

I am not saying that it is better than continent chastity, but it is certainly better than the other choices, at least to parents in the church, but is it, really? How many parents would anguish over it, but allow contraception, but would absolutely freak over marriage? The possibility a child being less successful and maybe getting a divorce or marrying a jerk is worse than the immediate here and now sin of an illicit relationship. The approval of the world is paramount.

Anonymous said...

About fifteen years ago, I was invited to the "wedding" of a couple I have known for over 20 years. I assumed this was a renewal of vows--how wrong I was! They had lived together for 22 years, and had not married because both sets of parents disapproved! They respected and honored their parents' wishes, and married only after all of the parents had passed on. They continue their lives today in wedded bliss. Perhaps they are the exception to the research. We are to respect our parents, but don't you think we might defy their wishes in cases like this?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Pastor M but anonymous is right

The Church’s Institutionalized Fornication

My experience in 25 years of Lutheran church attendance is that it is really crowd funding with religious talk. Pastors will say whatever to get money.