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Discerning Culture

Why Living Together is Bad – Negative Effects of Cohabitation Part 2

In an earlier post, I had urged inoculating our children to the temptation to think that God’s standards are not for our best. Specifically, I had pointed out how cohabitating increases the chance a couple will break up. A recent NY Times article highlights research that found just that. They showed how prevalent this thinking is:

“From the perspective of many young adults, marrying without living together first seems quite foolish,” said Prof. Pamela J. Smock, a research professor at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “Just because some academic studies have shown that living together may increase the chance of divorce somewhat, young adults themselves don’t believe that.”

The authors found that the proportion of women in their late 30s who had ever cohabited had doubled in 15 years, to 61 percent.

If you dig a little deeper, you find these numbers:

Outcome of first cohabitation

Percent distribution of women 15-44 who ever cohabited with a male partner, by outcome of first cohabitation:

  • Intact current cohabitation: 13.2%
  • Intact current marriage: 33.6%
  • Dissolved marriage: 18.7%
  • Dissolved cohabitation: 34.5%

So, there is over a 50% chance that the couples cohabitating will break up.

Al Mohler comments on this study and the wisdom of the age:

The experience of cohabiting just makes sense to many young adults. Their logic is that marriage is what happens after a relationship becomes sexually intimate and is found to be adequately fulfilling — not before.

They do not know that what they are actually doing is undoing marriage. They miss the central logic of marriage as an institution of permanence. They miss the essential wisdom of marriage — that the commitment must come before the intimacy, that the vows must come before the shared living, that the wisdom of marriage is its permanence before its experience.

Marriage is all about permanence, an exclusive covenant commitment until parted by death. In God’s wisdom permanence comes before and protects experience. Modern couples reject these truths to their own regret. Our children are inundated with the message of cohabitation. Let’s make sure they know the true consequences.

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