Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage

"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."

When questioned, "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."

Why does experience contradict this viewpoint? Why isn't cohabitation a good trial for marriage? As someone once said to me, "you wouldn't buy a car without a test drive!".

According to the article, couples who cohabit are more often unsatisfied with their marriage, and are more likely to resort to divorce. Many couples say that cohabitation 'just happened', the idea of "sliding rather than deciding". Circumstances of one or both of the couple, perhaps financial or convenience, push towards cohabitation before the couple actually decide it is the commitment they are both ready to make.

Do couples need to talk about why they are moving in together? Do they need to work out what it will mean for them individually and as a couple?

Surely if you slide in, it is easy to "slide out"? Often this is not the case, and people end up in complex situations whereby it is very hard to get out. This can lead to unhappiness on both sides as financial ties are often hard to break.

The question of commitment also comes up, how committed is someone who you 'just' live with? The article suggests that one woman felt like she was on a rolling-contract, needing to re-audition on a regular basis! People also feel due to cohabiting, they find it harder to get out and waste time on a relationship that would have been over had they not lived together and had all the ties and difficulty that that involves. However, is it better to waste time in a relationship or to get instantly married, find out it is a waste of time and get divroced?

A 2010 survey suggested that two-thirds of Americans now see cohabitation as a step towards marriage, does this make cohabitation a more stable option? Is the commitment needed for marriage required for cohabitation in more cases?

The Catholic Church is very clear that cohabitation is to be avoided, and connects this to pre-marital sex. When living together, it is harder to resist the urges to engage in sexual activity, something that should be saved for marriage.

The author concludes: "I am not for or against living together, but I am for young adults knowing that, far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake — or of spending too much time on a mistake. A mentor of mine used to say, “The best time to work on someone’s marriage is before he or she has one,” and in our era, that may mean before cohabitation."

Do you think cohabitation is acceptable? Do you see any other problems? Do you think the Catholic Church is correct in its view?

Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/opinion/sunday/the-downside-of-cohabiting-before-marriage.html

Thanks to @mrhig for corrections.

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