Is living together before marriage the same as getting married?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

Dad sent me this article from the Daily Signal. Let’s look at it, then I’ll give my opinion on this research.

Five points:

  1. Cohabiting couples are more prone to break up (and break up for good) than married couples
  2. Even after marrying, women who cohabitated prior to marriage are more apt to separate or divorce than those who did not.
  3. Men who cohabit tend to make less money than their married counterparts
  4. Among young mothers, married women are more financially secure than cohabiting women
  5. Cohabiting couples report more depression and more alcohol problems than married couples

The key points for me:

1. Cohabiting couples are more prone to break up (and break up for good) than married couples.  In the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family Study, Georgina Binstock and Arland Thornton found that, in the first year of living together, couples who cohabited were eight times more likely to end their relationships than those who were married.  In the second and third years, those rates decreased to four and three times more likely, respectively.  And when it comes to getting back together after a breakup, cohabiting couples were about a third less likely to get back together again.

2. Even after marrying, women who cohabitated prior to marriage are more apt to separate or divorce than those who did not.  One study demonstrated that for women who lived with their partners before marriage, it was 33 percent more likely for their marriages to result in separation or divorce.

5. Cohabiting couples report more depression and more alcohol problems than married couples.  Even when controlling for race, age and gender, cohabiting individuals reported higher levels of depression than married ones, 2.8 points according to one study.  In another study, cohabiting individuals were three times more likely to report having problems with alcohol consumption than those who were married, as well as 25 percent more problems than single people who did not cohabit.  Cohabiting women indicated more alcohol problems than married women—and men who cohabited said they had more alcohol problems than both married and single men.

This article from the UK Daily Mail that Dina sent me says that 9 in 10 children being born now will see their parents split by the time the children reach 16.

It says:

Nearly nine out of ten babies born to co-habiting parents this year will have seen their family break up by the time they reach the age of 16, says a study.

Half of all children born this year will not be living with both natural parents when they reach their mid-teens, and almost all those who suffer family breakdown will be the children of unmarried parents, added the report.

The study, based on figures from the national census and large-scale academic surveys, extrapolates from current trends and calculates that just 9 per cent of babies born to cohabiting couples today will still have their parents living together by the time they are 16.

The report adds that the declining popularity of marriage and the rise of co-habitation will damage the lives of increasing numbers of children.

The figures were produced by researcher Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation think tank, who said: ‘The report provides solid evidence that married parents are more stable than unmarried parents.

[…]The study by the think  tank, which is headed by High Court family division judge Sir Paul Coleridge, was based  on findings from the census of 2001 and recent results from Understanding Society, a government-backed survey which charts the lives of people in 40,000 homes.

The report said that in 2001, four out of ten teenagers aged 15 were not living with both parents, and among the parents of 15-year-olds who stayed together, 97 per cent were married.

The article is from 2013, but I don’t see why things would have gotten any better. We are even more supportive as a society now of adult selfishness and less inclined to take care in our courting so that children are not deprived of fathers and/or mothers through our poor decision making.

So I’ve had experiences mentoring two women who started off as Christian, fell away from Christianity, then returned to the faith. Both of them spend time cohabitating with atheist men. So when I read numbers like the ones above, I want to warn Christian parents. You should not assume that your daughter will always be a Christian when you are raising them. You have to talk to them about these issues and share these numbers with them. Although you can start by telling them what the Bible says, you have to go on from there to explain what a romantic relationship looks like between Christians, and what happens to people who reject the Bible and start having premarital sex.

2 thoughts on “Is living together before marriage the same as getting married?”

  1. Marriage is not easy for anyone. You have to learn the art of compromise because you are ‘stuck’ together when the going gets rough. Cohabitating, you just walk away when things get sticky, breaking the hearts of everyone involved.

  2. Thought #1: “So I’ve had experiences mentoring two women who started off as Christian, fell away from Christianity, then returned to the faith. Both of them spend time cohabitating with atheist men.”
    Tim Keller used to directly ask people who started expressing with Christianity, “So who are you sleeping with?” e.g., http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2013/04/who-are-you-sleeping-with-my-conversation-with-timothy-keller/
    Like: really seriously, take 1Corinthians 6 seriously.
    “Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality.”
    Let’s spend a moment here. So sex with a prostitute is probably the most meaningless and base activity. Yet Paul claims that uniting oneself with a prostitute “becomes one body” / “becomes one flesh” with the prostitute through sex.
    **The most meaningless sex is still very important — and some scholars have argued “sex implies the marital bond” [“becoming one flesh ala Genesis 2]**
    Thought #2: Couples that cohabitate usually think something like this:
    “This is training for marriage. We’re going to see how we are together! If we don’t drive each other crazy, maybe then we’ll get married.”
    (However, for the man, if he’s getting the milk for free, why disrupt the power-balance and buy the cow? I mean, seriously — men lose a lot of power by getting married. [And I am a married man for the record.])
    In a marriage relationship, ideally, the attitude is: “By the grace of God, we’re going to try to work this out. No difference is that big.”
    There are things that I’m not overly thrilled to do in marriage but I do them. My wife loves going to the beach. It rates as a 3 (on a scale of 10 where 10=most fun!) but I go anyway, and make the best of the time. My wife is terrified of spiders and refuses to deal with them so I have to squash bugs and spiders.
    At the same time, marriage has taught me a lot about God and God’s love for us. We can see where, as imperfect as we are, we are supposed to mirror God’s love for us to each other (and also to our kids).

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