Tag Archives: Cohabitation

Most Americans think cohabitation leads to a stable marriage, but what does the data say?

Men who cohabitate are not certain that the relationship is permanent
Men who cohabitate are not certain that the relationship is permanent

If there’s one thing that ought to lead people to Christianity, it’s the proven ability of the Christian moral rules to guide believers away from the sins that destroy them. A lot of modern “Christians” have reduced Christianity to being about their feelings and their community, while allowing the culture to determine their goals and moral boundaries. But that won’t protect them from danger.

Cohabitation describes the situation of a couple moving into the same home and being sexually active, but without any legally-recognized commitment. It’s extremely popular among young people today, and even Christians.

Consider this article from The Federalist about cohabitation:

A new Pew Research Center study shows Americans both cohabitate (“live with an unmarried partner”) and find cohabitation acceptable more than before.

[…]More young adults have cohabited than have married. Pew’s analysis in the summer of 2019 of the National Survey of Family Growth found that, for the first time ever, the percentage of American adults aged 18-44 who have ever cohabited with a partner (59 percent) exceeded the percentage of those who have ever married (50 percent).

I thought this was very interesting, especially for the Christian parents and pastors who imagine that their lovely pious daughters all have a Christian worldview just because they sing in the church choir:

Just 14 percent hold a view consistent with a biblical sexual ethic, that cohabitation with an unmarried romantic partner outside of marriage is “never acceptable.”

Just to be clear, in my life I’ve met about 6 non-Christian men who cohabitated with women, and every single one of them cohabitated with a Christian-raised woman. That should tell you what young women are being told about relationships in their homes and churches about sex and marriage. “Do whatever you want”.

So what purpose does cohabitation serve?

A majority of Americans (69 percent) say that “it is acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together even if they don’t plan to get married.” They may assume that they can decrease their chances of a bad marriage and increase their chances of a good one by giving the relationship a cohabitation “test run.”

[…]A plurality of Americans believe cohabitating before marriage yields more successful unions. Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) believe that couples who live together before marriage “have a better chance of having a successful marriage.” This view is even more prevalent among young adults aged 18-29 (63 percent).

Another 38 percent of all Americans say cohabitation “doesn’t make much difference” on marital success. Only 13 percent of Americans believe cohabiting couples have “a worse chance” of having a successful marriage.

[…]Most Americans believe cohabitating couples raise children just as well as married couples. Pew also surveyed people’s opinions about cohabiting couples raising children, and 59 percent of Americans declared that cohabiting couples “can raise children just as well as married couples.” Again, the younger respondents were most likely to have a favorable view of cohabitation: among adults aged 18 to 49, 67 percent agreed cohabiting couples do just as well, while 32 percent said: “Married couples do a better job raising children.”

Yes, cohabitation seen as a test run, and it’s supposed to make stable marriage more likely and not be harmful to children at all.

But why think that a test run should be part of getting married? After all, when I buy a parrot from the pet store, I don’t expect to later return that parrot. Why not? Because I am not buying the parrot to enhance MY life. I am buying the parrot to make a commitment to care for the parrot. Whether the parrot fulfills any of my needs is irrelevant to me. I want the bird in my house so that I can decide what it eats, what it drinks, and invest myself into making it happy, according to its birdish nature. This is because I think that parrots have value in and of themselves, and they deserve a certain quality of life. When I buy the parrot, I am guaranteeing a permanent commitment to the bird to provide for its needs, physical and emotional. And that commitment carries forward to the time (now) when the bird is elderly, and can’t even fly up to his cage or down to the floor. He calls for me, and I go over and pick him up and move him. That’s commitment.

Cohabitation, on the other hand, is the practice of saying to another human being: “I am going to try you out as an entertaining commodity in my home, but if you don’t fulfill my needs then I’m going to send you right back.” That’s not a commitment. That’s self indulgence. It’s defining a relationship as entertainment that is designed to meet my needs and make me happy. And that’s because the concept of commitment in relationships is not presented to young people at any time in their lives. Not from parents. Not in churches. Not in the secular left culture as a whole. Everything is a consumer good designed for the purpose of entertainment – including people. It was only the Christian worldview that had a view of people as creatures made by God for eternal life, so that marriage was about guarding the other person’s faith, and building them up to achieve all the things that God wanted them to achieve for his purposes.

But does cohabitation really work to create stable relationships? After all, anyone can find a partner when they’re young and pretty. The real question is whether that partner will stick around when you’re old and ugly and can’t be as “fun” as you used to be.

Here’s a recent (2018) study on cohabitation and stability:

A new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family finds that the “premarital cohabitation effect” lives on, despite what you’ve likely heard. The premarital cohabitation effect is the finding that those who live together prior to marriage are more likely, not less, to struggle in marriage.

[…]Michael Rosenfeld and Katharina Roesler’s new findings suggest that there remains an increased risk for divorce for those living together prior to marriage, and that prior studies suggesting the effect has gone away had a bias toward short versus longer-term effects. They find that living together before marriage is associated with lower odds of divorce in the first year of marriage, but increases the odds of divorce in all other years tested, and this finding holds across decades of data.

Strategy advice to those who debate this issue: just be aware that Team Secular Leftist is using papers that have short-range samples, which don’t show the instability problem, because they deliberately cherry-pick recently married couples.

And what about children raised in cohabitating relationships?

While Americans are optimistic about the ability of cohabiting couples to raise children, a study published by the American College of Pediatricians in 2014 reported that children whose parents cohabit face a higher risk of: “premature birth, school failure, lower education, more poverty during childhood and lower incomes as adults, more incarceration and behavior problems, single parenthood, medical neglect and chronic health problems both medical and psychiatric, more substance, alcohol and tobacco abuse, and child abuse,” and that “a child conceived by a cohabiting woman is at 10 times higher risk of abortion compared to one conceived in marriage.”

I’m just going to be blunt here. The majority of young people are progressives, and they vote for candidates who believe in abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, and even after birth. Why? Because they don’t want to have their right to seek happiness impacted by the needs of other people. Progressives believe that children, if they exist at all, should enhance the lives of their adult owners. No one should be surprised that people who think that killing inconvenient children is moral are willing to inflict other bad outcomes on them by raising them in an unstable cohabitation environment.

Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on sex and sexuality at Harvard University

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Morse delivers a talk based on her book “Smart Sex” at Harvard University.

The MP3 file is here. (21 Mb) (Link in case that doesn’t work)

Topics:

  • the hook-up culture and its effects on men and women
  • cohabitation and its effect on marriage stability
  • balancing marriage, family and career
  • single motherhood by choice and IVF
  • donor-conceived children
  • modern sex: a sterile, recreation activity
  • the real purposes of sex: procreation and spousal unity
  • the hormone oxytocin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the hormone vassopressin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the sexual revolution and the commoditization of sex
  • the consumer view of sex vs the organic view of sex
  • fatherlessness and multi-partner fertility
  • how the “sex-without-relationship” view harms children

52 minutes of lecture, 33 minutes of Q&A from the Harvard students. The Q&A is worth listening to – the first question is from a gay student, and Dr. Morse pulls a William Lane Craig to defeat her objection. It was awesome! I never get tired of listening to her talk, and especially on the topics of marriage and family.

Don’t dismiss best practices for Christian living as “legalism” and “denying grace”

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

On Sunday, I listened to a very interesting discussion between Sean McDowell and Jessica van der Wyngaard on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable show. The topic was on the pros and cons of purity culture. I didn’t know a thing about “purity culture”, and had never read any books about it. I didn’t really disagree with anyone on the podcast, but I did want to say something about it in a blog post.

Description:

20 years ago Joshua Harris was the poster boy of the evangelical ‘purity movement’ having authored the bestselling book ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’. Today, Harris regrets writing the book, and has also recently changed his mind about Christianity.

Justin is joined by Jessica van der Wyngaard, director of the documentary film ‘I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye’, and Christian apologist Sean McDowell, to discuss purity culture, singleness and the Joshua Harris story.

The MP3 file is here.

First, here’s a brief summary of what everyone said on the podcast:

  • JW: the book urged people to give up dating in favor of courting and suggested other rules that would guarantee a successful marriage to your soul-mate
  • JW: some of the rules proposed by the book were not Biblical
  • JW: I’m not a virgin and I’m in early-30s, but I accept that we should teach what the Bible says about abstinence
  • SM: purity culture is the idea that if you remain sexually pure, God will give you a spouse and bless you in the future
  • SM: purity culture is the idea that if you have premarital sex, you will be tainted forever
  • SM: I’m afraid that those reacting against purity culture will build a sexual ethic solely based on their shame, their hurt, their concern about legalism, and this will not help the next generation
  • SM: let’s have a balanced Biblical approach to sexuality instead
  • SM: there is scientific data to back up the Bible’s teaching that marriages work better when sex occurs only within a marriage
  • SM: it’s a mistake to define your spiritual standing based on whether you are a virgin or not
  • SM: following the Bible’s rules for sexuality is an important part of discipleship
  • SM: the Bible is replete with examples of people restoring their standing before God through forgiveness and redemption

Right now, we are living in a secular culture where people are hooking up, having premarital sex, living together, and breaking up far more often than in the past. There is this pattern of choosing partners based on secular criteria: outward appearance and ability to entertain. And this approach to dating – choosing people for the wrong reasons, and trying to force a commitment using premarital sex – is now common practice, even among Christians.

I think people should have a plan to counter this trend that’s realistic and guided by studies and evidence. For example, studies show that people who have no sexual partners before marriage are more likely to still be married 10 years later. Studies show that cohabitation negatively impacts the stability of a future marriage. It’s difficult to accept that this is the way the world is, but if a stable marriage is a goal for you, then you should care about the best practices for having a stable marriage.

Take a different example. Suppose you have a lot of shame and bad feelings over having run up $90,000 of student loans. Now your retirement will be much more difficult. The answer to these feelings of shame is not to say that you can invoke “grace” and that will make everything OK. It won’t. It might help you to make better decisions going forward, but that debt is going to affect your future spouse, your future marriage and your future children.

There are real costs to these behaviors for your future, and being forgiven through Jesus’ atonement isn’t going to instantly make the effects of those choices disappear. It’s good to warn young people about these costs. It’s also good to help people who have made mistakes undo the damage by investing in them. I don’t want us to throw out evidence-based best practices as “legalism”, because they help us to reach the discipleship goals specified for us in the Bible.

The goals of the Bible (e.g. – not aborting, not divorcing) are good goals. If we find out from science that premarital promiscuity or cohabitation reduce our odds of achieving that goal, then it’s a mistake to dismiss that evidence because it make us feel bad about our past. It’s not legalism to investigate evidence and consult wise advisors in order to choose how best to achieve goals like marriage. That’s actually being wise.  Making good decisions doesn’t give you the right to be proud and compare yourself to others, but it is good to make good decisions for yourself, and to share your reasoning with those who ask you.

I agree with the speakers that purity culture is wrong to promise people a happy marriage if they only keep their virginity. That’s just the prosperity gospel, and it really is not a Biblical view of the Christian life.

People who choose to have premarital sex haven’t separated themselves from marriage. But studies indicate that they have damaged the stability of their future marriage if they do nothing to counteract the effects of their choices. And I think there is more to counteracting these bad effects than just stating to your partner “Jesus forgives me, so you can’t judge me”. The focus of the “no-rules because I feel ashamed” crowd doesn’t seem to be on taking the damage seriously and fixing it. Their focus seems to be on not being judged.

I don’t think that a cursory response (“don’t judge me!”) is adequate to undo the damage from premarital sex. But if a person is willing to be honest about their past, and put in the work to understand the effects of premarital sex on their future marriage, renew their minds, and re-establishing their bonding ability, then they should be able to fully counteract the damage. I have met people who have done this, and you can see in their choices and lifestyle that there’s been a complete turning against their former use of sex for fun and attention and self-esteem. It’s not “idolizing virginity and idolizing marriage” to look at the data, and make choices that are likely to lead to a stable marriage.

New study: As Christianity declines, so do stable relationships and marriage

Man and woman working on a computer upgrade
Man and woman working on a computer upgrade together

Mark Regnerus is a sociologist at the University of Texas, Austin. He publishes a lot of his books with Oxford University Press. So, his research methods are generally seen as reliable. I noticed that he had done a survey of views on religion, sexuality and marriage in 2018, and he published a popular level article about it earlier this week. I think it’s worth taking a look at his findings.

He writes:

Let me offer a word about the survey. I call it the American Political and Social Behavior survey, which interviewed 5,285 Americans in November 2018, just days after the midterm election. The data collection was conducted by Ipsos… a research firm with a very strong record of generating high-quality data for academic projects.

Here are his findings:

Views of unreligious, Catholic and evangelical Americans
Views of unreligious, Catholic and evangelical Americans (click to expand)

This is interesting:

Even when I limit the group to respondents below age thirty—which is just north of the median age at marriage in the United States—it is notable that 22 percent of the unreligious are married and 23 percent are currently cohabiting, not radically different from the 19 and 18 percent of Catholics that are married and cohabiting, respectively. For comparison, 37 and 9 percent of younger evangelicals are married and cohabiting, respectively. The cohabiting habits of the unreligious, however, have shifted—note the uptick in cohabitation—six percentage points in just under four years. That amounts to a 35 percent increase. Since it’s unlikely that the unreligious have recently changed their minds about the morality or pragmatics of living together, my bet is in the other direction: cohabiting leads many to no longer identify as religious at all.

Got that part in bold? Their attitudes are changing because of their sexual behaviors. So, if you want to reverse the decline of Christianity, we’re going to need to come up with some arguments and evidence to counter the sexual revolution. And on this blog, we’ve done that many times, looking at studies showing the future instability of marriages that occur after cohabitation. I’ve never heard a church preach on that, though. And it’s not something that even many Christian apologists focus on. Most Christian apologists, particularly the women, tend to focus on soft arguments,. They stay away from arguments about morality, because it’s divisive and abrasive to their desired audience. However, if the goal is persuading people that Christianity is a viable worldview, then we need to focus more on sexuality.

More Regnerus:

[O]n each of seven attitude measures I examined, the unreligious are notably more permissive than even the spiritual-but-not-religious (not shown). Nearly 80 percent of unreligious Americans agree (or strongly agree) that cohabitation is okay, no-strings-attached sex is okay, and abortion should be a legal right. This is all unsurprising. But even some of the more radically “progressive” attitudes demonstrate strong support among the unreligious: 24 percent agree that it is “sometimes permissible for a married person to have sex with someone other than his/her spouse.” (I thought perhaps women would differ from men here, but they didn’t—or at least not by much.) Although few Americans are actually in polyamorous living arrangements, the unreligious would support them should someone choose such an arrangement; 58 percent of them agreed that “it is okay for three or more consenting adults to live together in a sexual/romantic relationship,” a percentage that is far more supportive than Catholics or evangelicals. Among the latter, only 6 percent thinks polyamory could be okay.

A more interesting theme, however, is the surge in support for such alternatives. On each statement, note the rise in agreement that has occurred in just under four years. Polyamory tops the list—a 35-percent leap in the share of unreligious who now endorse polyamorous arrangements (from 43 to 58 percent). Even support for extramarital affairs grew by one-third (from 18 to 24 percent). The unreligious aren’t alone here. Catholics, too, have witnessed liberalization in attitudes. Evangelical numbers display a more modest uptick, and from lower starting points.

The non-religious people in my office who were raised Christian like to tell me that the existence of the Christian God isn’t important to them, because they can achieve marriage via cohabitation, and behave like good people without the need for any sort of framework to rationally ground it. They think that you can just pull out God, and the marriage will stay the same. They expect the people they start relationships with to act on Christian morality, even if the worldview was rejected as superstitious nonsense. But as you can see from the data, removing God has an enormous effect on the person’s ability to be stable and faithful.  The truth is that when you take out the vertical relationships with God, then the blueprint for the relationship becomes completely different. Relationships used to be seen as an enterprise where each person’s primary commitment was to lead and protect their spouse before delivering them to God with faith intact. Now, relationships are contingent on continuous happiness.

More Regnerus:

Only 66 percent of unreligious women say they are “100% Despite the permissive reputation of the unreligious, their actual marital sexual frequency is lower than that of Catholic and evangelical couples—at two instances in the past two weeks. As has been documented extensively in the past few years, the frequency of sex among American couples—whether cohabiting or married—has been declining at statistically significant rates. This pattern has not spared the godless.

I think this is interesting. I believe that men are facing an epidemic of sex-withholding from their wives, and I have an idea why that is. Today, women most commonly use sex to “jump start” a relationship with men who they perceive as “high value”, but who refuse to commit to them. This behavior is not focused on men who have commitment abilities, e.g. – provider, moral leader, spiritual leader, accurate worldview rooted in logic and evidence. Instead, most women use sex to get men who have the appearance of high value, e.g. – tall, tattoos, piercings, violent tendencies, exciting, fun, etc. Having established that pattern over and over with no-commitment bad boys, they marry someone who they see as beneath them, and then withhold sex. Commitment isn’t worthy of sex. It’s the man’s appearance and entertainment value that makes him worthy of sex. The comparison of this low-quality man to previous partners makes women more likely to initiate divorce for “unhappiness” later on.

Feminist explains how she chose to drink alcohol before recreational sex

College students puking in toilet
College students puking in toilet

Guess where I’m linking today? To a radical feminist web site named Jezebel, to an article written by a radical feminist who writes for the radically leftist Slate.

No, I’m not crazy. Just read it:

Much of the conversation around alcohol and sex has focused on assault—the line at which intoxication becomes incapacitation, for instance—but what we fail to mention is how haunted people can be by the sex they actually, technically consented to.

[…]I wonder what my sex life would even look like if alcohol hadn’t been there. Alcohol gave me comfort in my own body, and it allowed me to turn my erotic curiosity and hunger for experience into an action plan. I was tired of being the stuttering girl sucking in her stomach after the lights went out. I wanted to be the woman who roamed wild and free.

Alcohol also helped me cut the girlish strings on my heart, an action my college years demanded. Three months into my freshman year, I split a six pack with a dashing sophomore, and we wound up partially clothed on his bed, my bare legs wrapped around his waist, my hands around his neck. I pulled back slightly and asked him the question, the naive question of a girl who does not yet understand her fate: “What does this mean?”

He looked past me, into his studio apartment, and then back into my eyes. “It means that I’m a 19-year-old boy, and we’re having fun.”

What is interesting is that she didn’t see this man’s using her for fun after getting her drunk as any disqualification for a serious relationship. On the contrary, she believes that a serious relationship built on self-sacrificial love and commitment that lasts through difficulties can be found in a man who uses her for fun sex:

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy that night with the dashing sophomore. I’m saying the fun part for me might have been turning our physical intimacy into a sustained attachment.

Amazing. She wasn’t looking for men with good educations, good jobs, lots of savings, who were sober and chaste – they would have made her unhappy with their bossy leading, and strict plans about courting and marriage. She thought that she could get to live-long married love by choosing what was free, easy and fun in the moment.

She is 35 now, and still single. I’m sure if you ask her, she would like to be married “some day”, but who would say that her past decisions were good preparation for the challenges of marriage? Marriage is about self-sacrificial love, and endurance. To prepare for marriage, you practice self-denial and self-control. You learn how to accept expectations, obligations and responsibilities. You grow up.

Anyway, back to the article. She choose the alcohol herself, and she did it for a very specific reason:

I wanted to have fun, too. And alcohol evened the score. I cared less about everything when I was drinking: What you thought of me, what I looked like in this dress, whether that taco was warm or cold when I stuffed it in my mouth. I don’t want to make it sound like I drank in order to have sex. I drank for a million reasons.

[…]Booze downshifted my intense body consciousness, and it revved up my bravado. Sex was scary—but alcohol made me feel safe.

She drank in order to have sex. Got it? She chose to get drunk in order to feel safe about having sex. Many young women think that recreational sex with hot guys is a pathway to marriage. They drink in order to make progress towards the marriage they want – the marriage to the man who is fun. Not the man who is serious. They don’t want the serious man who makes plans for marriage, and expects the woman to sober up, behave responsibly and honor obligations.

Why are millenials acting like children into adulthood?
Why are millenials acting like children into adulthood?

This reminds me of the Institute for American Values study. Despite their name, it is not a conservative organization

Look at this citation from p. 15:

A number of students noted that being drunk could later serve as your excuse for the hook up.

A Yale University student said, “Some people like hook up because they’re drunk or use being drunk as an excuse to hook up.”

A New York University student observed, “[Alcohol is] just part of an excuse, so that you can say, oh, well, I was drinking.”

A Rutgers University student commented, “If you’re drinking a lot it’s easier to hook up with someone… [and] drugs, it’s kind of like a bonding thing… and then if you hook up with them and you don’t want to speak to them again, you can always blame it on the drinking or the drugs.”

[…]A University of Chicago junior observed, “One of my best friends… sometimes that’s her goal when we go out. Like she wants to get drunk so I guess she doesn’t have to feel guilty about [hooking up].”

I hope that many of the men out there who refuse to hold women accountable for their own desires start to understand that not everything a woman wants is good, and not every plan a woman makes will work. Sometimes, you need to calmly and constructively challenge them about their priorities, plans and actions. It’s for their own good.