Cohabiting Before Marriage

by Floyd Chappelear
Sentry Magazine, June 2001

It has long been observed that marriages that are preceded by "living together" have a markedly higher divorce rate than those that are characterized by abstinence before marriage. One of the reasons that I have advanced is due to the fact that the two are not really one -- that is, they note who provides the furniture (or portions of it), who pays the rent, who pays the utilities, etc. They are living under the same roof but most assuredly are not living as one.

The following comments come from Jennifer Morse, author of the book Love and Economics:

"Many young people who have survived their parents' divorce are longing for life-long love, but have no idea how to make it work. Many of these young people see cohabitation as a way of avoiding a costly mistake that could lead to divorce.

"Unfortunately, research shows that couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to report unhappiness in their marriages ... and more likely to divorce. This result surprises some people, including the researchers who have uncovered it. But it is not a surprise when you consider that the marriage relationship is much more than a glorified roommate or business relationship.

"People imagine they are taking their potential spouse for a 'test drive.' The problem is that you cannot simulate commitment. Members of a cohabiting couple are likely to have one foot out the door throughout the relationship.

"Besides commitment, the other crucial ingredient of marriage is giving of the self to the other. You also cannot simulate self-giving. The members of a cohabiting couple practice holding back on one another. They rehearse not trusting." [From an interview by Jean Lopez, National Review Online].

As for those who tell me there is nothing in a marriage license (it is just a piece of paper), I tell them, "Prove it." Get a license and marry one another.

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