April 17, 2012
Cohabitation is a rather academic term given to the situation where a man and a woman live together without benefit of marriage.
Cohabitation is common, and becoming more so. According to University of Virginia clinical psychologist Meg Jay, "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." (Source)
Interesting facts, but so what? Is there harm in living together before marriage?
Dr. Jay, who says of herself that she is "not for or against living together," nonetheless acknowledges that for "young adults ... far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake." Dr. Jay outlines many of the potential harms of living together without marriage, including a higher risk for divorce once married and less satisfaction in marriage itself.
According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one year of cohabitation leads to marriage only 27 percent of the time for "non-Hispanic white," 21 percent for "non-Hispanic black," and 14 percent for "Hispanic/Latina" women.
In their recent paper "162 Reasons to Marry," the director of FRC's Marriage and Religion Research Institute, Dr. Pat Fagan, and two researchers write that, "The future strength of our nation depends on good marriages to yield strong revenues, good health, low crime, high education, and high human capital." Makes sense: God is the author and sanctifier of marriage (Genesis 2:18-25, John 2:1-11), and His reliability has a pretty strong track record (100 percent isn't bad).
"Smart parents and smart societies pay attention to the state and strength of marriage," writes Dr. Fagan. Good counsel, that. Let's take it.