Monday, July 28, 2008

Cohabitation as "Trial Divorce"

One of those dangerous, damaging social phenomena which rarely gets much press or public attention, yet is enormously detrimental to society is cohabitation. Many view it as a trial marriage. A way to see if the relationship will work out. But Mike McManus, marriage expert and author of Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers, refers to it as "Trial Divorce" because 85% of the time they don't last.

In an interview McManus said:
Couples who live together are gambling and losing in 85 percent of the cases. Many believe the myth that they are in a “trial marriage.” Actually it is more like a “trial divorce,” in which more than eight out of ten couples will break up either before the wedding or afterwards in divorce. First, about 45 percent of those who begin cohabiting, do not marry. Those who undergo “premarital divorce” often discover it is as painful as the real thing. Another 5-10 percent continue living together and do not marry. These two trends are the major reason the marriage rate has plunged 50 percent since 1970. Couples who cohabit are likely to find that it is a paltry substitute for the real thing, marriage. Of the 45 percent or so who do marry after living together, they are 50 percent more likely to divorce than those who remained separate before the wedding. So instead of 22 of the 45 couples divorcing (the 50 percent divorce rate) about 33 will divorce. That leaves just 12 couples who have begun their relationship with cohabitation who end up with a marriage lasting 10 years.
This points out that cohabitation does just the opposite of encouraging folks to stay together. It increases the likelihood that they won't stay married once they do get married.

McManus calls marriage disintegration the "central domestic problem of our time... not the recession." Of course children suffers as does society. McManus points out that
"Children of cohabiting parents are perhaps ten times more likely to be sexually abused by a stepparent than by a parent. They are three times as likely to be expelled from school or to get pregnant as teenagers than children from an intact home with married parents. And they are five times more apt to live in poverty, and 22 times more likely to incarcerated."
While so much time and attention is focused on the symptoms of the problem, e.g. poverty, welfare, crime, juvenile delinquency, STDs, the major source of the problem is hardly even looked at -- breakdown of marriages and/or the failure to raise children in a marriage relationship.

Of course, the answer doesn't primarily lie with government, yet there are things government can and should do to improve the situation. For instance, move away from the no fault, unilateral divorce regime and establish joint custody/mutual parenting if couples do decide to get divorced.

Absolutely critical is for churches to honor the marriage commitment by giving moral clarity to the covenant of marriage both in its teaching and preaching and how they prepare people for marriage.

Cohabitation coupled with a 38% of out wedlock birth rate will only deepen the social crisis facing our nation. If we as a society don't get a handle on this we will only see greater and more serious social deterioration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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