Marriage Is Just a Piece of Paper - Part 2
- Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The sad reality is that cohabitants feel less secure in their relationships than married couples because they view their sexual relationships as less permanent and exclusive. They are less faithful to their partners than spouses. Even when they are faithful, they are less committed to sexual fidelity, which creates more insecurity because “levels of certainty about the relationship are lower than in marriage.”11
Marriage means “I will always be here for you.” Marriage encourages emotional investment in an exclusive relationship. In contrast, cohabitation means, “I will be here only as long as the relationship meets my needs.” Contrary to popular belief, the majority of live-ins don’t lead to marriage! Only an estimated 60 percent end in marriage.12 Those who are afraid of commitment and permanence—or who fear that these qualities can no longer be found in marriage—may settle for cohabitation, but they are likely to discover they have settled for less. Couples who live together before marriage are 46 percent more likely to divorce than people who marry but never lived together.13 No one has ever found that cohabitation makes a positive contribution to later marital stability, regardless of what you see on the latest sitcom.
If failed marriages and relationships aren’t enough to prove that living together is high-risk and low-benefit, check this out: Cohabiting women are more likely than married women to be the victims of physical and/or sexual abuse. Some estimate domestic violence is at least twice and as much as three times as common among live-in couples as it is among married people.14
I talk regularly with casualties of cohabitation. Kathy, a cute high school sophomore, confided in me after an all-school assembly that she loved the abstinence message and wanted to embrace secondary virginity. She thought it was a great idea and she hoped to find an example of a good marriage. Her parents were high school sweethearts but never got married. She and her sister had only seen their biological dad twice.
She told me, “I really want to share this message with my mom, but I don’t think her boyfriend is going to like it.”
“Who cares what he thinks,” I challenged her. “She has to do what’s best for her and her children.”
“You’re right,” she said, “but her boyfriend lives with us and he’s kind of abusive.”
At this point I thought to myself, Here we go again . . . same story, different girl. As we talked further, she began to reveal the dark secrets of her life, which unfortunately fit perfectly into the statistical profile of a child of cohabitation.
Cohabiting women are more likely than married women to be the victims of physical and/or sexual abuse.
This young woman and her sister were both molested by one of her mom’s previous live-in boyfriends, and when her sister told the mother, she didn’t do anything about it. Some women think that living with someone will help in the raising of their children, but cohabitation increases the chances that a child—male or female—will be abused. Boyfriends are disproportionately likely to sexually or physically abuse their girlfriend’s children. In fact, the most unsafe family environment for children is when the mother is living with someone other than the child’s biological father.15
The abuse, as you can imagine, heaped a great amount of emotional distress on both this young woman and her sister. She told me that she wanted to go to college, but her mom didn’t have the money. She didn’t know where her father was, and she had no right to support from any of her mother’s previous “partners” who were not her biological father. She and her sister paid the economic price for her mother’s life.
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