Before we start, I want to make it clear that I think shacking up is a horrible idea. However, I'm at the point where I think marrying usually isn't a good idea, either.
In marriages, male-female ratios of violence are roughly equal – with women and men just as likely to initiate violence against their spouses. However, in cohabiting relationships, men are far more likely to initiate violence.Uh, so what do you mean? Getting married makes women just as violent as men?
Seriously, let's assume, first of all, that the stats are accurate, and assume that married men are less violent than shack-up men rather than women who are shacking up being less violent than married women.
What does it prove? That marriage makes men less violent? Or that less violent men are more likely to marry? Is there any way to tell for sure what is going on?
Hey, here's a wacky idea that just might make sense: don't marry or shack up with someone who is violent. It certainly isn't a good idea to tell a woman with a violent boyfriend that marrying him would be better than shacking up.
Studies in both the U.S. and Canada show that women in cohabiting relationships are about nine times more likely to be killed by their live-in partners than women who are married to their partners.See above. Maybe those women don't marry these guys because they know they are violent?
Married people typically earn more and save more than their unmarried counterparts – whether cohabiting or single.I would be very interested in how that is discerned. If a man earns $75,000 and his wife earns $50,000, does the data consider him to be earning $125,000 (meaning, taking her income into account)? See here, here, and here for more about this.
Again, though, which is the cart and which is the horse? Women are far more likely to marry a man who earns more, and many men are demanding that in order to marry a woman, she has to be earning substantial income herself. So of course married people earn more. And as I've said before, if a man is married, at least half of everything he's earned is legally his wife's, so an unmarried man who earns just over half of what I earn is ahead of me financially. Also, let's not forget that a married man spends a lot of time doing stuff he doesn't want to do, and time is money, and he also spends money on all sorts of things he doesn't want to. When shack-ups break up, the man usually doesn't have to give up half of everything he's ever earned, nor does he have to make ongoing payments to the woman, nor does he automatically have to pay child support for a child she conceived with someone else, as a husband would.
The poverty rate for children living in married households is 6%. It is 31% for children living with a cohabiting father and mother.
See above. Also, by shacking up, someone can more easily plead poverty in asking for government assistance, whereas if they married, their spouse's income would be taken into consideration.
A married man will spend about eight more hours a week doing household chores than his shacking-up peer.
Data on this varies wildly. Adams is citing this stat to women as an encouragement for them to marry. Fine. But men should see is as a reason not to marry. I wonder how much of the additional time is because of unnecessary requests or changing desires by the wife? I wonder how much more work a husband has around the house because he has a wife? So not only is a husband doing more housework, but he's also legally signed away half of his earnings. What a deal! Does that statistic compare homeowners to homeowners and renters to renters? If they don't I suspect married men are more likely to be homeowners than unmarried men, and homeowners are more likely to do chores in/on that home, right?
The numbers vary from 50 to 80% but it is clear that cohabitation before marriage significantly increases the chances that the marriage will end in failure.
Yeah, I’ve covered that extensively before.
Marriages not preceded by cohabitation have a risk of divorce well below the average, which is around 40%.
Assuming this are recent statistics, consider who doesn't shack up? Generally, very conservatively religious people. I know. I refused to shack up with any of my girlfriends even though more than one wanted to. Now, who is less likely to file for divorce even though their marriage is a living hell? Very conservatively religious people. So what are we saying here? Hey! Don't shack up, and you'll get stuck in a hellish marriage for the rest of your life because you have too much pride to divorce! (Now sure, some of those marriages aren’t hellish. But some are.)
I'm pleased to report that her little sister devoured the book in a couple of sittings. I'm even more pleased to report that less than a week after she finished reading it, she packed up her things and moved out of her boyfriend’s apartment.
And thus, she contributed to the statistic that shacking up correlates to not marrying. Hey, if this book gave her the push she needed to get out of a bad relationship, great. However, if it caused her to throw away a good relationship that would have resulted in a happy, lasting marriage, is that a good thing?
Townhall takes comments. KrankyMike had some good input in more than one comment:
My wife and I cohabited for 14 months before we got married, and we are still married 28 years later.
I also cohabited with another woman before I met my wife. This woman and I loved each other with an intensity that that defies description and intended to get married, but we discovered that we couldn't live together no matter how much in love we were.
Cohabitation saved me from making a mistake and reassured me that I was doing the right thing later on.
Cohabitation, like many things, is what you make of it. It is neither bad nor good in itself but only a superficial description or your living arrangements. The important things are love, commitment, integrity, sexual compatibility, trust and a host of other things. I doubt that it causes marriages to fail that would otherwise succeed, and people who fail after cohabitation would not do better if they married instead.
I recall reading something a while ago about the marriages of my parent's generation. There were often unpleasant surprises and disappointments after the wedding, and marriages were often sexually unfulfilling. The only difference between then and now is that people stuck it out. You were not on this earth to enjoy yourself.
Sex without "marriage", if you are talking about the modern ceremony has been the exception rather than the rule throughout history, and our present day practices bear little to those of Biblical Jews, Romans, or Greeks.
Adam and Eve never had a wedding unless I missed something, and I don't think that any specific rite or ceremony is mentioned in the New Testament.
For most of history, marriage just meant living together and raising a family. And while I don't presume to speak for God, those people may have been just as married in His eyes as I am.
On the other hand, modern marriage is a just legal minefield concocted by lawyers. As the legalisms pile on, rational people might look to "shaking up" as not such a bad idea.
Cohabitation is just a word that describes a living arrangement. It says nothing about the relationship, which is the important thing.
My experience is similar to that of Dr_Zinj: shacked up for over a year and then 28 years married. Also shacked up with another woman before that, and discovered from that experience that we were not meant for each other. Thank goodness we found out without the messiness.
One of my closer acquaintances has never cohabited, was a virgin when he married for the first time, and has been divorced three times, and is currently unattached, too poor from child support payments to date.
The data do not prove causation, only association. Maybe people jump into cohabitation more casually than marriage, bu that does not mean that cohabitation causes anything.
He was referencing Dr_Zinj, who commented:
My wife and I cohabitated for 10 months before we got married.
Heck, we cohabitated for 3 months before I even popped the question and gave her a ring. And yeah, we fornicated like mad bunnies back then.
That was 30 years of marriage ago, and we're still going strong.
Don't be so sure about a woman's virginity in past eras. I certainly wasn't conceived in wedlock; and a whole lot of woman throughout the ages went to the alter in a family way.
Part of the difference is whether a man (or a woman) is as good as their word, or has an ethic of personal responsibility. Having a marriage certificate doesn't do much when you can get a no contest divorce immediately after the honeymoon; that's just an expensive one-night stand and a chance to rip your friends and relatives off for gifts.
Dr. Adams - Thank you for a thought provoking column. I'm a retired guy married only once to my current spouse of 37 years. We each lived at home before we got married ... no cohabitation. Our oldest son cohabited with a woman for 7-8 years right out of college. I told him once, and only once, that my wife and I did not approve of the situation but he went ahead anyway. We were very fond of the young lady and were excited when they became engaged to be married. The whole thing fell apart 6 months before the wedding. Our youngest son began dating a woman, 9 years his senior, 3 years ago. Things seemed to be very serious between the two of them when she took a job in another city 350 miles away. After 6 months, she asked him to join her. I couldn't believe I was advising my son to move in with the woman and see if they could make things work. They got married 4 months ago after living together for 18 months.
I think that most successful marriages are a result of each individual dedicating themselves to the other and working together to build a life, a home, a family (maybe), etc. Yes, the fabulous, romantic relationships do fade over time and then people are left to ponder if the life they have build together is really solid, loving, and comfortable. While 20 years ago I NEVER would have suggested that my two sons cohabitate, I think in most cases it does provide a glimpse, an incomplete picture, of what life with the potential mate might look like. I think it gives the participants a view as to potential compatibility but again, so much of marital success relies on people working out their differences, respecting each other, and building something TOGETHER
Again, I think shacking up is a bad idea because, even spiritual issues aside, I think the difficulty in breaking up and leaving a shack-up situation keeps people in bad relationships even after they know it is a mismatch or bad or even downright abusive. It's true for married people, too; it is much easier to go ahead and divorce if you’re already separated physically (and especially financially) than if you're living together. I think my own case is an example. I think I would be more likely to go ahead and file divorce if we were already living apart.
Then there's the whole thing of establishing patterns of interaction as an unmarried pair of people that might carry over, harmfully, to being a married couple.
So is the benefit of getting to know what it is like to live with someone before legally marrying them outweighed by the risk of staying in a relationship longer than you should or carrying over "unmarried" patterns into the marriage? I tend to think yes – in general. In individual cases it might not work that way, especially if someone is aware and resolves not to stay in a bad relationship any more time just because they are living together and resolves to truly think of the wedding as a death to unmarried life and a rebirth into married life, even if they've been shacking up for years.
As for me, no matter what happens ahead - Lord forbid divorce or being widowed - I would never shack up. Although, I might consider living in the home of a wealthy unmarried woman and not giving her any sex. Just kidding. I think.