Should We Live Together Before Marriage?

should we live together before marriage

[Guest Blog by Pam and Bill Farrel. Pam is my mentor and has gone above and beyond to help me publish my first three books. They are also one of my upcoming speakers at Quarter Life Conference. Don’t forget to register here.]

Should we live together before marriage?

The whole area of how to know you are in love, how to know if this is Mr. Right or Ms. Right, then how far to progress sexually at what commitment level seems to be a grand mystery in today’s world. Often couples today are opting for a live-in, cohabiting arrangement.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, cohabitation increased 533 % from 1970-1992.

Many states are even seeking to legitimize these domestic partnerships with laws giving them the same status and privileges as married couples. But is living together really the same as marriage? Before packing your bags and moving in together, consider these startling facts:

Children ARE affected.

40% of all cohabiting couples also have children living in the household with them. 27% of all births are to couples co-habitating rather than marrying.

These kids are at risk. 84% of non-parental abuse upon children are committed by the mother’s boyfriend. According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, girls living in a home with a boyfriend (not a step father or father) are at a much higher risk for sexual abuse.

It’s not a safe place for a woman. 

During a one-year period, 35 out of 100 cohabitating couples experienced physical aggression.

Domestic violence is twice as likely among live in couples as compared to married couples. In one study by the Journal of Family Violence, 48% of couples living together experienced domestic violence, compared to19% of married couples and 27% of those divorced or separated. There seems to be a correlation that the less societal and relationship commitment is expressed, the more violent the relationship becomes. The marriage license does seem to be a shield of protection for many married women—most likely because the man in her life valued her enough to take the steps to express his commitment to her in a marriage ceremony.

Cohabitation sets you up for divorce.

Those who live together prior to marriage are twice as likely to divorce if they do get married.

And the longer the cohabitation—the more likely divorce is, according to sociologists at the University of Wisconsin. Those who live together separate more often if they do marry and they also regard the relationship as a less important part of their life. It seems cohabitation trains couples to disregard the love relationship—just the opposite of what most couples would cite as their reason for living together.

Studies show that other problems usually accompany a live-in relationship.

According to a UCLA study, cohabiting relationships are also more likely to be plagued with the problems of adultery, alcohol, and drugs.

Those who live together prior to marriage are more likely to commit adultery both while living with their partner and if they marry. In addition, one study found that cohabitating women were more jealous than married women, and they had a higher emotional dependency on the male live-in partner. Many developed a pattern of few friendships, no job advancement aspirations and few outside interests.

Cohabitating couples, when asked to rate the quality of their relationship, give them much lower marks than married couples. Women in these relationships feel less secure economically and emotionally, and have a much higher rate of depression.

Three out of every four cohabitating couples cited that they thought their relationship was in serious trouble.

Why does cohabitation or living together set a relationship up for failure?

Several studies suggest that those who refuse to make a step of commitment as expressed in marriage do so because they are very individualistic. This is a nice way of saying they are selfish. Those who co-habitate are less likely to express personal character traits that foster a good relationship: sacrifice, humility, flexibility, empathy, and the ability to delay gratification.

In the nearly 20 years Bill and I have worked with couples, we have seen that those who cohabitate usually also have unhealthy priorities, like living together so they can have a huge fancy wedding several years later.

However, if the relationship even makes it that far, later it is plagued by the pattern of money being more important than the relationship. It becomes, the job winning over the spouse, or earning money winning over being there for the children. There also is a lack of decision-making skills which was set in motion because the couple refused to make a decision on the most important areas of life, living to please God, and choosing if they were committed to a relationship enough to marry. Finally, the drawback few people talk about, but Bill and I have seen over and over again, is those who cohabitate prior to marriage are more likely to be discontent or have problems in their sex life. Trust is the most important factor a woman needs to experience total sexual fulfillment and trust is broken rather than built in a live-in relationship.

Cohabitation is the pathway to a broken heart that has become very popular in our modern world.

In a study reported in Adolescence, 24% of males and 18% of females actually cohabitated. But astoundingly, 71% of the males in that study and 68% of the females were totally open to cohabitation despite the evidence of its ineffectiveness. If you are intent on being in a relationship, marriage is much more than a piece of paper—it is a ticket to a happier, more fulfilling life together.

Farrel_394 b p hugBill and Pam Farrel are the Co Founders and Directors of Love-Wise an organization that encourages today’s couples and families by bringing “practical insights to personal relationships” in an upbeat, humorous, and real life manner. They are international speakers, and authors of over 30 books including best-selling Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti. Bill has experience as a Senior Pastor, Youth Pastor and most recently, as Pastor to Small Groups under Dr. David Jeremiah. Pam has experience as a Director of Women, Pastor’s wife, and mentor. She is also the founder and President of Seasoned sisters, a ministry to women 40-65. ( Their books have been translated into over 16 languages. They have been happily married for 32 years and are parents to three children, a daughter in law , two small granddaughters and a new grandson. The Farrels live in San Diego, Ca.

[Excerpt from Single Men are like Waffles, Single Women are like Spaghetti (Harvest House)]

[Photo: Patty Maher, Flickr]