Marriage - Definitions / History / Statistics / Studies

Cohabitation: The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness will fill the air as each wedding approaches. But there is also a note of sadness here. By the time couples ask a priest, minister, or rabbi for marriage preparation, about 3  of 4 couples have been living together.

When asked, “Why are you living together?” the most frequent answers are: “Because we love each other and want to be together…We want to get to know each other before we get married, and liveing together is the best way to get to know soneone…We want to make sure that our marriage will last.”

On the face of it, cohabitation might appear to be a good way to prepare for marriage if it would lower the divorce rate, and especially if the stated reasons for doing so were valid.

But the contrary is the reality.

The sociology Department of both Duke University and Michigan University interviewed 30,000 couples who married after living together. The sociologists found that 80% of the marriages arising from cohabitation ended in divorce.

Would an 80% failure rate indicate that a cohabiting couple actually does not get to know each other very well? Living together offers little or no guarantee of a happy, successful marriage.

Why doesn’t living together achieve the hoped for objectives?

The net result of all these interviews boils down to one common element: In essence, the couples interviewed stated that the cohabiting relationship was a dishonest relationship. Dishonest in the sense that, while living together before getting married, the couple was incapable of being honest with themselves or with one another about their relationship and their feelings. Love and lust were intertwined.

What was going on? The individuals interviewed said that the attitudes, the ways of acting, and the patterns of behavior that each exhibited toward the other were making each of them feel uncomfortable. Part of the dishonesty of the relationship was the inability or desire to identify the precise nature of the discomfort.
Even if one or the other could identify the “uncomfortable feeling” they were experiencing, they were unable or unwilling to express it. That’s why these 30,000 couples described their relationship as “dishonest”. They just could not be honest with themselves, much less with one another, about what they were feeling and experiencing. They were living a daily lie.

Neither could say “I feel taken advantage of when you…” or, “You treat me as if you don’t respect me when you…” All these vague feelings are difficult to identify, much less express. Even if he/she can identify those feelings, the overpowering fear of “losing the one I love” was so dominant that nothing was said or discussed. Instead, these feelings were stashed away in the “once we’re married” file.

Then, after the wedding, usually within the first 3 years, one or the other grows sick and tired of the dishonesty. The fear of losing him/her is gone, and the time for honesty has arrived and the “once we’re married” file is opened. Out pops all of the pent-up feelings, the slights, and the misunderstandings. Everything that has been stored up is now used as ammunition for cheap shots.
Now honesty is the reality: “You’re not the same person anymore.” “You’re not the person I married.” The marriage often becomes another divorce statistic.
Most divorces occur within the first 3 years of the marriage when the couple is still childless; the rest occur during the next 7 years of the marriage, by which time there are usually 1-2 young children. Marriages that arise from a living together relationship have a guaranteed 80% failure rate within the first 10 years.
Not only is a cohabitation relationship a dishonest relationship, it is usually an extremely sex-oriented relationship. It’s the “If you loved me, you’d be with me” scam of adults. Instead of being a good preparation for a solid marriage, cohavitation is essentially a dishonest sexual relationship, nothing more. The lovemaking and the sex, instead of being the mutual self-giving of the marriage act, is, at best, mutual masturbation under the guise of marital intercourse. The object is self-gratification rather than a mutual giving of self for the enjoyment of the marital partner. The woman is his mistress, and he is her lord and master.
Not only do the marriages after cohabitation have an 80% failure rate, they also have the highest adultery rate. Well, why not? Given the primarily sexual orientation of cohabitation, it follows that those who see nothing wrong with sex and cohabitation also see nothing wrong with adultery. And so the games begin. Then, the marriage ends in divorce, and the cycle repeats itself. More often than not, this cohabitation relationship is not the first or second such relationship for either partner. Is the third time the charm? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?…
Cohabitation is a dishonest relationship and a mockery of the unity of marriage.

[“Cohabitation is a dishonest relationship”, Ed Cunningham, The Courier, 5/2002; Family Foundations, Jan/Feb2003]