The NATIONAL MARRIAGE PROJECT provides the latest and most reliable data available to marriage, divorce, cohabitation, fragile families with children, and youth attitudes about marriage and family. They have two updated reports: “Should We Live Together? What Young Adults Need to Know About Cohabitation Before Marriage” and “The State of Our Unions: 2002” (available mid-June 2002); 732.932.2722.
Finding #1. Those who are sexually active before marriage have greater behavioral problems.
According to a study reported in Pediatrics, early sexual activity leads to serious behavioral problems. Of 1500 girls studied, non-virgin girls were 2.5 times more likely to have used alcohol than virgins, 6.2 times more likely to have smoked marijuana, and 4.3 times more likely to have attempted suicide. Boys were seven times more likely to have been arrested or picked up by police. Those living together often do so to “prove” their love to their partner.
Finding #2. Those who live together before marriage abuse each other more often and more severely than dating couples or married couples.
Numerous studies have found that physical attacks are clearly much more common and more severe among live-in couples than among those who are married (e.g., Scott 1994:79; Jackson 1996 and others below). The U.S. Justice Dept. found that women are 62 times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a husband (Colson 1995). Those who cohabit in college have twice the rate of violence and twice the rate of physical abuse than in marriage (Johnson 1996). Dr. Jan Stats of Washington State University, one of the most noted researchers on the issue of cohabitation found evidence (Stets 1991:670) “that aggression is at least twice as common among cohabitors as it is among married partners. During a one-year period, about 35 out of every 100 cohabiting couples have experienced physical aggression, compared to 15 out of every 100 married couples.” She also found that “approximately 14 percent of those who cohabit admit to hitting, shoving, or throwing things at their partner during the past year, compared to 5 percent of married people” (ibid. P.674). A recent study at Penn State University (Brown & Booth 1997) confirmed that cohabitors argue, shout and hit more than married couples. The Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire found after studying 2,143 adults that “cohabitors are much more violent than marrieds (Yllo and Straus 1981:339). They specifically found that the overall rate for “severe” violence was nearly five times as high for cohabitants when compared with marrieds. Marriage inhibits male violence. Another study found that spousal killings are higher in common law unions (Wilson and Daly 1992:197). The National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the U.S. Justice Department shows that of all violent crimes against women by their relatives or intimate partners between 1979 and 1987, about 65 percent were committed by either a boyfriend or ex-husband, while only 9 percent were committed by husbands. The evidence is convincing. Statscan, a Canadian government agency, reported “in a one year period, one in every five women who live in common law is assaulted- and those with male partners under 25 are at most risk.”
A recent British study found that child abuse was twenty times more common in cases where the mother was cohabiting with a man other than her husband.
Finding #3. Those who live together before marriage suffer from greater depression and anxiety.
Sexually active unmarried women are almost four times more likely to be under psychiatric care (John McDowell [b], Why Wait quoting Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, Sex and Sensibility). Cohabiting women have rates of depression 3 times higher than married women (National Institute for Mental Health). Nearly 25% of cohabiting women suffer from neurotic disorders, compared to 15% of married women. Cohabiting women are more irritable, anxious, worried and unhappy (Ciavola 1997). Unmarried people, in general, tend to get sick more often and die younger (McManus n.d., Ross et. al., 1990 and Stanton 1995). Married men and women report less depression, less anxiety and lower levels of other types of psychological distress than do those who are single, divorced, or widowed (Mirowsky & Ross 1989).
Finding #4. Those living together before marriage are not as happy.
A survey of fourteen thousand adults over a ten-year period found that less than 25% of those who were single or cohabiting said they were very happy with their life in general, compared to 22% widowed, 15% separated, 18% divorced and 40% of the married (Waite & Gallagher 2000:67). At the other end of the scale, married people were about half as likely as singles or cohabitors to say they were unhappy with their lives. There is a powerful body of new research clearly showing that marriage offers a huge advantage in mental and emotional health (e.g.., Marks & Lambert 1998; Horwity et.al. 1996 and Waite & Hughes 1999). A review of more than 130 empirical studies from the 1930s to the present, indicated that married people generally live longer, are more emotionally and physically healthy, are happier, and are more likely to recover from cancer than unmarried people (Coombs 1991).
Finding #5. Those who live together before marriage have unhappier marriages.
A study by the National Council on Family Relations of 309 newlyweds found that those who cohabited first were less happy in marriage. Women complained about the quality of communication after the wedding. A physical relationship is an inadequate foundation upon which to build a lasting lifelong relationship. A study by researchers Alfred DeMars and Gerald Leslie (1984) found that those who live together prior to marriage scored lower on tests rating satisfaction with their marriages than couples who did not cohabit. A study by Dr. Joyce Brothers showed that cohabitation has a negative affect on the quality of a subsequent marriage (Scott 1994). Cohabitors without plans to marry were found to be more inclined to argue, hit, shout and have an unfair division of labor than married couples (Brown and Booth 1997).
Finding #6. The median duration of cohabitation is 1.3 years (Bumpass & Lu 1998; Wu 1995).
- Long-term cohabiting relationships in America are far rarer than successful marriages (Bumpass & Sweet 1989: 615-25).
- Low levels of religious importance/ participation are related to higher levels of cohabitation and lower rates of subsequent marriage (Markey 1999; Krishnan 1998; Lye & Waldron 1997; Thornton, Axinn & Hill 1992; Liefbroer 1991; Sweet 1989).
- Cohabitation rates are 4.1% for those aged 15-19, 11.2% for 20-24, 9.8% for 25-29, 7.5% for 30-34, 5.2% for 35-39, and 4.4% for 40-44 years of age (Natl. Center for Health Statistics, 1995). The Census Bureau finds that cohabiting is most popular in the 24-35 age group, with 1.6 million couples. The next highest number of couples — 931,000 — are in the under-25 age group.
- Those not completing high school are nearly twice as likely to cohabit as those completing college. Some 30 to 40% of college students are cohabiting at any given time; 41% of women without a high school diploma cohabit whereas, 26% of women with college degrees cohabit. Marriage for cohabitors is positively related to higher levels of education and economics. (Qian 1998; Bumpass & Lu 1998; Johnson 1996; Thornton, Axinn, Teachman 1995; Willis & Michael, 1994).
- If a couple abstains from sex before marriage, they are 29 to 47% more likely to enjoy sex after marriage than those who cohabit. Sexual satisfaction rises considerably more after marriage (Hering 1994:4).
- The majority of cohabitors either breakup or marry within two years (Bumpass 1994).
- Fifty percent
to 60% of first time cohabitors marry the person with whom they cohabit; 76% report plans to marry their partner, but a lower percentage actually do so (Brown & Booth 1996 and Bumpass & Sweet 1989). Ten percent to 30% of cohabitors intend to never marry (Bumpass & Sweet 1990).
- Women who cohabited are 3.3 times more likely to have a secondary sex partner after marriage than non-cohabitors (Forste & Tanfer 1996).
- Over a quarter of unmarried mothers are cohabiting at the time of their children’s birth (Bumpass, Raley and Sweet 1995:425-36).
- Half of currently married stepfamilies with children began with cohabitation and two-thirds of children entering stepfamilies do so in the setting of cohabitation rather than marriage (Bumpass, Raley and Sweet 1995:425)
- Four of every 10 cohabiting couples have children present, and of children born to cohabiting couples, only 4 out of 10 will see their parents marry. (Horn 1998)
- About 40% of cohabiting households have children (U.S. Bureau of Census).
- About two-fifths of all children in America spend some time living with their mother and a cohabiting partner (P. Smock, Ann. Rev. Sociol. 2000).
- Those who experience disruption in parental marriages, especially women, are more likely to cohabit. (Axinn & Thornton 1993; Kierman 1992; Black & Sprenkle 1991 and Bumpass & Sweet 1989).
Finding #7. Those who live together before marriage have higher separation and divorce rates.
- Cohabitors who do marry experience a 50% higher divorce rate (Horn 1998).
- Cohabiting couples have an 80%+ chance that their relationship will end: 40% breakup before they marry; the other 40% divorce within 10 years of marrying. Those who live together before marriage are the least likely to marry each other. A more comprehensive National Survey of Families and Households, based on interviews with 13,000 people, concluded, “About 40% of cohabiting unions in the U.S. break up without the couple getting married.” One of the reasons may be that those who cohabit drift from one partner to another in search of the right’ person. The average cohabitant has several partners in a lifetime.
- The risk of divorce after living together is 40 to 85% higher than the risk of divorce after not living together. In other words, those who live together before marriage are almost twice as likely to divorce than those who did not live together (Bumpass & Sweet 1995; Hall & Zhao 1995; Bracher, Santow, Morgan & Russell 1993; DeMaris & Rao 1992 and Glen 1990).
Psychology Today reported the findings of Yale University sociologist Neil Bennett that cohabiting women were 80% more likely to separate or divorce than were women who had not lived with their spouses before marriage. The National Survey of Families and Households indicates that “unions begun by cohabitation are almost twice as likely to dissolve within 10 years compared to all first marriages: 57% to 30%.” Another 5-year study by William Axinn of the University of Chicago of 800 couples reported in the Journal of Demography that those who cohabit are the most accepting of divorce. In a Canadian study at the Univ of West. Ontario, sociologists found a direct relationship between cohabitation and divorce when investigating over 8,000 ever-married men and women (Hall and Zhoa 1995:421-427). It was determined that living in a non-marital union “has a direct negative impact on subsequent marital stability,” perhaps because living in such a union “undermines the legitimacy of formal marriage” and so “reduces commitment of marriage.”
A 1992 random-sample survey of 993 Christianity Today subscribers found that 78 percent of those who have been divorced engaged in sexual intercourse prior to marriage. The study also found that those who had engaged in sex before marriage were more likely to commit adultery than those who had no premarital sexual experience. (CT Inc. Research Department, “Christianity Today Marriage and divorce Survey Report,” July, 1992.)
Finding #8. Those who are sexually active before marriage are much more likely to divorce.
A study of 2,746 women in the National Survey of Family Growth performed by Dr. Kahn of the Univ of Maryland and Dr. London of the National Center for Health Statistics found that non-virgin brides increase their odds of divorce by about 60%. Some would argue that cohabitation does not automatically mean that sex is taking place. However, cohabitation and sexual relations are related or that there is a strong correlation between them. Sex usually does accompany cohabitation (de Neui n.d.); Webster’s Dictionary, in fact, defines cohabitation as “living together as or as if husband and wife.” Therefore, the assumption is made throughout this writing (granting some occasional exceptions) that cohabitants do have sexual relations.
Finding #9. Those who have had premarital sex are more likely to have extramarital affairs as well.
Premarital sexual attitudes and behavior do not change after one marries Research indicates that if one is willing to experience sex before marriage, a higher level of probability exists that one will do the same afterwards. This is especially true for women; those who engaged in sex before marriage are more than twice as likely to have extramarital affairs as those who did not have premarital sex. When it comes to staying faithful, married partners have higher rates of loyalty every time. One study, done over a 5-year period, reported in Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles indicates 90% of married women were monogamous, compared to 60% of cohabiting women. Statistics were even more dramatic with male faithfulness: 90% of married men remained true to their brides, while only 43% of cohabiting men stayed true to their partner (Ciavola 1997). In another study published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family researchers analyzed the relationships of 1,235 women, ages 20 to 37, and found that women that had cohabited before marriage were 3.3 times more likely to have a secondary sex partner after marriage (Forste and Tanfer 1996:33-47). It was also found that married women were “5 times less likely to have a secondary sex partner than cohabiting women” and that “cohabiting relationships appeared to be more similar to dating relationships than to marriage.”
Finding #10. Those who live together are likely to have a fleeting romance rather than a lasting relationship.
A romance is not the same as having an ongoing relationship. Relationships take time and work to develop and maintain; romance is a positive feeling toward another person. Romance without relationship is a brief encounter at best. Romance, in today’s disposable society, is hastily devised and easily discarded at the first sign of conflict or disillusionment. There is no lasting commitment when times get tough. Good relationships are built upon knowing and enjoying each other on social, recreational, intellectual, spiritual (moral, innermost being), and communicative levels, not only the sexual level.
Finding #11. Those who have “trial” marriages do not have better marriages.
Trial runs or half steps, to test whether the relationship “works” are not successful, in fact quite the opposite is true. Research indicates that couples who live together before marriage have significantly lower marital satisfaction than those who do not cohabit and they have weaker marriages, not stronger ones. Conventional wisdom says it is acceptable to have a “trial period” to “try the shoe on first to see if it fits” or to “test drive a car before you buy it.” For marriage, however, just the opposite is true! A newly married couple makes a deliberate effort to accommodate each other because they know their relationship will be for life. They want to build compatibility, not test it. (Harley 1996). Walter Trobisch said that, “sex is no test of love, for it is precisely the very thing that one wants to test that is destroyed by the testing.” Laura Schlessinger, host of the nation
ally syndicated “Dr. Laura” radio show, scolds people nearly every day for “shacking up with your honey.” It’s the “ultimate female self-delusion,” she says, listing cohabiting as one of the “Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives” in her book of the same name. “Dating — not living in — is supposed to be about learning and discerning” for a prospective mate, she says.
Finding #12. Those who live together have no lasting commitments or responsibilities.
Cohabitation involves “no public commitment, no pledge for the future, no official pronouncement of love and responsibility. Theirs is essentially a private arrangement based on an emotional bond. The commitment’ of living together is simply a month-to-month rental agreement. “As long as you behave yourself and keep me happy, I’ll stick around.”
Marriage, on the other hand, is much more than a love partnership. It is a public event that involves legal and societal responsibilities. It brings together not just two people but also two families and two communities. It is not just for the here and now; it is, most newlyweds hope, ’till death do us part.’ Getting married changes what you expect from your mate and yourself Jessie Bernard in “The Future Of Marriage” states: “One fundamental fact underlies the conception of marriage itself. Some kind of commitment must be involved… Merely fly-by-night, touch and go relationships do not qualify. People who marry til death do us part have a quite different level of commitment, therefore a quite different level of security, thus a quite different level of freedom, and as a result a quite different level of happiness than those who marry so long as love doth last. The love doth last folks are always anticipating the moment when they or their mate wakes up one morning and finds the good feeling that holds them afloat has dissolved beneath them.”
Finding #13. Those who live together miss something in the maturing process.
In this “alternative lifestyle,” the aim is to have all the benefits & privileges of a mature, married person without accepting the responsibilities which maturity demands. Crudely stated, “why should you buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Our society encourages people to focus on the present and live for today “if it feels good, do it”. But the act of formal marriage implies an emphasis on the future. Cohabitation also points to a missing ingredient in the process of becoming mature: the willingness to make commitments and live up to them. A willingness to defer immediate pleasures in pursuit of a worthwhile goal is a mark of maturity. People who make a commitment and accept total responsibility for their choices are more likely to develop self-respect, personal pride, and integrity. Persons who go from one relationship to another develop patterns opting out of a stressful situation rather than hanging in there and dealing with it; these patterns can carry over into a marriage (Anonymous n.d.). [See resource on relationship maturity and also on Health Reasons, www.members.aol.com/cohabiting]
Transitioning from adolescence to full adulthood is provided by marriage. People settle down when they get married. George Akerlof (1998:287-309) notes that when men delay or avoid marriage, they continue with the often antisocial and destructive behaviors of single men. And it’s the role of husband – not boyfriend or father – which seems to be the key: having children by itself does not work the same transformation in men’s lives. Joseph Barth has said, “marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.”
Finding #14. Those living-together avoid dealing with some of the joint decisions that married couples have to make.
For example, money and property tend to be either ‘his’ or ‘hers’, not ‘ours’. Consequently, it isn’t all that important how he or she spends his or her money. In-laws are rarely a factor; they often disapprove and stay aloof from the couple. Nor do most in-live arrangements have to adapt to children (Dunagan 1993).
Finding #15. Those who live together often have a “marriage of convenience” or a “marriage of compatibility” rather than a marriage of commitment.
“Marriages of convenience” are disposable while marriages of commitment are lifelong and not to be dissolved. Commitment means being determined that the two of you will stick it out no matter what (“whether in sickness or in health . . . so long as you both shall live”). When there is an agreement without commitment it is easy to give up. When there is a commitment ahead of time, you hang-tough through good times and the bad and don’t bail out at the first sign of trouble. As one pastor put it: “Imagine building a wonderful house, but without nails. In the first stiff wind, it will collapse” (McManus n.d) Leo Tolstoy said that “what counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.”
Finding #16. Those having premarital sex may be fooled into marrying a person who is not right for them.
Sex can emotionally blind. Real love can stand the test of time without the support of physical intimacy. “If you establish a mutually satisfying sexual relationship, you lose objectivity and actually cheat on the test of time. The only way to rationally decide whether your love is for keeps is to remove any preoccupation with eros, sexual love. Otherwise you may marry a mirage, not a person you really know.”
Finding #17. Those living together have superficial & significantly weaker relationships.
Researchers have found that couples who live together before marriage have weaker marriages (DeMars and Leslie 1984). Anyone can make love, but not everyone can carry on a meaningful conversation. A good relationship is much more than physical intimacy. Beauty is more than skin deep; there is a deeper intimacy of the mind and spirit that takes the time and commitment of a marriage to develop to the fullest. Physical attraction is insufficient glue with which to build or maintain a lasting relationship. Another study at Johns Hopkins University again confirmed that couples who cohabit have quite different and significantly weaker relationships than married couples (Schoen and Weinick 1993:408-414). They determined that men and women looking for someone with whom they could cohabit search for “characteristics such as education which can reflect a short-term ability to contribute to the relationship.” The researchers found, “While cohabitors anticipate time together, married persons anticipate a lifetime.” They also discovered that most cohabitations end within two years and that “cohabitations are not informal marriages, but relationships formed by looser bonds.”
Finding #18. Those who live together have more difficulty resolving conflicts.
Attempts are made to resolve conflicts with a hug, kiss, or more–rather than developing the ability to talk through them. The qualities that hold a relationship together – trust, honesty, openness, deep friendship, spiritual intimacy – take time and effort to develop. When you focus on the physical aspect, you short-circuit that process. Physical intimacy is a mistaken attempt to quickly build emotional bridges, but relationships built on such an inadequate foundation eventually collapse. A recent study at Penn State University (Brown & Booth 1997) comparing the relationship qualities of 682 cohabitors and 6,881 marrieds, (both White and Black, aged 19 to 48 years of age), found that cohabitors argue, shout and hit more than married couples.
Finding #19. Those who live together before marriage can kill the romance.
Women most often see living together as romantic, while the man views the arrangement a “practical” solution that will help them iron out differences and strengthen their love (Scott 1994:80). In fact, live-in couples may find it harder to build lasting love precisely because they have lost their starry-eyed, romantic “illusions.”
Finding #20. Those who live toget
her before marriage often lay a foundation of distrust and lack of respect.
Mature love is built on the security of knowing that your love is exclusive. There is no one else. Premarital intimacy causes you to wonder: “If he or she has this little control with me now, have there been others before me and will there be others in the future too?” As suspicion and distrust increase, you slowly lose respect or the other person. The trust factor is an important ingredient in a healthy marriage–the knowledge that each partner can relax and be him/herself at the most intimate level without the fear of doing something that will drive the other away — is missing from the living-together arrangement (Anonymous n.d.). Premarital sex lays the groundwork for comparisons, suspicions, and mistrust. Real trust grows in the context of the life-long commitment within a monogamous relationship of marriage. The National Sex Survey found that cohabiting men were about four times as likely as husbands to report infidelity in the past year. Cohabiting women were eight times more likely than wives to cheat on their partners (Laumann et.al., 1994).
Finding #21. Those who live together do not experience the best sex.
The best sex is found in the marriage relationship. It is reported that if a couple abstains from sex before marriage, they are 29 to 47 percent more likely to enjoy sex afterward. In a study by Dr. Evelyn Duvall and Dr. Judson Landis, evidence was found that premarital sex was not as satisfying.
A study by Linda Waite, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Chicago and reported in “Psychology Today,” found the frequency of satisfaction rose considerably after couples adapted during marriage. Married people lead more active sex lives. While cohabiting couples have similarly high levels of sex, married men and women have more satisfaction in the bedroom. That’s because married people know the tastes of their partner better and can safely cater to them, while the emotional investment in the relationship boosts the thrill.
A recent Michigan study, found that individuals who have never cohabited outside of marriage were more likely to rate their relationships stronger than those who have cohabited (49% of non-cohabitors rated their relationship a “10,” compared to 36% of those who have cohabited) (Michigan Family Forum 1998).
Also see a Times Magazine article on sexual satisfaction. In another recent study by the Family Research Council titled “What’s Marriage Got to Do With It?” found “72 percent of all married ‘traditionalists’ (those who strongly believe out of wedlock sex is wrong and attend church weekly) report high sexual satisfaction. This is roughly 31 percentage points higher than the level registered by unmarried ‘nontraditionalists.'”
Sexual happiness grows only through years of intimate relationship. The height of sexual pleasure, usually comes after ten to twenty years of marriage ( Fryling 1995). Good sex, Frying says, begins in the head. It depends on intimate knowledge of your partner. The Bible uses the words “to know” to describe sexual intercourse (e.g., Adam “knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore” a son (Gen. 4:1). Real love described in scripture elevates human sexuality from mere animal sex to intimate expressions of love and commitment. Psychiatrist and medical researcher David Larson, after researching the subject with Mary Ann Mayo, says that “The most religious women are most satisfied with the frequency of intercourse . . . and were more orgasmic than are the nonreligious” (Larson and Mayo 1994:14).
In two new large surveys, the first know as the National Sex Survey of 3,500 people (Laumann et.al., 1994) and the second of 1,000 people (Stanley & Markman 1997), it was found that married people have both more and better sex than singles do. They not only have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally, than do their unmarried counterparts.
Cohabitors do have more sex than married couples, but they don’t seem to enjoy it as much (Waite & Gallagher 2000:79, 83). For men, 48% of husbands say sex with their wife is extremely satisfying emotionally, compared to just 37% of cohabiting men. For men, 50% of husbands say sex with their wife is satisfying physically, compared to just 39% of cohabiting men (Waite & Joyner n.d.).
It is believed that commitment is the secret ingredient in marriage that increases sexual pleasure for both sexes. A person committed to making love with only one person in life has a strong incentive to learn how to best please that person. The energy and attention that is devoted to their spouse increases the sexual satisfaction. Having sex with someone you love and who knows how to please you literally doubles your sexual pleasure. Paradoxically, selfless love brings far greater sexual satisfaction to the relationship. Married people enjoy sex more not only because their partner is more available, less distracted, more eager, and more able to please, but also because marriage itself adds meaning to the sex act. The expectation of permanence of relation provides for the highest sexual satisfaction. This directly contradicts the popular notion that sex is always the most fun with a new person.
Finding #22. Those who live together have very high and increasing rates of health-destroying and dangerous behaviors.
A survey entitled “Monitoring the Future” followed the attitudes and behaviors of high school seniors through the next decades of their lives and found that young men and young women who cohabit in adulthood are different from their peers who don’t, even while still in high school (Bachman et.al., 1997:173-74). Cohabitors drank more, used more marijuana and cocaine than those who made the choice either to marry or to live singlely.
Finding #23. Those who live together and stay single are at high risk of premature death.
Unmarried (including divorced, widowed and single) people are far more likely to die from all causes, including coronary heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, many kinds of cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, automobile accidents, murder and suicide – all leading causes of death (Waite & Gallagher 2000:48). For both men and women, being unmarried is one of the greatest risks that people voluntarily subject themselves to (Cohen & Lee 1979:707-22). Being unmarried can actually be a greater risk to one’s life than having heart disease or cancer. For example, having heart disease shortens the average man’s live expectancy by slightly less than six years. But, being unmarried takes almost ten years off a man’s life. “How much can getting married do for you?” asks Waite and Gallagher (2000:47); “it can literally save your life!” A literature review published in the Journal of Marriage of Family (Ross et. al., 1990:1061), found that compared to married people , the nonmarried . . . have higher rates of mortality than the married: 50% higher among women and 250% higher among men!
Finding #24. Those who choose to marry rather than live together live longer and healthier lives.
This is primarily because singles often lead unhealthy and risk-filled lives. A large body of research confirms folk wisdom: Married people really do settle down, while those who aren’t married voluntarily behave in ways that endanger their own life and health. Singles are more likely to smoke, to drink heavily, to drink and drive, to drive fast, to get into fights, and to take other risks that increase the chances of accidents and injuries (Ross et. al., 1990:1059-78 and Umberson 1987:306-19). One might say, “cohabiting has settled me down, therefore I’m not at high risk.” Cohabitation however, does not confer the same kind of health benefits as does marriage. Cohabitation and marriage are, in fact, very different. There is something about marriage itself which improves the years and quality of life. Among the reasons for this, say Waite and Gallagher (2000:47-64), is that marriage has
(1) Social Support. Spouses encourage healthy behavior that
in turn affects emotional and physical well-being: regular sleep, a healthy diet, moderate drinking, schedule and monitor each other’s checkup and health habits and compliance with doctor’s orders.
(2) Emotional Support. Helps people recover better, manage chronic disease and can actually boost the immune system.
(3) Financial Support. Higher incomes boost access to health prevention, treatment and long-term care. The heavier commitment of marriage brings with it long-term concern over your spouse’s future well-being not found in cohabitation.
Finding #25. Those who live together are at high risk for having an unwanted pregnancy.
If their purpose for cohabiting is as a trial relationship, then any pregnancy is unwanted. Some cohabitors are teenagers (e.g., those who leave home early and first and second year college students). According to the National Center for Health Statistics, births to unmarried teenagers have continued to increase astronomically: 56% in the 1950s, 119% in the 60s, 38% in the 70s, and another 19% in the 80s. More than 1 million teenage girls will get pregnant this year and nearly a half of these pregnancies will be aborted. Half of the children born out of wedlock never complete school and most end up on welfare.
Finding #26. Those who live together are at high risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
It has been said that when you have sex with a person who has been sexually promiscuous, then you have sex with everyone with whom that person has previously had sex and therefore can potentially catch whatever disease any of them have contracted. There are at least three health concerns related to cohabiting: STDs, HIV/AIDS, and cancer.
First, according to the Center for Disease Control, cases of STDs have tripled in just six years. Approximately 15.3 million new cases occur annually in the United States; one in four of the victums are under 20. Five of the 11 most common reportable infectious diseases in this country in 1998 were STDs (and that doesn’t include the most common STD’s, herpes and HPV – human papillomavirus). There are about five dozen STDs including chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, and genital warts and if left untreated, can lead to arthritis, brain damage, heart disease, infertility, and even death. Nearly two dozen STDs are incurable. Most who cohabit today, especially women, are teens or in their twenties. It is in this age group that STDs are growing fastest. One study over a 5-year period found that 6.3% of cohabiting women had been to STD clinics for treatment compared to only 1.1% of married women (Ciavola 1997). Josh McDowell [b] (1987) says that STDs do not recognize a person’s religious or moral beliefs, only his or her actions. HPV is the fastest spreading STD in the U.S. It causes genital warts and over 90 percent of cancer and pre-cancer of the cervix. About 5,000 American women die of this HPV-associated cancer each year.
Second, AIDS continues to be a very real danger. Even though there are new drugs and vaccines which slow its progression, there is still no cure from catching it. Annually about 10,000 teenagers contract HIV, and when it develops into AIDS, is always fatal.
Third, according to gynecology researcher Dr. Thomas Elkins of the University of Michigan, when a person has three or more sexual partners in a lifetime, the odds of getting cervical cancer jump fifteen times!
[from www.members.aol.com/cohabiting, used with permission]
“Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?”