Cohabitation Not Always Best Path

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 20, 2009 | Go to article overview

Cohabitation Not Always Best Path


Byline: Julie Baumgardner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When I teach classes to teens or 20-somethings, I often ask, When you are thinking about marrying someone, what is the best way to see if you are compatible? Whether they are religious or not, conservative or not, inevitably the answer is, You should move in together.

Not long ago, I heard a presentation by an older, conservative, religious male researcher and a younger, liberal, feminist researcher on this very topic. You might assume it was a heated debate. Surprisingly, it was quite the opposite. In spite of being opposites in so many ways, when it comes to cohabitation, Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades are on the same page.

Based on the research, living together is clearly here in a big way and is not going away anytime soon, said Mr. Stanley, research professor and co-founder of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. Learning how to live with cohabitation doesn't necessarily mean you are endorsing it. We all need to understand the implications of living together for couples and for society as a whole.

The latest statistics indicate that 60 percent to 70 percent of couples live together before marriage.

At this point, cohabitation is a short-lived relationship stage, said Ms. Rhoades, senior researcher at the Center for Marital and Family Studies. Most of these relationships either break up or they marry within two years. The age of first marriage has been rising dramatically, yet people are forming significant relationships long before marriage that ultimately impact the marriage relationship.

Studies indicate that people who choose to live together tend to already have risk factors for divorce, such as divorced parents, less education, less religious commitment, less favorable attitude about marriage and more favorable attitude about divorce. In fact, based on current numbers, it would be highly unlikely to find a couple living in the same town that didn't live together before marriage, unless they are religious. Research is showing, however, that even people of faith are going against their values and living together.

When people were asked why they lived together, the most popular answer was to spend more time together. …

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