Couples Who Live Together Less Happy Than Married, More Likely to Break Up
Evidence overwhelmingly supports biblical view on commitment, say reports
by Andy Butcher
Don Weston receives some heated e-mails at the Web site he started to persuade young couples not to live together before marriage. But the evidence from mainstream researchers overwhelmingly backs the stand being made by the Nazarene pastor in Lansing, Mich.
While more and more couples are choosing moving in over walking down the aisle, the statistics clearly show that their relationship is much more likely to break up. “When you look at the data, it becomes difficult to maintain the position that marriage isn’t better,” sociologist Pamela Smock told “USA Today.”
Most couples who live together marry or break up within 18 months, she has discovered. Only 1-in-6 couples are still living together after three years, and just 1-in-10 after five years. Smock’s University of Michigan study found that “live-ins” are less happy than married couples, less sexually faithful and less financially well-off, said the newspaper.
Meanwhile, those who go on to marry after living together are far more likely to end up divorcing. University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite details how living together can undermine marriage in her forthcoming book, “The Case for Marriage.” “Cohabiting changes attitudes to a more individualistic, less relationship-oriented viewpoint,” she told “USA Today.”
While affirming the biblical view for commitment and marriage, the latest figures also highlight a major problem for many pastors, said Mike McManus, founder of the Marriage Savers preparation and mentoring program. Adopted by hundreds of churches across the country, the movement has seen divorce rates slashed in several communities.
“I have been struck by the embarrassed silence of Protestant leaders about cohabitation,” he said. “Many feel caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they are concerned if they say something, the couple will simply go down the road and get married elsewhere, and on the other they close their eyes to it and condone immorality.
“But there is a middle ground–and that is to give evidence to the couple that cohabitation is unhelpful for them and their relationship and will likely lead to serious problems. Most people in cohabiting relationships call it a trial marriage, but it should really be a trial divorce.”
Weston started his initiative at South Church of the Nazarene after recognizing an opportunity to reach out to people who may not have anything to do with the church. Four out of five couples wanting him to marry them are usually living together, he said.
He decided to produce pamphlets detailing why cohabitation is a bad idea, which he hands to couples asking about marriage. After talking with them about the evidence, each couple he has counseled in the last two or three years has agreed to live apart and end their sexual relationship until they married, he said.
Weston has taken his campaign further afield, drawing several hundred visitors each week to his Web site where he posts research articles and runs a bulletin board for people to swap their opinions and seek advice.
Amy Desai, marriage and family analyst at Focus on the Family, said living together was “clearly a bad choice,” and that research consistently showed that couples who did had lower relationship quality, less stability, more disagreements and a higher risk of abuse.