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MAYBE LIVING TOGETHER ISN’T AS SMART AS IT LOOKS

By JUDITH and STEPHEN SCHWAMBACH

LANSING, MICHIGAN (AIS) - In the United States, June is still the traditional month to get married. In fact, countrywide, U.S. couples are tying the knot at a rate of about 6,400 weddings per day. In all, more than half of the adults in the United States are currently married.

But compared to 30 years ago, that percentage is down significantly – from just over 60% in 1970. What’s responsible for the change? The biggest single explanation may be the soaring cohabitation rate in this country. In the 1990s alone, the number of couples living together without benefit of a marriage license jumped more than 70%. Today, nearly eight million of us maintain unmarried households.

At first glance, the logic behind this major sociological experiment seems hard to argue against: With the divorce rate so high, why not “test drive” the relationship before you buy?

But as always, the real proof is in the results. Now that so many of us have tried living together, the social scientists have finally had plenty of people to study. We are able to measure all our past theories against the facts. So now that the data are in, we can answer the big question: Compared to marriage, does cohabitation work as well as it seems it should?

No. It doesn’t.

What follows is a brief snapshot of some of the more revelatory findings:

1. 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

2. Women who cohabit are 3.3 times more likely to cheat on their husbands after marriage than non-cohabitors.
-Forste & Tanfer 1996

3. Overall, cohabitating couples have less healthy relationships than married couples.
- Jan E. Stets, "The Link Between Past and Present Intimate Relationships," Journal of Family Issues, 114, 1993, page 251.

4. The U.S. Justice Department found that women are 62 times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a husband.
-Colson, 1995

5. Compared to non-divorced married couples, people who cohabit are 3 ½ times more likely to experience major depression.
-Lee Robins and David Regier, Psychiatric Disorders in America: The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study, New York: Free Press, 1991, page 72.

6. Couples who live together seem to grow more distant from God.
-Markey 1999; Krishnan 1998; Lye & Waldron 1997; Thornton, Axinn & Hill 1992; Liefbroer 1991; Sweet 1989.

7. The relationships of cohabitating couples are characterized by more drunkenness, adultery and drug-abuse than married couples.
-Michael D. Newcomb and P.M. Bentler, Assessment of Personality and Demographic Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success, Journal of Personality Assessment, 1980, p.16

8. Cohabiting women are more irritable, anxious, worried and unhappy.
-(Ciavola 1997)

9. Married people live longer and generally are more emotionally and physically healthy than their unmarried counterparts.
-Goldscheider, Thornton, Young and DeMarco, Brown University and University of Michigan, “A Portrait of the Nest-Leaving Process in Early Adulthood”, Demography 1993.

10. Married people report a higher degree of satisfaction and happiness in the workplace than do those who cohabitate.
-Loscocco and Spitze, “Working Conditions, Social Support, and the Well-Being of Female and Male Factory Workers,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 1990.

11. The more education you have, the less likely you are to cohabit. Those not completing high school are nearly twice as likely to cohabit as those completing college.
-Qian 1998; Bumpass & Lu 1998; Johnson 1996; Thornton, Axinn, Teachman 1995; Willis & Michael, 1994.

12. Married people do not feel as lonely and bored.
-Page and Cole, “Demographic Predictors of Self Reported Loneliness in Adults,” Psychological Reports, 1991.

13. Couples who abstain from sex before marriage are 29% to 47% more likely to enjoy sex afterward than those who live together before marriage.
-Hering, 1994.

14. Brown University and the University of Michigan found that cohabitors were 10 times more likely to end up back at home with their parents than those who married.
-Frances Goldsheider, Arland Thornton, and Linda Young-DeMarco, A Portrait of the Nest-Leaving Process in Early Adulthood, Demography, 1993, p. 694.

15. Married people have the most sex. Married people have the best sex.
-"Sex in America" University of Chicago Study, Time, Oct. 17, 1994.

Bottom line? Perhaps never before – for so many – have the ancient words of the Bible rung so true: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

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The Amy Internet Syndicate consists of 21 award-winning authors who write opinion columns from a biblical perspective for secular newspapers on issues of the day. Their columns are made available via the Internet to 1,500 daily and 10,000 community newspapers nationwide.

 


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