What is the main difference between marriage and cohabitation? Why should we prefer marriage to cohabitation?
These were the questions that were floating around in the comments of my post talking about practicing failure. Studies have shown that those who cohabitate before getting married have twice the likelihood of divorce1. So, contrary to the “test drive” philosophy, cohabitation is not a valid way to make sure that you’re making the right decision.
And again, I posit that this is because cohabitation implies that you’re keeping something back– but what?
Holding Something Back
In some cases it’s the money. I know that there are some couples that have separate and joint accounts even after marriage. Some do this for good financial reasons (real estate and taking advantage of FHA loans). Some do this for control (his job, her job, my money). But this is not recommended2 if you intend to stay together. In fact, the joint checking account is the manifestation of two becoming one.
In some cases, it’s sex. Some people believe that sex should be saved until marriage. Shocking for some of you, I know. However, I find it very difficult to believe that there are many couples that are living together and are not physically intimate. It’s almost implied.
In most cases, it’s commitment. He’s said that he’s not ready to get married, or she wants to keep her options open. What they’re really saying is, there really is no reason to get married. Because our culture as taken away the incentives.
Milk, Cows, and the Price
Blame it on feminism, the sexual revolution, or no-fault divorce our society has told women (especially) that they can have it all and yet have nothing. They have been duped into trading security and companionship for insecurity and single parenthood.
Why women? Because women biologically bear children. They are usually the ones that want kids. They are the ones that want to nurture. And they are the ones that society sees as the caring ones3
But what worked in the past no longer works. Before, a man had to prove his worth through courtship before he was able to be intimate with her. HE had to promise commitment, and she depended on him. Their lives were mutually dependant on each other: He provided financially, she domestically. They needed each other physically and emotionally, and they formed bonds around these needs.
Today, men get sex for free– or reasonably cheap. Women are told that they are better off having a career, or multiple degrees. They’re not good enough if they are a good wife and mother– they need to do more than that. Their family isn’t a high enough calling. And they better make sure that they are secure.
Today’s young lady is told that men will leave them. They are told this through entertainment, experience, and the culture. They are told to expect this, to be prepared for it, and part of this preparation is to learn to be independent. They are trained from the earliest time that to try to learn to be a good wife and mother is a waste of their talent. And he’s undeserving.
And so, they don’t demand a higher standard. They don’t demand courtship, civility and commitment before they let the man have everything he wants. And they are the ones hardest hit when he leaves.
Why Marriage? Beyond the answer “that it was instituted by God because humans were not made to live alone” is the practical answer. It’s best for all parties.
It’s best for the wife– she has commitment in place, an actionable pledge from her husband to forsake all others. Contrary to what was stated in comments, there’s no pledge from a boyfriend that he will not flirt with waitresses, coworkers, or the hot girl at the beach.
It’s best for the husband– having a wife has a stabilizing effect on a boy. It matures him. It forces him to consider someone other than himself. It makes him less rash4 and it makes him take less chances with his life.
It’s best for the children– having two parents in a committed relationship stabilizes the family. The children see how two people interact (regardless of how well they do it or how much fighting goes on). They get to see both roles, and yet see how there is a love that holds two people together.
Marriage is important because marriage is all about the commitment. It’s two people pledging to one another that there will be no one else until death, that two people are promising to be with each other no matter what.
You don’t get that in cohabitation. In cohabitation you’re lucky to have today– because an argument over the remote could mean a break up.
- In one study, 63% chance if the couple had cohabitated, 33% if not
- Read through Yahoo Answers on the topic– each telling the guy not to get one is predicating it on a future divorce.
- Yes, I know that these are generalizations. Prove me wrong.
- Just ask the auto insurance industry why premiums for married men are less than for single men.