May 29, 2022

The Problem of Cohabitation

In Love
In Love (Photo credit: StephenandMelanie)

John Curtis, Ph.D., of had an extensive comment to Practicing Failure, a post on this site that talked about the problem of cohabitation.  So, I figured that it’d be beneficial to address some his point1.

1) Years of judgment & fear-mongering have done NOTHING to discourage cohabitation.

I would say that this statement does not present an adequate representation of the current culture’s feelings toward cohabitation.  I believe that there are, today,  many more people that are tolerant, or don’t know what to say about cohabitating couples.  If anything, the current culture is much more open to the arrangements, and has done the opposite of judge them.

If you want to look at the result of true judgment and “fear-mongering” you’d have to go back prior to the 1960s, where you’d find that it was shameful to not have a husband and to be pregnant, or to be “shacked up” with someone.

Though there are common law marriages that would respect the amount of time that a couple spent together unmarried, I believe that a short bit of research would show that it was actually quite easy to be common law married—sometimes all it took was to be recognized publically as someone’s wife/husband.

2) The U.S. leads the world in divorce but lags in cohabitation, but that is rapidly changing.

This is not a positive development.  It just proves that we fail to keep promises, we base relationships on passing feelings, and that we’re accepting something that’s morally flawed.

3) We must “reinvent” and raise our expectations of cohabitation, and our attitudes toward those who decide to live together.


I mean, seriously, why should we choose to elevate something that does not provide the best framework for a couple and their kids, and instead embrace a situation where there is no stability—or little stability.

I mean, what are you going to do?  Start imposing rules and structure like “you’ll split the possessions if you leave each other”—how is this any different than the status quo?

If our time should be spent “reinventing” something, I would propose that we should spend our time teaching our kids that they should form relationships on something more than how they feel about someone.  We should teach them money management, conflict resolution, etc. so that they don’t enter into these relationships on a whim.

4) Understanding cohabitation means understanding that our motives for cohabitation have undergone a drastic transformation.

This is partly because of “divorce avoidance” but it’s also part of a lack of the ability to make a commitment.  I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interests to encourage them to sleep around, to treat others as disposable, etc.  We should be encouraging keeping commitment—keeping promises.

5) Cohabitation could be a long-term, permanent trend OR an experimental cycle that will end in failure.

Nothing’s permanent.  Just like the current problems with marriage have led to two different movements—the covenant movement and the cohabitation movement—cohabitation will ebb and flow depending on what we do with the next generation and how the economy goes.

As for the last point, cohabitation is really a byproduct of an affluent society, and I believe that you will find that women will want the security of marriage when they begin to be worried about who will provide for their kids, etc. when the government stops being the safety net.

That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons that cohabitation is flourished.  Without a safety net, it would be much more risky to enter into this kind of relationship when it could quickly leave you homeless, without possession and with kids to care for.

Cohabitation isn’t just a poor option, it’s a bad one.  And attempting to promote it  (as this man’s site attempts to do) is foolish at best, and evil at worst.

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  1. I will not be reprinting the e-mail in total, due to its length, not content []

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