Sunday, September 29, 2019

Cohabitation Before Marriage Essay

Does living together before marriage help or hurt relationships? This question has plagued couples for the last few decades, as both the numbers of those living together without being married and the rate of divorce has grown. I think living together before marriage can only help people avoid divorce, as they are given the chance to see what it is like to live with either the specific person, or a person for the first time. This also brings up the questions of why divorce rates are up and whether it has anything to do with living together before marriage. I bring certain prejudices about it, believing that living together before marriage does not negatively impact couples’ ability to stay together after marriage, as I have seen it work many times. In the end, I will attempt to make the connection between the two, if there is one, or explain why people think there may be. SOURCES: Hurley, D. (2005, April 19). Divorce Rate: It’s Not as High as You Think. The New York Times. Divorce Statistics Collection. Retrieved August 9, 2008, from http://www. divorcereform. org/nyt05. html Knadler, J. (2005, December). Is Five Years the New Forever? Cosmopolitan. Vol. 239, Iss. 6; pg. 149-152. Kramer, E. (2004, October). COHABITATION: JUST A PHASE? Psychology Today. Vol. 37, Iss. 5; pg. 28-29. Whether because of the instinct to procreate, emotional desire, or compulsion to follow social norms, human pair-bonding leads often to marriage. Defined as a social institution, religious sacrament, and personal commitment, marriage continues to evolve, growing to include a more relaxed attitude to divorce and the practice of cohabitation before marriage. Both of these subjects have sparked heated debates, with the issue of cohabitation before marriage being the latest movement in the realm of matrimony. While many opponents of cohabitation before marriage cite a lack of core family and moral values that have sanctified union through marriage for millennia, recent studies have shown that cohabitation before marriage is not only increasing in popularity, but may be beneficial compared to marriage first, as evidenced by the increasing divorce rate among married couples, the decrease of overall marriages, and the ever-changing landscape of marriage throughout history. Marriage between a man and a woman has long been the backbone of social cooperation and society itself. Marriage offered greater economic stability, the opportunity to produce heirs, and was often utilized as a tool to strengthen alliances between groups. Marriage echoed the foundational desire for societal regulations and norms, and like society, marriage continuously evolved, redefining itself and its purpose. From the days ancient Mesopotamia to Greece and Rome, marriage was largely a civic obligation. However, the proliferation of polytheistic religions as ultimate moral authorities transformed marriage into an expression of faith. Until the emergence of modern nation-states, most marriages were conducted under one or another religious regime. Starting with the Protestant Reformation, â€Å"most states took over their dominant religion’s marriage laws; debate has ensued ever since whenever a nation deviates from the still powerful religious rules that sanctify marriage† (Miller, 1999). Despite these dogmatic rules, outlawed actions such as unmarried cohabitation and divorce have become commonplace among couples, and the cause and effects are mixed. According to an analysis of new census figures by The New York Times, married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have slipped into a minority in the United States. The American Community Survey, released in October by the Census Bureau, found that â€Å"49. 7 percent, or 55. 2 million, of the nation’s 111. 1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier† (Hurley, 2005). This trend shows that less and less heterosexual couples are choosing to get married, instead preferring to cohabitate and have children without marriage. Cohabitation can have many important benefits that marriage cannot, even if it comes with no religious sanctification or government protection. Cohabitation before marriage can be for a variety of reasons. Some couples may use it to see if they can live with the person, while others may do it simply out of convenience, and still others may do it for more practical reasons such as to save money. Susan Sassler, a sociology professor at Ohio State University, interviewed undergraduate and graduate students who had been living with a romantic partner for at least three months and asked them why they decided to move in with their partners. Fewer than a third of interviewees reported discussing their ideas for the future before making the move, and even fewer had mentioned marriage in their discussions with their partners; nearly a fifth specifically stated that they weren’t using cohabitation as a trial for marriage, and the most commonly cited reasons for moving in together were â€Å"saving money, convenience and the need for housing† (Kramer, 2004). This study helps show that cohabitation before marriage is not necessarily anything more than a practical move on the part of the couple. Whether or not the couple gets married seems to be secondary to the mutually beneficial arrangement that can allow many young couples to pursue personal and professional goals more easily with the support system offered by such a thing as marriage, with the freedom offered by being single. In the United States, it is widely believed that one in two marriages will end in divorce, so while many couples live together out of sheer practicality, cohabitation may be a good way to avoid the increasing divorce rate. The rate of divorce today is considered to be roughly 43% by the National Center for Health Statistics but was moved back up to around 50% by the Census Bureau in 2002. Most recently, according to the New York Times, it has been revised downward to just over 40%. (Crouch, 2005) This lower figure could be due to the fact that less people are getting married and choosing instead to cohabitate, but it cannot be denied that less people are getting and staying married than ever before. The proliferation of cohabitation before marriage could be for a great number of reasons, including the increasingly fast pace of society, a more cynical view of traditional morality, or even the more evolved view that couples do not have to sanctify their union through religion or law. Studies on successful cohabitation are difficult to perform, and no concrete statistics such as divorce rates offer clear-cut answers to its ultimate success or failure. However, moving past religious and social dogma that often frowns upon cohabitation before marriage, it would seem to be preferential for young couples to do before getting married, and many have. According to Jessie Knadler of Cosmopolitan Magazine, â€Å"many couples today live together before they marry, roughly 70 percent versus less than 5 percent 40 years ago† (Knadler, 2005). While this number suggests that virtually all couples that marry live together first, it also leads to a pitfall that cohabitating couples must avoid, namely seeing marriage as the next logical step in the relationship. As evidenced in the Sassler study, many of these cohabitating couples are doing it out of practical reasons, sharing money, bank accounts, bills, and such; to move this arrangement into marriage without a strong foundation is a risky mistake that ends in divorce nearly half of the time. The casual acceptance of divorce in today’s society seems to offer couples an easy way out whenever they so choose, unlike a few short decades ago when divorce was considered taboo. Divorce ultimately costs not only the couple, but also society as a whole, in legal fees and wasted court time. While breakups are rarely pleasant, they can prevent many of these personal fights from entering the public arena. The success of any marriage, relationship, or partnership depends on the trust and commitment of those who enter into it. Cohabitation can be a good way to lead to marriage, but it takes work and honesty between both partners. If the partners see a future with each other, marriage is the next logical step. However, if they are living together out of convenience, perhaps marriage is a bad idea. And, while marriage continues to evolve and to some degree evaporate, human relationships will always be too complex and diverse to generalize. REFERENCES Crouch, J. (2005). Divorce Rates. Divorce Reform Page. Americans for Divorce. Retrieved August 9, 2008, from http://www. divorcereform. org/rates. html Hurley, D. (2005, April 19). Divorce Rate: It’s Not as High as You Think. The New York Times. Divorce Statistics Collection. Retrieved August 9, 2008, from http://www. divorcereform. org/nyt05. html Knadler, J. (2005, December). Is Five Years the New Forever? Cosmopolitan. Vol. 239, Iss. 6; pg. 149-152. Kramer, E. (2004, October). COHABITATION: JUST A PHASE? Psychology Today. Vol. 37, Iss. 5; pg. 28-29. Miller, M. (1999, March/April). What is Marriage For? : A Conversation with E. J. Graff. UU World Magazine. 37 pars. Retrieved August 9, 2008, from http://www. uua. org/world/0399feat3. html

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