submitted by Familjakana February 2006
If it succeeds – all well and good! If it doesn't – no harm done!
No legal binds! Sounds like the perfect solution: before making a full commitment, take a trial run. Live with your partner to try things out before making a binding decision. If things work out, it’s fine! If not, no harm done!
That’s how some people think, nowadays. But in fact, it’s not true that no harm is done.
When a couple cohabits without marrying, a lot of damage is done to the relationship. Love in a married commitment puts the relationship on a sound foundation. Cohabitation leaves the couple vulnerable and uncertain about the commitment one partner has to the other.
A number of studies have shown that couples who lived together before they got married were more prone to marriage break ups. It seems to indicate that people who lived together on a short term basis before marriage tend to have a short term commitment even after marriage.
It’s not such a good idea
Call it anything you want: cohabitation, living together, living in sin…it is a growing tendency. Unfortunately the consequences resulting from people living together without a married commitment are also growing.
Some would argue and cohabitation and marriage are the same. Here are some myths people believe in:
“We are only living together for the time being. When we feel we’re ready, we’ll get married.”
Only 30 percent of couples in a common law relationship eventually get married.
“We want to try out how we get along together. Our marriage would be more successful after living together for a short time.”
Statistics prove that the rate of marriage break ups among couples who lived together before marriage is 80% higher than couples who did not cohabit before marriage.
“When we get married, we’ll get along better”
35% of couples who cohabited before marriage have experienced physical violence in the first 12 months of marriage. This is more than double than those couples who did not cohabit before marriage – which is 15%. The three biggest problems faced by people who cohabited before marriage are: alcohol, infidelity and drugs.
“All we want is to save some money before we marry so we won’t start off with nothing.”
Men living with their girlfriends before marrying, are more likely to be unemployed (even after marrying) than men who do not cohabit with their girlfriends. Women who lived with their boyfriend before marrying generally have to work full time to make up for the loss of income from their boyfriend.
How can one get out of cohabitation?
If you come to the conclusion that it was not such a good idea to enter into a cohabitation arrangement before marrying, how do you get of this situation?
1. If you have not stated living together, don’t do it!
Even if you think “everyone’s doing it!” or even if you think all you've read so far in this article is not likely to happen to you, our advice to you is not to do it. If there is a potential risk involved, why take it?
If you truly love each other and plan to marry some day, why get into a situation that can lead to a 30% likelihood of a break-up? Even if you do marry, why risk becoming part of a statistic that says you have an 80% greater likelihood of marriage break-up than other couples who did not cohabite before marrying?
2. If you are already living together, put an end to it!
The fact that you stop living together does not mean that your relationship comes to an end. It only means that you revert to a more appropriate situation of two sweethearts, or an engaged couple, in which each party tries to attract the other ever more to him or herself. It means spending more time preparing for married life by learning more about your partner.
Try to analyze the reasons why you decided to take this step in the first place and seek ways of addressing them without resorting to cohabitation.
3. If the person you are living with wants to continue with the present situation…
….ask yourself if it is worth continuing in the relationship. Ask the other party why he or she loves you enough to live with you, but not enough to revert back to a situation that allows you to build a life-long commitment to each other. Is this not the type of commitment the other party wants?
4. Seek support
If you decide to move out of the place where you cohabit, you must be prepared to go through a difficult period of transition. However, you must realize that something worth doing, is not always easy to do. It may be one partner does not accept or understand why the other partner has taken such a step and decides to end the relationship. Missing the sex is another difficulty faced when ending a cohabitation arrangement.
If missing sex becomes a major difficulty, there is support that can be provided to help ease the problem. Seek the advice of people who share your convictions and who agree with your decision to end cohabitation. Seek the help and advice if a priest or a counselor to add support to your decision. Do not try to go it alone, because the lure of an easy way out is very powerful and you might end up back where you started.
5. Get married!
Why not? If you really love each other and cannot live without each other, what were the reasons that stopped you for marrying in the first place? Examine those reasons and see how serious they are – and if upon reflection, they are not all that unsurmountable, get into a marriage preparation course. This will help you discover if you are truly meant for each other, and what are the shortcomings that need to be worked on. If, on the other hand, you find that you are not the partners one hoped for, why continue delaying the decision to end the relationship?
Life is too short to waste away your lives with the wrong partners.
Problems arising out of Cohabitation
We can learn a lot about this subject from studies done in the United States – firstly because of the large number of studies done in the Unites States, and secondly because what happens abroad will likely be copied a few years later in Malta. We can therefore learn a great deal from mistakes of those who tried things out before us.
According to the latest statistics, there has been an increase of 72% in the number of couples who cohabit since 1990. Unfortunately, cohabitation is not producing good results and has led to an increase in depression and domestic violence.
Naturally, this does not mean that all those who choose cohabitation will end up separated or victims of domestic violence. Even if one were to make such a statement, people tend to believe that this will never happen to them!
What are the findings of some of these studies?
• Couples in cohabitation are less happy in their relationship than married couples.
• There is a greater likelihood that a woman is abused by her live-in boyfriend than a wife by her husband.
• There is a greater likelihood that children are abused by a live-in boyfriend (even if he is their biological father).
• If a couple marries after a period of cohabitation, they are generally less happy than a couple who married without cohabitation, and there have a greater likelihood of ending up in separation or divorce.
Many approach cohabitation as if they were buying a car – you take it out for a trial run before making a decision to purchase it. They think it is a “trial period” during which they learn about each other and discover whether they can get along.
This is a very widely held argument, and to many it seems like a very strong one. But in accepting it, they are ignoring the very strong evidence that facts prove it to be false, and the reality is the very opposite to what they hope.
Taking a car for a test drive is fine, because the car has no feelings if it is rejected. The driver, on the other hand, derives all the benefit from the exercise.
In the “trial period” justification for cohabitation before marriage, there is nearly always a party who is “rejected” and who, unlike the car, ends up very hurt.
Cohabitation can be likened to someone who gives a signed, blank cheque to another person because he or she trusts him or her. There always remains the anxiety of how and when that blank cheque is going to be used, especially if that trust on which it was based becomes threatened by tensions or disagreements.
The very fact that cohabitation is considered by many as a trial period, means that both parties are still examining each other to find fault, with no commitment to either accept or work to adapt to one another. The essential elements of trust and determination to make things work are either weak or missing.
The “New Virginity”
The media give the impression that no one is able to live without having sex. It is a fact that pre-marital sex has increased greatly, bit it is also true that a new trend is establishing itself among young people.
This is being called the “New Virginity”. It began in the 90’s when some young people began to abstain from sex before marriage for religious reasons, others to avoid the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and others because they were not yet ready for the kind of intimacy that sexual relations entail.
Those 90’s teenagers are now adults, and many of them are still abstaining. Larger numbers of youths and adults are now joining them, even though some of them have already had sexual experiences.
The new phenomenon is being called “secondary virginity”. Some of the people involved have had sexual experiences, but felt that there was something missing. They are looking for love - a love lasting a lifetime, and they are resolved to wait for the right person and the right moment, even if it means breaking up with people they are dating if they do not agree with their decision. They know they cannot change the past, but they certainly can build a new future.
The media would have us believe that people who wait to have sex only after they marry, are missing out on something. But people who put off having sex until they marry the right partner, say that they experience really great sex and married happiness. Many studies and surveys conducted in America show that those who experience sex very early in life are unhappy about their married life, have low self esteem and a high rate of separations and divorce.
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