TW Viewpoint | Cohabitate or Wait

June 14, 2017 | Winston Gosse

Moving in with your significant other is an important decision and should not be taken lightly. Are there repercussions to living together before exchanging wedding vows? Should you cohabitate or wait?


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In today's world some question the need for marriage and choose to simply cohabitate for various reasons. They may even refer to traditional marriage as impractical!

It is not uncommon to hear of young couples wanting to "make sure" that they "suit each other" before they make the commitment to marriage, like a "tryout" of sorts, a kind of "test run" of their relationship by cohabitating but with no "real strings attached."

And on the surface, to many this sounds practical and makes a whole lot of sense, but does it?

Some equate moving in together to a major purchase, a 30 day money back guarantee type of thinking, if it doesn't work return it to the store and get your money back - or in the case of a couple - each gets their "life back" - "but we can still remain friends."

Glenn T. Stanton the director for Family Formation Studies for Focus on the Family, in his book "The Ring Makes All the Difference" provides a very interesting insight on this subject comparing marriage to cohabitation. Mr. Stanton, in his referencing of James Q Wilson's research, states:

"Scholars increasingly regard cohabitation as a substitute to being single, not an alternative to marriage."

Stanton goes on to say: "Other studies confirm that cohabitation is closer to singleness than to marriage in terms of contributing to well-being outcomes. The key factor is not just that there are two but how the two are joined" ("The Ring Makes all the Difference," p. 51).

But what was the potential result for many of those couples who eventually do marry after cohabitating?

Stanton writes: "... data indicates that people with cohabiting experience who marry have a 50 to 80 percent higher likelihood of divorcing than married couples who never cohabited" ("The Ring Makes all the Difference", p. 60).

Other research supports this claim. In the "Journal of Marriage and Family" studies have consistently shown that: "marriages preceded by cohabitation can face up to a 65% increase in the likelihood of divorce" (Georgina Binstock and Arland Thornton, "Separations, Reconciliations, and Living Apart in Cohabitating and Marital Unions, Journal of Marriage and Family, 65 (2003): 432-443, p.441).

This percentage is staggering and yet doesn't include those who move in together and then decide to de-couple without ever even entering into an official marriage. In a cohabitation relationship there is the supposed benefit that each person is more free to leave when they want, than if they were married.

Referencing a post by Enrich Canada dated June 26th on the Cohabitate or Wait debate, I quote:

"Because the benefit of cohabiting is the ability to leave easily, couples in this situation rarely approach relational issues seriously - treating what may be a severe, ongoing issue with little more than emotional band-aids. And as numerous studies have shown, it's not large problems that destroy long-term relationships, but the aggregation of several small issues"

But what about the marriage relationship with no prior cohabitation? Are there measured benefits?

Marriage, because of the formalized commitment, provides an environment to focus not only on your needs but on the needs of the other.

As Stanton writes in referencing the book "Grandma Was Right" by Bruce Wydick -- "it appears to be commitment rather than mere togetherness that lays the foundation for long-term cooperation and happiness in family relationships" ("The Ring Makes all the Difference" page 65 quoting Bruce Wydick's book, "Grandma Was Right" p 617-45,642).

In another article titled - "Does Marriage Help You Live Longer?" Melaina Juntii writes: "Science points to a very easy way to be happier, have less stress, reduce your risk of dying from cancer and heart disease, and potentially live longer: Simply get married."

The bottom line: "Marriage is both a cause and a consequence of good health."

Just being married however does not guarantee happiness - it takes work, giving of one's self, patience, kindness, consistent effort and firm commitment where both husband and wife, male and female are in the relationship giving 100% and not simply meeting in the middle with a 50/50 commitment.

With that kind of commitment and focus marriage is not seen as an experiment or trial run as cohabitation tends to be, but a lifelong commitment and experience which results in the unifying of husband and wife together, to become as one with many measured benefits.

With the subject of marriage versus cohabitation becoming the target of countless studies by psychologists and sociologists, it is interesting to note that the results of many of these studies actually support the morality expressed in the Bible.

So the answer to the question of "Cohabitate-or-Wait" seems to be clear - the institution of marriage wins.

I am Winston Gosse for Tomorrow's World Viewpoint.

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