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Marriage Advice: Is It Okay To Live Together Before Marriage?

Aug 17, 2007
A MarriageAdvice website poll asked, "Is It Okay To Live Together Before You're Married?" Of the 429 respondents, 60% believed it was okay to live together. This number is consistent with a National Survey conducted with seniors in High School who were asked a similar question. Again, 60% felt it was okay to live together before marriage.

If we look at one of today's prominent star couples, it looks like Tom Cruse and Katie Holmes are following the national trend to cohabitate and even have children outside of marriage.

On April 18, 2006, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes became the proud parents of a baby daughter, Suri. Although they were engaged in June 2005, and they're talking about a summer wedding, they've yet to get married.

Their relationship may be inline with the recent MarriageAdvice website poll and national trends, but what does social science evidence tell us about these trends.

Social science tells us that on the face of it, Tom and Katie are just following the trends of the day. However, what many people don't know is that cohabitating really isn't the best way to test your compatibility or to raise children.

Beth Young, Senior Editor of the MarriageAdvice website expressed her concern for this continuing trend. She stated, "Logic may tell the average person that a "trial marriage" is great preparation for the real thing. Then you can see how you get along and iron out any problems before you're married. However, social science studies refute this belief."

There are many studies that have been conducted regarding cohabitating prior to marriage. One of the most recent papers done by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe discussed the "State of Our Unions."

Cohabitating Unions Weaken The Institution Of Marriage

Many studies have found that, "Cohabiting unions tend to weaken the institution of marriage and pose clear and present dangers for women and children. Specifically, the research indicates that:

- Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage.

- Living together outside of marriage increases the risk of domestic violence for women, and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children.

- Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well-being than married couples."

So not only does living together do more harm than good to long-term relationships, another alarming concern is that children who are born into a cohabiting relationship are at a greater risk of sexual abuse and physical violence than children being raised in a married home. To top it off, there is a greater risk of parents breaking up in a cohabiting relationship than a marriage relationship.

Teach The Children

Young was asked why the belief continues that cohabitating is a good approach to long-term relationships, if all the studies are showing that it isn't the best approach. She stated, "It's clear that parents, teachers, counselors and religious leaders need to step up to the task of educating our youth that living together really isn't the best preparation for marriage or a preventative strike on divorce.

Our youth need to understand the importance of maintaining and strengthening the "traditional family unit" as the fundamental unit of society."

How Do We Prevent Divorce?

The trend of living together has evolved due to the increase in divorces over the past few decades. Some statistics claim that 50% of marriages will end in divorce. So it is a legitimate concern for our young adults.

However, if cohabitation isn't a good answer to stem the tide of divorce, then what is? Young explained, "There is good news that can be gleaned from some of these studies. They have found that even though cohabiting doesn't appear to reduce the divorce rate, there are other variables that come into play regarding divorce, and the insights are encouraging."

These studies have found that if you are educated (have had some college), with a decent income, came from a non-divorced family, are religious, were married after age 25 and didn't have children for at least 7 months after you're marriage, your chances for divorce are slim.

Even if you don't have all of these factors in your marriage, each factor reduces the chance of divorce rearing its ugly head in your relationship.

Planning For A Lifetime Of Marriage

Armed with this knowledge, young adults can pattern their life goals after tangible standards that will help their chances of having a lasting marriage.

The message is clear, stay in school, prepare to work in a field that pays a decent wage, wait until your 25 to marry and don't have children out of wedlock.

When asked if these "standards" are achievable, Young explained, "Theses are lofty goals, yet all are achievable regardless of whether you come from a family that has experienced divorce or not."

There's Still Hope

So is there hope for baby Suri to grow up in a traditional family environment? Is there hope that Tom and Katie will not only marry but also stay together?

Young vehemently stated, "There's always hope! We choose our destiny by our daily actions, and the wonderful thing about that knowledge is if we don't like our direction, we can change our actions."

Young has posed this question to our readers, "Will you choose to improve your chances and the chances of your children to have a long-term marriage relationship?"

Our reply is, There's always that hope, as long as we are willing to educate our youth and make a stand for traditional, happy marriages.
About the Author
Beth Young is the Senior Editor of the leading marriage advice web site,
MarriageAdvice.com. To download your free ebook titled, "101 Marriage Secrets"
visit http://www.MarrigeAdvice.com.
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