So, what about this issue of cohabitation?  Why is it a bad idea?  Does a piece of paper or a ceremony really make that much of a difference?

I have several friends who opted to live together before pursuing marriage.  And, as far as I know, each of those instances turned into marriage, and each marriage is going strong. And it was always the same reasoning behind their choices. “I don’t need a piece of paper to know I’m committed.” “It’s just a ring. It means nothing and, besides, I don’t even like jewelry.”

There are several issues with those thoughts, least of all is the fact that I have yet to meet a woman that doesn’t consider diamonds her best friends.

First of all, I concede that a piece of paper is not the commitment. It is, however, a sign of the commitment. Couples who live together are much more likely to consider separation an option, especially considering they have not entered into a legally binding contract.  In addition, the very idea of not pursuing marriage shows the disconnect that exists between their relationship and commitment.

Moving in together doesn’t show commitment. It shows lack of commitment. It says “I want some of you, but I’m not ready for all of you. I hope you understand.” In addition, couples who cohabitate before they are married are twice as likely to engage in an affair, even once they are married.

Most people are convinced that moving in together is just the final step before marriage. It comes after engagement (sometimes) and before the vows (not so much). The sad truth of the matter is that over 60% of couples who cohabitate never end up married. And that isn’t the most alarming statistic. If they do get married, the couple is nearly 50% more likely to end up divorced. Why set yourself up for failure?

People who cohabitate may never experience divorce, but that doesn’t protect them from the pain that comes from ending the relationship. And each time a break-up or separation happens, it makes it that much more difficult to commit, even half-heartedly, the next time.

I’ve heard the argument of not wanting to feel “tied down.” The argument that people are happier outside of a marriage.  But that is a lie. In fact, studies have revealed that married couples feel much more fulfilled-across the board- than couples who cohabitate.  In addition, physical and sexual abuse is more prevalent in cohabiting couples.  In short, marriage is essentially safer than merely cohabiting.

And then, there’s the children.  Children seem to be lost in the mix so often. Parents are so concerned with their own wellbeing that they ignore what is best for their child.  A stable home life that doesn’t leave the child questioning who will be home when they get home from school or who will tuck them into bed.

Couples who cohabitate are three times more likely to live in poverty, adding any number of disadvantages to the children in the home. And a breakup hurts just as much for the kids.

Why set yourself up for disaster?  That’s what I ask my students.  And, when it comes to marriage, I get some pretty interesting comments from those kids.  Check back next time to see how our typical conversations about marriage go.