Trial Marriages on Trial

  When William Hague spent the night in a hotel room with his fiancée, it raised eyebrows in the British press. Hague, you see, is a leader in Britain's conservative Tory government. But Hague was unapologetic about his decision. He insisted: "Living together can be a very healthy thing to do—part of bringing about a stable and successful marriage." Those words express one of society’s most harmful myths. A national survey discovered that 90 percent of people who live together want to get married; about half believe that cohabiting will help ensure that they’re compatible. But the truth is that living together is almost certain to destroy your chances of a good marriage. Just listen to the numbers. The National Survey of Families and Households found that almost half of all couples who cohabit break up before signing the marriage license. And even if you do marry, your chances of divorce skyrocket. The same survey found that couples who live together before marriage are 50 percent more likely to divorce. So thinking of cohabitation as a trial marriage is profoundly mistaken. As Mike McManus says in his book Marriage Savers, cohabitation isn’t preparation for marriage; it’s training for divorce. What’s more, the National Survey of Families and Households found that unmarried couples living together are twice as likely to be unhappy in their relationship. That unhappiness often spills over into violence. The U.S. Justice Department found that women are three times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a husband. The conclusion is obvious. Boyfriends do not respect live-in girlfriends. Cohabitation is a cancer eating away at the institution of marriage. Yet how many times have you heard a sermon about this? What is the church doing to expose the false promise of cohabitation? The Bible says, "A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to house wife, and the two will become one flesh." Then, speaking of Adam and Eve, it says, "the man and woman were both naked and felt no shame." The sequence here is crucial: First comes leaving one’s father and mother; then being united to a spouse; and finally becoming one flesh—physical intimacy without shame. Couples who live together are reversing that sequence: They’re trying to be "one flesh" before marriage. And the result is that they do feel shame… and fear and rage and all the other feelings that erupt when a relationship lacks commitment. So don’t be tongue-tied when you talk to friends who are living together. When even respected government leaders claim that living together makes for a better marriage—people like Britain's William Hague—we need to make sure our friends and our kids have the facts. Mike McManus’s book Marriage Savers will give you the tools you need to do this. You’ll learn why cohabitation literally sets couples up for failed marriages.


Chuck Colson


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