Carly Winterstein: Marriage vs. cohabitation: Marriage winsI’m going to share some facts and insights into the issue of cohabitation from a North Dakota Family Alliance paper that I coauthored titled “Marriage: One Foundation”.
By: Carly Winterstein , Grand Forks Herald
FARGO — I’m writing as a newly married young adult in response to the article on cohabitation (“Expert advice on couples living together,” Page B1, June 23).
I’m going to share some facts and insights into the issue of cohabitation from a North Dakota Family Alliance paper that I coauthored titled “Marriage: One Foundation”.
Cohabitation certainly is on the rise, as 60 percent of marriages are preceded by cohabitation — and the reasons for this rise are plentiful.
Some view it as a way to prepare for marriage, some don’t see the purpose of marriage, and other simply don’t want to live alone.
It’s understandable why so many now would view cohabitation as a “less risky” alternative after experiencing the divorce of their parents. Others find it to be a logical way of cutting their living expenses.
These all are common reasons people use to defend their decision to cohabitate. But are these reasons good and right?
I would argue that most of these reasons stem from ignorance, selfish thinking and fear.
Some just don’t know the risks of living together before marriage. Cohabiters experience 50 percent to 80 percent higher divorce rates and more difficulties in marriage — and even if the couple doesn’t get married, a cohabiter is at a greater risk of becoming a single parent.
If the couple happens to have a child, that child is statistically more likely to experience negative outcomes.
This leads me to conclude that cohabitation isn’t a wise way to prepare.
Selfish thinking has driven this trend as well. We live in a culture that values independence and self-accomplishments; that makes marriage countercultural. Because of this tension, many go into marriage with an independent mindset, or they choose not to marry to preserve independence.
The problem with cohabitation is that there are no strings attached. You can move in with your significant other for free while saving on rent. He or she also is conveniently near you most of the time, so it is easy to be intimate.
If it doesn’t work out, or you decide that things aren’t exciting anymore, you can just move out and move on. Your independence is preserved, and you are free to look elsewhere for those unpredictable feelings once they fade.
Marriage is not that easy. Marriage requires sacrificial love and a commitment that goes beyond a paper contract, which is more predictable than fickle feelings.
The benefits of marriage should be reserved for marriage: the benefits of building a life together, being exclusively intimate and having children. All these things should not be taken lightly.
I am a Christian, and I would challenge Herald readers to consider that God’s design for marriage is really the best design.
These are just a few of the benefits: married people are less likely to live in poverty, have better physical and mental health and are on average more than 3 times happier. (This is despite the fact that the primary purpose of marriage for a Christian is to reflect Christ and the church.)
Then there is fear, the last reason I haven’t addressed. So easily do we fear things, even good things.
Marriage is intended to be good, but often as humans who make mistakes, we turn relationships into something they are not intended to be.
If you are truly in love, but afraid to marry — then I ask, why not make your relationship permanent and lasting? Wouldn’t that wipe away fear for you and your significant other — fear of being left when the spark isn’t there?
Commit to stand by the one you love through the thick and thin. Be a part of something that is stable for the good of you, but most important for the one you love.
Winterstein is the administrative executive of the North Dakota Family Alliance.