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Cohabitation: Roadblock or prelude to marriage?

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Cohabitation is an arrangement where two people who are not married live together. They often involve a romantic or sexually intimate relationship on a long-term or permanent basis.

The origin of the term comes from the mid-16th century, from the Latin cohabitare, from co- ‘together’ and habitare- ‘dwell.’ Such arrangements have become increasingly common during the past few decades, being led by changing social views, especially regarding marriage, gender roles and religion.

It is no secret that many couples are cohabiting, that is, living together in a sexual relationship without marriage. Currently, 60 per cent of all marriages are preceded by cohabitation, but fewer than half of cohabiting unions end in marriage. Many couples believe, mistakenly, that cohabitation would lower their risk of divorce. May be this is true or maybe not.

The purpose of this piece is to put cohabitation into the proper perspective and reveal the dangers of this so-called ‘experimental marriage.’

Cohabitation is a major relationship disease prevalent among the youth. It is increasingly alarming how couples prefer cohabitation to marriage. There is nothing that destroys the sanctity of marriage like cohabitation. When marriage becomes trial and error, then it has already failed. Don’t ever defile yourself to defend your love for someone. There is nothing that destroys healthy boundaries in relationship than cohabitation.

I have said several times that any relationship that is not defined would end up defiling you. Healthy boundaries produce healthy relationships and a lack of boundaries is an open invitation to disrespect.

Recent statistics have shown that there has been an increase in unmarried couples cohabiting. The truth is that social values and priorities have changed and shifted over the years to the extent that religious institutions have become culprit in the proliferation of cohabiting couples in society. In fact, some religious denominations today view cohabitation as a precursor to marriage.

Many people see cohabitation as a means to marriage, while others see it as an opportunity to have a glimpse of what you would be spending the rest of your life doing with your partner. Many believe it is usually a good idea for a couple to live together before getting married to find out whether they really get along.

Despite these commonly held beliefs, the idea that cohabitation would somehow improve the quality of a subsequent marriage is wrong, as research over the last 30 years shows that cohabitation does not lead to increased satisfaction or stability in marriage. Compared to marriage, cohabitation creates disadvantages for individuals, couples and children.

Many young adults believe cohabitation is a good way to test their relationships prior to marriage. Most adults say they cohabit for one or more of the following reasons- for emotional and sexual intimacy without the obligations of marriage; to test their compatibility; to prepare for marriage by practising living with someone and to better know each other’s habits, character and fidelity.

Cohabitants could live together to save money because of the convenience of living with another or a need to find housing. Lower income individuals facing financial uncertainty may delay or avoid marriage, not only because of the difficulty of paying for a wedding, but also because of fear of financial hardship if a marriage were to end in divorce.

Other reasons for living together include convenience, financial savings, companionship and security and a desire to move out of parents’ house. Some people perceive cohabitation as a way to have a more intimate relationship without the risks of divorce or being trapped in an unhappy marriage.

But cohabitation does not lead to marriage in the majority of cases, and among cohabitors who do marry, their chances of divorce actually increased. No one has ever found that cohabitation makes a positive contribution to later marital stability.

Saving the sexual relationship for marriage brings physical, emotional and mental benefits to a couple, while cohabitation drains your emotions, waste your time and squander your resources, as well as weakens your will, character, morality, virtue, discernment and sense of judgment.

The following are the major disadvantages of cohabitation:
One, marriages resulting from cohabitation are more prone to divorce, as couples that cohabit before marriage see divorce as a veritable option during challenging times.

Studies have shown that for married couples, the likelihood of the relationship ending after five years is 20 per cent for unmarried, while for cohabitators, the likelihood is 49 per cent.

After 10 years, the likelihood for the relationship to end is 33 per cent for married couples and 62 per cent for unmarried cohabitators.

Two, abuse and infidelity. Cohabiting unions are more likely to involve infidelity and also more likely to involve violence.

In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago sociologist, Linda Waite, it was discovered that 20 per cent of cohabiting women reported have secondary sex partners, compared to only four per cent of married women.

Three, commitment issues. In many cases, some couples end up getting too comfortable with the living arrangement and don’t see any point in getting married. Cohabiting couples tend to have a more lax attitude toward commitment and don’t work as hard to stay together.

If you are looking for a long-term commitment, then living together might not be the best idea. While married couples tend to work harder at their problems, it is sometimes easier for people who are just living together to walk away for the smallest of issues.

Cohabiting couples tend to be less committed to marriage as an institution, making it easier for them to leave a marriage later if it becomes unsatisfying. Marriage, after all, is a unique relationship that assumes a vow of permanence, and most cohabitors fear or are not ready for such a permanent relationship. Cohabitation’s biggest attraction is the relatively easy exit with few responsibilities.

Four, investment pattern. Marriage, by definition, means, “I will always be here for you.” Marrieds’ long-term contract encourages emotional investment in the relationship, unlike cohabitation, which for most seems to mean, “I will be here only as long as the relationship meets my needs.”

Five, negative effect on the children. Opponents of cohabitation say non-marital parenting is an unsuitable environment for a child’s development. In general, children’s emotional development is poorer if a parent is cohabiting than if married. This poor development is partly due to the high risk that the couple would break up.

If the couple does separate, the children pay an economic price since they have no right to child support from a partner who is not their biological parent. Living without both parents also increases the chance that a child will be abused.

Six, inadequate support system. Compared to singles, married people as a group are also emotionally happier. Married couples are better connected to the larger community, including in-laws and church members, who provide social and emotional support and material benefits.

Cohabitation may affect relationships with parents. In many families, cohabitation is still considered morally wrong and embarrassing to extended family members. Cohabitors from those families risk damaging their relationships with their parents and incurring resentment from the larger society.

Since cohabitation is more prevalent among the youth, I would like to reach out to them with some pieces of advice- Don’t ever cohabit with someone that you intend to marry; it is a bad experiment. There is no more honour in a marriage when the couple had already become bedmates before becoming soulmates.

The Bible says that marriage is honourable only when the bed remains undefiled. The doom of many marriages is that so many people become bedmates long before becoming best of friends. In any relationship, don’t ever defile yourself to defend your love for anybody. Whatever you defile yourself to keep is what you would eventually lose.

So many youths have lost their marital destination because of cohabitation. You get it wrong when you start ‘sleeping’ with someone you are not married to, because sex distorts your sense of judgment, makes you emotionally vulnerable and beclouds you from discovering all you need to know about your partner.

Dear single ladies, he needs to first be your soulmate before he can qualify to be your bedmate. Don’t devalue yourself. If he loves you enough, he would wait for you.

Abstinence before marriage is not old-fashioned, but God-fashioned. Train yourself to always cut-off from every relationship that is inimical to your growth, values and peace of mind, no matter the cost. Cutting certain people out of your life doesn’t mean you hate them; it simply means you respect yourself.

Stop opening yourself up to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Stay pure before marriage; it is a form of deep respect for yourself and your future partner.


In this article:
Gbenga Adebambo
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