Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cohabitation vs. Marriage: By My Daughter

My daughter Ruthie wrote the following essay in 2011, when she was a high school senior enrolled in an English class at the local community college. In fact, almost every essay she wrote for the two college English classes she took that year revolved around marriage and Catholic values. Yay! I’m posting it here simply because I am so very proud of her!

Is Cohabitation Taking the Place of Marriage?

Cohabitation, or living together before marriage, is becoming increasingly popular. At the same time, marriage is becoming a rare phenomenon. Why is this? Perhaps because humans are afraid of the relationship ending, so why risk the chance? Or is it simply “going out of style”? Or is there some completely different reason? These questions are part of what has inspired me to pursue this interesting topic.

In addition to the previous questions, the topic interests me greatly due to my fascination with and anticipation of getting married. I’m wrapped up in the excitement of reaching an acceptable age at which to marry, and I am finding it extremely difficult to wait for the time when I am engaged and can begin to live my calling as a wife and mother.

While I find the thought of getting married thrilling, others do not appear to have the same desire to wed. It is my belief that this difference in opinion is due to my generation’s views on the sanctity of marriage. Until fairly recently, the social “norm” was that a man and woman were to live in separate households until marriage. In fact, it was frowned upon (and still should be, if you ask me!) when a couple cohabited without the morally sound act of marriage. However, currently it seems socially acceptable, and in many cases expected, that young couples will live together while unmarried. It seems to me that this now-acceptable living situation is having a drastic effect on marriage. With society’s expectation that a man and woman will live with one another before their wedding, it may be that this is causing people to become fond of the belief that marriage isn’t necessary.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, reality wedding television shows such as “Say Yes to the Dress” or “My Fair Wedding” are helping put more of a focus back on weddings. I myself am an avid fan of these shows (no surprise!); however, I feel that they focus solely on the glamour of a wedding, rather than the realistic aspect of a life-long marriage. Still, while in some cases this is appealing to the viewers, these shows could also be doing harm to the marriage image. Each episode seems to feature outrageously expensive, pricey items, all-in-all costing the couple tens of thousands of dollars. It is no secret that this country is going through hard economic times, and a wedding at that cost is simply out of the question. When a couple sees those hefty price tags, it’s no surprise that it’s a frightening thought.

My Catholic religious values stress the importance of both man and woman remaining virgins until marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that sex is for married couples, not for the unmarried. Sex has two purposes: it helps the couple become closer and more intimate, and it also has the purpose of producing children. The Catholic Church also teaches that artificial contraception is wrong, because it interferes with God’s plan for children. The main point of all of this is that there is more to a marriage relationship than just sex for the pleasure of the husband and wife. Marriage requires commitment and trust and faith. That’s why living together is unacceptable. You can’t just “try it out” and see if it’s going to work. You have to make the commitment that you are going to make it work, and for that you need God’s help.
Although I had read Rainey’s article “Is There Hope for a Lasting Marriage?” to get more of the human viewpoint, on the question, I learned that 96% of college students either want to be married or are already married (Rainey, 11). That sounds like a lot of marriages! Yet, 64% of college students believe that living together before marriage is a good idea (Rainey, 51). The fact that so many college students want to be married surprised me, since I originally thought that the majority of people don’t desire to be married. However, it appears as though this thought is still instilled in the minds of young adults, rather than older, more “experienced” adults. By experienced I mean those that have possibly been married previously, or in long-term relationships that fell through in the end. Alicia helped prove this theory by telling me a bit of her past relationship with the father of her child. She said that he ended up not being the type of person she wanted in a marriage, and since then has not felt the need to get married.

I also learned a bit more about human perspectives through talking with my friends. While Trenton and I agreed upon marriage and our views were very similar, Michael’s were not. While I am excited to be married, Michael finds the thought frightening. His words were “It’s a big step, and the commitment and possibility of failure is scary.” These words affirmed my original belief that people are afraid of being hurt in the end, and a few of them simply don’t want to take the chance.

My Conclusion

The statistics show that more people are, in fact, living together before marriage. It is also true that there are fewer marriages now than there have been in the past. However, the statistics show that many of the couples who are cohabiting will eventually get married. This leads me to believe that cohabiting is not fully taking the place of marriage.

In the end, marriage is a big responsibility, and that’s no secret. No one should enter into such a firm commitment without some sort of determination to make it work. However, even though it is a major responsibility, I am still of the opinion that living together before marriage is not the answer to making the marriage last.

Marriage is a beautiful relationship that everyone should have a chance to participate in. And in a society that has begun to fear and avoid the concept of true love and expressing it through marriage, I feel as though those my age who still believe that things can work out may help bring marriage – without living together first – back in style.

 Work Cited

CDC, Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States: A Statistical Portrait.

Mantel, Charles. “The End of Marriage,” January 8, 2010. 

Rainey, Dennis. “Is There Hope for a Lasting Marriage.”   

Real Relational Solutions,


  1. Praise and thanks be to God for your daughter's witness!
    (Well done in the parenting department, mom!)

  2. Thanks, Wendell! Her father and I have tried hard to live the truths of the faith, and to instruct her properly.

  3. Good job, Ruthie! I think she is right about it coming 'back in style". Gen X already understands values and morality more than their parents. I think it is unfortunate that so many of them witnessed their parents failings and that is how the found truth though.
    Those are tough lessons, and so many couples find out the hard way. We got married young (22), despite objections from our families. It has only been 4 years, but we have never regretted our decision to marry and to NOT live together.

  4. Sometimes it seems to me that whatever wisdom I have is the result of bitter experience caused by doing things wrong. It surprised me to learn along the way that many (most? all?) moral rules do not involve sacrificing earthly happiness in the hope of future reward but are actually designed to produce earthly happiness since God knows our natures better than do we. It is good to see that Ruthie is accepting of revelation rather than doing things the hard way (like me). I was always very hard headed, but lucky for me Jesus swings a 2x4 pretty well.


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