Discuss the Book
Should you live together before getting married?
This is a debate sparked by Gus from the Netherlands.
In the USA, Great Britain and in Australia (but not yet implemented in the Dutch education system), there are growing tendency of marriage and relationship education programmes (for example: LoveU2: Getting smarter about relationships. M. Pearson. Berkeley, CA: The Dibble Institute for Marriage Education, 2007) developed for teenagers, adolescents and adults. Some of the reasons to develop these programmes are to improve healthy relationships between romantic partners, reduce teenage pregnancy and to stop abusive relationships.
In some of these programmes (for example in: LoveU2: Getting smarter about relationships) the participants are taught to avoid cohabitation before marriage. In the article “Should We Live Together? – What Young Adults Need to Know about Cohabitation before Marriage” (D. Popenoe and B. Dafoe Whitehead. The National Marriage Project: 2002) the authors explains: that living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage or to avoid divorce. What’s more, it shows that the rise in cohabitation is not a positive family trend.
Cohabiting unions tend to weaken the institution of marriage and pose special risks for women and children. Specifically, the research indicates that:
+ Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage.
+ Living together outside of marriage increases the risk of domestic violence for women, and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children.
+ Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well-being than married couples.
My question is, is living together a good way to prepare for marriage or to avoid divorce, or are the recent social science evidence telling us that living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage or to avoid divorce?
Antonio from Italy has these thoughts
Hi Andrew, I just came across this thoughtful, dense, meaningful web site. I think that the comments of Gus, along with your reply are of crucial importance. I believe that the underlying difficulties are that -starting since the sixties- “individual freedom” and “individual liberty” are usually confused and mixed-up with something else that rather pertains to “individualism”. The latter means being fully free from any restriction and responsibility to self and others. Hence, aiming to solve relationship troubles, one should -first- be brave and smart enough to “look under the bonnet” and shape a solid self-consciousness and self-confidence. Most importantly, aiming to prevent couple troubles, folks should avoid ambiguous setting like those described by Gus, like full-time, not transient cohabitation, without having in place a plan to develop long-term commitments (i.e.: marriage).
More from Gus in the Netherlands
Recently on the CNN and in newspaper articles (for example on the Internet MailOnline: Women ‘want rich husbands, not careers’: New survey claims drive for gender equality is a myth) the British Sociology professor Dr Catherine Hakim is claiming that (educated) women are looking for “rich husbands” and preferring to stay at home to look after the kids and do household work, instead of pursuing a career. While the husband (to be) is doing more hours of paid work to provide extra income for the family or to increase his “market value” in finding a long-lasting relationship with a woman.
My question is, if the statement of Dr Hakim that (educated) women prefer “rich husbands, not careers” and men are doing more hours of paid work is true, how is it then possible that men en women are able to spend quality time to get to know each other better and/or to find solutions together for their marital problems?
Andrew writes: When you read anything about the differences between men and women in the media, you have to stop and think. For some reason, journalists and their editors love stories about how different men are from women (and visa versa). So they are always quick to jump on stories that back up this world view – often twisting the words of well-meaning academics. Sure, there are some women who would rather have a husband rich enough to allow them to concentrate on bringing up their children but then there are those who’d rather use the money to employ a nanny (because they like their job). There are still more who accept that raising kids and paying the bills is a joint effort. But that’s not much of a story – so they make a sweeping and meaningless generalisation.
Theses article seldom mention how or when the research was down. If you asked women at train stations on a rainy Monday morning – probably all of them would sign up for a rich husband and turning round and going home. You’d probably get a fare few men opting out too! So why do editors – and I suppose everybody else, or they wouldn’t publish these stories – want to exaggerate the differences? I guess we are all confused by our partners, their strange ways and exasperating obsessions. Instead of taking the trouble to talk, listen and listen some more, it’s much easier to inwardly shrug and think: typical man or typical women and remain in blissful ignorance.
So returning to your question, wouldn’t it better if men and women spent quality time together rather than just assuming (in this case because of gender) that the status quo is right and just retreating further into their own ‘this is how it’s always been done’ mentality – the answer is YES! It’s a pity CNN and all those newspapers can’t print stories with your conclusion.