Tuesday August 29, 2017




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Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers

Mike McManus

1. Cohabitation is the stealth killer of marriage in America. In fact, it is a double cancer of marriage. First, it is a cancer at the front end of marriage. Cohabitation has diverted tens of millions of Americans from getting married at all. There were 21 million never-married Americans in 1970. By 2006 that number tripled to 60 MILLION. These people are not monks in the desert, but sexually active adults, most of whom are cohabiting and being diverted from marriage. Result: The marriage rate has plunged 50% since 1970.

2.. Secondly, cohabitation is also a killer at the center of marriage. Those who cohabit before marriage are 50% .more likely to divorce. And two-thirds of couples getting married today are living together. That’s why the number of divorces has remained more than a million a year affecting a million kids, even as the marriage rate has plunged.

3. Why? Many of those living together believe the myth that they are in a "trial marriage." No, with a failure rate of 80%, cohabiting couples are really in a "trial divorce." The only question is whether they will break up before the wedding in a "premarital divorce," or later in a real divorce. Our book punctures a dozen similar myths:

“We are in a committed relationship.” No the only committed relationship is marriage.

“It can’t hurt anybody.” See point #4 below on how their kids are harmed.

“What we do is nobody’s business.” No, according to a new study by the Institute for American Values, the cost of non-marriage or divorce to America’s taxpayers is $112 billion a year, or $560 billion in five years. That’s $60 billion more than we have spent in Iraq.  And the estimates do not count all of the costs, which Marriage Savers believes is closer to $200 billion a year.

4. Those most profoundly harmed are children born-out-of wedlock, which have increased from 224,000 or 5% of all births in 1960 to 1.64 million in 2006, or 38.5% of all births. Most of these births are to cohabiting couples! In fact, 41% of cohabiting couples have a child under 18 vs. 46% of married couples. These children fare the worst in our culture. they are three times as likely as kids from intact homes to be expelled from school or to get pregnant as a teen, are 5-6 times as apt to live in poverty, and 22 times more likely to be incarcerated.

5. Who is responsible for the ignorance of cohabiting couples? The CHURCH! Evidence: The church marries 86% of all couples, according to a Peter Hart Poll. Have you ever heard a sermon on cohabitation? I bet not. Cohabitation is a much greater challenge to marriage than gay marriage. Yet it gets zero attention. The church is deeply implicated in this moral failure because it has remained mute. And it has offered a no clear alternative to preparing couples properly. Surely Scripture is clear: "Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil," Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (I Thes. 5:21-22).

Couples who cohabit are embracing evil. That's what an 80% failure rate is. But our book outlines a better way to "Test everything" and "Hold onto the good:" Half of our book points to what some churches (like our own) are doing to offer couples a better way to prepare couples for marriage:

1. Take a premarital inventory which can help couples evaluate their strengths as a couple and where they need to grow. FOCUS and PREPARE are given to about 750,000 couples who marry a year, but that is only a third of couples who marry. Examples of items on the inventory, to which the man and woman indicate whether they agree or disagree:

At times I am concerned about the silent treatment I get from my future spouse.

I am concerned that my future spouse spends money foolishly.

2. Meet with a trained Mentor Couple who will review ALL 156-189 items on the inventory with the couple. Learn from the mentors how to resolve many of their issues.

3. Learn skills to resolve conflict from the mentors, since the major reason for breakup or divorce is an inability to argue in a way that is mutually respectful. Fortunately, those skills can be taught. And we have trained 4,000 couples to administer an inventory and teach these skills.

4. Move apart, if cohabiting. Right away. The sooner, the better. Even a month's time deteriorates the quality of a relationship.

5. Remain or become chaste until the wedding. We have an Optional Premarital Sexual Covenant which provides evidence that those who live by Biblical standards, have much lower divorce rates.

Results? Consider our own church which began implementing this five-point plan that we created in 1992. Over a decade there were 288 couples who married, for whom we know their results. A big 55 of them decided NOT to marry. That's huge, 19%. Studies show that those who do not marry after taking an inventory, have the same scores as those who marry and later divorce. So they avoided a bad marriage before it even began. But of the 230 couples who did marry, there were only 7 divorces or separations over that decade. That is a 3% failure rate, or a 97% success rate.


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