Eleven million live-in partners prefer not to marry. Here's why
they should reconsider.
by Dr. Neil Clark Warren
The Cohabitation Epidemic
few summers ago, tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf announced that their first child would be born. "This is a very exciting time
for us," Agassi said. "We are so happy to be blessed with this gift."
No one seemed to notice - or care - that the couple wasn't married. Only a generation ago, this revelation would have raised eyebrows.
Yes, Things have changed dramatically over the past few decades. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 million people were in
"unmarried-partner households" in 1970. The number rose to 3.2 million in 1990. And in 2000, the figure soared to 11 million.
Now, half of all Americans ages 35 to 39 have lived with someone outside marriage, according to researcher Larry Bumpass. Make no
mistake: We are witnessing a major societal shift before our very eyes.
When an epidemic reaches this level of societal acceptance, many well-meaning people begin to ask, "Should we accept cohabitation as
another social trend akin to fast food, cell phones and casual Fridays?"
You may be wondering whether all this hubbub about living together is much ado about nothing.
As a psychologist who has worked with singles and married couples for 35 years, I think our alarm over this issue is much ado about a
Who Cohabits and Why
Typically, people who cohabit fall into two categories.
, there are those who have little or no intention of getting married. They simply want to enjoy the benefits of living together -- the
availability of sex, combined financial resources, shared household responsibilities and so on. This arrangement allows for a "quick exit"
if things turn sour.
The second group
are those who see living together as a trial marriage -- a half-step toward the altar. These people say, "We'll live
together first and see how it goes." They consider it prudent to take a test drive before signing on the dotted line.
Though I don't want to oversimplify a complex issue, I believe there are three primary reasons why these couples forgo or delay
1. Marriage has lost a lot of its luster in our society. The truth is, many people have never seen a successful, thriving marriage, mainly
because great marriages are becoming scarce. Several years ago, I conducted a survey in which I asked 500 individuals to tell me about
the marriage they most admired. To my dismay, nearly half said they couldn't recommend even one healthy, exemplary marriage! With
such a dearth of model marriages, it's understandable why so many young people hesitate to take the plunge.
2. Beyond the lack of model marriages, millions of people have suffered significant pain from broken marriages. One researcher estimates