Friday, May 27, 2011

The Case for Marriage

Note: Not all marriages are perfect, and not all cohabiting is imperfect. 
Don't take offense. This is just the data - which is from the USA but still applicable here.

While curled into my favourite spot on the Mr's shoulders/chest/armpit I whispered:

Thanks for making me safe.
Thank you for making this marriage the safest place for me to be.

Over the weekend I was able to go to a talk/discussion held by Professor Hawkins. He was in Australia to talk at the Australian Family Association National Conference (which I didn't know about till after and really wish I had gone to) I really enjoyed the short presentation I got to attend  and it was very eye opening due to the fact, of what we think might be good for us as a society, is often very far from the truth. There is shock amongst even the academic circles about the importance of successful marriages. Professor Hawkins is employed by State Governments in USA to help them find ways to help create safe harmonious marriages. To help  enact laws and programs that will bring marriage back.

He was able to show us the overwhelming evidence that marriage is indeed the best thing for society.

Often people may think that marriage is old fashioned and a way for men to have power over women. That society often thinks women have more power when cohabiting, or by not being married. That people often think 'why should cohabiting affect anyone, when it is just two adults choosing what they want to do?" People state that surely 'living together before marriage' would strengthen marriages and help you choose 'the right one'. He was able to show us that in actualily marriage is the safest place for a woman to be, and for families and society and cohabiting can be detrimental to happy safe society.

We found out that:

:: Cohabiting increases your risk of eventual divorce (62% will divorce)

:: 75% of children born to cohabiting parents will see them divorce as opposed to only 40% of children who's parents married

:: 40% of people who cohabit have children - so it is NOT just something that is about 2 adults 'choosing' how to live 'their' life

:: Serial Cohabitors significantly decrease their chances for obtaining a successful marriage

:: Instead of strenthening marriages (because you 'got to test the water first') Cohabiting increases divorce risks from 50 - 150%

Cohabiting relationships have increased negative communication, conflict, substantial increase in violence and a huge increase in Child Abuse. Child abuse is rapidly increasing due to the prevalance of cohabitation in the USA. Dr Hawkins stated that it is almost criminal to live in a cohabiting relationship if the partner is not related to the child. Number one child abuse instigators are always 'the mothers live-in boyfriend'. These relationships have overall less satisfaction and less commitment.

Society will often tell us that cohabiting allows women to hold power - to be free to choose to stay or leave. It has been found that in defacto or living together arrangements it is the least committed person that actually holds the power, which is usually the man. People in marriages often view their relationship as more 'equal' than cohabitors. Infact marriage is not a 'hitting license' or repression that it is actually a PROTECTION. That people (women) more often put up with unacceptable behaviour in cohabiting relationships is amazing since they could 'technically leave at any time' Cohabiting does the opposite of what people think. It is usually of greater depth and entanglement that you might first perceive - " I'm just moving in with my boyfriend, or a guy I only met a few months ago" is not as simple as it seems.

2/3 of cohabitors are sliders - since they are no longer on the dating market (because they live with someone) they eventually say 'oh ok' and will marry their live in partner, even if perhaps they shouldn't. There has been studies on Sliding Versus Deciding- The core idea is that people often slide through important transitions in relationships, such as starting to live together, rather than deciding what they are doing and what it means.

Sometimes I feel old fashioned. Sometimes I have no 'data' or proof as to why I live the way I do and why I will expect my children to do the same. Belief can be hard to define the reasons WHY. Sometimes we can feel so different from those around us in society. Sometimes I even question 'does it all really matter? Let people live the way they want to live - its their choice!!' I even agreed with those facebook status's a while back going around about the state of marriage:

Larry King is getting his 8th divorce, Elizabeth Taylor is possibly getting married for a 9th time, Britney Spears had a 55 hour marriage, Jesse James and Tiger Woods, while married, were having sex with EVERYONE and people say marriage is good?

However as stated people may not see the harm that can come their way from society's more lax views on cohabitation. It is our responsibility to share this information. To make people really weigh their choices before making them. To help young girls see that in the end 'it may not be that romantic to move in with a guy they've only known a short while'. That safety for women and children is more often found in a stable marriage. That society may depend on us to make a return to marriage.

The stablising effects may be necessary.

For extra reading try 21 reasons why marriage matters : Studies find married people have better health, less depression, less suicide, higher income, higher education, a 50% lower infant mortality rate,longer life expectancy,lower rates of injury, illness and disability, lower rates of child delinquency.

*For those who may question data collection I personally asked Professor Hawkins the question of where were these statistics collected from? Not just from religious organisations whom revere marriage? I was answered that ALOT of money is spent by governments, universities AND religions to collect data on marriage and that the data is collected from very wide and varied sources.

Also the negative affects of cohabiting are decreased when a couple move in after they get engaged.


silne said...

My husband and I lived together before we were married. We were "technically" engaged (that is we were intending marry) but not actually engaged (no ring on my finger and no announcement to family and friends). I think that overcoming our cohabiting issues prior to marriage has actually made our marriage a lot stronger.

That said, I had cohabited with a previous boyfriend and it went very badly wrong. There was no privacy for me and nowhere for me to go when he treated me badly, so I do understand the statistics. I felt trapped and when he decided he was tired of using me as his verbal punching bag he told me to find somewhere else to live. THAT was hard.

It also made me think very hard before I cohabited with anyone again. I did have boyfriends between that man and the man to whom I'm married, but I didn't cohabit with them. I was terrified of backing myself into a corner again and not having somewhere to go when things got tough. It's testament to what a wonderful man my husband is that I was able to "let him in" and move in with him.

So why did we marry if we were already living together? Two main reasons. Firstly, we wanted to get up in front of all our friends and family and show our commitment to each other. That was very important. Secondly, marriage for us was about moving on from one part of our lives to another. We wanted to start a family, and there was no question in our minds that we wanted to do that within the commitment of marriage. We wanted our children to see that we were in this for the long haul and that we were 100% partnered.

I do totally get some of the points made in the talk, but I won't comment on them because I'm told that I'm too judgemental. (I call it like I see it and some people don't like my opinions.) I do think though that the point about some people marrying who would not have otherwise married is very apt. Yes there's always exceptions, but I do know people who, if they hadn't cohabited (and in some cases had children) before they married, would not still be together. They're sticking it out in a bad marriage when if the relationship had run its course they would have broken up and moved on to people who suit them better. Sad but true.

Christy Franklin said...

Thanks for sharing. I think the statistics are very clear!

The Swann Family said...

This is a great post! I cohabited (is that the word) with two different men before I married my husband who I had never lived with or had sex with and I have to say that I find these statistics very easy to believe.
I wish there were more people in my life that had encouraged my current lifestyle, but instead I was met with skepticism. Funnily enough, I've been married for 6 years now and am happier than I have ever been (and yes, would like my children to do the same).
Thanks for addressing this issue!

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