Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Dangers of Cohabitation Before Marriage

My "By the Way" in The Medicine Hat News last Saturday, September 27th:

One of the things I like the most about my job is that I get to preside at weddings (including, wonderfully, those of my two children).

I’m glad that people still want to get married in a church even when they are not active church goers. They’ve fallen in love, their minds have gone away for a while and they’re really not all that interested in theology. Yet the One who created them and marriage is drawing them closer to Himself. 

While the happy couples are in this state, my challenging but enjoyable job is to prepare them for marriage in such a way that they get to meet Jesus and his church in a meaningful way. I want them to know the God who made them a little better and to realize that He really wants the best for them.

It’s not easy. Our culture’s values have grown a long way from biblical ones. When it comes to relationships and marriage, I’m dealing with a world-view summed up by television shows like Friends. Serial, recreational, sexual encounters is the norm. Marriage is, perhaps, the dream and goal, especially for the women, but it is also, in some sense, a last resort when you’ve had your fill of the other.

This is the world in which most of couples I see have grown up. When they come to me, most are living together. How do I share biblical, Christian teaching on relationships and marriage (which means not living together) in a way they can hear and appreciate?

I found some help from an unlikely source. It turns out it’s not just the Church which thinks it a problem.

In “Till death do us part? The risk of first and second marriage dissolution,” a fascinating article on the Statistics Canada website, Warren Clark and Susan Crompton outline some trends. For example,
Living common-law is ... strongly associated with a first marital breakdown. In fact, the risk is 50% higher among people who lived with their partner before the wedding than among those who did not. 
There. That’s not the Church being “prudish.” It’s fact. The article ends with this:
In general, however, the predicted likelihood that their marriage will succeed is higher for people who marry in their 30s, did not live common-law before the wedding, have children, attend religious services, are university educated, and believe that marriage is important if they are to be happy.
Want a good long lasting marriage? Grow up, finish your education, don’t live together, get married, have kids if you can, and go to church.