Is Cohabitation Really the Best Solution to Prevent Divorce and Abuse? The Risk Factors Associated with Abuse and Cohabitation
Most people know of someone who has gone through the pain and terror of abuse. Abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, or characterized by neglect. For many people who experience this trauma as children, they often either grow up to become an abuser or they attach themselves to one because they mistakenly equate abuse with love. This can create a cycle of abuse in a family line.
However, it should be pointed out that, in American culture, there is a trend that is making child abuse more likely to happen. It is the trend of cohabitation either before marriage or instead of marriage.
A group of social scientists revealed the following in their report, Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences:
"Children are less likely to thrive in cohabiting households, compared to intact, married families. On many social, educational, and psychological outcomes, children in cohabiting households do significantly worse than children in intact, married families, and about as poorly as children living in single-parent families. And when it comes to abuse, recent federal data indicate that children in
cohabiting households are markedly more likely to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused than children in both intact, married families and single-parent families" (State of Our Unions 2012, 2012).
The question is, why do people gravitate toward cohabitation? For most people who do it, it's because they fear the big "D"; divorce.
The funny thing is, cohabitation makes it easier to break up, which also makes it easier to make bad choices in a life partner. Additionally, cohabitating couples are twice as likely as married couples to break up before the first child turns twelve (State of Our Unions 2012, 2012).
"Researchers such as David and Amber Lapp are documenting that Middle America’s couples express reservations about marriage but still want, and are having, children. Yet their children are exposed to precisely the kinds of instability—serial cohabitations and breakups— that their parents hoped to avoid by not rushing into marriage in the first place" (State of Our Unions 2012, 2012).
Now, this author can understand that it can be very scary to make such a huge commitment when things aren't guaranteed to work out.
Here's the thing, it's never guaranteed. Yet, somehow, people find ways to make it work. Something that does help is when you are looking for someone to possibly marry, you may find yourself looking for a life partner of a higher quality than you otherwise would have picked for cohabitation. This does not mean that the person you are looking for will be "perfect", no one is, but you can look for someone whose quirks you can tolerate a little better than someone else's quirks.
"A good marriage does not require a perfect man or a perfect woman. It only requires a man and a woman committed to strive together toward perfection" (Oaks, 2007).
As for those who are having problems in a marriage that might seem insurmountable, well, that's one reason why marriage counselors exist. Let them help you. The quality of your relationship is worth the effort not only for you and your spouse but for your children as well. If you put the work into your marriage that needs to be done, the quality of your marriage can be so much stronger than before (Oaks 2007).
In conclusion, if you are considering cohabitation, think of the children that may come out of that relationship. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Do you really want to up their chances that they will have an unhappy upbringing? Do you want to up your chances that you and your partner will break up and leave them more prone to abuse of all kinds? If you wouldn't be happy with that, then it's a good idea to wait until you find someone of marriage quality and take your chances in marrying that individual. Furthermore, even though it takes work to make marriage thrive, you don’t have to do it alone. There are marriage counselors out there who can help you have a better chance at having a happy, thriving marriage and family life. Take advantage of it. It’s worth it.
Oaks, D.H. (May 2007). Divorce. Ensign.
State of Our Unions 2012 (2012). The National Marriage Project. Retrieved from https://byui.brightspace.com/content/enforced/248811-Online.2017.Spring.FAML300.03/Course%20Files/State%20of%20Our%20Unions-2012.pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=xeVS5ORKxNUwCOzhfQvAgEhsM&ou=248811