Author: Glenn T. Stanton
Genre: Non-fiction, Relationships
Star Verdct: ***** (out of five)
I’ve often heard my peers say things like that living together is a safe way to “test out” a relationship to see if it is going to work before you make a permanent commitment to marriage, or that they are “practically married” and don’t need a piece of paper to solidify their relationship. I confess I’ve often been rather tongue tied, not knowing how to respond.
When I saw that there was a book compiling the findings of four decades worth of scientific studies on the impact that living together has on relationships, I was instantly interested. This fascinating book explains research findings on the effects of cohabitation on a wide range of relational issues and shows some surprising results, such as that:
- Couples who live together before getting married are 50-80% (!) more likely to get divorced than couples who have not lived together beforehand (l. 949)
- The rate of violence for cohabiting couples is twice as high as for married couples, and the rate for “severe” violence is nearly five times greater (l. 679.) Similarly, women living with boyfriends are nine times more likely to be murdered by their partner than married women (l. 695)
- Live-in boyfriends are nearly four times more likely to cheat than husbands (l. 704), and men who cohabited before marriage are more likely to cheat after they get married
- Married men typically spend 8 more hours a week helping with housework than live-in boyfriends (l. 753) and contribute more financially (l.2084)
- Living together without relational clarity/commitment tends to foster controlling and manipulative behavior patterns, which continue into marriage (l. 1076)
- Married individuals have health benefits roughly equivalent to being ten years younger than they are, whereas living together shows no such benefits (l. 1641)
- Although cohabitation was originally presented as a way to give women more freedom and power in relationships, studies overwhelming show that men benefit more from living together than women do (l. 1840)
The book was particularly fascinating to me because it simply focused on presenting research findings from respectable institutions, not on interpreting the results or presenting a religious viewpoint on relationships. The author does briefly discuss Biblical teachings about marriage and relationships in two chapters, but the bulk of the book examines the scientific evidence from the studies on cohabitation.
The well-documented and overwhelming conclusion from the dozens of research studies is that living together before marriage is one of the absolute worst things a couple can do in terms of its negative effects on their overall wellbeing and chance of having a happy, long-term relationship. I have seen many times that God knows what he’s talking about and says what he does because he wants me to be happy, but it is fascinating to see so much secular research from well-respected institutions clearly backing up Biblical commands.
This is a great resource for anyone trying to make decisions about their relationships or helping friends do so. The book points out that, thanks to four decades of research, “couples today considering marriage or cohabitation can make informed decisions about what type of relationship is more likely to lead to the happiness, intimacy, and longevity they seek. Smart couples will make use of such an opportunity” (l. 579).