Over the weekend, the NY Times premiered this article, the downside of cohabiting before marriage. The article
was written by a person who has no obvious interest in defending church
teaching on the matter. As a psychotherapist, Meg Jay, the author, has some
experiences that seem to warrant a caution for cohabiting before
She indicates that many people cohabit as a way to practice or move
toward marriage. The expectations generally differ between the sexes, with
women wanting a gradual progress, with men wanting a test drive. For the
most part, there is not a lot of communication about all of it. Jay
indicates that couples just sort of kind of end up living together because
it felt right at the time.
Then marriage, and then all these expectations are solid, but nothing in
the relationship changes. There is not better communication. There is not
better commitment. And people get divorces. The irony is that many people,
according to the article, cohabit in an attempt to avoid ever having to go
through a divorce. The further irony is that divorce increases dramatically
with those who cohabit.
Does cohabiting cause divorce? I think many of us assume that, as
catholics, that the connection is reasonable. I think the connection is
more subtle, in a manner of attitude more than cohabiting necessarily
I do believe that marriage ought to bring the best out of us, to
challenge us, in some way to die to our pettiness, and give ourselves
wholeheartedly to another. Marriage and romance are not commodities,
entitlements, or rights. If we saw it in terms of a gift, I think that
would challenge us to be our best selves.
We are taught to follow our hearts, and that usually is interpreted as
do what feels right right now. Emphasis on “feels.” This relationship feels
good now, so just go with it, just go with the feelings. Doing so
uncritically will be problems in the long run. However, the kind of person
who already has an attitude that favors serious commitments, and
particularly the future well being of another, is not going to arbitrarily
enter into a relationship by cohabiting in the first place. Someone who is
so overwhelmed with satisfying their own needs, on the contrary, will see
cohabiting as a viable option in making marriage easier, when indeed it
does not. People who take their integrity, and the emotional well being of
another seriously will likely not cohabit, and those who treat things as
arbitrary may be the ones that cohabit, that is the way I see it.
Something can also be said on behalf of those who do not know or
understand why the Church opposes it. It may be that their invincible
ignorance will evoke our compassion (and ours as well). That, however, does
not free or absolve them from having to suffer the consequences that
cohabiting will likely inflict upon them later in life.