Cohabitation Before Marriage on the Rise: Does it Lead to Better Relationships?

Cohabitation has become the "new normal," according to one study, which reports that at least 48 percent of women between the ages 15-44 cohabitated with a man before they were married. But is normal good?

"My girlfriend and I are living together," a man who identified himself as J.K. wrote on The Christian Post website in a blog to Billy Graham, "but her parents have let it be known they don't approve 'because God doesn't like it.' What's the big deal? It's so common today that I don't see why anyone should object."

Cohabitation on the Rise

Cohabitation has become increasingly more common, a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control revealed on Thursday. Data was collected by the center's National Survey of Family Growth and included the responses for over 12,000 women.

Of the women who were interviewed, 48 percent stated that they were currently living with a significant other whom they were not married to. That number is up from 43 percent in 2002 and 35 percent in 1995.

"Generations that were cohabitating less are now being replaced by a group of women and men that find cohabitation to be quite normal," demographer Casey Copen said during an interview with CNN.

Cohabitation Leads to Marriage?

More interestingly, the study also suggests relationships that result from co-habitation could be more likely to last. It has previously been noted that couples who cohabitate are less likely to get married or stay married.

"Overall, these unions are lasting longer, they're more stable and the highest proportion of them transition to marriage," Copen said.

The study found that 40 percent of women living with significant others for the first time between 2006 and 2010 transitioned to marriage within three years. Of those who did not become married, 32 percent still remained together. Only 27 percent of couples dissolved their relationship.

"Many couples believe they are doing their due diligence by having the experience of living together before making a commitment to marry," Copen suggested.

The Problem With Sliding and Not Deciding

Other reports have suggested that young couples in particular do not always consider the consequences when deciding to cohabitate.

"We were sleeping over at each other's places all the time," a girl named Jennifer told The New York Times last year. "We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn't work out there was a quick exit."

But the act of "sliding" instead of "deciding" could have long-term consequences, the report suggested.

"Sliding into cohabitation wouldn't be a problem if sliding out were as easy. But it isn't. Too often, young adults enter into what they imagine will be low-cost, low-risk living situations only to find themselves unable to get out months, even years, later," The Times report stated.

In addition, cohabitation is now also leading more frequently to children without married parents. Nearly 20 percent of women became pregnant within the first year of moving in with a significant other, the study reported.

What Does God Think?

"God does not approve of sexual relations outside of the vow of marriage. In fact, the Bible teaches us that 'the body is not meant for sexual immorality' and commands us to 'flee from sexual immorality' (1 Corinthians 6:13,18)," Billy Graham wrote in response to J.K.'s question.

What is God's reasoning for this? Many of God's laws are protective, though some may debate when and to whom they apply.

As Sarah Groom recalls the past 10 years of living together with her boyfriend, there was "stress, chaos, self-doubt and even resentment," she told CNN. Because she now has a "beautiful" baby girl, she does not regret her decision, but notes that it made things a lot "harder."

"One works harder to preserve a relationship," Groom told CNN. "Its whole nature is less disposable."

Graham also warned of the lack of commitment that comes with cohabitation.

"Your present relationship may seem happy for a time, but it will always lack one thing: commitment. Without the commitment of marriage, your relationship will always be insecure," she wrote.

Kids Pay the Price

Christian Post contributor Chuck Colson also previously noted the co-habitation is not always best for children. He wrote:

Today's advocates of "modern family structure" will tell you that this is no big deal, that having a wedding ring is overrated. The kids, they say, will do fine either way. Well, the fact is, an intact marriage puts children way ahead of children in other types of households like cohabition or co-parenting.

National Review editor Rich Lowry, who labels the current trend a "cohabitation revolution," notes, "Children in cohabiting households tend to lag (behind) children in intact married families on key social indicators and are not much better off than children in single-parent families."

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