Cohabitation, Alternative Relationships Fail at Higher Rate than Traditional Marriages. Premarital counselor provides keys for relationship success.
Ventura, California. One in two couples today co-habit before they marry while the number of couples living together has increased more than ten fold in the last thirty years. Those who consider themselves “religious” are also following the same trend with between two and three out of five couples living together before marriage.
According to Dr. Dave Gudgel, the author of Before You Live Together (Regal, September 2003), there are five primary reasons couples give for “shacking up.” These reasons include compatibility, finances, companionship, cultural pressure and love. “These couples are not simply living together before marriage,” says Gudgel, “They are living together instead of getting married.”
In spite of the cultural acceptability of living together, Gudgel says the track record for couples who cohabitate is less than stellar. “Though the majority of people think that living together sounds like a good idea, the statistics show that it is not,” he explains. The divorce rate for cohabitating couples is higher than it is for traditional married couples. He also cites research that shows higher rates of physical abuse and infidelity among couples who choose to live together outside of marriage.
Marriage offers couples huge advantages in mental and emotional health. Married men and women report less depression and less anxiety. And, paradoxically, couples who do live together actually decrease their chances of getting married or staying married in the long run.
Dr. Gudgel explains that the best marriages are built upon an unconditional commitment to love an imperfect person. This commitment works best when the focus is on meeting each other’s needs. Prenuptial agreements, says Gudgel, are a perfect example of what he refers to as a “conditional” commitment. For the past twenty years, he has done premarital counseling and found core issues that need to be addressed before marrying. These include commitment, communication, spiritual beliefs, sex, roles, conflict resolution, expectations, children and others.
“If you are willing to wait until marriage to begin living together,” advises Gudgel, “you are going to reap huge dividends. You will know the joy and happiness that come from waiting.”
Dr. Dave Gudgel has over 20 years of experience as a pastor. He has also served as an associate pastor of adult and youth ministries. His years of pastoring have given him a great deal of experience in counseling couples who are considering marriage or living together. Dave is currently serving as the senior pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona. He and his wife, Bernice, have three children.