I recently signed up for NetGalley which is a service that lets you read soon to be published books if you agree to provide reviews. One of the first books I chose to read was The Ring Makes All The Difference: The HIDDEN Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage by Glenn T. Stanton.
I admit that I come to this with a bias. I chose this book because I knew that it would make my head spin around. It is a book about why cohabitating is worse than marriage and it is published by Moody which is a Christian press. But I think that I am a person who can see both sides. I got married at age 25 after six months of dating and six months of engagement. I didn’t live with him first. I was an active Christian at the time of my marriage. Now I’m in a three year old relationship where I am cohabitating. We officially moved in together six months after we met.
I was pleasantly surprised that in the introduction it talked about common-law marriages as having a long tradition in American history. They define this as “when a couple considered themselves wedded and showed themselves this way to the larger community, even if they did not have an official ceremony or marriage certificate.” I wanted to read more about this form of cohabitation in present day life and see how that compared to marriage. Unfortunately this is the last that they talk about it.
For this author cohabitation refers to young people who are living together because they are not sure that they want to make a commitment to each other. It doesn’t surprise me at all that these relationships have problems. A bad relationship is a bad relationship regardless of marital status.
Over the course of the book he talks about several characteristics of cohabiting relationships. Some are:
-Not taken seriously by society or families
-People will not help each other out because they aren’t commited to the relationship
-More like to be unfaithful, drug users, or abusers
– Less likely to share chores
– Less healthy because if you just live together you aren’t likely to care enough about your partner to encourage healthy lifestyle choices
The author backs this up with all kinds of sociological data. The problem is that correlation is not causation. Just because these things happen more often in unmarried couples does not mean that being unmarried was the cause of these problems. I say that many of these relationships they are looking at are not mature committed relationships. They are bad relationships. Immaturity, lack of communication, and a lack of commitment cause these things – not lack of a wedding ring.
This book promotes a lot of magical thinking. It implies that none of these bad things will happen if you are married. Ask any married or divorced person if that will protect you from a cheating spouse or abuse or even unequitable chore loads.
Example – When I broke my pelvis and was unable to walk, I asked my then-husband to drive home early from a business trip so he could go get me some crutches so I would be able to move. Not only did he refuse, he was so incredulous and furious at me for asking that years later during the divorce he was still bringing it up as an example of what a horrible person I was. My wedding ring did not magically protect me from the fallout of being in a bad relationship. My current partner would be there if I stubbed my toe. How do I know this? Because I asked. It is a more mature relationship with open lines of communication. Married or not married does not enter into it.
Of course he had to go into how feminism has failed women even though he doesn’t tie it into the rest of the book. He says that abortion is bad and unfufilling sexual relationships are bad. Ok, what does that have to do with cohabitation? Nothing.
This is followed immediately by the line, “Everybody agrees that cohabitating relationships are less committed than marital relationships.” Um, no. That statement shows that he’s moved from attempting to be scientific to pushing his agenda. That’s fine but be honest about it.
I wish this book had addressed older people cohabiting after a failed marriage. I think a scientific look at those relationships would be much different.
As an aside- This book was so pro-marriage that I think it should be required reading for anyone who thinks gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married! Obviously everyone should be married is the message.