It is almost a truism in my generation - "A couple should live together before they marry to test-drive the relationship." Even among some claiming the cross of Christ, it has become a de facto arrangement for many (the excuse usually being reduced expenses of cohabitation). But ethicists and theologians have warned for years that cohabitation is just like a marriage - without the assurance of actual promises or the protection of law. Now, we have proof in a new study which shows that cohabitating couples who split have all of the same pain and problems of divorcing spouses, but without any of the social or legal protections that married couples have available to them.
"I don't think there's any difference in how I felt after the fact, because it felt like it was a marriage," Emerson says. And when they broke up, "it still felt like it was a divorce."There's a reason marriage was created - to provide a stable foundation for family, and to protect those willing to give up their own lives for those they love. Modern cohabitation has not improved upon it.
Cohabiting is a significant emotional attachment, and when you break up, "it's going to hurt a lot," says Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. "By cohabiting vs. marrying, people aren't avoiding that aspect of pain."
And because cohabiting has become so widespread — more than 60% of couples who marry today live together first, studies have found — the number of court battles between former partners and the number of cohabitation agreements have increased during the past five years, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.