Marriage and Commitment: The Ring Makes a Difference

More Proof That Cohabiting Isn’t Good for Society

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The rise in numbers of cohabiting couples in recent years could lead to the conclusion that being married does not make much difference: a supposition not supported by studies of couples.

In June the RAND Corporation published a working paper titled: “Cohabitation and Marriage Intensity: Consolidation, Intimacy, and Commitment,” by Michael Pollard and Kathleen M. Harris.

The researchers studied various sources of data regarding married couples and those who have cohabitated.

Regarding the concept of consolidation the study found that only 16.1% of women in cohabitations said they had joint bank accounts with their partners, compared with 68.5% of women in marriages that were preceded by cohabitation, and 72.1% of women in marriages without prior cohabitation.

As well, only 40.1% of cohabiting women reported that they purchased something over $500 with their partners, compared with more than 80% of women in both types of marriage.

The report acknowledged that the level of consolidation differs according the length of cohabitation, but even so “we can see that cohabitations of more than a year still do not obtain the same levels of consolidation as marriages of less than six months.”

Turning to the level of intimacy the report found similar results, with cohabitors reporting significantly lower levels of intimacy compared to married couples.

Regarding commitment too, cohabiting couples have lower levels than married people. The report commented that cohabitors, as would be expected, have much less certainty about the permanence of their relationship, and the level of commitment is lower particularly among males.

Difference in relationships

“Taken together, the results indicate a distinct difference in relationship intensity between

cohabiting and married couples,” the study concluded.

England’s Marriage Foundation also found a substantial difference between married and cohabitating couples.

In their report published May 22, “The Myth of Long-Term Stable Relationships Outside Marriage,” by Harry Benson, they found that couples who do not marry rarely provide a secure and stable home for their children.

The report said that 45% of teenagers between 13-15 years of age are no longer living with their parents. Of those teenagers who still do live in an intact family setting, 93% of the parents are married.

“The report highlights concerns that the Government has ignored the strong correlation between marital status and family breakdown and focused instead on ‘long term stable relationships’ when developing family policy papers,” the press release from the Marriage Foundation stated.

“With family breakdown costing an estimated £46 billion a year – that’s to say, more than the entire defence budget – in addition to the immeasurable social damage, it is clearly in the interest of government and the taxpayer to work to counter this devastating trend,” commented the author of the report, Harry Benson.

“Airbrushing” marriage from government policy papers is incompatible with the evidence, the report stated.

“A whole body of evidence shows that married parents tend to be more stable than unmarried parents,” the report affirmed.

Not about the money

Another report, published June 24 by the Marriage Foundation, found that divorce rates are not conditioned by economic conditions.

Some have claimed that there are more marriage break-ups during economic downturns, due to the strain of financial pressures. Others, the report noted, claim that economic recessions result in fewer divorces, as couples avoid the expense of separating and buying a second house.

Neither of these two positions is borne out by the evidence of recent years according to the study, “It’s Not About the Economy: Another divorce myth bites the dust.”

Since the ‘70s, the report explained, divorce rates have always stayed within plus or minus 10% of the previous years’ figure.

In three periods of economic decline since 1979, divorce rates have risen in two cases and declined in one, the report said. It seems that marriage is about more than money.

“The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family,” observed Pope Francis in his just-published encyclical on faith (Par. 52).

“I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan,” the encyclical went on to explain.

The accuracy of that wise and loving plan is becoming more and more evident as the consequences of weakening marriage are documented.

“Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love,” the encyclical said, clearly pointing out that a commitment to marriage does indeed make a difference.

RAND report –

Marriage Foundation –

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Fr. John Flynn

Australia Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales. Licence in Philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Bachelor of Arts in Theology from the Queen of the Apostles.

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