One of the standard story plot elements since time immemorial. An element of half the movies in existence. A notorious recent example: Titanic.

From that fundamental premise, we may cut to several possible scenarios: Boy loses girl, Boy gets girl back, Boy gets Boy and Tells Girl to Get Lost, whathaveyou. The main thing in formula writing is: it has to look bleak for the protagonist somewhere in the middle.

Boy Meets Girl: REVISED.
as submitted for my college Honors Writing class in the spring semester of 2001.

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl date. Boy and girl fall in love. This is where the story deviates from the one ordinarily told to children. Gone are the days when the next logical step was "boy marries girl." Now, the story often goes something like, "boy and girl date for a few months, then boy asks girl to move in." Or vice-versa. It's a common storyline played out across America and in other western cultures. In the movies, such couples usually end up living some sort of rosy, happily-ever-after type of life. In the real world, however, cohabitating couples do not fare so well. Despite the seemingly logical arguments for unmarried heterosexual couples living together, the evidence shows that it simply is not the better choice. Therefore, couples should not live together prior to marriage.

Many couples choose to live together before getting married in order to save money. They figure that by moving in with one another the rent is split in half, the food bills get smaller, and the financial burden is shared. Some claim they will be able to put away money for their future as a couple; however, saving is not always very egalitarian. Income gaps frequently found between unmarried live-in partners tend to destabilize the relationship while doing the opposite for marriages. Then, if the relationship ends, the disadvantages of merging finances prior to marriage reveal themselves. Married couples have protection under the law that is not afforded to couples who cohabitate. For example, when a married couple own a house or live in an apartment together, both people have rights to the property. When cohabiting, unless both names are on the deed or lease, both do not have the same rights; the person whose name is on the lease stays and the other quickly finds him or herself homeless.

Proponents of cohabitation say that it is just another step in the courting process on the road to marriage, much like engagement. Unfortunately, many unmarried couples that live together never make it to the altar. Forty percent of cohabitational relationships among unmarried people are ended within five years and only a tenth last five years or more. Some speculate that the reason for this lies in the character of unmarried people who choose to live together. Cohabitating individuals tend to come from slightly more liberal backgrounds, are less religious, and are more supportive of non-traditional gender and family roles. Therefore, they are less likely than those from a more conservative background to consider such an arrangement taboo. It also seems that those who cohabitate sometimes invest less commitment into their live-in relationship, choosing that over marriage because it is an easier arrangement to extract themselves from.

It is commonly heard that living together before marriage gives the couple a chance to get to know one another better, thus decreasing the likelihood of divorce. However, there is little evidence to support this claim. More than half of couples that lived together prior to their marriage end up divorcing within the first ten years. Compared to the thirty percent divorce rate among couples that did not cohabitate before getting married, we see that cohabitating actually means an increased risk of divorce.

Research shows that there are yet more discouraging trends among unmarried couples living together. While cohabitating couples claim to have sex more often, married couples report a much more satisfying sex life, both physically and emotionally. According to the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, cohabitants cheat on their partners more often than spouses. Finally, unmarried live-in couples face more conflict and abuse than do married couples. They as a group actually have one of the highest rates of "severe domestic violence".

What is the true goal of cohabiting? The underlying desire of most couples is to have a flourishing, fulfilling, and lasting relationship. Proponents of cohabitation support it because they believe it will strengthen their relationship. That is simply not true. The evidence is clear: living together before marriage decreases the chances that couples will be able to reach their goals. Young people must return to the idea that living together is reserved until after the wedding. Then perhaps we can curb the rising divorce rate and see more successful marriages than failures.

Works Cited:

Clarkberg, Marin, Ross M. Stolzenberg, and Linda J. Waite. "Attitudes, values, and entrance into cohabitational versus marital unions." Social Forces. Dec. 1995: 609(24). Expanded Academic ASAP. Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI. 30 Mar. 2001.

Smock, Pamela J. "COHABITATION IN THE UNITED STATES: An Appraisal of Research Themes, Findings, and Implications." Annual Review of Sociology. Annual 2000: 1. Expanded Academic ASAP. Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI. 30 Mar. 2001.

Vreeland, Leslie M., and Miriam Leuchter. "SPECIAL REPORT: THE DELECATE BALANCES OF LIVING TOGETHER How to keep your partnership from becoming a dangerous liaison." Money. 1 Mar. 1989: 88. Electric Library. Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI. 30 Mar. 2001.

Wetzstein, Cheryl. "Who?s happier after?" The Washington Times. 28 Sept. 1998: 38(1). Expanded Academic ASAP. Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI. 30 Mar. 2001.

Node your homework.

randombit says ...given your argument, I think a much better comparison would be cohabitating couples and couples who are not living together but have been dating a similiar amount of time.

randombit is probably right about this; however, given that I posted this piece in the form that it was originally submitted to my professor, I choose to leave it as is.

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