Earlier today I was finishing a run-through of the September issue of Christianity Today magazine when I ran across a little interview with Glenn Stanton on “The Science of Shacking Up.” Stanton’s the author of The Ring Makes All The Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage, a book that focuses on the scientific evidence about the dangers and downfalls of cohabitation.
The last question interviewer Caryn Rivandeneira asks Stanton is this: “What would you say to a those who believe cohabitation can help people marry the ‘right person’?” OK. . . now you’ve really got my attention as I hear this argument all the time. Stanton begins his answer with a great little quote from Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University. That little quote is from an article Hauerwas penned in 1978 in which he refers to his own law. . . known now as Hauerwas’s Law. . . which is this: “You always marry the wrong person.” Stanton goes on to explain that Hauerwas’s Law is so important to grasp and the sooner young couples can understand that, the better off they’ll be. Young couples typically protest by asking, “You mean you don’t want us to be soul mates?” Hauerwas knew that nobody marries their soul mate. Rather, you become soul mates as you live together and love each other over the course of your married life.
Here’s Hauerwas’s Law in its original context from that 1978 article: “Most of the literature that attempts to instruct us about getting along in marriage fails to face up to a fact so clearly true that I have dared to call it Hauerwas’s Law: You always marry the wrong person. It is as important to note, of course, as Herbert Richardson pointed out to me, that the reverse of the law is also true: namely, that you also always marry the right person. The point of the law is to suggest the inadequacy of the current assumption that the success or failure of a marriage can be determined by marrying the “right person.” Even if you have married the “right person,” there is no guarantee that he or she will remain such, for people have a disturbing tendency to change. Indeed, it seems that many so-called “happy marriages” are such because of the partners’ efforts to preserve “love” by preventing either from changing. This law is meant not only to challenge current romantic assumptions but to point out that marriage is a more basic reality than the interpersonal relations which may or may not characterize a particular marriage. Indeed, the demand that those in a marriage love one another requires that marriage have a basis other than the love itself. For it is only on such a basis that we can have any idea of how we should love.”
So. . . even though I married the wrong person, I know that today I am married to the right person. . . a reality that will be even more true tomorrow.
“Indeed, it seems that many so-called “happy marriages” are such because of the partners’ efforts to preserve “love” by preventing either from changing.” No truer words have ever been spoken…very perceptive. The tightest grip is held with an open hand.
I read parts from Glenn Stanton’s book. He is totally right-on with his factual, logical and scientific analysis for people whom cohab for the WRONG REASONS… and there are many. But there is no difference between cohabbing for the wrong reasons and getting married for the wrong reasons. He does not address cohabbing for the proper reasons. Just as there are right reasons to marry, there are right reasons to cohab. Glenn ONLY addresses the wrong reasons, with their resultant, not surprising, repercussions.
Unfortunately, just like Glenn, the cartoon you show totally misrepresents the reason to cohab. The proper reason is not to see if problems will disappear, and you very well know that Walt. But that reasoning then can also be applied to people who get married believing their problems will disappear. You don’t want me to start naming all the couples I know who thought that would occur, or that having children would make their problems disappear – wrong.
Cohab should not even be considered if there are problems. Cohab is discussed when dating has been going great and there is the desire to see if this compatibility and enjoyment of each other can continue in a more demanding situation, and whether the initial interest and concern can be maintained with the increase in familiarity. If it cannot, as in some marriages, you have avoided a tremendously ugly situation called divorce, which affects so many more than just the two seeking the divorce – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and worst of all, children. Breaking off a childless cohab has nowhere near these disastrous results.
Cohabbing is the logical next step after successful dating. It is the “testing” period between dating and marriage. All hypotheses are tested before being put into effect. Would you buy a car knowing it was never tested for safety, knowing that purchasing it could have disastrous results, or would you want to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into?
Be aware that in all of Jesus’ words of condemnable acts and behavior, never once does He condemn cohabitation. Jesus directed His words toward real consequential issues, like ardently, and frequently condemning the rich. Cohab condemnation is purely a puritanical proposition. Why the gross discrepancy in your numerous posts covering issues not addressed by Jesus – premarital sex, homosexuality, pornography, but not a single post warning our young people of the evils of being rich, that Jesus heavily pontificated on?
Walt, would you please, please, please, please, please, please, please loan out from the Elizabeth Forward Library the DVD “Inside Job” by Charles Ferguson. It is a highly acclaimed, well- researched documentary, on the evils of being rich. Although they don’t have it at that branch, they can order it from a neighboring branch for you. I called to make sure. Call PH# 412-896-2371, and ask them to order it for you, please.
What would be your argument against cohab if a vow was taken, and honored, to refrain from sex during this period? Is there any argument there? What would the adverse consequences be, between sexless cohabbing for several months, and being engaged for several months?
Isn’t it glaringly apparent that such an inordinate and inappropriate amount of puritanical Fundamental Christianity revolves around condemnable sex? It’s called “Dysfunctional Sexual Fixation”.
I second that, Tammy. -Danae