| February 1, 2006
Missing in The State of the Union
by Michael J. McManus
I wish President Bush had been candid about the State of America's Marital
Unions. Here's what he might have said:
Candidly, I must express alarm at the State of America's Marital Unions. Did you
know that the marriage rate has plunged 48 percent since 1970? If we had the
same percent of couples getting married now as then, there would be 3.3 million
marriages this year instead of 2.2 million.
What's gone wrong? The number of unwed couples living together soared 10-fold
from 540,000 in 1970 to 5.1 million in 2004. That's twice the number who marry
in a year. In fact, cohabitation has become the dominant way male-female unions
are formed in America - not marriage. This is a shocking moral collapse.
Cohabitation is a double cancer of marriage. First, it diverted tens of millions
of adults from getting married at all. There were only 21 million never married
Americans in 1970, but 53 million by 2004. That's a 152 percent jump when the
population grew only 43 percent.
Second, studies show that those who marry after living together, divorce at a 50
higher rate than those who never cohabited..
Cohabitation is also driving up out-of-wedlock births, from 225,000 in 1960,
percent of births - to 1.4 million in 2003, 35 percent of births. A couple
living together is just as
likely to have a child under 18 as a married couple!
Yet have you ever heard a sermon on cohabitation? I have not. Surely Scripture
is clear. Clergy need to speak out plainly to warn about the dangers of living
together because even
parents are unaware of its risks.
I was stunned to learn that government has not even tracked the number of
divorces granted since the mid-1990s. I've told the bureaucracy, `Add up the
numbers.' Experts estimate there's been one divorce for every two marriages
since 1973 and about a million kids see their parents divorce.
The terror of 9/11 destroyed 3,000 lives, shattering 3,000 families. However,
there have probably been 4 million divorces since 9/11/01, shattering 4 million
America must turn these trends around. And it can be done.
Recently, Las Cruces, NM became the 200th city in which clergy signed a
"Community Marriage Policy," with an exciting goal. As Las Cruces pastors put
it, "Our passion is to radically reduce the divorce rate of those married in
faith communities, strengthen existing marriages, restore broken marriages,
reconcile breaking marriages and provide support to stepfamilies."
More than 10,000 clergy have signed Community Marriage Policies in 42 states.
(Disclosure: I have helped create these CMPs.) An independent study of the
first 114 CMPs by the Institute for Research and Evaluation in 2004 reported two
key results of these clergy covenants:
1. The divorce rate in CMP cities fell an average of 17.5 percent over seven
double the 9.4 percent decline of similar cities without a clergy covenant. They
marriages that would have ended in divorce. Seven cities slashed their divorce
rates 48 percent or more such as Austin, Kansas City, KS, Modesto, CA, El Paso
and Salem OR.
2. The cohabitation rate fell 13 percent in CMP cities while it increased by 19
percent in comparable cities from 1990-2000. The result was that CMP cities
enjoyed a cohabitation rate one-third lower than control cities at the end of
Thus, it IS possible to reduce divorce and cohabitation rates. Marriage rates
are also rising. Evansville, IN had 1,100 marriages every year until 2004 when
1,400 couples married.
At the heart of these covenants is the training of couples in healthy marriages
to mentor other couples. Some prepare couples for marriage by giving a
premarital inventory to help them assess strengths and areas for growth, and
teach skills to resolve conflict. In one church 288 couples were prepared for
marriage over a decade, 53 of whom decided NOT to marry. But of
those who married there have been only 7 divorces since 1992.
That's a 97 percent success rate. That's marriage insurance!
Other mentor couples whose marriages were once in crisis are trained to mentor
those in current crisis, saving four out of five of them. Couples with
stepchildren who usually divorce at a 70 percent rate, attend Stepfamily Support
Groups saving 80 percent of marriages.
Therefore, I would like to call upon America's houses of worship to implement
these strategies, to achieve three great national goals over the next decade to
rebuild marriage, the foundation of our society:
1. Slash America's divorce and cohabitation rates by 50 percent by 2015.
2. Increase the marriage rate by one-third by 2015.
3. Slash out-of-wedlock births in half by 2015.
30+ Years / 1700+ Columns
2017: Column 1860: Cohabitation: A Growing Problem - Part I
Texting While Driving - A Killer
Why Have "Religious Nones" Tripled?
Norma McCorvey Roe of Roe v. Wade
The Worst Valentine: Cohabitation
Pornography: A Public Health Hazard
Christianity Gives Women Equal Opportunity
Sextortion Kills Teens
Assisted Suicide Is Growing
same sex marriage,
abortion and infanticide,