| May 4, 2009
Advance for May 8, 2009
(First of a two part series)
The Issue for Conservatives is Marriage
By Mike McManus
Conservatives in Washington are lost. They do not know what issue to champion.
How about rebuilding marriage in America?
Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, and the godfather of Welfare Reform
has written: "If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, nearly
three-quarters of the nation's impoverished youth would immediately be lifted
out of poverty."
David Goldman reported another startling finding in the May issue of First
Things: "Consider this fact: America's population has risen from 200 million
to 300 million since 1970, while the total number of two-parent families with
children is the same today as it was when Richard Nixon took office: at 25
Why? America's marriage rate has plunged 50 percent since 1970. If the same
percentage of couples were marrying now as in 1970, there would be 3.3 million
marriages a year, not 2.2 million.
What's behind the precipitous drop in the marriage rate? My wife and I
published a book last year with the answer: Living Together: Myths, Risks
&Answers. We note that two-thirds of all marriages are preceded by
cohabitation. Why? Most young people believe the myth that they can test their
compatibility by cohabiting. That is a lie that needs to be refuted from the
pulpit of every church and in every high school and college.
Consider the numbers. In 2008, 5.8 million couples lived together. But only
1.5 million got married. That means that three-quarters underwent what we call
"premarital divorce" which is as painful as real divorce.
Evidence? Failed cohabitation is such a searing experience, it has diverted
tens of millions from marrying at all. The number of never-married Americans
tripled from 21 million in 1970 to 60 million in 2006 while population
grew only 48 percent.
What of those who do marry after living together?
According to a study by Penn State, those couples are 61% more likely to divorce
than those who remained apart. That's why the divorce rate has risen in 36
states from 2005 to 2007 - even as the number who marry has plunged.
Thus, while cohabitation has become the dominant way male-female unions are
formed - the sad fact is that only a tenth are able to build
marriages out of it.
Cohabitation is the worst possible way to test a marital relationship. It is
not a trial marriage - but a trial divorce. The only question is whether
couples break up before the wedding or afterwards.
St. Paul wrote in I Corinthians: "Flee fornication." What is cohabitation but
fornication raised to the 10th power? What's wrong with it? "He who sins
sexually sins against his own body," the Apostle warns. Is that wisdom not
stunningly clear when 90 percent of cohabiting couples fail to build a marriage?
In my nearly five decades as a journalist, sociology always backs up Scripture.
Why are couples (most of whom call themselves Christians), living together?
Have you ever heard a sermon on cohabitation? I bet not. And why not? Few
cohabiting couples are in church. But there are lots of parents of cohabiting
couples who don't know what to say to adult children. What parents need is data
St. Paul outlined the answer: "Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every
kind of evil" (I Thes. 5:21-22). Couples who are cohabiting are embracing evil.
What's a better way to test the relationship? In our home church, my wife and I
created a four-step plan that we have taken to thousands of churches:
1. Require a premarital inventory that asks couples if they agree or
disagree 150-200 statements like this: "To end an argument, I tend to give in
too quickly." The inventory gives couples an objective view of strengths and
where they need to grow.
2. Offer couples a trained Mentor Couple to discuss all of the items
over six sessions of 2-3 hours. Mentors also offer exercises to teach skills of
3. Move apart, if cohabiting. Our church won't knowingly marry
cohabiting couples. If they refuse to do so, they still get the inventory,
mentoring and skill training.
4. Stop having sex until the wedding. We show them a study that reports
a much lower divorce rate for those who are chaste. The sexually active are
two-thirds more likely to divorce. Of 60 couples we have personally mentored,
only ten were chaste when they came to us. But of the 50 who were sexually
active, 43 decided to honor God.
Result? Of 288 couples our church prepared for marriage, 55 decided not
to marry, a big 19% who avoided a bad marriage before it began. But of 233 who
married, there were only seven divorces/separations in a decade.
Compare our 97 percent success rate with cohabitants' 90 percent failure rate.
30+ Years / 1700+ Columns
2017: Column 1861: Cohabitation: A Growing Problem - Part II
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,