First off, I’d like to visit what Mark Driscoll had to say about cohabitation and “sleeping together” in a question and answer period at the end of his sermon Men and Marriage in his Real Marriage series:
Real Marriage: Men and Marriage – Mark Driscoll
47:00 to 50:26
Question: “If a friend who professes to be a Christian is living with his girlfriend who also professes to be a Christian, how should we confront him as a professing brother in Christ?”
Mark Driscoll’s response: (joking – rephrasing the question) “If I know two vegans who eat steak.” I just don’t even understand the question. (getting serious) Be tough. You can’t come in and be tender. “Oh buddy, I hate to hurt your feelings.” No. You have taken one of God’s daughters and you are breaking covenant with God and you are participating in fornication. And first Corinthians says that fornicators go to Hell! Now you can be forgiven but it’s such a big deal Jesus died for it! So don’t turn it into “Well, we’re married in God’s eyes.” God’s eyes are flaming red. He’s not even blinking. (laughter) . . . You send the gals to go meet with her. You send the guys to go meet with him. And you try in every way to get in the middle of it. If they’re in a church you get the leadership involved. If they have Godly family you get them involved. And the truth is that even statistically those who live together before they’re married. They have a higher rate of divorce. It’s because, see, living together and sleeping together is not practice for marriage and covenant. It’s practice for divorce and contract. And so if you love them and you love Jesus you’ve got to tell them ‘He says no!’”
“Ladies, Jesus has to always be the most important man in your life. Your husband is the second most important man. But in this occasion, this woman has put the man above Jesus. And it came down to; I’m going to obey Jesus or the man, I’m going to serve Jesus or the man, I’m going to draw near to Jesus or the man. And she chose Jesus, no, she chose the man. And that’s idolatry, and that is turning the man into a Lord; something that’s not fit for him. And the Bible says to offer our bodies as living sacrifices fully and acceptable unto the Lord. So what we offer our body to is an act of worship. That means that they are Pagans, that their bed is a temple, and when they are together it is a worship act to a Demon God. It’s not just an alternative lifestyle. It’s deep, it’s deep sin, it’s deep rebellion.”
What I find most interesting about this response by Mark Driscoll to the question of cohabitation is how serious Mark Driscoll is in condemning it. First off he jokes about how self-professed Christians “living together” is like two vegans eating steak; that it is a logical non sequitur. In other words cohabitation is such a fundamentally non-Christian act that one can’t be cohabiting and be a Christian at the same time. And that’s just the warm up. Then he talks about how you need to intervene in the situation; get the church elders involved, get the family involved. He says how cohabitation is not practice for marriage and covenant; it is practice for divorce and contract. Earlier during the regular sermon Driscoll described how marriage is a covenant, not a contract. That covenant is based on mutual sacrifice and generosity while contract is based on mutual selfishness. Finally Driscoll says that the woman cohabiting with a man is placing the man above God, is practicing idolatry, and that cohabitation is deep sin, deep rebellion.
Cohabitation was earlier known as “living in sin.” Look up “living in sin” in Wikipedia and it states:
“This phrase arises from the idea that legal marriage is a prerequisite for conjugal relationships. Popularly associated with the attitude of the church, the term connotes a belief that such behavior is sinful. The term is mostly used in a jocular fashion in modern times.”
Yes, I can see how a young adult saying they are “living in sin” would be seen as a kind of ironic joke. The thing is that the phrase “living in sin” was not started as a joke; it was started as a euphemism in reference to a serious matter. “Living in sin” was so hush hush and scandalous that people didn’t want to say out loud the sin that was being committed directly so the euphemism “living in sin” was constructed instead. Now “living in sin” has morphed into a quaint old fashioned joke; that someone is being a little bit naughty or perhaps haughtily defying old-fashioned conventions.
The formal term for “living in sin” is cohabitation. What is cohabitation exactly? Cohabitation is when a man and woman are living together romantically and having sex but they have not actually gotten married. In other words they are in a situation where they might very well create a child but they have not first made a lifetime commitment to each other either in the social sense of publicly making a lifetime commitment before friends and family or in the legal sense of entering into a marriage with its attendant financial obligations enforced by law. So basically cohabitation is the behavioral form of marriage with the serious consequences of marriage in the form of likely children but without the commitment of marriage. Cohabitation is taking on the moral responsibilities of marriage without getting married to do so. This is what is morally corrupt or sinful about cohabitation; that the heavy duty a marriage takes on can only be done successfully and responsibly if a rock solid foundation of commitment is in place first.
Going back to what marriage is in the first place. Marriage is male investment in women so that women can perform their feminine role within the family and for the community at large. A wife needs to be able to rely upon her husband’s support of her. The ability of the wife to rely upon her husband requires that the husband make a commitment to support the wife first; this commitment of the man to support the woman being what marriage is. So in cohabitation this first foundation of commitment is absent meaning that the man’s support of the woman cannot be effective as the man’s support of the woman cannot be relied upon as the man never committed to support the woman in the first place. So the quasi-marital situation of cohabitation is broken and dysfunctional at its core; it is marriage without marriage, it is taking on the obligations that require commitment without commitment in place. As Driscoll says cohabitation is not practice for marriage and covenant, it is practice for divorce and contract.
In 1970 there were only 500,000 cohabiting couples in the United States; this increased to 1.6 million such couples in 1980, 2.9 million in 1990, 3.8 million in 2000, and then 7.6 million in 2011. Cohabiting skyrocketed from 2000 to 2011; a new acceleration in the acceptance of the trend. The probability of divorce; the likelihood a given married couple will divorce in a particular year; shot up from 9.2 per 1,000 in 1960 to 22.6 per 1,000 in 1980 and then from 1980 to 2000 fell from 22.6 to 18.8. This positive trend of already existing marriages becoming more stable reversed after 2000 with the divorce probability going from 18.8 in 2000 to 20.9 in 2011. It might well be that it is the extreme rise in cohabitation from 2000 to 2011 that is causing the divorce probability to rise again. As for the divorce rate, the total number of divorces divided by the total number of marriages, it is noteworthy that it went from 47.7% in 2005 to 52.6% in 2010. This is a major rise over a 5 year period and historically high for the United States where a 50% divorce rate has been a ceiling since 1975. This rise in the divorce rate since 2005 confirms the apparent increase in the probability of divorce after 2000 and coincides with the extreme increase in cohabitation from 2000 to 2011.
Below is a line graph of the divorce rate in the United States from 2000 to 2011:
Comparing 1995 to 2006-10 (the later survey period being from 2006 to 2010) cohabitation has greatly increased as the form of first union; the choices being either marriage or cohabitation being a woman’s first time living romantically with a man. Among women 15 to 44 (the reproductive years) in 1995 46.5% of first unions were cohabitations; this went up to 67.6% in 2006-10. From a little less than half to a little over two-thirds from 1995 to 2008 (2006 to 2010 more precisely). Among whites in particular first unions being cohabitation went from 45.8% in 1995 to 67.7% in 2006-10. Asians are the only racial group that didn’t see a major rise in cohabitation with cohabitation as first union going from 33.4% in 1995 to 32.6% in 2006-10.
Here is how cohabitation as first union increased by racial group among women 15 to 44 comparing 1995 to 2006-10.
Here is how cohabitation as first union increased according to educational attainment among women 15 to 44 comparing 1995 to 2006-10.
|Less than High School||49.7%||75.7%|
|High School only||43.2%||68.2%|
|Bachelors or Higher||43.0%||57.4%|
The median age at first marriage has been rising rapidly since 2005. The marriage rate, the number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried women per year, fell hugely from 2000 to 2010. It was 54.5 in 1990, 46.5 in 2000, and 32.9 in 2010. The huge increase in cohabitation since 2000 might explain this. If people switch from marriage first to cohabitation first that will delay the age at first marriage and that will decrease the number of people getting married because they are choosing to cohabit instead. The increase in the probability of divorce and the divorce rate can also be explained by the radical rise in cohabitation as cohabitation increases the likelihood of future divorce.
So this increase in cohabitation is serious business. I have earlier celebrated the number of women working dropping, the slow down in the increase in the out-of-wedlock birth ratio, and the end of the big rise in the incarceration rate. There’s been a mystery to the good news however regarding these cultural indicators. How can all these good things be happening with the negative political trend; the rise in atheism and extreme social libertarianism and the rise of acceptance of so-called “gay marriage”? Well, the explosion of cohabitation along with the decreasing marriage rate and the rising divorce rate might be the counterpoint to the good news in other areas. Growing acceptance of cohabitation and growing support for “gay marriage” probably go together; they’re both based on an “anything goes” mentality and treat marriage as a kind of play thing not to be taken seriously.
There appears to be a conservative “let’s rebuild the family” impulse and a libertarian “I can do whatever I want” impulse going on at the same time; the “let’s rebuild the family” impulse being responsible for the positive changes taking place and the “I can do whatever I want” impulse being responsible for this new crop of problems originating from the cohabitation explosion.
Cohabitation in America has historically been low; at least compared to Europe. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Below is a table showing the living circumstances of children by race. The table gives the proportion of children under 18 according to the relationship their head of household is in (1.3% of children being excluded because they live in non-family or homosexual households). The categories are Married, Cohabiting, Single Male, and Single Female. Married means legally married. Cohabiting means living romantically with a partner of the opposite sex but not being married. Single Male and Single Female means not married and not living with any kind of romantic partner. Data comes from the 2010 Census for the United States.
Parental Relationship Status of Children by Race: 2010 United States
|Married||Cohabiting||Single Male||Single Female|
Sources for Statistical Information: