Tag Archives: cohabitation

More Couples are Sliding into Cohabitation

According to the New York Times, cohabitation in the U.S. has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the last 50 years. While many people still have moral and/or religious issues with cohabitation, more than half of all marriages are now preceded by living together. If you are thinking about whether cohabitation is feasible for you (i.e., saving money while you decide if your partner is marriage material), read “The Downside of Cohabitation Before Marriage” from The New York Times’ opinion pages by Meg Jay. Despite the title, she is not really against the idea of cohabitation; she just offers an array of warnings. She discusses “the cohabitation effect” as well as researchers’ findings that cohabiting partners often have differing, unspoken agendas. She touches on research that shows a strong strong correlation between cohabitation before marriage and lower marital satisfaction.  Read on for more insights into this piece from our guest contributor. Breakups may also involve division of substantial assets like homes. That’s where today’s contributor comes in.

Today’s guest post by Indianapolis realtor and relocation expert (and friend of mine!), Kristie Smith. Kristie is always on the front edge of trends, and she has found the need to provide more than the usual housing expertise to her clients. While in the past, most buyers were either single or married, today’s realtors need to be prepared to sell homes to the growing number of cohabitating partners who may or may not understand the legal implications of such a decision. When I found this article on her blog, I thought many of you would be interested in reading her insights.  And if not, maybe you’ll like the clip from Mad Men. By the way, Kristie is happily married and resides in Indianapolis. She’s a long-time supporter of Marriage Gems and of my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss. Thanks, Kristie!

Guest post by Kristie Smith

Kristie Smith

If you caught the April 29 episode of Mad Men, in one of the climatic scenes, Peggy’s very Catholic mother admonishes her daughter after Peggy announces that she’s moving in with her boyfriend, Abe. “You are selling yourself short,” Mrs. Olsen says, explaining her anger. “This boy, he will use you for practice until he decides to get married and have a family. And he will, believe me.” Watch the first two minutes of the clip below for an inside look at this story line!

The show takes place in 1965, so Mrs. Olsen’s reaction may seem quite old-fashioned when viewed through the lens of today’s “anything goes” culture. But was Peggy’s mom on to something?

A recent must-read column in the New York Times suggests that she was. According to the article, while two-thirds of 20-somethings say that moving in together is a good way to test the waters before marriage, and therefore avoid divorce, research shows that couples who live together before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) “tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not.”

Why is this? Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist and author of the column, describes a phenomenon called “sliding before deciding.” You’re together all the time, you sleep over frequently and then voila—you’re living together, more for reasons of convenience and finance than real commitment. And once this arrangement begins, it’s hard to get out of, especially if you buy furniture, a pet or even a home together. Jay compares it to opting in for a credit card with zero percent interest for the first year. After 12 months, the interest shoots up to 23 percent; you haven’t paid off the balance and, whoa—you’re locked in.

I do tend to be of the conservative persuasion, like Mrs. Olsen. In addition to the social implications of the living-together-before-marriage trend, which I find fascinating, I of course am interested in the real estate implications. After all, nearly 40 percent of all closings that I attend are for non-traditional buyers, and statistics show that more than eight percent of all owner-occupied homes in the U.S. are owned by unmarried couples.

Before you get into what could turn out to be a bad situation (some say a breakup between two unmarried people who own property together can be worse than a divorce), here are some big issues you should take into consideration:

  • What if you buy a house together and you eventually break up? This is a significant consideration given that almost half of unmarried couples break up within five years, and unmarried couples do not have the benefit of legal protections that married couples enjoy. To protect yourself, it’s of utmost importance to put the answer to this question in writing. Work with an attorney to draw up a Home Sharing Agreement, which will spell out your individual rights and responsibilities with respect to the property as you purchase your new home and on an ongoing basis.
  • What if one of us doesn’t want to sell the home after a break up? If there is no Home Sharing Agreement and you break up, you can mutually decide what happens to the home. If the house has no mortgage, then one party can simply sign a quit-claim deed and remove all rights to the home. This makes sense if the home has little or no equity. However, if there is a mortgage on the property in both names, you cannot simply quit-claim your interest and walk away. That mortgage and debt impact will influence your credit (and buying potential) until the home is eventually sold or refinanced. Therefore, it’s critical that if a partner is keeping the house, he MUST refinance the loan into just his name. If the remaining partner cannot get approved for the loan solo, then the property must be sold to protect the displaced mate’s credit and financial responsibility for the home.
  • What if you move in to a home that your partner already owns and you then break up? It doesn’t matter how much money you put toward maintenance, improvements and other expenses. The home is in your partner’s name, which means you will have no legal recourse should you break up.
  • What if one person owns the house and there is a death? Because of this possibility, it’s important to write the deed in both of the couple’s names with “rights of survivorship,” even if only one person is financially responsible on the mortgage.  If the title is NOT set up this way, the house will go to the next of kin of the “owner.”

Although many unmarried couples slip into their living arrangements because of convenience, living together brings up all kinds of legal considerations, especially when an unmarried couple buys a home together.  Although you may think that you don’t need a piece of paper to prove your love, you should at the very least have a home sharing agreement to protect your interests. Marriage shouldn’t be entered into lightly, and neither should living together. To echo Peggy’s mom, don’t sell yourself short.

——

Thanks to Kristie for sharing her insights. You can reach Kristie at www.IndyHomes.com.

Lori Lowe, founder of Marriage Gems, is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Cohabitation Rates Outpace Divorce Rates

More children in the U.S. are living with unmarried parents than divorced parents, says a new report from the National Marriage Project, written by 18 family scholars from leading institutions. Unfortunately, cohabiting households with children are linked to increased family instability and negative outcomes for children.

While Gen-Xers like me grew up during a doubling of the divorce rate, today’s children have different issues that are contributing to less stable families. Perhaps many of these children of divorce have fears about marrying and choose to cohabit and have children without marriage.

While divorce rates have come down considerably, family instability is on the rise because of the dramatic rise in cohabitation.  The number of Americans who have children and live together without marriage has increased twelvefold since 1970.

Cohabiting parents are twice as likely to split as parents who are married. Twenty-four percent of children born to married parents will see their parents divorce or separate by age 12, whereas 42 percent of children will experience parental cohabitation by age 12.

Compared to children from intact, married families, children in cohabiting homes are more likely to experience social and emotional problems, including drug use, depression and dropping out of high school. The report cites studies that show children in cohabiting families tend to perform worse in school and tend to be less psychologically healthy than children with married parents.

Children in unmarried households also have higher rates of abuse. A New York Times article that describes the report says it cited a 2010 report on child abuse by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The department concluded children living with two married biological parents had the lowest rates of harm—6.8 per 1,000 children—compared to children living with one parent and an unmarried partner (who was not a parent), at 57.2 per 1,000 children (the highest rates of abuse).

Once again, the report shows a divide in America based on education or class. Americans with only a high school diploma are far more likely to cohabit than are college graduates. “The educated and affluent enjoy relatively strong, stable families. Everyone else is more likely to be consigned to unstable, unworkable ones,” says W. Bradford Cox, director of the National Marriage Project.

Visit United Press International for details.

Do you think public education should be provided about the benefits for children who live with  married parents versus cohabiting parents? Why do you think cohabiting parents are twice as likely to split up as married parents? Do you think increased cohabitation will be a continuing trend or one that will rise and fall with different generations as divorce rates have done?

LINK:
GenX Marriages: Divorce is out, marriage is in–interesting article with helpful marriage advice

Photo courtesty of Stockvault.net by Edwin Loyola

Debunking Divorce Myths/Flushing Out Rumors

I recall a friend who was about to file for a divorce expressing how she would be financially better off after she divorced her husband. A friend of hers had put this idea in her head, and she believed it without question. Since she and her husband fought frequently about money, she thought she would have more freedom with her finances after they were separated. Sadly, that was not the case; the divorce only compounded their financial problems, and she filed for bankruptcy soon after. This example is only to say: Don’t believe everything you hear. The effects of divorce can’t always be predicted, and there are many misunderstandings surrounding divorce.

Following are a couple of myths about divorce. These come from David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project, and a professor of sociology at Rutgers University.

Myth: Following divorce, the woman’s standard of living plummets by 73 percent while the man’s standard of living improves by 42 percent.

Fact: This widely publicized statistic was based on a faulty calculation. The data was recalculated to show a 27 percent loss in standard of living for women, and a 10 percent gain for men. Popenoe says the gender gap post-divorce is real, and hasn’t narrowed much since the study was done decades ago.

Perhaps the perception of financial gain leads people to believe the following untruth…

Myth: It is usually men who initiate divorce proceedings.

Fact: Two-thirds of divorces are actually initiated by women. However, child custody and divorce laws in each state influence these numbers. States in which women have a better chance at retaining full custody of children have higher rates of women initiating divorce proceedings. In states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband, the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower, says Popenoe. While women more frequently file for divorce, men are more likely to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity (which may lead her to want the divorce in the first place). So, let’s not “blame” women for divorces, folks.

Myth: Living together before marriage is a good way to reduce the chances of eventually divorcing.

Fact: Popenoe reports many studies have concluded those who live together before marriage have considerably higher rates of divorce.

Myth: When parents don’t get along, children are better off if their parents divorce than if they stay together.

Fact: Studies show that while marital unhappiness does negatively affect children, so does divorce. For two-thirds of familes in low-conflict homes, the children’s situation only worsens after the divorce. They are better off if the parents stay together and work out their problems. Studies show only those in very high-conflict homes benefit from “the conflict removal that divorce may bring.”

If you’re interested in more setting the record straight, read Popenoe’s other Myths and Facts about Divorce.

Perhaps spreading misinformation is one of the reasons why Divorce is Contagious? What rumors have you heard about the effects or causes of divorce? Have you questioned the veracity of rumors like these?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Are 20-Somethings in a Relational Wasteland With No Courtship?

Chances are you met your mate, dated for a while, fell in love, got engaged, then got married. It’s the “courtship narrative” we were brought up with. But it’s not the case anymore. For many, “this narrative has been disrupted, without being replaced, leaving many 20-somethings in a ‘relational wasteland.’” Sadly, in this super-connected society, true emotional connections are becoming more difficult.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project a the University of Virginia, writes in The Washington Post about young people who are Lost in a World Without Courtship.

Why the change? Sexual activity is starting much earlier than in previous generations, but the average age at which people marry is later. This leaves a hormone-filled gap—during which our culture (including parents and churches, according to Wilcox) provides little guidance. Casual sex generally fills the gap, with no discussion of love, and often no dating or courtship. (It’s not uncommon to hear about “sexual favors” being performed casually in elementary and middle school.) Even after graduating from college, many 20-somethings go out in groups and “hook up” as they wish, rather than go out on dates. Occasionally, a couple creates a “relationship,” but marriage is not the next step in their narrative.

Wilcox says young people have evolved their own narrative, and the next step is cohabitation. “For some, it is a test-drive for marriage. For others, it is an easier, low-commitment alternative to marriage.” From 1960 to 2007, cohabitation increased forteenfold. “Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce…and can poison one’s view of the opposite sex,” says Wilcox, adding that engaged couples who cohabit are generally not adversely affected.

The bigger problem for society is when cohabiting couples decide to procreate. “Cohabitation is no place for children,” says Wilcox. Three-fourths of children in such unions see their parents split by age 16, while one-third of children with married parents see them divorce. He says marriage is society’s best tool for binding the parents together in the common interests of the child. Children in single-parent homes are considerably more disadvantaged—financially, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Wilcox suggests the ideal age to marry seems to be in the early to mid-20s. Teen marriages have a much higher divorce rate, and those marrying after 27 are at risk of being too set in their ways or having unrealistically high standards. (Kathleen Quiring has just written a series on why early marriage can be a positive trend in her opinion. Read the series at Project M.)

What’s your story? How did you meet your mate and fall in love? Do you think courtship, romance, dating and love are dying out with the young? How do you think marriage will be affected for the next generation? What do you teach your children about love and sex?

Number of Unwed Mothers Rises Sharply in U.S. & Worldwide

When I see my children with their father, I can’t imagine their lives without him there on a daily basis. The bond they share is as close as theirs to me, but it’s different in many ways. Fathers provide not only a vital role in child rearing, but also in supporting and assisting mothers and in demonstrating to children how a man should treat a woman. Apparently in the U.S., fewer and fewer children are enjoying this important bond with their fathers.

The number of children being born to single mothers has risen sharply in recent years, according to The Washington Post. This trend is being attributed not to teen parents, but to women in their 20s and 30s who are choosing to have children without being married. Nearly 40% (4 of every 10 births) are now to unmarried women, up from 18% in 1980.

Some causal factors being discussed include a lower social stigma associated with unmarried motherhood, an increase in cohabitation and delaying of marriage, and an increase in financially independent and older women deciding to have children on their own (for instance after delaying having children until their career was established).

The Post cited some experts giving positive reasons more women are now single mothers, for instance in the past more were compelled to give up children for adoption or coerced into abortions, and now pregnancy to a single mother is common. Other experts said “the trend is disturbing because children who grow up without stable, two-parent families tend not to fare as well.” (Just a note: I think it’s clear there are many single moms who do an excellent job given a difficult set of circumstances, and they should be acknowledged.) 

Worldwide, this trend is even more apparent, according to USA Today. In Northern European countries, marriage rates are substantially lower than in the U.S. Iceland has the highest number of out-of-wedlock births, with 6 in 10 births to unmarried women. There are some differences between the U.S. and other countries, however. “U.S. mothers are more likely to be single parents because the non-married relationship doesn’t tend to last very long,” says demographer Patrick Heuveline, so many more of these children in the U.S. are born to single mothers without fathers present. In European countries these births tend to be in two-parent cohabitations, to parents who are in a stable union but unmarried.

How do you react to these statistics? How do you think these trends will affect the next generation of Americans? Does marriage provide any value to society or is it a dying institution? Do you think fathers are vital or optional to children’s upbringing?

Is Brad Pitt right?

This morning on the Today Show, Brad Pitt briefly discussed his family, including long-time girlfriend Angelina Jolie and their six adoptive children. When asked if he planned to marry Angie, he said if they determine it would benefit their children, they would do so. Well, here’s some evidence that could change the mind of people wondering if long-term cohabitation is as good a choice as marriage for families with children.

Hopefully, most Americans aren’t modeling their lives after Hollywood celebrities, but cohabitation is becoming more common, so the issue is worth discussing. Marriage is not just a financial decision; it is not just a decision of the heart. It involves these things of course, but when children are involved, they should also be considered.  So, today’s post is dedicated to studies showing how children are affected by marriage—emotionally, behaviorially, sexually, mentally, and physically. I would be happy to send you more details on any of these studies.

Research shows that in the U.S. cohabitators resemble singles more than they resemble married couples. Their unions are much less stable. One study showed that half of the children born to a cohabitating couple saw their parents split by the time they were five. The number was even higher for Latino or African-Americans. For married couples, 15% split in the same time period.

Another study found that even after controlling for socioeconomic and parenting factors, teenagers who lived in cohabiting households experienced more behavioral and emotional difficulties than those in intact, married families.

A study found married parents devote more of their financial resources to childrearing and education than do cohabiting parents, whereas cohabiting parents spent a larger percentage of their income on alcohol and tobacco. In the study, cohabiting couples had lower incomes and education levels. They also reported more conflict and violence and lower satisfaction levels.

Marriage has not only social effects on children, but also biosocial consequences. For example, girls appear to have their sexual development affected by male pheromones, which either accelerate or decelerate their development, depending on their family situation. Studies have shown that adolescent girls who do not grow up in an intact married home are more likely to menstruate early. On the other hand, girls “who have close, engaged relationships with their fathers” begin menstruation at a later age. Girls who live with an unrelated male menstruate even earlier than those living with single mothers. Researchers believe the father’s pheromones appear to inhibit sexual development, while an unrelated male accelerates her development. When a girl has earlier sexual development, she is more likely to become sexually active earlier and is at higher risk of teen pregnancies.

Boys also benefit from married parents. Boys in unmarried families carry out more delinquent acts. Boys in single-parent homes are about twice as likely, and boys in stepfamilies are 2½ times more likely, to commit a crime leading to jail time by their 30s. Boys in cohabiting families have been found to be more likely to be involved in delinquent behavior, cheating, and have more school suspensions. When a boy lives with his mother and her boyfriend, the boyfriend is more likely to be abusive than his own father. This leads to additional problems.

Additional research has suggested children with two married parents have better health and a longer life expectancy than other children.  This benefit starts in infancy, and remains a lifelong benefit.

It is tempting to suggest the difference is due to socioeconomic status or education levels. But many studies account for these factors. One such study followed academically gifted, middle-class children for 70 years. Researchers controlled for family background and childhood health status, and even personality characteristics. They found children of divorce had life expectancy reduced by four years. They also found that 40-year-old men whose parents had divorced were three times more likely to die in the next 40 years than were 40-year-old men whose parents remained married.

Even babies have a lower risk of mortality when born to married parents than if they are born to unmarried parents. The average increase in infant mortality is 50% for unmarried women. After controlling for age, race and education, infants with unwed mothers still have a higher mortality rate, even through early childhood years.

Sweden has a national health care system for all its citizens. But a study of the entire Swedish population showed boys who lived in single-parent homes were more than 50% more likely to die of various causes (i.e. suicide, accidents, addiction) than those in a married, two-parent home. Boys and girls in single-parent families were more than twice as likely to have problems with drug or alcohol abuse, psychiatric diseases, suicide attempts. They were also more likely to experience poisonings, traffic injuries or falls than teens in two-parent families.

Yet another U.S. study shows teens who live with their married parents are less likely to experiment to drugs alcohol or tobacco than other teens—even after controlling for age, race, gender, and family income.

Mental health of children was also affected when parents split up. Children of divorce have double the risk of serious psychological problems later in life than children with parents who stay married. They are more likely to suffer from depression, drug and alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts.  The exception is when a marriage has “high and sustained” conflict levels, children benefit psychologically if the parents divorce.

I could write many more examples, but I imagine you get the picture that marriage has been shown in lots of research to protect children in myriad ways. Let me just share the most shocking statistics for those of you still with me. It is hard to imagine for parents who love their children (and stepchildren), but children who do not live with their own two parents are at much higher risk of child abuse. Living with a stepparent is the most significant factor in severe child abuse. Children are more than 50 times more likely to be murdered by a stepparent (usually a stepfather) than by a biological parent. A different study showed children were 40 times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with both of his biological parents. A national study found that 7% of children who lived with one parent had been sexually abused, compared to 4% of children who live with both parents.

With this research in mind, do you believe marriage has a social benefit for children?

 

Information on these studies can be found in “Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition” by Institute for American Values, or send a request to me and I will send you details on the individual study.

What Creates a Family—Love or Marriage?

Lots of people these days believe that love, not marriage, makes a family. I’m not one of them. That’s not to say that close friends are really family—that I understand. What I don’t agree with is the conditional marriage concept of staying together as long as both people are happy and in love. Let’s face it, real marriage isn’t all romance and roses. There can be tough times to go through.

 

The irony is that couples who support this “conditional” marriage end up less happy in their relationships than those who value marriage as a permanent decision, value marriage for its own sake and prefer it over cohabitation. The legal institution of marriage creates an expectation of fidelity and lifelong commitment. This fact fosters “better romantic and parental relationships” than cohabitation. What’s more, married adults enjoy happier, healthier and less violent relationships than do those who are dating or cohabiting.1

 

Why is the conditional philosophy of marriage becoming so predominant in our culture? I believe one reason is a lack of great marriage role models as many of us have grown up in single-parent or divorced households with fewer extended family members nearby.

 

Another critical fact is our culture’s value of freedom and personal happiness above all else. What I have discovered through interviewing many married couples is that when spouses pursued their partner’s happiness before their own, their own happiness was increased beyond expectation.

 

How about you—did you grow up with great marriage role models? If so, tell us about them!

 

 

1 Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.