Those who have “trial” marriages do not have better marriages.
Trial runs or half steps, to test whether the relationship “works” are not successful, in fact quite the opposite is true. Research indicates that couples who live together before marriage have significantly lower marital satisfaction than those who do not cohabit and they have weaker marriages, not stronger ones. Conventional wisdom says it is acceptable to have a “trial period” to “try the shoe on first to see if it fits” or to “test drive a car before you buy it.” For marriage, however, just the opposite is true! “All a man’s ways seem right to him…” (Proverbs 21:2). A newly married couple makes a deliberate effort to accommodate each other because they know their relationship will be for life. They want to build compatibility, not test it. (Harley 1996). Walter Trobisch said that,”sex is no test of love, for it is precisely the very thing that one wants to test that is destroyed by the testing.” Laura Schlessinger, host of the nationally syndicated “Dr. Laura” radio show, scolds people nearly every day for “shacking up with your honey.” It’s the “ultimate female self-delusion,” Mrs. Schlessinger says, listing cohabiting as one of the “Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives” in her book of the same name. “Dating — not living in — is supposed to be about learning and discerning” about a prospective mate, she says.
Those who live together have no lasting commitments or responsibilities.
Cohabitation involves “no public commitment, no pledge for the future, no official pronouncement of love and responsibility. Theirs is essentially a private arrangement based on an emotional bond. The ‘commitment’ of living together is simply a month-to-month rental agreement. “As long as you behave yourself and keep me happy, I’ll stick around.” Marriage, on the other hand, is much more than a love partnership. It is a public event that involves legal and societal responsibilities. It brings together not just two people but also two families and two communities. It is not just for the here and now; it is, most newlyweds hope, ’till death do us part.’ Getting married changes what you expect from your mate and yourself. Some would argue that “the marriage license is only a piece of paper” and that “if God knows the heart, then He knows the truth of the marriage” and therefore being “married” by the church or state is an imposition and irrelevant. We are, however, admonished to obey the laws of our government in Scriptures (c. Mt. 22:21; Mk. 12:17; Lk. 20:25), which requires us to have legal marriages. (Common law marriages are recognized, in varying forms, in only 16 states – see the “Legal Reasons”).
Jessie Bernard in “The Future Of Marriage” states: “One fundamental fact underlies the conception of marriage itself. Some kind of commitment must be involved…Merely fly-by-night, touch and go relationships do not qualify. “People who marry “till death do us part” have a quite different level of commitment, therefore a quite different level of security, thus a quite different level of freedom, and as a result a quite different level of happiness than those who marry “so long as love doth last.” The “love doth last” folks are always anticipating the moment when they or their mate wakes up one morning and finds the good feeling that holds them afloat has dissolved beneath them.”
Those who live together miss something in the maturing process.
In this “alternative lifestyle,” the aim is to have all the benefits and privileges of a mature, married person without accepting the responsibilities which maturity demands. Crudely stated, “why would you buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Our society encourages people to focus on the present and live for today — “if it feels good, do it.” But the act of formal marriage implies an emphasis on the future. Cohabitation also points to a missing ingredient in the process of becoming mature: the willingness to make commitments and live up to them. A willingness to defer immediate pleasures in pursuit of a worthwhile goal is a mark of maturity. People who make a commitment and accept total responsibility for their choices are more likely to develop self-respect, personal pride, and integrity. Persons who go from one relationship to another develop patterns opting out of a stressful situation rather than hanging in there and dealing with it; these patterns can carry over into a marriage.
To be continued.