I am interested in marriage. Not only have I been married for more than 41 years I have been a marriage celebrant for about 30 years and probably officiated at more than a hundred marriages! An article I read this week quoted the Australian Bureau of Statistics with the following figures:
· 1977 – 25% of couples cohabitated before marriage
· 1987 – 42% of couples cohabitated before marriage
· 1997 – 65% of couples cohabitated before marriage
· 2007 – 77% of couples cohabitated before marriage
· 2010 – 79% of couples cohabitated before marriage
The article, published by PREPARE/ENRICH Australia (April 2016) considers a few reasons for this, one of which is the fact that the age at marriage has increased. In 1981, the median age for men was 24.4 years and the median age for women was 22 years. In 2010 the median age for men had increased to 31.4 years and 29.6 for women. Over my time as a celebrant I had noticed the trend towards these higher levels of cohabitation but had not really thought about the increase in age.
Obviously cohabiting has benefits which can be measured in terms of financial savings, more time together, more opportunities for privacy and intimacy. Couples that I have talked to also see cohabitating as a way to test their “compatibility”, and, in effect testing whether they are able to “live together” in harmony. Another aspect is simply the recognition that if it doesn’t “work” the dissolution of their partnership is much less complicated than getting a divorce!
Interesting, but what difference does it make? Overall the research would seem to suggest that “No positive contribution of cohabitation to a successful marriage has been found to date”. However, the article did note that “cohabiting that is within 3-6 months before marriage is different from cohabiting as an alternative to marriage”. It seems to me that the real problem is that couples choosing to cohabit do so because it is easy, and it just happens without much thought! In the process they never really consider the long term implications, the level of commitment required or seek to learn the skills necessary to make a long term relationship work.
The good news is that it is never too late to learn! Every couple can benefit from what used to be called “pre-marriage counselling”, even if you have not yet set a date. Don’t put it off any longer, if you are thinking of marriage or just feeling that your relationship could be better maybe it is time to do something about it. Part of my job is to help you in that process, so send me an email and we can chat about how to begin. I am taking my young and beautiful wife on holidays for the next two weeks so you have plenty of time to talk about it with your partner and get back to me or one of the other chaplains!
Padre Ian S Whitley. AM