Deseret News, Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Deseret News editorial

Every now and then a study comes along that puts old problems in a new 
light. Last week, the Toledo Blade reported that a Bowling Green State 
University professor has found that while fewer cohabitating couples end 
up getting married these days, 75 percent the women in these couples 
still expect it to happen some day.


A lot of bad things can be said about the trend away from marriage. One 
of the worst is that it fails to provide any sense of stability or 
security. Apparently, most women in these situations still want this, 
but their male partners do not.


That's not too surprising. Women generally tend to get the worst end of 
any decision to end a relationship. They end up with a lot of burdens 
and few advantages, particularly if children are involved. Without a 
marriage contract, the question of legal rights is cloudy, at best. More 
to the point, however, the women in the survey seemed more concerned 
with making sure the relationship didn't end, and that generally 
requires a sign of commitment. Young men seem less concerned with this.


President Bush has led an effort to lift people out of poverty by giving 
them incentives to get married. This study ought to reframe that debate 
a little. The administration's efforts were aimed at single mothers who 
are struggling in poverty. Instead, they ought to be aimed at young men 
who don't appreciate their roles as husbands and fathers.


According to the Census Bureau, the number of live-in couples in the 
United States increased from 523,000 in 1970 to well over 4 million 
today. Most tend to split up after about 18 months. That's a disturbing 
trend. Marriage brings stability and security not only to the people 
involved, but to society overall. It leads to stable communities and to 
greater commitments toward raising the next generation.


The study makes one thing clear: Anyone whose real aim is to get married 
should not agree to cohabitate first as some sort of compatibility 
trial. It nearly never works, and when it does, the divorce rate among 
such couples tends to be high.


When couples live together outside of marriage, the women tend to grow 
less and less optimistic of eventually tying the knot as time goes by, 
the study found. Perhaps they are just realizing what they should have 
suspected from the start.


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 2002 Deseret News Publishing Company 

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