Can I live, Gerson?: In defense of cohabitating

moved in together

(Cross-posted at Girldrive)

I’ve gotten used to the fact that national publications perennially print columns bemoaning how young people are screwing up love, sex, and marriage. I’ve even learned to contain my anger when the claim that casual sex causes “emotional wreckage” is now virtually considered a given (no matter how many times we beg to differ).

But this piece by Michael Gerson in WaPo the other day particularly pissed me off. The piece, entitled “Lost in a World Without Courtship,” is a smug and nitpicky pile of Do’s and Don’t’s for twentysomethings (ignoring queer couples, naturally).

First, teenagers shouldn’t get married. Fine, but we also shouldn’t wait until we’re past our primes—at the whopping age of 27. Also, we shouldn’t cohabitate, because we are more likely to–gasp–break up one day. And we shouldn’t have children until we’re married — “Cohabitation is no place for children,” Gerson informs us. (There goes my happy childhood.) The “sweet spot,” Gerson says, is early-to-mid twenties—or else, he seems to be saying, we’re fucked.

Chances are most Feministe readers would just gloss over this headline and continue on their merry way, but there’s a bigger problem here than Gerson: Gerson’s editor. Why does the mainstream media continue to assume older columnists, conservative or not, should be parenting us when it comes to our sex and love lives? I’m all for mentoring, but I have a hard time seeing how a piece outlining the exact six marriage-safe years is helping anyone. It’ll make impressionable young people feel rushed. It’ll depress–or more likely anger–27-year-olds that are happily single or engaged. It’s sanctimonious, judgmental crap.

Plus, why do we still have to prove that there’s more to a relationship than having children and getting married? That there’s a beautiful, happy medium between casual sex and suburban nuclear families? Apparently, vague-ass studies citing unhappiness in “later” marriages can debunk years of feminism and an entire sexual revolution. (And p.s., in my group of friends, getting married at 27 is pretty damn young.)

I’d like to sidestep the tired argument about whether casual sex is damaging to young people, and point out the newer insult here: the image of cohabitation as a dead, empty, unfulfilling space in people’s lives, where we are plagued by a lack of commitment and intimacy. I’d argue that the rise of cohabbing is one of the best relationship developments in recent decades. It allows couples to really enjoy each other without feeling rushed or trapped. It is giving us space for self-development and independence. It’s your own little test-driving bubble. What, pray tell, is so wrong with that?

It’s articles like these, ones which uselessly try pin down the rules of marriage, that really make me wish marriage didn’t exist in the first place. I’m all for having a big party to formally declare your love–in fact, I had my own version of one just a couple months ago. But the meaning of marriage takes on an ominous tone when people like Gerson say stuff like this: “Marriage is the most effective institution to bind two [people] for a long period.” Cohabitation, on the other hand, breeds break-ups.

In other words, if two people grow apart, or if one starts abusing the other, or if their life goals start to converge…it’s better that they stay together? This sloppy logic just does not compute—not in the fifties, and not now. I’m getting that familiar nagging feeling that 50 percent divorce rate statistic isn’t a sign of young people’s failure of commitment. It’s a sign that people do change after 27, and fewer people are willing to put up with a miserable daily existence.

So, just so you know, Gerson et. al…young people could do without the chastising and arbitrary marriage guidelines. And if we don’t feel like tying the knot, or having kids, or settling down—now or ever—please just let us live!




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102 Responses to Can I live, Gerson?: In defense of cohabitating

  1. gretel says:

    About 40 percent of children will now spend some of their childhood in a cohabiting union.

    Interesting how he uses the terms “children” and “childhood.” I don’t think of people in their 20s as “children,” but I guess the phrases conjure images of youth being exploited.

    And he should note: Romeo and Juliet are fictional.

  2. gretel says:

    . . . unless he means children of a couple who cohabitate. I can’t be sure, since he doesn’t write for clarity. Any ideas?

  3. Nona says:

    I think he means children of a couple who cohabitate. And he’s probably right…but what annoys me is that he thinks a relationship automatically gets better or more solid as soon as there’s a marriage. It takes more to break up, true, but that doesn’t mean the couple won’t fight. And that’s not good for children either!

  4. gretel says:

    And the fatherless are some of the most disadvantaged, betrayed people in our society, prone to delinquency, poverty and academic failure.

    (One exception to this would happen to be the president of the United States, but who’s counting, right?). He seems to have an issue with causation. Are “the fatherless” prone to these things because they’re fatherless, or are they prone to them because they’re raised with poverty? I don’t think it’s fair to attribute the fate of a child to nothing other than the state of that child’s parents’ marriage or cohabitation.

  5. PixelFish says:

    Ah, Gerson seems to be another proponent of what I like to call the Recipe-Driven Life. His idea of courtship is incredibly limited, linear, and allows for no individuality. Furthermore, he seems to be obsessed with marriage as an end point, and everything should lead up to his pre-determined end point or else. No enjoying the journey, just hustle, hustle, hustle. Achieve that marriage before you hit 27 or else!

  6. Lance says:

    I must be an anomaly. The prospect of getting married prior to 30 (if not later) freaks me out. I have no idea how people can purport to commit to wanting to be with the same person for approximately the next fifty years when they’re in their twenties. Granted, that’s somewhat alleviated by the reality of divorce, but still. I’m a 26-year-old male and the prospect of even thinking about marriage makes me want to run in the other direction.

    Also, if you want people to marry younger, perhaps we could do something about recent graduates of institutes of higher learning being saddled with debt and eliminate the marriage tax penalty. Why blame 20-somethings when there are also structural problems?

  7. gretel says:

    PixelFish: Don’t forget the true endpoint: Procreation! I wonder what he thinks of married couples who either aren’t able to have children or do not choose to have children.

  8. hmmm, I turn 27 next year. Guess I should get to work on that whole getting hitched thing. Doesn’t matter that my longest relationship thus far was only a year, or that I’m not into monogamy (yeah I know that’s not an actual requirement of marriage but I’m sure it’s assumed in Gerson’s world), or that I in general just don’t give a shit about (my) marriage or even being in a long term relationship… all that matters is that I get married before i hit 28.

    Just no one tell Gerson I took the batteries out of my biological clock, m’kay?

  9. Oh, well then... says:

    “Plus, why do we still have to prove that there’s more to a relationship than having children and getting married?”

    Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

    I will be 37 in February (no, really, please…hold your applause, you’re embarrassing me), and I cannot count the number of times I have had these conversations, or any variation thereof:

    Random Nebshit: “So, you married?”
    Me: “Nope.’
    Random Nebshit: “ZOMG UR OVER 30!!!11meltdown”

    or,

    Random Nebshit: “You seein’ anybody?”
    Me: “Yeah, I’ve been living with [insert dearly beloved’s name here] for about five, six years.”
    Random Nebshit: “How come you can’t get him to marry you?”
    Me: (vivid fantasies of perpetrating ugly violence on Random Nebshit) “Meh, it’s not important to us. We’re pretty happy, right where we are.”
    Random Nebshit: “ZOMG UR OVER 30!!!11meltdown”

    or,

    Random Nebshit: “You got kids?”
    Me: “Nope.”
    Random Nebshit: “”ZOMG UR OVER 30!!!11meltdown”
    Me: (speechless – can’t believe it’s anyone’s business but my own)*

    *= I used to get into heated debates over my unquestionable right to decide whether or not I wanted to procreate, but realized I was not changing any Random Nebshit’s mind about the Moral Obligation of Women to Have Teh Baybeez.

    Anyone who has ever been in any relationship knows that there is always “more than having children and getting married”. My own mother, who believes in the sanctity of marriage, and decries the moral breakdown of Amurca, will say, “Y’know, smartass, there’s more to a relationship than having children and getting married.” And yet, sees no irony therein.

  10. Marlene says:

    I find the framing of cohabiting as “marriage light” deeply offensive. Cohabiting is cohabiting, whether the government or the church has approved you or not.

    Marriage IS cohabiting, with a license.

  11. Sailorman says:

    The problem with most of these studies is that they view divorce as a bad thing, and marriage as a good thing.

    Maybe divorce can somehow be categorized as “worse” than a happy marriage. But it’s certainly better than an unhappy one. Measuring divorce as a comparative tool without some accurate measure of marital unhappiness just doesn’t work.

  12. Lindsay says:

    Thank you for addressing this article! Wednesday was actually my 21st birthday, and opening up my inbox to the NYTimes email shouting at me that it was really time to get started on a marriage-worthy relationship really put a damper on my morning. That quarter-life crisis phenomenon definitely exists…

  13. Karin says:

    This article really roiled me. That anyone should use the phrase “marital sweet spot” in a national newspaper–it makes me actually cringe. The first thing I thought when I read the first paragraph about spring break sexual liberation was wait, was this article written in the 90s (or the 80s or the 70s). This family values, uphold marriage and children, seems so unnecessary especially when just this spring The Washington Post charmed us with a piece from someone fretting about the marriage age and even worse blatantly said they wouldn’t mind if it was only the males. Thanks WaPo!

  14. Michele says:

    I got married at 21, divorced at 25 and refused to buy into it again. At 39 my live-in partner & I decided we were ready for kids. I went to my OB, saw the PA & explained that I just wanted to make sure I was doing all the right stuff. Never having met her before this moment she asked, ‘Are you married?’ No, I replied. ‘Children prefer their parents to be married,’ she proclaimed. Not sure how a child who would be raised in a non-religious, egalatarian household would even find out about marriage, I proclaimed BS on that. My daughter is almost 5 and we have frank discussions about marriage. She wants me to get married because she wants to wear a pretty dress & have a party. I have explained that I don’t believe in the institution because of its patriarcharcal & religious underpinnings (and yes, I use those words, then explain what they mean). i will keep explaining and living the way I live without apology. Lead by example I always say. F- the patriarchy.

  15. Lance says:

    Lindsay, happy birthday and interesting coincidence. That being said, I choose not to dwell on the fact that somebody five years younger than me is having an age-related crisis…

  16. Gembird says:

    Wow, so choosing to live in the same house as someone else makes you less committed and responsible now? So much for the whole paying bills and feeding yourselves thing, eh?

    Pretty sure that guy tried to link cohabiting with casual sex, which is completely illogical seeing as the majority of cohabiting couples are in monogamous relationships, and the ones that aren’t will be mature and responsible about sex outside the primary relationship because, you know, they have to be. What an idiot.

  17. Salome says:

    My biological parents got married when my mom was 24 and my dad was 26, before either of them really knew what they wanted out of love or life, or even who they were. That particular marriage was such a trainwreck that all of us are still dealing with the repercussions now, nearly 30 years later. I’ve been estranged from my bio dad since I was 16.

    So, sorry, Mr. Gerson, but you’re going to have a difficult time convincing me that my marriage will be happiest if I marry around the same age my parents did. Most people don’t know who they are yet, or where they’re going in life, in their mid-20s; hell, I’m only 19 and I’m aware of this fact. Some can commit to marriage, but acting like everybody is ready at that age is rather naive.

  18. Zailyn says:

    Also, we shouldn’t cohabitate, because we are more likely to–gasp–break up one day.

    I want to tattoo Correlation is not causation on his forehead. Who’s with me?

  19. Zoe says:

    These kinds of things end up on my mind a lot. Because my mom met my dad in college and married him later, I’ve felt this unconscious pressure to meet my future husband here or I’ll never meet anyone. I know this is a load of crap but it’s hard to rethink things like this.

    I agree with the thought that teenagers shouldn’t get married. It doesn’t seem like a couple has known each other long enough to figure out if they’re fit for each other. Plus, it’s just my experience from my small home town that kids are getting married and bemoaning it a year later. But hey, their life.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with cohabitation. If anything, it seems like the SMARTEST thing a couple could do before marriage. If you realize you can’t handle being with this person in a living arrangement, it’s a lot easier to settle the issue then rather than trying to get a divorce.

  20. Toothfairy says:

    What is wrong with what Gerson said? He is only suggesting an age of marriage, not mandating it. Sure, there are other ways to live life including marrying late, not marrying at all, cohabitation, et cetera but his point is that children are better off growing in a stable environment with two parents instead of one and 27 is not exactly an unreasonable number even if it is arbitrary. Why is that such a bad thing?

    I have no numbers on my hand as I write this but cohabitation without marriage does seem like an easier arrangement to dissolve than marriage. Nona argues that incompatible couples staying together means more fights but the question is whether the cost of such conflict is higher than single parenting and a revolving door of significant others. I doubt that is the case – again the odds seem to favor Gerson here.

    Gerson does not deny the high marriage rate. He only says that it is nationally declining which does not contradict the former fact.

    One is free to make a case that there are other lifestyles which are not only more fulfilling to individuals but also provide for equal or superior well-being for children. Unfortunately, this post does nothing of the kind.

  21. Solri says:

    I tend to regard cohabitation as the worst of both worlds. We marry in order to give our relationship a sense of permanence and the stamp of social approval, and for this we pay the price of sharing our space with another person. Why anyone would want the latter without the former is a mystery to me.

    That said, I found Gerson’s article absurd, and not only because he fails to cite his sources. One thing he doesn’t notice is that just as the age of marriage has risen, so has the age for childbirth. We shouldn’t let the panic about teen pregnancies obscure the fact that women are now capable of bearing children well into middle age, so if they choose to spend their twenties in childless sexual abandon, it’s no big deal.

  22. Jill says:

    I want to tattoo Correlation is not causation on his forehead. Who’s with me?

    I thought we all agreed that tattoos are trashy. (/snark).

  23. groggette says:

    Why anyone would want the latter without the former is a mystery to me.

    Solri, I speak only for myself, but I don’t need society’s stamp of approval for any relationship I’m in.

  24. Nona says:

    Toothfairy:
    I didn’t get into it in detail in the post (I thought my last couple posts were autobiographical enough), but this pissed me particularly off because my own parents were unmarried until I was about 15. They were nevertheless incredibly devoted to one another. The only reason they eventually went to city hall is because of life insurance. They were both married in their early twenties for the wrong reasons and ended up divorced.

    Also, I respectfully disagree that two parents hating each other is better than divorce, because the latter *doesn’t* have to mean single parenthood or revolving doors. Divorces can and do end amicably with both parents having custody and remarrying without becoming hedonistic sluts. Divorce inevitably hurts at first, but can be the best choice for everyone. The former, on the other hand makes everyone–parents, children, neighbors, therapists–miserable.

  25. Jill says:

    Gershon (and Toothfairy) seem to be forgetting that a lot of people cohabitate for reasons other than staying together 4eva. Maybe it’s a New York thing (or a big-city-where-rents-are-high thing), but I know a lot of people who move in together out of convenience, not because their relationship is IT for them. So of course more people who cohabitate break up than people who get married — for some people, part of the point of cohabitation vs. marriage is that cohabitation is less permanent. Christ.

    And Toothfairy, as for your question of What’s wrong with Gershon suggesting that people get married by the time they’re 27… well… if I were to suggest that men not be allowed into public places, would you speak up and say that’s ridiculous? Why? I’m not mandating it, I’m just suggesting it!

    In other words: Calling out ridiculous statements — and not just ridiculous laws — is what we do around here.

  26. one jewish dyke says:

    My parents met when my mother was a junior in high school and my father was a freshman in college, and married three years later. My own choice of colleges was limited by them to ones at which I was likely to meet a Jewish guy. Seriously, no women’s colleges, no schools without significant Jewish populations and active Hillels. But the kids couldn’t all be Orthodox either – they weren’t going that far. So I just became a lesbian instead. They didn’t see that one coming. Mom tried to get me to date Jewish women until I turned 30. Then she just got worried I was going to be single forever and just wanted me to “settle down.” I’m 35 now and have lived with my partner for just under a year now, and it is hard when you’ve been living alone for a decade to suddenly have to take someone into account. That’s probably our biggest conflict, that I still act like I live alone. (She’s much better at being partnered as she wasn’t alone very long between splitting from a many-year relationship and meeting me.) I kind of get the sweet spot thing. My sister, who did marry at 24, probably has it a lot easier than I do, going from parents’ house to dorm to parents’ house again to moving in with her husband. They did cohabitate for a year, but not until she had a diamond on her finger, and she only did it because otherwise they would have lived in different cities as he was accepted to law school in another state. She’s clear that she would have stayed with mom and dad another year if he had gone to law school locally. But I wouldn’t trade the decade of doing whatever the hell I pleased for easy and shiny new dishes.

  27. Tiktaalik says:

    It’ll depress–or more likely anger–27-year-olds that are happily single or engaged.

    To say nothing of the ones who are unhappily single…

  28. Xenithrys says:

    What’s the difference between cohabiting and marriage? A piece of paper that gives the blessing of a church, that’s all. In most countries the state also has a role by declaring both marriage and cohabitation as (usually equivalent) contracts that affect property and children. As a 60-year old man who has been in a committed cohabitation relationship for over 20 years and raised a happy and successful son, my advice is take no notice of that sanctimonious religious crap. They’re just after your money.

  29. Kat says:

    I tend to regard cohabitation as the worst of both worlds. We marry in order to give our relationship a sense of permanence and the stamp of social approval, and for this we pay the price of sharing our space with another person. Why anyone would want the latter without the former is a mystery to me.

    I never thought of sharing space with someone as a “price”. I live with my partner because I love spending time with him, having him next to me in bed, doing things with him. I can’t afford to live on my own anyway, and living with my best friend and lover and someone I love to spend time with is better than a roommate.

    I don’t marry because I think the whole history of marriage as an institution is horrible, I don’t like that it discriminates against gays, I don’t care about social approval (as a non-femmy girl I already get plenty of social disapproval), and I don’t WANT a sense of permanence (if something changes, or we change, i want no obligations to stay together).

    And I hate the idea people have that because we aren’t married we aren’t “committed”. Sure, maybe not for life (i don’t make promises that i don’t know i can keep), but we have been together for 4 years so far and hope for many more. Marriage doesn’t necessarily last for life either, I don’t see how I’m any less committed than someone married. I’ve been with my man longer than plenty of ppl I know have been married.

  30. The Amazing Kim says:

    So not only do I have to find the love of my life, date them, and propose, I also have to change the law that says I’m not allowed to get married. And I have to do this in the next three years.

    Frik. This is a lot of work for my non-existent kids.

  31. Toothfairy says:

    Nona,

    The point here is not whether divorce is best for everyone or not (and I agree that divorce may be best for everyone if parents hate each other) but whether the higher threshold for divorce of a married couple is preferable to the lower one for separation of a couple in cohabitation where children are concerned. Gerson argues that it is. You are right that divorce does not have to mean single parenthood or revolving doors but there is a siginficant chance of that being the case particularly if a suitable partner does not come into the picture soon enough. Given the large disparity in separation rates between the two categories (based on Gerson’s figures), the probability of not evolving an alternative stable arrangement appears high enough to make his argument sound reasonable.

    Jill,

    Regarding your first point, I do not know if Gerson’s figures are based on genuinely committed cohabiting relationships or merely arrangements of convenience arrived at out of extraneous considerations. My guess is even if a significant number is subtracted from his figure as a margin for this, the fraction of break-ups of cohabitation arrangements would still be higher than that of divorce.

    As for your second point, all I was that 27 is a reasonable figure based on the reasons he provides. We can debate the reasons – validity or lack thereof- which would be similar to your example of men not being allowed into public places but there is not much to say of the number itself.

  32. Kate says:

    I recently heard a guy my age describe his parents version of “the talk”. Apparently he was instructed that it is not advisable to marry someone before he had sex with him/her. Smart thinking on his parents part :)

  33. Raksha says:

    Articles like this one just make me tired. I’m turning 28 on Sunday, and thus far have only managed to have 1 serious boyfriend (for all of 2 years, and then probably only because we lived in separate zip codes) and 0 serious girlfriends and I don’t want children. More and more, it seems that most of the people I come across think I should just shoot myself in the face and get it over with.

  34. Alex the Odd says:

    The kind of article you cite makes me so freaking angry. Most of my anger is because I recognise the absolute idiocy of the content and the “rules” but it also stems from somewhere else: because I’m doing exactly what he wants and I hate it: I’m getting married at 24 and we won’t be cohabiting beforehand because just when we were getting ready to move in he got sent to Afghanistan and two months after he comes home he’s getting shipped off to Germany, and even if I wanted to it would be stupidly difficult to go with him unless we were legally married. Even when we are married we probably won’t be able to live together for about a year (my career is in the UK).

    I can’t count the number of approving looks or comments I’ve gotten for doing things “properly”. It makes me want to act out in some way, to scream and explain how I said I would never marry someone I hadn’t lived with but that my situation is impossible and I had to make some hard decisions.

    So boo hiss at Gerson not only at his ridiculous attitude but also for making me feel like a conformist.

  35. JessSnark says:

    Best wishes, Alex, and thanks for sharing your story.
    Kat, I agree that sharing an apartment with my boyfriend for 2 years definitely wasn’t a “price” to me, and that marriage wouldn’t have been a benefit. From my perspective, it’s nice to have someone to talk to when you come home after work, someone to eat meals with, someone to have sex with, someone who cares about you and will take care of you when you’re sick or exhausted, and so much more. After more than 3 years together we decided to split up, and while having lived together made that somewhat complicated in terms of moving furniture and emotional entanglement, being married would have made it a hell of a lot harder.

  36. Jannet says:

    “And the fatherless are some of the most disadvantaged, betrayed people in our society, prone to delinquency, poverty and academic failure.”

    how about all the preppy kids i knew in high school who made fine grades, participated in extra curricular activities, became homecoming kings/queens, and whatever, but who’s dads worked 5 or 6 days a week, played golf the other day, and generally just “wasn’t there.” ? this is the classic, patriarchal, ie mainstream, stereotype of a father. i’ve had several people tell me they didn’t know their father, even though their father was married to their mother. what did these kids have that other “fatherless” kids of different economic classes didn’t?? hm … a ride to these extra curricular events, money to pay sign up fees, a general expectation to “succeed” by familial and social circles, extra help when they were struggling through paid tutors or counselors, the freedom from financial stress at home, et cetera. et cetera. et cetera.

    i call bullshit on any “formula” to being happy. you’re either happy, or you’re not, and trying to make life fit into this little box is something five year olds do.

    that being said, i’m 24, have been married for 5.5years and am very very happy. because it’s what i wanted, it fits my personality. i have 3 kids and can’t imagine waiting until my mid-thirties to have kids. that’s just me.

    oh, and btw, i agree that traditional marriage is nothing more than a patriarchal exchange of property (woman gets “given” to the groom by the father). my partner and i didn’t have a “wedding” and live consensually and equally. … of course, the fact that we’re poly might help, i dunno …

  37. zuzu says:

    How is a kid whose father is alive and lives with him/her “fatherless”?

    I mean, we *are* talking about cohabitation here.

    What’s the difference between cohabiting and marriage? A piece of paper that gives the blessing of a church, that’s all.

    That, and a whole heap of societal baggage and expectations about what a “wife” is. Ask your married friends if it’s the piece of paper or the matched set of luggage that makes the difference.

    @Toothfairy:

    Regarding your first point, I do not know if Gerson’s figures are based on genuinely committed cohabiting relationships or merely arrangements of convenience arrived at out of extraneous considerations. . . .

    As for your second point, all I was that 27 is a reasonable figure based on the reasons he provides.

    So wait — you don’t know what he bases his reasons on, but you think that 27 is a reasonable age based on his reasons, for which you don’t know the reasons?

    If you take a step back, maybe you should be looking not at whether the age he pulls out of his ass is “reasonable” based on what you agree are arbitrary reasons, and instead asking just what right does this guy have to dictate to adults at which age they should marry, let alone what his qualifications are for doing so.

    Being able to break up cleanly is a feature, not a bug, of not marrying. I suspect that what runs people into trouble is when they start feeling pressure to marry to make their commitment “real” in some way approved by society at large, or when they marry for reasons of entropy rather than considered decision.

    It’s not easy to go against the grain.

  38. Azalea says:

    Cohabitation is an individual choice. Fo some couples its the straw that broke the camel’s back for others its the defininf chapter in their relationship that let them know moving forward was/is a good idea. Each couple is different so each solution will be different. Generalizations don’t work well in romantic relationships.

    On President Obama’s “fatherlessness”:

    At first glance the President would be a great example had it not been for 1) his parents being married briefly 2) when they split his mom remarried and 3) when he lived with his grandparents his gradfather was an active father figure in his life. President Obama’s biological father was a leader in Kenya and knoledge of that leadership inspired him a LOT.

    Fatherlessness typically applies to children who have no father or father figure in their lives, President Obama had 3.

  39. Salome says:

    @Kate:

    My parents basically gave me the same advice: I need to have sex with the guy I plan to marry and live with him for a time before marriage should even be on the table. I think it’s excellent advice. A lot of my friends are shocked that a parent would tell their kid these things (even if they agree with them), but I have trouble believing that my parents’ advice isn’t more common than they think.

  40. Kristi says:

    Uhoh…I’m turning 28 in less than three weeks and not only am I not married, I don’t even have a suitable prospect in mind. I better step up my game!

  41. Andrea says:

    Wait, let me get this straight. Some old white guy is trying to tell me how to live my life according to his terms? Let me put on my shocked face…

  42. austin says:

    Some of the problems they (we) see with cohabitation is how much more likely unmarried cohabitating parents are to break up as compared to married parents. Domestic violence is more common as well, and we all know what kind of impacts this can have for the children. In short, cohabitation is bad for the children.

    The point of being opposed to cohabitation isn’t to prevent people from making foolish choices that they regret. The point is to try to make sure that children are brought up in ideal circumstances.

  43. austin says:

    In case anyone says “correlation doesn’t equal causation”, cohabiting couples are more likely to break up because it is much easier for them to. Also, they are probably more likely to break up because they won’t be as careful about entering into the relationship as they would be otherwise, since they know that they can leave as soon as they want.

    Domestic violence levels are higher most likely because more commitment = less domestic violence. It’s common sense, and the statistics support it.

  44. Ben says:

    Austin,

    I request that you tell us why a government certificate is so necessary for relationships.

    That really is what it’s all about. It’s the only true thing distinguishing Gerson’s so-called “cohabitators” with married people.

  45. austin says:

    Did you even read my posts? Cohabitating (unmarried) parents are more likely to break up then parents who are married. They are more likely to abuse each other, too.

  46. William says:

    As for your second point, all I was that 27 is a reasonable figure based on the reasons he provides. We can debate the reasons – validity or lack thereof- which would be similar to your example of men not being allowed into public places but there is not much to say of the number itself.

    Lets go from back to front on this one. Your argument is that 27 is a reasonable figure based on the reasons Gerson provides, and you’ve got a few assumptions built into that argument. The most important of these assumptions is that somehow, given any set of data, one can make a reasonable argument as to when others ought to get married.

    But…theres a bit of a snag there. First, we have no way of knowing if Gerson’s numbers are sound. We do know that a lot of them are just plain unsound because correlation does not imply causation, because broad sociological and psychological research has some significant problems both in the quality of scholarship seen in these fields and in the quality of their statistical analysis, and because so much of Gerson’s argument is based upon subjective values which do not adequately cover all (or even most) people.

    You argument is curious because what you’re essentially saying when you say “27 is a reasonable figure based on the reasons he provides” is that “The number Gerson has come to makes sense in light of his personal biases and hand-picked sources” which is really just another way of saying the little man agrees with himself. Aside from that being a somewhat obvious point, all the verbal backflips and defensiveness make me suspect that you mean something more than that he agrees with himself.

  47. William says:

    Some of the problems they (we) see with cohabitation is how much more likely unmarried cohabitating parents are to break up as compared to married parents

    Because the marriage license will physically block the door and empty the suit case of an unhappy partner? See, this is the problem with these kinds of data, they’re utterly hollow. I’m sure there are quite a few (often idiosyncratic) reasons that unmarried parents are more likely to break up than married parents, but I suspect that those factors are less due to the practice of cohabitation and the magical marriage license than due to other contextual factors which are more common during cohabitation (and early marriages).

    Domestic violence is more common as well

    I’m gonna go right ahead and demand you put your money where you mouth is and cite your sources. Try to make sure they’re from reputable, double blind reviewed, EBSCO indexed journals. Also, I expect to see statistical significance, reasonably sized and representative (preferably matched) samples, and no funny business with P values. I mean, you’re right enough to make some pretty sweeping statements, so you ought to be able to produce, right?

    and we all know what kind of impacts this can have for the children.

    You’re going to make a jump in logic in a second, I’m just going to cut you off at the pass. Even if reported (a key word that one is) domestic violence is more common in cohabitation situations, that has less to do with cohabitation than the factors which lead to domestic violence. Correlation is not cause, and I’d be willing to bet that if you put healthy people with no past history of abuse and few social stressors in a cohabitation arrangement you won’t see a sudden uptick in domestic violence.

    In short, cohabitation is bad for the children.

    So cohabitation is bad because it is correlated with things which are bad for children? What about cohabitants who both stay together and are not violent? Is that still bad for children? Or, what about the ever increasing segment of the population who do not see the only valid end-point of their relationship being the production of more people?

    See, aside from the sloppy correlation/cause problem, the arguments of Gerson and people like you ultimately boil down to an expectation that relationship stability is preferred because it is best for kids. This argument in turn implies that children are the only, or best, outcome of a relationship. As far as I’m concerned people who make that kind of implication can get the fuck out of my business and go climb a wall of dicks.

    The point of being opposed to cohabitation isn’t to prevent people from making foolish choices that they regret.

    Because those adulterers deserve to reap the wages of their sin…

    The point is to try to make sure that children are brought up in ideal circumstances.

    You keep banging that drum as if everyone shares your narcissistic values.

    In case anyone says “correlation doesn’t equal causation”

    This ought to be good…

    cohabiting couples are more likely to break up because it is much easier for them to.

    It is? I mean, if I were to leave my wife when we were living together but not married I would have packed up my things, loaded them into a truck, and left. Now that we’re married I would…pack up my things, load them into a truck, and leave. The only real difference I see there is the tense. What stops me now is the same thing that stopped me then, I want to live with her and spend my life with her. The only thing a marriage license has ever done for us is make us eligible for tenancy in the entirety.

    Also, they are probably more likely to break up because they won’t be as careful about entering into the relationship as they would be otherwise, since they know that they can leave as soon as they want.

    Because people don’t do that with marriage at all, right? One of my aunts is on her fifth marriage, her current husband is on his third. I’ve got a cousin on her second. People dissolve marriages all the time and they just get up and go on a startlingly regular basis.

    Domestic violence levels are higher most likely because more commitment = less domestic violence.

    That would be what we call an assertion. Based on opinion. Based on values. Based on nought but sentiment. In other words, its an opinion.

    And we all know what opinions are like, don’t we?

    It’s common sense,

    Which is quite often wrong.

    , and the statistics support it.

    Which you haven’t brought to the table.

  48. shfree says:

    Austin, care to share a source or two? I can say studies show that the sky is purple, but unless I cite works people would be crazy to believe it.

  49. shfree says:

    You know what? I recently became a single parent, which, by default, makes my daughter’s dad a single parent. Despite the fact that we share custody, both go to important event in her life, such as school functions and will even be living in a duplex with each parent occupying a different floor, my daughter is fatherless because I’m no longer in a romantic relationship with her dad? Well, fuck you then.

    And I’m pretty sure my co-parent would be even MORE angered by the assertion that our daughter is deprived because, since he and I aren’t together anymore, she is fatherless. Way to erase a person out of a child’s life, jackass.

  50. austin says:

    The marriage license makes it harder to get divorced. The harder it is to get divorced, the more likely couples will be to try to work through their problems. Look at Italy, for example. Also, one common reason that marriages fail is that the couple rushed into it. People obviously rush into cohabitation, because it takes no real amount of committment (as opposed to marriage).

    As for the domestic violence levels:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=OcDBZ0uNNVIC&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=domestic+violence+cohabitation&source=bl&ots=6y-7-ytMOs&sig=DNRZ4MiGyt1CgRfIFR3r4sXOCCc&hl=en&ei=fEW2So_sBoGw8Qaul7HFDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#v=onepage&q=cohabitation&f=false

    It’s bad for the children because the relationships dissolve at such a high rate. Would you like me to go into more detail here?

  51. William says:

    The marriage license makes it harder to get divorced.

    No, really, it doesn’t. A marriage license does not compel two people to live together or work things out. Moreover, in a society with no-fault divorce, the increased effort of dissolving a relationship is negligible.

    The harder it is to get divorced, the more likely couples will be to try to work through their problems.

    For the children, right? The children that a conservative forced-birth advocate can’t imagine not having.

    Also, one common reason that marriages fail is that the couple rushed into it.

    So should we oppose marriage too? I’m confused…

    People obviously rush into cohabitation, because it takes no real amount of committment (as opposed to marriage).

    So marriages fail because the couple rushed into it, and cohabitation fails because the couple rushes into it, but marriage is better because it takes commitment?

    As for the domestic violence levels:

    Thats a secondary source without numbers or methodology. Try again.

    It’s bad for the children because the relationships dissolve at such a high rate. Would you like me to go into more detail here?

    No, I think we’re all pretty clear on where you’re coming from. Relationships are for producing children, everything else is secondary, Gerson is making an argument that (might) support the raising of children, the rest of us are heathens, wife beaters, whores, and child killers.

    Its people like you that make me thankful for both Roe and the Second Amendment.

  52. james says:

    As I understand things if you cohabit have kids and split up you’re an obligation to pay child support. If you’re married and divorce the courts can take your assets and use them to provide for your partner and children. They can also decide that a portion of your income should be spent supporting your partner, and decide that income over and above mandatory child support should be spent on your children.

    This makes me think that (A) it is harder to leave when married than cohabitting, because you get to take less of your money and rights to your future income with you, and (B) children are better off if their parents are married, simply because the courts have more powers to secure their financial well being at the cost of their parents.

    I’m not anti-cohabitation. I have no intention of marrying because I believe the above to be the case. But do think it’s obvious that much of what Austin is saying is true and I can’t see why people are denying it.

  53. Lauren says:

    As I understand things if you cohabit have kids and split up you’re an obligation to pay child support. If you’re married and divorce the courts can take your assets and use them to provide for your partner and children. They can also decide that a portion of your income should be spent supporting your partner, and decide that income over and above mandatory child support should be spent on your children.

    Not true. Alimony is generally only applied under extreme circumstances, and child support is determined in the same way regardless of whether the parents were married, cohabiting, or even lived together.

    Personally, if you’re having a child with someone you’re not married to, and you aren’t 100% dead-on sure that this thing is going to work out, you shouldn’t get married. Again, child support is figured in the same way regardless, and you leave with what you brought into the relationship. It’s a lot cleaner split.

  54. austin says:

    Do a google search for statistics on the dissolution rates of marriages and cohabitating parents with children.

    We’re not talking about abortion, but I can understand why you want to change the subject right now. In any case, if you’re interested in my views on abortion, you’re free to read about and comment on them.

    No, we should oppose cohabitation and support marriage. Marriages are less likely to end in divorce because it is more difficult to leave them, and because the couples will be more cautious entering into them.

    No, it’s a “current, scholary reference work… written by international scholars.

    I never said that people who cohabitate are necessarily bad. I’m just saying that we should establish that it’s morally wrong, and once this has been established, we should start enforcing anti-cohabitation laws. And conservatives make you thankful for the 2nd Amendment? That’s quite an intolerant attitude towards people who respectfully disagree with you on certain issues!

  55. Ben says:

    I never said that people who cohabitate are necessarily bad. I’m just saying that we should establish that it’s morally wrong, and once this has been established, we should start enforcing anti-cohabitation laws.

    Ha! Good luck on that one! Are you considering a revival of alcohol prohibition while you’re at it?

  56. austin says:

    Wow, I messed up the above post pretty badly. Let me try again:

    No, really, it doesn’t. A marriage license does not compel two people to live together or work things out. Moreover, in a society with no-fault divorce, the increased effort of dissolving a relationship is negligible.

    Look at the statistics on the dissolution rates of cohabitating parents, and the divorce rates of married parents.

    “For the children, right? The children that a conservative forced-birth advocate can’t imagine not having.”>

    We’re not talking about abortion. Why are you trying to change the subject? In any case, if you’re interested in my unique views on abortion, you’re free to read about and comment on them. Actually, I’d be very interested in hearing your response (but post it on my blog, so it doesn’t interfere with this conversation).

    So should we oppose marriage too? I’m confused…

    No, we should oppose cohabitation and support marriage. Marriages are less likely to end in divorce because it is more difficult to leave them, and because the couples will be more cautious entering into them.

    Thats a secondary source without numbers or methodology. Try again.

    Wrong. It’s “a current, scholary reference work… written by international scholars”.

    No, I think we’re all pretty clear on where you’re coming from. Relationships are for producing children, everything else is secondary, Gerson is making an argument that (might) support the raising of children, the rest of us are heathens, wife beaters, whores, and child killers.

    Its people like you that make me thankful for both Roe and the Second Amendment.

    I never said that people who cohabitate are necessarily bad. I’m just saying that we should establish that it’s morally wrong, and once this has been established, we should start enforcing anti-cohabitation laws. And conservatives make you thankful for the 2nd Amendment? That’s quite an intolerant attitude towards people who respectfully disagree with you on certain issues!

  57. austin says:

    Ben,

    I’m not talking about whether this is a possibility in the near future. It certainly is not. I’m talking about whether or not it is a good idea, and I think it would be.

  58. annaham says:

    I’m just saying that we should establish that it’s morally wrong, and once this has been established, we should start enforcing anti-cohabitation laws.

    Whose morals are we talking about here? Not everyone feels that marriage is the “correct” choice, after all.

  59. austin says:

    I hope this goes through correctly, I’m still learning XHTML.

    I don’t know exactly what you mean by morals, but I’m not opposed to cohabitation simply because it’s somehow “wrong”. If you read my above posts, you’ll understand my position better.

  60. austin says:

    Dang it, let me try again… I’m sorry…

    Whose morals are we talking about here? Not everyone feels that marriage is the “correct” choice, after all.

    I don’t know exactly what you mean by morals, but I’m not opposed to cohabitation simply because it’s somehow “wrong”. If you read my above posts, you’ll understand my position better.

  61. annaham says:

    Austin, you’re the one who used the phrase “morally wrong” in the first place.

  62. annaham says:

    Also, you seem to have discounted the fact that there are people who are opposed to marriage for different reasons, and there are also people who do not want kids. Why is cohabitation so awful for people who do not want to get married, and/or who do not want children?

  63. austin says:

    True, but the point of establishing something as morally wrong is to deter people from doing it. By and large, people will not do what they know is selfish and wrong. As long as there are practical reasons for the moral prohibition, we can implement it into our public policy.

  64. austin says:

    It’s not that harmful for people who don’t want kids. If the only people cohabitating were people who did not want to have or raise children, and these people did not actually become pregnant or decide to have kids, I really wouldn’t have a problem with it.

  65. octogalore says:

    Great post, Nona. The best relationships and marriages are the ones that feel right to the people in them, not outsiders with arbitrary rules about what they think makes sense.

    As other commenters have noted, mid- or even sometimes late-20-somethings aren’t sure what they want in a partner or are enjoying their time playing the field. I met my now-husband at 33 (married at 34) and enjoyed my single life prior to that. I had a lot of adventures that made it easier to figure out what I wanted and also feel that I’d sowed my wild oats. Nothing’s a guarantee, and I had (have) a uniquely limited attention span, but timing is best decided by the individual woman, not by the Gersons of the world.

    The one minor caveat I’d have is re marriage. And even there, I don’t think there should be hard and fast rules. However, now having a child, and also having been one, I know how tough it is when one is different from ones peers in some way. Of course, there are many things that are inescapable, whether that’s orientation, race, income, etc. But there are some things we can control. When I was a kid, I differed from most others in my school based on religion, being overprotected, how I was dressed, the foods I was given, and being a major nerd. Some of that was what it was, other parts could have been altered without much difficulty on the part of my parents, and I’ve always resented them for not doing so. If one doesn’t feel strongly about marriage vs cohabitation, and has kids, all things being equal it’s easier on the kid not having to piece out why mom and dad aren’t married. It’s nothing that cannot be explained, but sometimes, just taking the easy path makes it that much easier on the kids.

  66. annaham says:

    Austin,

    I can’t speak for those who want to get married or for those who want kids, but I find your continuing defense of the nuclear family as the ONE TRUE family system (with the parents married) really interesting, particularly with the “morals” dimension added in.

    And establishing certain things as immoral may serve as a deterrent, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will agree with said establishment. They might even have different morals than those that have been prescribed! Shocking.

    I’m bowing out of this thread.

  67. groggette says:

    That’s quite an intolerant attitude towards people who respectfully disagree with you on certain issues!

    Since when is calling for the criminalization of an activity just because you don’t like it respectful disagreement?

    And I second annaham’s question. Whose morals are we talking about and why should those be the law of the land?

  68. groggette says:

    austin, You also seem to conveniently forgetting about those couples and families who would like desperately to be married and not just cohabitate, but your morals make that against the law for them.

  69. amandaw says:

    People completely lose their minds on these subjects. If two people are prone to conflict with one another, they are going to conflict whether they marry before moving in together, move in together before marrying, or never marry at all. They are the same two damn people. How they get along is determined by their personalities. And throwing a big party doesn’t change who you are like waving a magic wand.

    Also, don’t you think it’s better for a couple that isn’t working out to be able to break up easier? I mean, don’t you want couples to actually be compatible and work well together and build a healthy life and family? Or do you just want people paired for the sake of pairing, screw that whole health-and-happiness thing? Cuz if so, you should stop babbling about those poor children in bad conditions. Because you are ADVOCATING for bad conditions to stay as-is.

    austin,

    Domestic violence levels are higher most likely because more commitment = less domestic violence. It’s common sense, and the statistics support it.

    HUH? I’m catching a strong whiff of bullshit here. This is completely ignorant of the causes and mechanisms behind DV. Not to mention that very often, “commitment” is just another tool abusers use to increase their control over another person’s life.

    I don’t see howthefuck “more commitment = less DV” unless you’re just using DV as a scare tactic in service of your argument. Which would be pretty shitty of you.

  70. amandaw says:

    The biggest change in our relationship was when I moved 2,500 miles across the country to move in with my now-husband after four and a half years of long-distance relationship.

    Six months later, we had our wedding.

    I am the same person now that I was when I moved in with him. And the same person I was the day I married him. Oh, and the same person I was the day we actually got legally married (which was ten months after what we consider our actual wedding — the whole “permanently commit to each other in front of God and community” thing).

    We had the same relationship those first six months that we had those ten months until our legal marriage and the same relationship we’ve had in the years since.

    It’s not a magic button you press that automatically transforms a couple into 1950s June and Ward Cleaver. We are talking about PEOPLE.

    Those people are the same people the day before they sign that paper and the day after. They have the same personalities. They have the same spending habits. They have the same cleaning habits. They have the same communication styles. They have the same culinary preferences. They have the same religious beliefs. They have the same relatives.

    On the aggregate, certain groups of people conduct relationships differently – yes. But that does not mean that individual couples will have different relationships whether they marry first or move in first.

    Which is why the moralism is a load of horseshit. Stop shaming people for not conforming to your dream-land fantasies and start giving them the support they need to get out of poverty, be better-educated (and not just in the liberal arts, but in actually life-relevant topics), be more secure in housing and food and health care, and so on.

    THAT will do a hell of a lot more to promote stable coupleships than all your shame-based admonishments.

  71. austin says:

    I give up on the whole “blockquote cite” thing…

    I don’t think that it’s better for a couple that isn’t working out to be able to break up more easily. If it’s difficult for them to break up, they’ll try to mend their differences. Once again, look at the divorce rates in Italy. Another thing to keep in mind about cohabitation, is how incredibly bad remarriage is for the children: http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/buller/cinderella%20effect%20facts.pdf

    And I don’t think that homosexuals should be adopting children to begin with. If we can ever establish that cohabitation is morally wrong, we could make it illegal – and this rule would apply to homosexuals as well.

  72. William says:

    We’re not talking about abortion. Why are you trying to change the subject? In any case, if you’re interested in my unique views on abortion, you’re free to read about and comment on them. Actually, I’d be very interested in hearing your response (but post it on my blog, so it doesn’t interfere with this conversation).

    Aside from your views on abortion being absolutely mundane, your basic stance here is not a change of subject. Your opposition to cohabitation is part of a world view, it does not exist in a vacuum. Specifically, it is part of an orientation to human social relations designed to favor a certain group of outcomes over others. My opposition to this whole argument about cohabitation is that people opposed constantly invoke children which aren’t necessarily involved and assume that the end result of any romantic relationship is kids. I married at 24, my wife and I cohabited for less than six months (after the proposal and during wedding planning), and had engaged in a long period of courtship prior to that. We married primarily because the symbol made sense to us, but children were not (and are not) on the horizon for us. Had we chosen not to marry and to simply continue our lives without a government’s stamp of approval, the vast majority of your arguments would simply not apply to us.

    No, we should oppose cohabitation and support marriage. Marriages are less likely to end in divorce because it is more difficult to leave them, and because the couples will be more cautious entering into them.

    And why, absent breeding concerns, ought we to care how and under what terms adults choose to live with one another? Perhaps more importantly, why should adults who do not have children be bound by restrictions designed for adults who do?

    Wrong. It’s “a current, scholary reference work… written by international scholars”.

    No, its an edited work containing other people’s studies. The level of detail is not possible to determine within the context of google books. What I’m looking for what I talk about citing sources is an article in a journal or a book developed from studies. Either way I expect detailed methodological and sample data. In particular I’m interested in the kinds of data that suggest causal factors rather than mere correlation.

    I never said that people who cohabitate are necessarily bad

    Ok, I’m going to just go ahead and call bullshit because in the very next sentence you go on to say

    . I’m just saying that we should establish that it’s morally wrong, and once this has been established, we should start enforcing anti-cohabitation laws.

    What you’re saying, right there, is that cohabitation is morally wrong, meaning that the individuals who engage in it are bad. Moreover, you’re saying that these people are bad enough, and their activity damaging enough to society, that it justifies violent state intervention. Put another way, you’re suggesting expanding government power and using it as a cudgel to force people to make certain decisions and undermine both individual liberty and market concerns. You might call that conservative because you’re doing it to filthy hippies and drawing your positions from a perceived resistance to change or the mandate of some vile deity, but the last time I checked using government power to force people to do things wasn’t called conservatism but tyranny.

    And conservatives make you thankful for the 2nd Amendment? That’s quite an intolerant attitude towards people who respectfully disagree with you on certain issues!

    Why yes, I am intolerant of tyranny. The second Amendment exists to give citizens the means of resisting tyranny. You’re suggesting restricting my rights of ownership, conscience, and association in the name of vague subjective value judgments. So no, we don’t respectfully disagree on certain issues. We disagree, but there is no mutual respect. You suggest, by talking about enforcing cohabitation laws, using violence in order to restrict the choices of others. Thats disrespectful, illiberal (in the classical sense), and to me morally repugnant. I have absolutely no problem voicing the fact that I would be willing to use force to resist the violence you’re proposing.

    I’m not talking about whether this is a possibility in the near future. It certainly is not. I’m talking about whether or not it is a good idea, and I think it would be.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say “this is my goal but it isn’t going to happen so we should just work towards it and assume that we’ll fail.” If you’re working towards a goal you’re trying to realize it. Have the courage of your convictions.

    True, but the point of establishing something as morally wrong is to deter people from doing it.

    So you admit that fundamentally, your goal is to limit the behaviors of individuals. Moreover, you admit that morality is something established, something agreed upon.

    As long as there are practical reasons for the moral prohibition, we can implement it into our public policy.

    And by invoking public policy you admit that you envision the use of coercive force in order to maintain compliance to the morality you have established.

    All because someone might choose to have kids in a situation you don’t like. An arbitrary decision designed to control behavior and supported by violence. That, my friend, is tyranny. And thats to say nothing of the fact that actually having children in cohabiting relationships would be less rare if birth control and abortion were more accessible, something you’ve already voiced an opposition to elsewhere.

    Also, you aren’t a conservative. You’re the American equivalent of the kind of person who voted for Ahmadinejad in Iran: a petty, judgmental, moral fascist with a hard-on for social control and an intollerance for individuals who might make decisions you disapprove of, desperately hoping you have the chance to bash some heads. Conservatism is an honorable institution, it is the counter balance to advocates of change, the static force which demands that change justify it’s suggestions and keeps society together. You don’t fit that bill.

  73. groggette says:

    austin, you do realize that in your desire to make cohabitation illegal, you’re trying to make just about every dorm in the US illegal. Also frat and sorority houses. And friends living together in able to afford housing… should I go on?

    Also, I’m someone who has ensured I’ll never have children. I also do not personally desire marriage. Why are you trying to criminalize what I would choose to do with my life?

  74. zuzu says:

    Austin, you FAIL at HTML. Try tinyurl.com next time before you break the damn page.

    The marriage license makes it harder to get divorced.

    Actually, the marriage license makes it possible to get divorced. You can’t get divorced without getting married in the first place, so 100% of the divorce in this country is of married couples. Should you be cohabiting, you break up without getting the law involved.

    Considering the stats on divorce, anyhow, I’m not sure what it really brings to your argument that it’s marginally more difficult to end a marriage than a cohabitation anyhow. People get divorced every day.

    The harder it is to get divorced, the more likely couples will be to try to work through their problems. Look at Italy, for example.

    Well, what are we looking at when we look at Italy? We’re looking at a very different culture than the United States, and if the Berlusconis are at all representative of that culture, I’m not sure that’s a really great example of a rock-solid marriage/working out problems for you to be putting forward. Rather, it seems like a good example of “the wife eats shit and smiles.”

    We can actually look at the United States for an example of making it harder to get divorced: New York has no no-fault divorce, thus forcing couples to go through an adversarial process unless they divorce by agreement. And, frankly, it’s not a pretty picture (as you can see from the tale of Dr. Bartha, who blew up his house because he was so pissed that his wife divorced him after years of abuse, injuring 15 people, though Maggie Gallagher took his side).

    Also, one common reason that marriages fail is that the couple rushed into it.

    Which would argue in favor of cohabitation before marriage, wouldn’t it? Or at least in favor of making marriage harder to get into.

    People obviously rush into cohabitation, because it takes no real amount of committment (as opposed to marriage).

    Yet you just said that marriages fail because people rush into them. Which is it?

  75. zuzu says:

    Oh, and austin? The government already encourages marriage and discourages cohabitation. It’s called the tax code.

  76. Alll he said says:

    All the author stated was the cold hard facts. Children that are conceived in these cohabitation relationships are much more likely to end up with separated parents and in the United States at least this means they will not longer have a father…

    Children from these family structures simply do not do as well on average.

    The president has said it in his book The Audacity of Hope and the U.S. ad council says the same….

    “More than 79% of Americans feel the most significant family or social problem facing America is the physical absence of the father from the home. Research shows that the lack of a father in the home correlates closely with crime, educational and emotional problems, teenage pregnancy, and drug and alcohol abuse.”

  77. Ben says:

    AHS:

    That’s not all the author said. He also said that people who marry “too late” are probably going to have unhappy marriages.

    Defend that, if you can.

  78. zuzu says:

    Children that are conceived in these cohabitation relationships are much more likely to end up with separated parents and in the United States at least this means they will not longer have a father…

    What does that even *mean*? A child no longer has a father when that father dies, or goes off for a pack of cigarettes and never comes back. If that father merely moves out and continues to have a relationship with the child, that child does not then become “fatherless.”

    FFS.

  79. austin says:

    He was trying to say that they will not necessarily be raised by their father. Children raised by both parents do better than children raised by single mothers.

    The government does not discourage cohabitation. They just don’t necessarily encourage it. If they discouraged it, they would break up cohabitating couples like they used to. This would be foolish for them to do right now, because too many couples with children are cohabitating, and breaking them up would be particularly harmful to the children involved. Also, it’s socially acceptable to cohabitate now, so it would be unfair for the government to go around prosecuting people for doing something that was not generally considered to be wrong. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a direction that we should start moving in.

  80. austin says:

    Zuzu:

    I know, I’m terrible at HTML. I won’t try again and mess up your guys’ thread until I learn how to properly use it. Sorry : [

    You can’t use extreme scenarios like someone blowing up their house because they can’t get divorced fast enough, to prove that divorce should be extremely easy. Or imply that the Berlusconis are somehow representative of Italian marriages! You really can’t base the rule on the extreme cases like that. Come on.

    While I am more or less opposed to no-fault divorce, I don’t see it as being the big issue. If two people absolutely cannot get along, they should be able to break up. While I don’t think it should be a fast and easy process, it should not be made difficult by making the parents fight against each other. My problem is really more with remarriage after divorce; did you read the paper I linked to about the Cinderella effect? Besides, premarital cohabitation does not make couples less likely to divorce.

    William:

    I don’t think that the end of any romantic relationship is necessarily children. I would like to think that the end of any sexual relationship is. Things work out better when this is the case; the out-of-wedlock birth rate is extremely low, far more children are born in-wedlock and get to grow up with both parents, fewer children are put up for adoption, etc.

    Also, I would like to make one thing clear: if laws against cohabitation were passed democratically, you would use lethal force to avoid having to follow those rules? You’re nuts. That is no less insane than shooting up an abortion clinic. And you did bring up abortion, but never responded to what I wrote about it. I’d be extremely interested in hearing your criticisms of what I wrote. How is it substantially different from maternal infanticide? Are you saying that because we don’t have to feel bad about it, that makes it OK???

    Also, I imagine that your opposition to group cohabitation (I assume you’re opposed?) is not universally accepted, but you and many others are perfectly willing to impose it on people, because you (rightfully) believe that group cohabitation is not good for society. And the book I linked to is written by experts. I’m sorry if the statistics and studies contained within it are inconvenient to you.

    Where did I ever say that the goal was not achievable? It certainly is. Liberalism will have to collapse first – there’s no getting around that. Once it does, we can implement this reasonable public policy. BTW – if you grew up in a society in which cohabitation was unacceptable, you would not feel as though its restriction was totalitarian. You’d be used to it, and you’d probably feel the same way about it in those circumstances as you feel now about group cohabitation.

  81. La Lubu says:

    I find it fascinating that austin keeps bringing up Italy of all places, where women avoid marriage like the bubonic plague.

  82. austin says:

    Women avoid marriage? Or is it more like people avoid marriage, and have been since the seventies? That’s what the liberal “marriage is all about me” mentality tends to do to a country. Sexual hedonism does deter marriage. Look at how much less likely homosexuals are to marry in countries where it’s legal, for instance.

  83. Jill says:

    I let austin’s comment through for laffs. So it’s my homosexual hedonism that’s prevented me from getting married by 26… damn.

  84. William says:

    I don’t think that the end of any romantic relationship is necessarily children.

    No, you just advocate violent government intervention designed to prevent cohabitation in all cases on the chance that a child might be the result. All the layers of ressentiment, projection, and fantasy that you bring to the table simply do not obscure the basic point that you’re talking about limiting an entire class of behavior in the name of children even when, in most cases, children are not present.

    I would like to think that the end of any sexual relationship is.

    How…quaint. My wife and I enjoy physical intimacy for us, not for procreation. We have no plans of having children and actively avoid getting pregnant. So, not to be too rough or anything, you can go straight to hell. My body and my relationship are not merely the vessel through which the next generation will flow, they are things which grant meaning and enjoyment to my life. I am not the slave of some vile mountain god, rutting away in order to increase the number of believers and the volume of tithes flowing in to cover up child rape and buy new hats and Prada shoes for ex-Nazis. Fuck that and fuck you.

    Things work out better when this is the case

    Because all of us childless folks are just left floating out there in the world, bereft of meaning and happiness, right?

    the out-of-wedlock birth rate is extremely low, far more children are born in-wedlock and get to grow up with both parents, fewer children are put up for adoption, etc.

    Again, your argument is revolving around children. Children who, in most instances of cohabitation, don’t exist.

    Also, I imagine that your opposition to group cohabitation (I assume you’re opposed?) is not universally accepted, but you and many others are perfectly willing to impose it on people, because you (rightfully) believe that group cohabitation is not good for society.

    Actually, no, I wouldn’t be opposed to group cohabitation, if I was I wouldn’t be interested in imposing my will, and I don’t follow your assertion that it would be bad for society.

    And the book I linked to is written by experts. I’m sorry if the statistics and studies contained within it are inconvenient to you.

    The book you linked to is a secondary source. It does not contain detailed methodological data or data regarding kinds of statistical analysis used in the studies which it references. In essence, it is a series of essays on various topics intended to be a starting point for research or a good overview for a graduate level course. The studies which are referenced at the end of each essay would be called primary sources and appeared in journals of some description, although we do not know the level of those journals or their publication standards. In other words, if you cited that text (rather than the relevant studies) at the graduate level you’d look like a fool. Its not a matter of convenience, its a matter of academic standards. Moreover, its worth noting that the kinds of sweeping statements you’ve been making throughout this thread show a disturbing lack of skepticism and doubt. Your aggressive certainty regarding complex idiographic phenomena suggests a lack of nuanced thought.

  85. austin says:

    William:

    I don’t advocate violent government intervention. Ideally, once cohabitation has been established as wrong, the police would give cohabitating couples a heads-up, and they would probably seperate. Things would only get violent if they did.

    You can your wife can do what you want. I don’t care if you or other married couples have sex without trying to procreate. At. All.

    The book I linked to is a scholarly/academic encyclopedia. Look it up, and you can see this for yourself.

    Jill:

    I don’t have a problem at all with individuals who choose not to get married. There is no way I could consistently hold anything against people who are unmarried. Marriage is good for society, so I am justified in thinking that overall low marriage rates are negative. Since groups of people (homosexuals) and societies who are more focused on sexual hedonism have lower marriage rates, and we have good reasons to believe that it causes lower marriage rates, it is one of many negative aspects of both sexual hedonism and social liberalism.

    ( And I think I know exactly why you don’t seem to like me very much – and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my views on cohabitation =P )

  86. austin says:

    “It does not contain detailed methodological data or data regarding kinds of statistical analysis…”
    “…its a matter of academic standards.”
    “Your aggressive certainty regarding complex idiographic phenomena…”
    et cetera…

    “Hmm… If I use really big, sophisticated and technical-sounding terms, I can make it look like I know enough to critique academic/scholarly encyclopedias.”

  87. Dreamweasel says:

    “Liberalism will have to collapse first – there’s no getting around that. Once it does, we can implement this reasonable public policy.”

    (munching popcorn)

    This is hilarious. Keep it up, Austin.

  88. austin says:

    I’d like to, but Jill doesn’t really like me, so I don’t know how much longer it is until I get IP banned…

    It is going to collapse. Have you seen the fertility rates in European countries? Norway has extremely low poverty rates and a good economy, and even with all of their social welfare programs encouraging childbirth, they can’t get their fertility rates above 1.8.

    Why don’t you think it could ultimately be a reasonable public policy? If people were used to it, it wouldn’t seem totalitarian at all, any more than laws against group cohabitation seem totalitiarian to us now.

  89. Jill says:

    Right, you’re going to get banned just because I don’t like you…

    Although you are correct that I’m not your biggest fan — although it was your describing gays and lesbians as “sexual hedonists” that put me over the edge. And I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that I’m not the only one ’round these parts who hasn’t taken a great liking to you. I’m more curious as to why you’re fixated on me, when I’ve largely ignored your existence until a few minutes ago.

  90. austin says:

    How am I fixated on you? The only other times I’ve ever even mentioned you is when I responded to your main abortion argument.

  91. austin says:

    And I’m not trying to pointlessly attack gay and lesbian relationships. Their relatively low levels of interest in marriage were very relevant to a point I was making. I’m sorry if that offended you.

  92. groggette says:

    Why don’t you think it could ultimately be a reasonable public policy?

    Because it’s trying to legislate an action that has no effect on people not in that specific relationship.
    Aren’t you all about a literalist vision of the constitution? I don’t remember there being anything in the original bill of rights about cohabitation.

  93. austin says:

    Cohabitation is part of a bigger sexual problem that is harmful to the common good.

    I’m sort of literalist about the Constitution. I don’t delude myself into thinking that “hard” aka “pure” originalism is a feasible method of interpretation with our Constitution in the current condition that it’s in. But I do try to stick to the “original expected application” as much as possible. The only thing in the original bill of rights that would in any way refer to cohabitation would be the part about “rights reserved to the states”.

  94. austin says:

    Cohabitation is part of a bigger sexual problem that is harmful to the common good. I don’t think it’s immediately harmful to the individuals who are cohabitating. If a concern for the immediate well-being of those individuals was the only matter at hand, I would not have a problem with it.

    I’m sort of literalist about the Constitution. I don’t delude myself into thinking that “hard” aka “pure” originalism is a feasible method of interpretation with our Constitution in the current condition that it’s in. But I do try to stick to the “original expected application” as much as possible. The only thing in the original bill of rights that would in any way refer to cohabitation would be the part about “rights reserved to the states”.

  95. groggette says:

    How is it harmful to the common good? Not everyone shares your morals, and even a lot who do know better than to want to legislate them.

  96. austin says:

    Sorry for the double-post.

    Parents who cohabitate and have children are likely to split up. The children effectively have to go through a divorce, and be raised by a single parent, or end up being a stepchild. They’re much better off being raised by both genetic parents – and this is significantly less likely to happen in cohabitating relationships.

    These morals are practical. It’s not like morals are just arbitrary rules that people make up and try to impose on people just for the sake of moralizing. They’re for the well-being of society. Another way of looking at it is, cohabitation and divorce are harmful to the “sexual economy”, so to speak. More cohabitation and divorce = more children being born out of wedlock, etc.

  97. Lauren says:

    I’d like to, but Jill doesn’t really like me, so I don’t know how much longer it is until I get IP banned…

    As a reminder, our commenting policy clearly states: “WE VALUE diversity of opinions and we welcome dissent, but our primary goal is to foster a dynamic feminist community. In that spirit, we ask that all commenters post in good faith, and that conservative or non-feminist commenters keep in mind that they are in our house and should behave accordingly.”

    Because you are dominating every thread you have participated in so far you are getting very close to that line. Final warning, Austin.

    If you have something to say so badly you can’t control yourself here, remember that you have your own blog and utilize it.

  98. Lauren says:

    I just realized I should probably find separate homes for all my cats, especially since they’re all confirmed bachelors.

  99. zuzu says:

    Since groups of people (homosexuals) and societies who are more focused on sexual hedonism have lower marriage rates, and we have good reasons to believe that it causes lower marriage rates, it is one of many negative aspects of both sexual hedonism and social liberalism.

    Oh, that’s a neat trick. Blame “sexual hedonism” and “lack of interest” for the low numbers of same-sex marriages, and use the low numbers to justify preventing gays from marrying. Instead of, oh, I dunno, blaming the low numbers on same-sex marriage being ILLEGAL in all but Iowa and five New England states.

    BTW, Austin, if you’re a Constitutional literalist, how is it that you think the state should be forcing cohabitating couples apart? Which part of the Constitution is that in? Or, for that matter, where do the Framers mention abortion? (Hint: nowhere, because it wasn’t illegal back then. Dangerous, given the state of medicine, but not illegal.)

  100. William says:

    I don’t advocate violent government intervention.

    Don’t kid yourself, theres no other kind. At the bottom all government intervention, with the possible exception of tax incentives, comes down to violence. You’re threatened with prison, a fine which will lead to prison if left unpaid, or some kind of government agent entering your home and breaking up the illegal arrangement which will lead to prison if you do not obey. Violent tools are the only ones governments have. When you say you want something to be illegal what you’re saying is that you want your preference enforced at the barrel of a gun. A conservative would recognize that basic truth of government. Anything else is naive to the point of willful ignorance.

    You can your wife can do what you want. I don’t care if you or other married couples have sex without trying to procreate. At. All.

    Sparkling grammar aside, I fail to see what the signature from a mobbed up county official, a nod from a hired officiant, and 50 bucks make any difference at all between whether you should care about what my wife and I do or not. Do you really mean to say that the same activity, in the same committed context, is somehow fine with those little bureaucratic lumps of shit but damaging to society without them? Really?

    The book I linked to is a scholarly/academic encyclopedia. Look it up, and you can see this for yourself.

    Scholars and academics have an encyclopedia, its called EBSCO (as well as a variety of other journal indices). I did look up the book you quoted, its whats called a secondary source and it is of lesser academic value that a journal article because it lacks the relevant data for people who actually know research. The book you mentioned is intended for students, pundits, and lazy officials who don’t want to be asked to do the basic work of looking at a few current studies in peer-reviewed journals that they pulled off an easily searchable database. More specifically, they’re useful for people who aren’t particularly concerned with nuance and phenomenology but rather just want to be able to reference basic numbers that someone else tracked down.

    You do realize that there are whole journals dedicated to the kinds of research you’re talking about, don’t you? The idea of an authoritative encyclopedia of this kind of data is laughable because it would be out of date by the time it made it to the printer. I hate to whip out professional expertise, but its worth noting that I hold an advanced degree and have nearly completed another (not to mention that I’m currently in the midst of doing actual research). Citing the text you cited in anything other than an early undergraduate context would be frowned upon.

    social liberalism

    By “social liberalism” do you mean general leftist ideology, or are you referencing classical liberal theory? Be precise with your terms, especially if you’re going to don the title of Conservatism’s future.

    “Hmm… If I use really big, sophisticated and technical-sounding terms, I can make it look like I know enough to critique academic/scholarly encyclopedias.”

    And now you bring anti-intellectualism to the table, charming. The problem with running a little google search and finding something with a book preview is that you might just run into someone who does this kind of thing professionally. If you were even passingly conversant in sociological, psychological, or anthropological research those terms wouldn’t have been much trouble for you. Hell, you could have worked half of them out with wikipedia.

    Cohabitation is part of a bigger sexual problem that is harmful to the common good.

    Your Marxism is showing, something which is generally frowned upon in conservative circles. Then again, once you get far enough to either side of the political spectrum you end up with the same totalitarian populist horseshit…

    But hey, Lauren has given you a warning and, honestly, you’re starting to bore me. I’ll consider this my final response to you because going any further would involve getting into a detailed critique of valuation and truth which would be unproductive, off-topic, and masturbatory. Enjoy howling at the winds, Austin.

  101. exholt says:

    The book I linked to is a scholarly/academic encyclopedia. Look it up, and you can see this for yourself.

    Actually, citing encyclopedias as a source in most undergrad level courses unless one was writing an essay pertaining in some way to encyclopedias would be considered unacceptable and sufficient grounds for a failure/do-over for failing to follow minimal academic expectations. In an intermediate/upper-level undergrad seminar classes…it would also be justifiable grounds for ridicule from classmates for effectively copping out of doing the actual work of seriously researching primary and secondary research sources.

    In fact, this practice was already considered sufficient grounds for failing an assignment/class and seen as a sign of academic laziness when I was in 9th grade at an urban public magnet high school. Heck….some of my high school teachers saw the citation of encyclopedias as little different from cheating on a test or a paper.

  102. groggette says:

    You know, if both of my parents hadn’t of divorced their previous spouses, my brother and I wouldn’t be here. ZOMG WHY WON’T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!

    Also, of all the people I know who have divorced or otherwise separated parents, even if they cut out one parent altogether, every single one of them is glad the their parents are happy apart rather than miserable together.

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