Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Without benefit of clergy 

Like Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen, Mrs. TH and I lived together before we were married, a situation my father delicately -- with tongue firmly in cheek -- referred to as "without benefit of clergy." I confess, I did not learn as much in the process as Glenn says he did -- I think many of the really challenging issues in marriage do not emerge until after the children have, er, emerged -- but neither do I think that it disadvantaged our marriage. Any "trial run" is of short duration compared to a partnership calculated to last a life time, and the two items that most test a marriage -- children, and the sheer passage of time -- do not bear on most trial-run cohabitants.


By Blogger Rohan, at Wed Mar 17, 01:26:00 AM:

But on the other hand, if a relationship is going to blow up over the small stuff, it's probably better to find out early, before serious challenges like children come along.

As Glenn said, he and his wife cohabited with other people prior to their current relationship. Those relationships obviously didn't survive until marriage. Maybe those failed cohabitations were the relationships that really taught Glenn things, and not the successful cohabition that came later.  

By Anonymous Jim Clay, at Wed Mar 17, 07:52:00 AM:

Anecdotes are fine, but multiple studies have shown that people that co-habitate before marriage are much more likely to get divorced.  

By Anonymous E Hines, at Wed Mar 17, 08:00:00 AM:

Bundling boards without the boards. As if the boards did anything, umm, concrete in the first place.

As to Mr Clay's remark, as he says, "anecdotes are fine...;" however, this study cited in the article at the other end of TH's link (http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/sex/is-living-together-a-trial-run-1147794/ ) suggests a differing outcome [emphasis mine]: "The report, "Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States," shows that more people than ever are living together without being married. And, it also shows that marriage itself is doing just fine, thanks. Contrary to past dogma, the study also shows that there is no longer a meaningful divorce gap between those who "live together first and those who didn’t."

Eric Hines  

By Anonymous Jim Clay, at Wed Mar 17, 09:24:00 AM:

First, they don't link to the article- they apparently just want us to take their word for it. Second, even their wording implies that there is a gap (i.e. that people that co-habitate divorce more often), but that it is not "meaningful". What "meaningful" means (not statistically significant? perhaps, but given how clueless journalists are, I'm not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt) is never defined. Third, there are numerous studies- feel free to google it- that show a significant, positive correlation between co-habitation and divorce.

The fact that everyone seems to want to ignore that as soon as one study supposedly shows a weak positive correlation makes me think that people simply want to believe that there is no harm from living together.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Wed Mar 17, 12:18:00 PM:

Fair enough, but there is also a significant positive correlation between marriage and divorce.

A separation where no one dies, can be a successful outcome.

I don't think the statistics in this case mean much when the granularity of the sample gets down to two people. I say let people relate and learn in their own way.

Of course some say, people cannot be trusted to manage their lives on their own, they might make mistakes and cock ups.


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Wed Mar 17, 01:59:00 PM:

TH: "the two items that most test a marriage"

What most tests your marriage is getting your wife and your mistress pregnant in the same month.  

By Blogger Stephen, at Wed Mar 17, 03:03:00 PM:

Tsk-tsk. You are so conventional in your thinking. You have got to get out of your Western box. For another solution to reducing the divorce rate (and not by increasing widower-hood) we look to Iran (!) as reported by Mother Jones (!) (h/t Marginal Revolution):

Yet the purpose of a temporary marriage is clear from its name in Arabic—mut'a, pleasure. A man and a woman may contract a mut'a for a finite period of time—from minutes to 99 years or more—and for a specific amount, mehr in Farsi, which the man owes the woman. [snip]

Sigheh [temporary marriage] has worked well for Habib, a 48-year-old businessman from a small city in northeastern Iran. A balding man with a compensatory mustache and an eager smile, Habib counts his blessings, which he believes have been multiplied by his many temporary marriages—15 or 16; he has lost track. "I do sigheh with women who need financial help. Instead of giving money for charity, I marry them in this way and financially support them," he said over tea at a hotel in Tehran. "I believe when I do this, God helps me and I get more wealth."  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Wed Mar 17, 10:35:00 PM:

Yes, which is why we look to Iran for our social and economic improvement.

As Jim Clay notes, there was at one time a significant difference in divorce rate between those who had cohabited and those who had not. I don't know whether this is narrowing, but it was not "dogma," it was fact.

Do not neglect, however, that the effect may work in the opposite direction - that those who are better suited for stable marriage might also be those who elect not to live together.

My disapproval is directed more at the excuses than the living together, I believe. Even when it was statistically far more likely to end in divorce, people would tell me these same reasons - that it was better for learning, that it helped people know each other better. Why the charade? Why not just say "because we feel like it." The need to prove to my poor conventional mind that really, truly, this way is better...okay, at least no worse...well, probably not much worse and you might learn something from the experience...

...tells me the reasons given are not the real reasons. Not saying I know what the real reasons are, but these aint them.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Thu Mar 18, 11:46:00 AM:

"because we feel like it."

That sounds right. I wonder what the spread is between those who drift into co-habitation vs. those who plan for it in detail. Planning in detail might make a better sitcom but I think that an awful lot of people drift into it. It may in many cases just be a continuation of the initial romance. It's an adventure whereas marriage I think is more of an expedition.

My parents were married in 1932 after knowing each other for 3 weeks. Living together first was an idea that would not have occurred to them in a million years. It was a successful marriage and an unsuccessful marriage.

Would it have been more successful if they had lived together first? Maybe not in those times. But if the times had been more permissive I would have to say maybe. Knowing that either could up and walk out, relatively easily, might have given their respect for each other, and the importance of romance, a different and useful dimension.


By Anonymous The Truth is Out There, at Thu Mar 18, 03:15:00 PM:

"getting your wife and your mistress pregnant in the same month."

Didn't I see you on "Jerry Springer."  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Fri Mar 19, 11:19:00 AM:

Re: Jerry Springer

I've never been on the show. I've never seen the show. I operate on a different level.  

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