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Finding Legitimacy in an Immoral World

Kameel Majdali

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.’ --Hebrews 13:4

DE FACTO: Existence without legal or ecclesiastical recognition or sanction.

DE JURE: Existence by right according to law.

The clerk handed an overseas tourist her visa application. Immediately her eye spotted the section called ‘Marital Status,’ from which she could choose one of five options. These included:

[   ]  Single;
[   ]  Married;
[   ]  Divorced;
[   ]  Widowed; and...
[   ] De Facto.

Unclear on the last option, she asked the clerk what it meant. ‘De facto is when a couple lives together without being married,’ he replied.

‘Oh,’ she blurted out, ‘where I come from, we call that ''living in sin.'"

Cohabitation or ‘The De facto Factor’

One of the disturbing, yet prevalent, trends in the western world is the practice of de facto relationships, also known as ‘cohabitation’ (Note: these terms will be used interchangeably). Whether you call it 'de facto,' 'living in sin,' 'live-in girlfriend,' ‘cohabitation,’ ‘common law,’ or even 'trial marriage,' a generation ago it was the exception; it was considered unacceptable, even wrong.

Today this phenomena is on the rise and considered a legal status. One recent statistic in Australia suggested that a whopping 80% of the couples that wed in a single year have lived together in a de facto relationship prior to the wedding (2014, cited by the Australian Bureau of Statistics).[1] A (liberal) Christian denomination in 2001 struck premarital sex and de facto relationships off their sin list, as part of being ‘consistent with society’s ways.’

Acceptance of de facto-living came as a gradual process with the rise of secular humanism and decline of Judeo-Christian moral standards. The culture wars, sexual revolution, contraceptive pill, abortion on demand, postmodernism with its denial of absolutes, have all contributed to this situation. No doubt Hollywood has played a major role in the proliferation of cohabitation. Glamorous high profile actors, usually after one or more failed marriages, move-in with another famous movie star, father children and live a celebrated lifestyle, egged on by gossip columnists who offer bite-size instalments for news-hungry, celebrity-obsessed fans.

Three Types of De facto Relationships

For Most, A Temporary Arrangement: Motivations for cohabitation seem to follow several streams. The first involves those who have never married and have no intention of doing so. They want readily available sex, shared financial resources, and companionship in the home. These living arrangements tend to be temporary; only 18% of these will be together after 5 years. This attitude can be described as a ‘de facto spirit,’ meaning they want the privileges and pleasures of marriage without the commitment and responsibility.

Never married but want to: The second type are also those who never married and are interested in eventual marriage but have a ‘try before you buy’ mindset.

De Facto before Remarriage: Third are those who have undergone divorce, suffer from the ‘once bitten, twice shy’ syndrome, and hence choose a de facto relationship as a necessary precursor to remarriage (if there is to be a marriage). Some older couples may choose to live together outside of marriage so as not to endanger any pension entitlements. Others, afraid of giving up their freedom and identity, choose to cohabitate with their boyfriend or girlfriend. If things don't work out, they reason, all one needs to do is ‘move out’ without all the complications divorce brings. It's that simple.
Is it? (Short answer: No)

Are There Any Benefits?[2]

Just because something is commonplace and permitted by society does not make it healthy and right. After all, cigarette smoking is legal but it can cost your thousands of dollars a year and have a detrimental effect on your health. Gambling also is legal and look at the trail of trouble and sorrow it has left.
Some claim that a de facto relationship helps prepare a couple for marriage and prevents divorce. Does it? Research suggests otherwise: couples that live in a de facto relationship before marriage are more likely to divorce than couples that wait until marriage. One statistic said that of couples who were married twenty years or more, 56% of those who lived as a de facto couple before marriage ended up in divorce, while 29% of those who never cohabited before marriage ended up in divorce. According to the Jubilee Report on cohabitation: ‘The idea that first cohabitations that lead to marriage do not result in an increased rate of divorce is not reflected by this data set: prior cohabitation with a spouse is associated with 60 per cent higher risk of divorce (emphasis mine).

Another study concluded that 75% of married couples were still together when their child turned 16; only 7% of de facto couples can make the same claim. That’s a ten-fold increased for the married couples. In Britain, the direct annual cost of family breakdown is GBP 41.7 billion. The Daily Mail Online, ‘Married Parents Ten Times More Likely to Stay Together,’ Sarah Harris (February 2010).[3]
In Part 02, we will look at the other negatives as well as how to go from ‘de facto to de jure,’ and how to gain legitimacy with God and people.


       Over half of all first marriages are proceeded by cohabitation (University of Wisconsin document)

       Cohabitation doesn't reduce the likelihood of divorce--in fact it leads to a higher divorce risk. One study showed 46% higher risk (1992 Journal of Marriage and Family).

       No positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found, not even sexual compatibility, as usually suggest (1993 Journal of Marriage and Family)

       Cohabitants tend not be as committed as married couples, or prepared to work on their differences (1995 Journal of Family issues)

       Particularly problematic is the area of serial cohabitation. It generates a greater willingness to dissolve later relationships. (1993 Journal of Family Issues)

       About 60% of cohabitation ends in marriage (1989 National Study of Cohabitation

       In general, cohabiting relationships tend to be less satisfactory than marriage relationship-s, with cohabiting couples reporting lower levels of happiness, sexual exclusivity and sexual satisfaction, as well as poorer relationships with parents (Bumpass, Sweet & Cherlin's 1991 study)

       After five years, only 10% of cohabiting couples are together. They do not tend to permanency (Bumpass & Sweet's 1989 study)

       Married couples have substantial benefits over the unmarried in terms of labour force productivity, physical and mental health, general happiness and longevity (1994 American Journal of Sociology)

       Annual rates of depression among cohabiting couples is more than three times the married rate. (1990 Psychiatric Disorders in America)

       Physical and sexual abuse of a spouse is much higher. One study showed evidence of being twice as high (1991 Journal of marriage and family)

       Abuse is 20 times higher for children with cohabiting, but biological parents, but 33 times greater if the parent was cohabiting with a non-parenting male partner (1993 Family Education trust: London).

       The 1996 poverty rate was 6% with married parents, but 31 % with cohabiting parents (1996 Journal of Marriage and the Family).

--taken from Leadership NOW! January 2000, page 12.


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