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Finding Legitimacy in an Immoral World

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.

Last month we looked at the ever-rising phenomena of de facto relationships, also known as cohabitation. We will explore this topic some more.

Are There Any Benefits to Cohabitation?[i]

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 leaves.
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).[ii]

Why Are Those Who Live Together
Before Marriage More Likely to Divorce?

Why is this the case? Why do couples who live in a de facto relationship have a greater chance of divorce? It is like the analogy of a building during an earthquake. If the building has deep, strong foundations, then it will withstand the tremors. However, if the building has weak foundations, the first shake will bring it down. Life-long relationships have good foundations: Godly commitment, mutual love and respect, morality and strength. These things will help the relationship weather any storm. Unfortunately, the de facto relationship does not have these things and so even when one eventually marries, due to the poor moral and commitment foundations, it will be vulnerable to collapse, even with the slightest of shaking.

Others say that single parents enter into a de facto partnership so that the children can have a father figure in the home. While it is indeed possible for non-biological fathers to show love and kindness to (step) children, there is an alarming trend of the adverse effects de facto relationships have on youngsters.

In his article, "De Facto Danger" (Melbourne Herald Sun, April 6, 1998, page 19), Paul Gray says "Our ongoing willingness to pretend that de facto fathering is just as good as traditional fathering (the biological father living in a stable relationship with the mother) is having horrific consequences."  Gray quotes former human rights commissioner Brian Burdekin as saying de facto living arrangements have increased the child sex abuse rate by 600 per cent. A NSW Child Protection Council reports says suspected killers in de facto relationships was 6 1/2 times higher than in the population at large. The sad and sensational cases of Jesse Winning (14 months) and Daniel Valerio (age 2), who were murdered by their mother's de facto partners, only highlights this alarming trend. ‘Traditional fathering, within the stable, two-parent family, is clearly the best way to protect and raise children. For that, the evidence is overwhelming,’ remarks Gray.

If the person is uncommitted to their de facto partner, why would they be caring and committed to the children of that partner?
Above all, there is a far more serious implication about de facto relationships that have a long-term effect. Any sexual activity within these relationships clearly falls into the category of fornication and/or adultery. Apart from the temporal disadvantages of these acts, like venereal disease and unwanted pregnancies, are the eternal consequences. On this matter, God's Word is very clear. Hebrews 13:4 affirms this. Read also Ephesians 5:3-5; I Timothy 1:9-10; Revelation 21:8; 22:15. The implications couldn’t be plainer

Study after study confirms the following conclusions:

1.   De facto or cohabitation relations lead to a markedly increased risk of divorce compared to those who have never married.

2.   De facto increases the risk of domestic violence against women and men, and also violence against children;

3.   Lower levels of happiness and satisfaction;

4.   De facto relations have serious spiritual consequences.

Having observed the world for all these years, it is impossible to ascribe any benefits whatsoever to cohabitation. Consider the bedrock motivation behind many de facto relationships: a lack of making a genuine, long-term commitment; fear of failure; wanting to reap the benefits and pleasures without taking the responsibilities and commitment those benefits require; exhibiting and enhancing weak character. Of course, these attitudes of de facto-ism are not just in relationships; they can also occur in business, politics, the church, and more.

To be continued


       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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