I don’t eavesdrop. I think it’s rude. But when you’re in a restaurant and the people at the next table speak loudly enough for everyone in the place to hear, it’s hard to ignore them. The loud-talkers in question were two young women, maybe late twenties or early thirties. One of them had just broken up with her live-in boyfriend.
This is the part where I hate to make myself seem like an old codger, but I remember when that particular living arrangement was called “shacking up” and those who chose that lifestyle tended to keep it to themselves, not broadcast it for strangers to hear. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.
Here’s the thing, the jilted party, we’ll call her Ann for the sake of brevity, was very upset that her former roommate/lover had dumped her. She couldn’t understand how he could just up and walk away. But, isn’t that the nature of the unmarried relationship? Other than a few pieces of furniture, there is no commitment. In fact, studies show that roughly 50% of people living in sin never get married. [Note: You don’t hear the term “living in sin” very often anymore and my using it might offend some. Maybe, if we called it what it is more often, it might not be thought of as just another lifestyle. Sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin.]
So, our friend Ann shouldn’t have been so shocked. Her lifestyle choice has no more chance of success than a coin toss. But wait, there’s more! Of the cohabitators who do finally tie the knot, more than 3/4 of those marriages fail. In other words, the chances of Ann’s little premarital love nest developing into a life-long relationship are around 1 in 10.
Sadly, this isn’t the picture portrayed in TV and movies. From their standpoint, it’s all fun and games. The process goes like this:
Meet a guy; jump into bed; move in together; fall in love (maybe); have a baby or two; get married. If you doubt any of this, check out CBS’ line-up of sit coms. Is it any wonder that talking about cohabitation is no longer taboo. You would be surprised how many couples approach me for marriage preparation with both parties giving the same address. You would also be surprised at how shocked they are when I suggest that this might be a problem.
On the other hand, how much do we discourage this particular variety of sin when the test we give them to determine their compatibility includes a special section for “cohabiting couples”? I guess I’m ranting here because I’m the guy who’s charged with convincing them that what they’re doing is wrong even when everyone else (often including their parents) is telling them it’s OK. I end up looking like the bad guy.
I believe we clergy, given the privilege of preaching the Gospel have let our people down. When was the last time you heard a homily on this subject. [Hint: The last time I preached on extramarital sex, two couples who heard the homily decided to get married.] So I guess I’ll keep preaching about it and counseling engaged couples on it, and one-by-one, maybe make a difference.