01/31/2014 12:24 EST | Updated 04/02/2014 05:59 EDT

Cohabiting Before Marriage Shouldn't Be About Sex or a Ring

I have gone on record, in these storied pages, as being against the idea of cohabitation prior to marriage. Apparently, so has "dating expert" Debra Macleod over at the universe's origin point, The Huffington Post. So do we agree? Kind of! But mostly no.

While it's nice to have someone echo my sentiment, myself and the folks at AskMen take a certain amount of umbrage with her reasoning. Mostly, it's pretty downright insulting to men, and to some degree women too.

Some of her points are spot-on. For instance, she notes that cohabitation is linked with higher rates of divorce. That, for me, is reason enough not to do it. Even if it's an issue of correlation rather than causation, why chance it? It also makes couples less likely to get married in the first place, which kind of renders the entire exercise pointless, doesn't it? Again, while couples more likely to cohabitate are also more likely to choose not to marry, I'd rather not become a statistic. Finally, she suggests that it kind of ruins the magic of being a newlywed, and again, I agree. The whole idea behind getting married is to start a new life together, and that's a lot less exciting when you're already 90 per cent of the way there.

But that's as far as I was able to back her.

Things jump off the rails a little when she plows forward with the notion that men are listless, sex-crazed animals. For instance, she posits that, while women see sharing a lease as a "step" towards marriage, men see it as a consequence-free test drive. Why is it only men who see it as a "test drive?" Who's to say that women aren't doing the same thing? And, why is it that we're not capable of seeing it as a step ourselves? Assuming the "test drive" aspect works, is that really such a bad thing?

This also paints all women as worrisome ninnies who take even the smallest gestures as "progress" towards marriage -- because that's definitely how marriage works and obviously all women are just desperate for it. You don't really "progress" towards marriage. Once you're in a relationship, the time either comes or it doesn't. It's not like a video game, where certain achievements have to be unlocked. Fighting over how to load the dishwasher does not net you +5 experience points.

Then she moves on to the old "milk/cow" sex analogy and, Goddammit, am I ever tired of that. She suggests that by moving in with a man, he'll have all the sex he ever wanted (his only reason for dating a woman in the first place) and, thus, he'll never feel the need to pop the question. Consider yourself and whether or not you live or ever lived with a S.O. When you moved in, did your life turn into a 24-hour bonefest? I noticed no appreciable change in my sex life between dating and getting married.

Macleod describes the arrangement as "no strings." How is having sex with the girlfriend you live with "no strings"? The "living together" and "loving each other" elements seem like pretty high-test strings, if you ask me. Even if you're not living together, does your sex life somehow suffer for it? That's not to mention the inferred notion that men only date and marry for sex and sex alone. In 2014, not being married isn't exactly a barrier to having sex.

What about your relationship falling flat? Macleod suggests that cohabitation leads to men no longer needing to "pursue" their ladyfriends, and any resulting marriage comes out of convenience. On the contrary: It's pretty easy for a man to stop "pursuing" his girlfriend (or even wife), whether he lives with her or not. I think we're all guilty of it at some point or another. A shared abode does not a flat relationship make. If a couple "slides" into marriage or gets married "because they might as well," that has a lot more to do with the couple themselves than it does their living condition. In this case (and most of these, really), the cohabitation is a symptom of the couple, not a cause for their lack of nuptials.

Again with the sex stuff, she theorizes that living together strips a man of his "motivation" to commit to the woman, what with all that constant free sex he's getting now. Again, being married is not about having unlimited access to a woman's biscuit. Nowadays, you don't really "need" marriage to do anything -- buy a house, lease an apartment or a car, have kids, etc. And yet, people continue to get married. Why? Because of the symbolism and the statement it makes to your spouse and the larger world. You make the decision to spend the rest of your lives together because you love each other and you want that on record with the government. If you're getting married just to have sex, you're in for a very, very rude awakening.

Again, I'm not personally a proponent of cohabitation before marriage. If you asked for my advice, I'd tell you not to. There's plenty of empirical research out there to suggest that it might not be the greatest idea. But you don't need to reduce men to sex-starved lunatics (or women to desperate shells who will whither and die if they don't get a ring) to get your point across.

By Ian Lang


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