Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

May 16, 2012

Has marriage gone out of style?

By Keith Kappes - Publisher

May 18, 2012 —     Movie and television stars are doing it. Rock music stars are doing it. More of our friends and neighbors and other folks around us are doing it.

   What are they doing? They are choosing to live together instead of getting married in the conventional sense.

   They’re having babies together and buying homes together but not as married couples.

   I have my own feelings on the subject but it is not my place to sit in judgement of those of you who say you are committed to each other but choose not to legalize your union with a marriage license or who are prohibited by Kentucky law from marrying each other.

   To my surprise, Internet research on the topic of co-habitation or living together outside of marriage didn’t yield much information because the federal government stopped collecting data on the subject in the late 1990’s and the last government statistics were published in 2002.

   The U. S. Census Bureau did not ask every household in either the 2000 or 2010 population counts any marriage-related questions beyond “are you married or divorced?”

   The federal decision not to collect data on this growing trend is troublesome to researchers concerned about the breakdown of families, both through growing divorce rates and increasing numbers of couples deciding to forego marriage.

   It appears to me that most live-in couples are young adults but the arrangement also is attractive to older couples, particularly in retirement communities, who want companionship but don’t want to risk affecting their personal pensions or health insurance or estate plans. 

   A couple in their mid-20’s, together for four years, was asked why they opted not to get married and now have two children.

   They responded that they didn’t need “a piece of paper and an expensive wedding they couldn’t afford” to validate their love and respect for each other.

   Neither did they want to be at risk of divorce which had shattered both of their childhoods.

   There was a time when society, particularly religious leaders, condemned what used to be called “shacking up.”

   Today, we see proud, unmarried parents publishing photographs of their precious babies.

   We see older parents deciding that relationships with their grown children are too important to risk by criticizing a “live-in” situation.

   We see more ministers taking a conciliatory approach with such couples, hoping to befriend them and perhaps eventually persuade them to get married as the Bible advises.

   If someone you know is considering a live-in arrangement, please encourage them to make sure they know and understand the legal consequences of such a decision, not only for themselves individually but also for their children.