How could I convince my daughter that she might be about to make a terrible mistake?
By K.C. Scott
(Transcription of an article that appeared in The Reader’s Digest, February 1994, pp. 77-80.)
“Mom, Joe and I have decided to live together,” my strong-willed 23-year-old daughter announced defiantly at our dining-room table, her boyfriend at her side.
The fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their offensive. Your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about? – Solzhenitsyn Harvard Day Address 6-8-78
Her words made my heart pound and my stomach churn. “Have either of you even thought about the possibility you could get pregnant?”
My daughter looked sheepishly at her boyfriend, admitting they hadn’t. Then defiance swept over her face again and she replied, “Well, I don’t care what you and Dad think. You’ll just have to accept it.”
“We may have to tolerate it,” I said firmly. “But we’ll never accept it. You’re going against every value we’ve taught you.”
As she and her 24-year-old boyfriend marched out the door, I was heartbroken. It was one of the great sorrows of my life.
I couldn’t convince my daughter that, by entering a relationship of sex without marriage, she could be making the worst mistake of her life. But since then I’ve learned unsettling facts about cohabitation. My hope is that what I learned will help other young people and parents facing the same situation. (The U.S. Census Bureau says 6,085,284 unmarried, opposite-sex partners live together.) Here’s what I found:
In many live-in situations, the individuals may view the relationship differently, frequently the result of failing to discuss what they expect of each other. Most women said it was a first step toward marriage. For men, the most common motive was sex. One man, asked why he was living with his girlfriend, replied, “Sex – there when you want it, where you want it.”
- There’s a good chance that a couple living together will never tie the knot.
Estimates from a number of experts are that 40 to 50 percent of cohabitants never marry each other. One 1985 Columbia University study found that only 19 percent of men who lived with their girlfriends eventually walked down the aisle with them.
I also learned that in many live-in situations, the individuals may view the relationship differently, frequently the result of failing to discuss what they expect of each other. When 139 cohabitating students were asked, in a 1973 study, why they lived with somebody, most women said it was a first step toward marriage. For men, the most common motive was sex. One man, asked why he was living with his girlfriend, replied, “Sex – there when you want it, where you want it.”
(See also “Cohabitation Before Marriage” by the Kansas Bishops.)