If Glenn Stanton could offer anyone advice for maximizing the chances of having a happy marriage, it would probably be this: do not live with your marriage partner before getting married. Stanton’s new book The Ring Makes All The Difference is Stanton’s collection of opinions and evidence that living together before marriage (“cohabitation”) is connected to many adverse effects that any reasonable person would want to avoid. These effects include increased rates of divorce, increased rates of infidelity, and increased rates of developmental problems in children.
Why is cohabitation often a living arrangement of choice in an era when half of all marriages end in divorce? Stanton proposes that in addition to it being a “trial period” for those afraid of marital failure, it is also an arrangement that is too easily slid into by those not intending to ever enter a marriage, and once cohabitation begins, Stanton believes, it is a more difficult relationship to exit from than dating.
Stanton makes provocative points about research making links between cohabitation and its potential adverse effects, but the fundamental problem of the book assumes that it is the institution of cohabitation that makes its members worse off than they were before. In citing adverse effects of cohabitation, it makes no distinction between correlation (the link or connection between two things) and causation (the cause or reason why something exists). For example, it can be said that there’s a correlation between people who drive fast and people who own sports cars, but it is not merely owning a sports car that makes a person drive fast. People choose to drive fast and people choose which car they will own. Stanton is making an argument against cohabitation based on research, not on attitudes, which leaves out the idea that people enter cohabitation or marriage, with certain attitudes. People enter marriage or cohabitation with the ability to resolve problems, remain faithful, care for children or a partner, and communicate for better or worse.
Ultimately, upon reading this book, my mind was not changed about cohabitation, but I was certainly enlightened as to the potential links that exist between it and those who engage in it.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.