Decades of high divorce rates have given rise to a generation of young adults who fear marriage. In response, the statistics show that many now live together to test their compatibility. Since 1960, America has witnessed a 12-fold increase in cohabitation from 430,000 couples to 5.4 million couples. At the same time, there's been a 50 percent plunge in the marriage rate, along with rising numbers of out-of-wedlock births.

Many of those 5.4 million couples, along with their friends and neighbors, still believe the enduing myth that cohabitation works as a sort of trial marriage. In reality, cohabitation often becomes a trial divorce. The only question is whether couples will split before or after their wedding. About 45 percent of cohabitating couples undergo what we call a "premarital divorce," which can be as painful as the real thing. The half who make it to the altar are about 50 percent more likely to divorce than those who lived apart prior to marrying. In the end, as few as 15 of every 100 couples who cohabit go on to create a lasting marriage.

By contrast, a woman who lives with a man is three times more likely to be physically abused than a married woman. If a cohabitating couple breaks up, the woman is then 18 times more likely to be harmed than a married woman. In addition, infidelity for cohabiting men is four times that of married men; for cohabiting women, infidelity is eight times more likely.

Paul wrote, "Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (1 Thess. 5:21-22). About two-thirds of married couples now cohabit before marriage, and every study on the arrangement shows that cohabitation is detrimental. Churches, which still perform the vast majority of marriages in the U.S., are too often ...

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