In this blog I explore what happens when immature young men cohabit without marriage with young women who need attention from young men.  In my last blog I explored the role of divorce and absent fathers in the rise of cohabiting of young unmarried male and female couples in our society. If you haven’t read that blog, you will want to read it before this one, as today’s blog is building on the thoughts shared there (Today’s blog is part of a longer series of consecutive blogs on the subject of cohabitation outside marriage. So far I’ve looked at the legal problems of cohabiting, how cohabiting hurts sexuality and creates mistrust, how cohabiting promotes impatience, how cohabitation encourages money problems, and the effect of absent fathers on creating a climate that encourages cohabitation.).

“The last thing an immature young man needs is a young woman trying to help him grow up by sleeping with him for nothing.”

Dr. Bing Wall as quoted right now. He just wrote it.

My theory, that I explained in my previous blog, is this: Young women and young men, who are willing to cohabit with each other without marriage, often don’t have good relationships with their dads (mostly through divorce, but intact jerks for fathers apply).

As a result of dads not being around, young men, who are willing to cohabit, are, by and large, immature. They don’t have dads around to challenge them. Cohabiting doesn’t help them grow up either. A generation ago young men used to have to wait to be sexual with their future wives for whom they yearned. They had to prove themselves. With cohabiting there’s no waiting. Instant gratification.

Young women, without dads, often struggle with being loved and really, really, really want and need affectionate and caring attention from loving dads. Their dads didn’t commit to them and weren’t reliable. They need their boyfriends to show them they are different by REALLY, REALLY committing to them (i.e. marry me!). Even though she wants to be married, she has such a need for a young man to shower her with the attention she never had from her dad, that she is eager to enter into cohabitation in order to win the guy of her dreams over. My belief is that fewer young women cohabit without marriage, who have healthy and warm relationships with their fathers. With present, loving dads, these young women aren’t desperate! They know they are valuable. They don’t have to prove anything. They can wait. Patience is good for women, too!

When women, without close relationships with their fathers, cohabit, they eventually begin to pressure their live-in boyfriends to marry. Of course, he’s not at that stage yet emotionally, but she is, and so these two different goals don’t make for smooth sailing. Unfortunately, the very thing she wants and needs (a loving, committed man in her life), is the last thing she gets. By moving in with him without a ring and a wedding and a license and a reception, she is conveying to him that she’s not worth waiting for, she’s easy. This act of moving in or “sliding,” which has only recently become common, without a bona fide mark in time that has accompanied human history for millennia in societies across the world (You know…. A wedding!) conveys to everyone else and each other that there is NOT MUCH OF A COST INVOLVED AND IF THERE IS NO COST INVOLVED (WAITING, PLANNING, HOPING, DREAMING, ANTICIPATION, LONGING), IT AIN’T WORTH FIGHTING FOR!!!! There’s no challenge for him. It reinforces his leaning toward immaturity. And her eventual push to marry comes across to him as desperate and bitchy, devaluing her in his eyes.

If a young women struggles with being loved and a young man struggles with growing up, it’s not gonna help anyone if she lives with him without marriage in order to finally have some man love her (Look, her divorced dad loves her, no doubt. But he only sees her intermittently, so when he sees her it takes days for her to warm up to him and trust him and then she has to go home again. How can she trust her dad who’s never around? She doesn’t know him well enough to understand his sarcasm or his chiding. She takes it personal and writes him off. He goes, “What’s her problem?” He says to himself she’s rebellious and won’t take advice. He withdraws from her because he feels rejected. It’s a lose-lose.).

It’s not going to help him if he finds a woman willing to share his bed and he doesn’t have to stand at any altar and, you know, commit and promise and everything. It would be much better to wait for sex and marriage, so he learns a little patience, and he learns to work for something, and to pursue a goal worth having (You know, grow up!), but with cohabitation, he can have everything right now without the mature part (You know, marriage!).

Does it get any better than this? Whoa, baby. And she wants sex! Woohoo! She even cleans the house! Are you kidding me? Dang. And for the first six months she never even complained!!!! Nirvana, Baby! And I can go out with my buddies and drink beer and she’s just so happy to have me around when I’m around. And did I mention the sex? And clean sheets! Ha! I didn’t even know I liked clean sheets.

But alas. All good things come to an end. Six months, tops. You can figure this out right? It occurs to her that she’s doing the bulk of the work around the place. It occurs to her that he likes his video games or computer or his shotgun or his stock car or his _________ (fill in the blank, but it’s not her) more than her and that he barely lifts a finger and he wants sex all the time and like what’s in it for her? So she starts sharing her opinion.

And that’s when the fighting starts. He didn’t want her opinion! She thought he’d want her opinion. Not if you are going to be mad about it. No, no, no. We’re roommates, remember. You don’t get mad at your roommate. That’s impolite. You just go with the flow. Married? Are you kidding? Why would I want to marry somebody, who acts like a crazy woman, nagging me all the time about never being around and not growing up and being immature and when am I gonna be a man (Ah, that’s the message he should have gotten from his dad, remember?) and how come I never help and am I some kinda sex perv, cuz all I think about is sex? She’s just on my case all the time. All the women are like that. All my buddies, their girlfriends treat them the same way. No way I’m ever getting married. Not if she’s gonna fight all the time. That’d end in divorce for sure. I don’t want to be divorced.

And she’s thinking, he won’t listen to my opinion. I can’t say one thing without him getting mad. He doesn’t lift a finger. He’s taking advantage for me. He’s just using me. He won’t commit to me. He’s so lazy. I can’t respect someone who just __________ (fill in the blank with your self-absorbed immature behavior of choice) all the time. What kind of crap…..?

Of course, these respective attitudes don’t do much to endear each other to each other and so they go their separate ways and they break up. In spades. Way, way, way more often then couples who wait and court and get engaged and wait and save their money and court and wait some more and then get married. And as I’ve said before, cohabiting couples, who break up, are hurting really badly, just as if they divorced. But now, it just disappears from their past. “Oh, me? Yeah, well, I used to live with a girl once. For a year or so. Yeah, she was a crazy woman.” Or, “I only lived with him a couple of years. Yeah, I broke up with him. He was so into himself. He never grew up. Like he was 14. All he did was ______ all the time. I heard he’s still acting that way.”

Like it never happened. Like it didn’t really affect them.

Oh, yeah? Hmmm. We’ll see.

And nobody learns anything. Not anything good, anyway. He learns he doesn’t want to be too committed to a woman or she’ll henpeck him to death. She learns that she still has an ache in her heart and she’s out looking for mister right. And she’s looking and looking and looking….

Great. So let’s be real and change the years of adolescence from 13-19 to 11 to 35. May as well face reality.

Here’s a thought: Grow up! Court! Wait. Get engaged. Plan your wedding. Let your relatives host a wedding shower for your bride. THEN get married! Then move in with each other! Then be sexual (Dr. Wall…this just sounds so, you know, old fashioned and everything. You are so out of touch.)! Take Responsibility. Share your life with someone ‘til death do you part. Commit. Really Commit. Share oneness, respect, mutuality, dreams, hopes and aspirations. Have kids (Hey, they are only little for a little while! You can handle it.). Live in community. Be involved in citizenship. Go to church together. Grow old together. Accept each other. Did I mention love? And the sex. Sex with the same lover for 50 years? Sixty if you’re lucky? Are you kidding me? Woohoo! Being known. Really known. Secret jokes. Laughter. Secret teases. Furtive glances. Still. Forty years later. Your lover and companion standing next to you by your hospital bed. For the sixth time! Burdens shared. Burdens lifted. Burdens faced. Victories won. A few defeats. Being loved anyway. Leaving immaturity back in Junior High where it belongs.

_____

To see the entire series on Cohabitation click here.  The titles in the series so far is:

Part One On Cohabitation: Cavalier About Marriage

Dr. Wall starts a series on Cohabitation by exposing some of the unintended consequences of living together without marriage.  It’s not the road to happiness.

Part Two On Cohabitation: The Downsides of Cohabiting Without Marriage

Dr. Wall continues his series on Cohabitation by looking at how cohabitation hurts marriage.

Part Three On Cohabitation: Cohabiting and Impatience

Dr. Wall continues his series on Cohabitation by exposing the lack of patience that cohabiting couples have.  You learn patience by waiting; you learn anger by doing what you want when you want it.

Part Four On Cohabitation: Marriage, Money and Cohabiting

Dr. Wall continues his series on Cohabitation by exploring the devastating effect cohabitation has on creating long-term bad habits, particularly keeping their money separate.  Money symbolizes the couple’s relationship.  If the money is separate, well, there you go.

Part Five On Cohabitation: Absent Fathers and the Cohabiting Craze

Dr. Wall continues his series on Cohabitation by exploring his theory that absent fathers, primarily from divorce, have contributed to the proliferation of cohabiting unmarried couples. He suggests that young men, without everyday intact fathers, struggle with immaturity and young women, without everyday intact fathers, struggle with being loved by a male.  Both seek to meet these needs by cohabiting without marriage.

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Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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