Congratulations to Dr. Wall for posting his 100th blog today!

Recent research suggests married people do better with children. In contrast to this, cohabiting couples do worse with children. Dr. Wall theorizes why this difference.

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?

Who may live on your holy hill?

(He) who keeps his oath even when it hurts.

Psalm 15:1, 4

Recently, I ‘ve had a series of blogs on the downsides of cohabiting (click here for a list).  People who cohabit have the illusion that they can do so without negative consequences.  This is decidedly NOT the case. The other day I came across an article on new research that found children have a positive effect on marriages, but a negative effect on cohabiting couples. The article went on to say that the more children married people have, the more satisfaction!

Here’s a few quotes:*

Having children improves married peoples’ life satisfaction and the more they have, the happier they are. For unmarried individuals, raising children has little or no positive effect on their happiness. These findings by Dr. Luis Angeles from the University of Glasgow in the UK have just been published online in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies…

For married individuals of all ages and married women in particular, children increase life satisfaction and life satisfaction goes up with the number of children in the household. Negative experiences in raising children are reported by people who are separated, living as a couple, or single, having never been married…

Dr. Angeles concludes: “One is tempted to advance that children make people better off under the ‘right conditions.’

The right conditions. Like married? Yeah. Now why would that be?

Dr. Christopher West, a leading Catholic Theologian on the Theology of the Body, uses the illustration of putting a rose plant in a closet. Since the rose plant needs sunlight, if you put it in a closet, it will die. If you want the rose plant to grow and flourish, you put the it in the sunlight, water it regularly, give it some fertilizer and watch it grow. Children flourish in married households with a husband and a wife who are their biological male father and biological female mother. They need the softness of moms spirit and the warmth of her hug and the firmness of dad’s confidence and the strength of his leadership.

But if a male-female couple is JUST living together, NOT married, children become a nuisance and a burden. Why are they JUST living together in the first place? Cohabitation ends up being like they are living as college roommates, who happen to be sexual with each other. The Bible, however, talks about marriage being:

The man will leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife and the two will be one flesh.

This statement on marriage is quoted in Genesis (2:24), the first book in the Bible, before Adam and Eve sinned and sin entered the world. It is also quoted by Jesus (Matthew 19:5), before his death and resurrection, and by Paul (Ephesians 5:31), after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

These three aspects are critical, none of which flow from cohabiting couples.

Leaving: The wedding ceremony tells everyone: God, the State, the Church, Your Family, Your Friends, Each Other and YOURSELF AND YOUR FUTURE CHILDREN, that you are a NEW family, unique in all the history of the world and never to be repeated. The wedding puts your mom and dad on notice that your relationship is changed from here on. You’re not kids anymore. You’re going to be responsible and pay your own bills and make your own decisions and seek God’s leading in YOUR lives. It reminds each of you on a daily basis that you are DONE DEAL and you’re in this TIL DEATH YOU DO PART.

Cleaving: This is the stick together part. Rich or poor, sickness and health. No matter what. Kids or no kids. Money or no money. Got MS? I got your back. Lost your job? I’m in there with you. Moral failure? It hurts like mad, but we will learn to cleave again. We’re not fickle. We don’t give up. We hang in there. When the going gets tough, we go out for coffee and talk about how we’re going to face the challenge. WE come up with ideas. WE are the financial secretary and the treasurer of the YOU and I Corporation. WE work together for the common good. WE listen to each other’s voice because WE have vested interest and WE are NOT dumb. WE both have a voice because ALL decisions effect us BOTH. As the verse at the top of this blog says, keep our “oath even when it hurts.” We are NOT shaken. We shall not be moved.

Becoming one flesh: When a husband and wife are married and are sexual with each other, they become one spiritually and physically. This spiritual bonding is a blessing. They literally become one when they together are blessed with children. Each child has their mom and dad’s genes in every cell in his or her body. The two become one over and over as they have more children. To the person who believes that God is the Author and Giver of LIFE, this is viewed as a blessing. In fact, in the Psalms it says:

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127: 3-5

We ain’t got no leaving in cohabiting. We don’t need anyone’s blessing to live together.  What ya doing Saturday?  Yeah, why don’t you move in?  We’re hanging out anyway.  Sure.  It’ll save us a ton of money.  We can see if we’re meant to be together or not.

But if a couple JUST lives together without marriage both convey that neither person believes in God. If there is no God of the Living to serve, then I only have me to serve. I don’t care what he says. Leaving?  I don’t need that. I care about me. So why ask for God’s blessing on my relationship? Or anybody Else’s blessing for that matter? We’re JUST living together. We’ll get married when we’re ready, or when we stop fighting, or when we learn to work through our problems, or when you quit nagging me or when you quit acting like a kid. Our parents treat us like kids. Well, ahhh, we’re acting like selfish kids. Just doing our own thing. We’re just roommates after all. No harm after all. We’re not really ready to get married.  But living together?  Hey, that’s no big deal. 

We ain’t got no cleaving in cohabiting.  If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just break up. We’re not married anyway, right? Keep our money separate.  You pay your half of the bills.  Hey, you’re not paying your fair share.  It’s the same percentage of our income.  It’s not fair.  You earn more.  You should be paying more.  That’s not fair to me.  Half is half.  What kind of crap?  You don’t help clean up enough.  I’m doing more.  Quit nagging.  I cook more.  You call that cooking?

Roommates. I’ll just get another roommate.

We ain’t got no becoming in cohabiting. Well…maybe we do. Oh, no, you’re pregnant? You’re kidding. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Didn’t you use birth control? I’m not ready to have a kid. We’re not even married. Marry you? Just because we have a kid? That’s not a reason to get married. I won’t have a pending child tell me when to get married. We’re not ready for marriage. We fight all the time and you’re never home and when you are you are on the computer all of the time. Now that we’ve lived together I can see I may not want to marry you. You have faults. I don’t know. I like my freedom. What am I gonna do with a kid? I can’t afford that. I won’t be able to go out with my friends. What a pain in the …

Abortion? Well, I don’t know. I suppose. Neither of us is ready for marriage, let alone a kid. We can’t afford it anyway. I really have to get my career going. I can’t be saddled down with that. Well, if you say so. I want you to be happy. Sure. Okay.

Or not. But in either case, children have a harder time in a cohabiting relationship because nobody knows if we’re all in or not. Nobody is willing to swear to his own hurt and not change. Protect your butt. That’s the ticket…to someplace you don’t want to go.

You want heartache?

You want trouble?

You want hurt feelings and misunderstandings?

You want to view pregnancy with horror and children as a curse?

You want to view that cute coed as a burden and a nag?

You want to view dream guy as a selfish prick?

You want to shrivel up as a person?

Then do your own thing.

Live together for nothing.

Have separate checking accounts.

Have your own car.

Pay your own bills.

Divide up the household chores.

Get madder than a hornet when your stupid dividing isn’t fair.

Argue like college roommates in the dorm.

Watch your freedom become a prison.

Watch your souring spirit fall flat.

Wonder aloud to your therapist at your misfortune.

Ponder your depression and marvel at your panic attacks.

Break up in spades.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Ponder your life after you’ve lived for your freedom.

Consider why your children won’t have anything to do with you.

Scoff at your grandchildren, whom you’ve rarely, if ever, seen.

Observe, if you can, the empty funeral home parlor and the lack of tears.

You sought you own life.

You came up empty.

Cohabitation makes your spirit small

And shrinks your soul.

Marriage enlarges your spirit and

Makes your soul soar.

In cohabitation, children are mistakes, nuisances, burdens, financial strains.

In marriage, children are a blessing, the next generation being the whole point!

Give your children a nest in which to be protected, where they can grow and be nourished and feel secure and have a sense of peace.

Jesus asked,

What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

Matthew 7:9-10

These were rhetorical questions. There were no fathers in Jesus’ day that would do that. Today there are. We live in a day where love has grown cold and selfishness is all the rage. Your son asks you for a fish? Who are you to ask me? I’m just your biological father. You don’t live with me anymore. Go call your step-dad. He sees you more than me. I can’t afford you. Quit asking for money all the time. Is that all I’m worth? Don’t call me. I’ll call you.


*Angeles L (2009). Children and life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies; DOI 10.1007/s10902-009-9168-z

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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