Talk to your children
For younger children, take the time to discuss marriage in a positive way. Emphasize how families are better off and happier when moms and dads are married. Let them know that you value your marriage and that they should try to order their lives so as to give their future spouse and their children the very best.
Older Teens and Young Adults
The American College of Pediatricians has produced a Parent’s Edition on Cohabitation. Choose some of the talking points to share with your older teens and young adults.
Sequence of Success
Teach your children about the “Sequence of Success” which is: 1) At a minimum, graduate from High School, 2) Get and keep a job, 3) Get married and then have children.
Talk to family members and friends
Build Common Ground
What do you know about cohabitation (you might need to explain that’s “living together before marriage”)? Do you think the dramatic increase in the numbers of couples living together before marriage is a positive or negative thing for society? (This will give you a chance to explain what you’ve learned.)
The Test Drive
Cohabitation is often considered a “test drive” for a future marriage, yet many studies have found that it is detrimental to the marriage relationship, so why would someone choose to cohabit? (Refer to: “Ending the Test Drive”)
If Already Cohabiting
If you’re already in a cohabiting relationship, what should you do? (Again, see “Ending the Test Drive”)
What options do people have to prepare for marriage besides cohabitation?
Cohabiting versus common law marriage
What’s the difference between cohabiting relationships and “common law marriages?” (See “Five Myths about Common Law Marriage”)
Engage the Broader Community
Be a Role Model
Model a stable and happy marriage. Be happy to show the world what that looks like!
Support Marriage Laws
Get behind laws that provide support and benefits to the marital relationship.
Share What You've Learned
Share, wherever possible, what you’ve learned regarding the negative consequences of cohabitation.
Defend and Promote Marriage
Watch out for and oppose laws and public policies incentivizing and normalizing cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing. This includes things such as, domestic partner benefits and civil marriages – especially if the arrangement requires partners to be involved intimately in order to qualify for the associated benefits.
Monitor Your Child's Education
Monitor your child’s school assignments and textbooks. Look for assignments and language that undermines marriage (normalizes infidelity, pre-marital sex, and glamorizes alternative family structures). Speak up when you find it.
Get Involved in Schools
Be involved with your child’s school and engage the leadership of your school district – it is the best, and perhaps only, way to gain control over what your child is being taught.
Consider running for a public office. You become the decision maker and influencer of the policies that will impact your family.
Talking Points- Cohabitation
Cohabitation is more a preparation for divorce than a way to strengthen the likelihood of a successful marriage.
On average, marriage preceded by cohabitation is 46% more likely to end in divorce. The risk is greatest for “serial” cohabitors who have had multiple relationships.
Currently 60% of all marriages are preceded by cohabitation, but fewer than half of cohabiting unions end in marriage.
Some studies indicate that those who live together with definite plans for marriage are at minimal risk; however, there are no positive effects from cohabiting.
By virtually every measure, children of cohabiting parents fare worse than children in intact married families.
40% of cohabiting households include children. After five years, one-half of these couples will have broken up, compared to 15% of married parents.
Cohabiting couples do not experience many of the well-documented benefits of traditional marriage. Cohabiting couples are more closely aligned statistically–in areas of health (physical and emotional), economics, and well being of children–with single people and single parents.
One of the most dangerous places for a child to find him/herself living in is a home that includes an unrelated male boyfriend—especially when that boyfriend is left to care for a child by himself.
No positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found.
Social Media Resources
Help Spread the Word
The Power of the Personal
There are few things more powerful than sharing a personal perspective. Tell your story. Some refer to this as personal testimony. In the process of sharing your experience with an issue, you not only authenticate yourself; you cease to be just a number or statistic. It is very hard to attack or give rebuttal to someone’s personal experience.
Your personal story, if done properly, should elicit an empathetic response from those who hear it. If you really want to be persuasive, combine your personal story with well-reasoned argument and facts. This is going to require some effort. Time (and word count) is always limited and you will need to tell your story quickly and succinctly accompanied by some hard-hitting data.
Policy makers are often removed from the consequences of their decisions and don’t appreciate their effects – both good and bad. Your job is to let them know. The proper combination of personal story and well-reasoned argument, research and facts will ensure that you’ll be the one listened to and remembered.
“Facts tell; stories sell.” Anonymous