I have read a lot lately about how common long time cohabitation is. It seems like only extreme conservatives have issues with couples living together and not planning on marriage. I have also been reading a few articles with titles similar to "Is marriage obsolete?" That made me wonder, does anyone even look to see if someone is wearing a wedding band or an engagement ring? Their purpose is to tell the world you're taken right? With so many people taken without that symbol there is less value to the rings in general. But for me, it means something big.
There are a lot of people in deeply commited relationships who aren't married. We are the generation of "divorced parents". Our parents were the first generation where divorce became common and this is one of the long term side effects, less of us want to get married or take longer to want marriage. Sex without marriage is no longer concidered a rebellion or "being bad" it is now concidered part of a healthy relationship and a great stress relief. So more people have sex without requiring a wedding band or an engagement ring first.
That also means couples are more likely to live together before marriage and see it as a step before marriage, if they even want marriage. For a lot of people, marriage is just a formality and if something were to happen, they like the easier out of not having to go through a divorce. That's not the case since long term cohabitation still has a lot of the things divorce has like division of assets, custody issues, and you still go through mourning.
I used to feel like it's only okay to live together before marriage if there has been talk about marriage and marriage being in the plan before moving in together. I live in a condo complex, remember, so we have a lot of friends living together but only one couple is engaged and the only other couple that's married live upstairs, their son is 4. I have seen that maybe marriage isn't necessary for a healthy relationship. But for long term cohabitators, boy/girlfriend isn't a strong enough title.
Every relationship is different and everyone has their reasons for feeling the way they do about marriage. I can respect that. If it's a healthy relationship, and BOTH people feel that marriage isn't necessary, then if they had a child that child would be raised in a healthy home. But the key word is both. Both people need to have the same plans in order for this to work. If one wants marriage and the other isn't sure they want marriage or knows they don't want marriage, then it's not going to work.
I read a different article yesterday. It was about why couples who have lived together for a long time are suddenly getting married. The reasons vary. For older couples, it had to do with inheritance and medical insurance. There are some situations where "family only" is allowed to see a sick person and a longtime girl/boyfriend isn't concidered family. For some couples they want to celebrate their relationship among other reasons. It intruges me that mixed in with all that "we don't need marriage to know we love and are commited to each other" thinking there is potential for it to evolve into "maybe we are missing out on something".
Josh is my first boyfriend. We got married a month after I turned 24 and a couple months shy of his 25th birthday. That was after being engaged all through college. For me, marriage is something special. It's something you should want. Because it's a deeper commitment. Even if you cohabitate for years you still have that sense of "easy out" (it's not) or "if I get married I loose my sense of self" (Um, no). If you want an easy out then you are scared of commitment. Either the problem is the partner or something internal. Get to a good Psychologist and figure that out. You should always maintain your own hobbies and interests even if your spouse has different ones, as well as take time together to do the things you both enjoy. In a good and healthy marriage, it's about two individuals AND the couple. That's what the minister said during our pre-wedding counseling and we both take it seriously.
I love being that committed to someone. We fight and argue and there are times it feels things are falling apart but we have something special to fight for and because of that we always work things out and are happier and closer because of it. Marriage is something special. When you cohabitate it might feel like marriage but, in a good and healthy relationship, there is something special about marriage that you just can't name. I personally think that if you are truly with your soul mate, you will want to eventually marry, even if you live together first. Cohabitating won't be enough if it's the right person.
But if you're single there isn't a point in looking for a wedding band or an engagement ring on someone you think is cute. There are a lot of people out there that want to be certain, something that's impossible to do, so they very well might be in a committed relationship even though there is something missing from their finger.
In my case, I haven't been able to wear both my wedding band and my engagement ring for the last few years (married 7 1/2) since they are a 3. I wear my wedding band but it seems every time I want to put money aside to get them resized so I can wear them both, God intervenes and the money is needed elsewhere. Apparently, he feels my wedding band is all I need. Look at my hand, it's rare I don't wear it (showering, sleeping, swimming. gardening, and sometimes cooking which means I forget to put it on if we go out). I always smile as I look at my wedding band and think of my wonderful husband. Being a Mrs just fits my family first personality. Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon renew their vows on their anniversary every year. Not a big ceremony just a repeating of the vows even if it's just them. Maybe all of us married couples should do that too. It's a commitment cohabitators haven't made yet, but I hope they do.