One warm autumn evening, I passed a pizza shop and decided to
pick up something to eat. Stepping inside, I noticed a young man in line
ahead of me playing with four children who appeared to range between
three and seven years old. They pulled on his trousers and clung to his
legs. The man, whom I judged to be about twenty-five, obviously loved
the children. He picked them up and hugged them and kissed them.
Quite impressed, I asked if the children were his.
"Yes," he said.
"You're quite young to have four children!" I said.
"Not only am I young," he said, "but each of these children
has a different mother."
"So you've married four times?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I prefer not to marry. I've just lived with
"Why haven't you married?" I asked, continuing my indiscreet
"Well, as you know," he said, "when you buy a car, you try it
out first to see if you'll like it. You only buy it when you're sure
it's the one you want."
"But what does buying a car have to do with not getting
married?" I asked
"You have to try it out first, Sir," the young man said. "Try
it out first!"
"Try it out first"
Those words still ring in my ears. "Try it out first" means
with no commitment whatsoever. The purpose is "to see whether we're
compatible," or, to paraphrase the words of that youthful father, "to
see if she's the one I'm looking for." And this is the experience of 11
million couples in the United States!
Sensible as "trying it out" may seem at first glance, there's
a problem. You can "try out" a car, and if you don't like it, you can
try out another and another—and none of the cars will feel hurt over the
way you treated
them. You can even wreck the car, and it will never cry, because cars
don't have feelings. But people do.
This idea of "trying it out first" has a number of other
First of all, women find it difficult to maintain long-term
"try it out first" relationships. They need the emotional security that
commitment to a relationship brings. Otherwise, they get the distinct
feeling that "this car
isn't getting me anywhere," and the relationship deteriorates into a
Another disadvantage for women—an actual danger, in fact—is
the high rate of domestic violence among couples who are just "living
together." Studies have shown that domestic violence is nine times
greater for these women, including a much greater risk of death. Some
authorities estimate that hitting, shoving, and the throwing of objects
occurs five times more often in "try it out first" relationships than in
Studies by the National Institute of Mental Health have shown
that the incidence of depression is five times greater among women who
are "just living with" their partners than it is for married women.
These women also have twice the incidence of mental illness. And the
feelings of insecurity thus generated have an important part to play in
how the relationship as a whole will go.1
Several studies by the University of California show that the
likelihood of infidelity is twice as great for couples who are living
together than for those who are married.2
According to the National Sex Survey, men are four times more likely and
women eight times more likely to be unfaithful.3
On the other hand, the University of California studies show that the
commitment of marriage gives greater security to the relationship.4
There's also a financial disadvantage for people who are
living together. According to The National Marriage Project, only about
6 percent of married couples live under the poverty level, but 31
percent of those who are only living together live in poverty.5
And researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that
the rate of divorce is much higher among those couples who lived
together before marriage than it is among those who married first.6
Conventional wisdom suggests that living together before
marriage leads to more stable marriages. But a researcher with the
University of Victoria in British Columbia noted that a significant body
of scientific evidence shows just the opposite: that living together
before marriage contributes to less stability in marriage.7 Other researchers have found that living
together leads to less interaction between the partners, more
disagreements, and, again, general instability.8
Marriage as God planned it
The best relationships are based on marriage as God planned
it. The Bible says that God created human beings in His image.9 We all desire a close union with another
person. That's why God created the first humans male and female, one man
and one woman.10 God made us so that
we attract one another, sometimes with something as simple as a glance
or gesture. We all feel this attraction from time to time.
We also compliment each other physically. God created men and
women with the capacity for sexual attraction and intimate sexual
relationships. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."11 This is the most intimate of all human
relationships, through which a man and a woman come to know each other
to a degree that they could not experience by simply "living together."
For "living together" does not provide the atmosphere of confidence and
commitment that's required to establish a deep and permanent
Instead of going around experimenting throughout life, I
prefer to love and give myself to a sacrificial love that is committed,
regardless of the difficulties.
How about you?
Sergio Torres writes from Miami, Florida.