NO MARRIAGE? NO RING? NO PROBLEM!
AN ETHICAL ESSAY CONCERNING UNMARRIED COHABITATION
By Dennis Franck,
National Director of Single Adult Ministries
Before 1970, it was called “living in sin” or “shacking up” and it was illegal in every
state of the union. Today these two terms have changed to softer verbal expressions such as
“living together,” and “cohabitation,” and only seven states have laws making unmarried
cohabitation illegal, although they rarely enforce it. (Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Michigan,
Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia)
Cohabitation can be defined as “two unmarried people of the opposite sex in a
romantic relationship living together.” It is a halfway house for people who do not want the
degree of personal, legal and social commitment that marriage represents, at least for now.
Cohabitation has sky rocketed 1,150% from 1960 to 2000, increasing from 439,000 to 5,500,000
couples living together.1
To better understand the increase of cohabitation, consider the following facts.
1. Unmarried-partner households increased 71% during the years 1990-2000 2
2. Married couple households only increased 7% during the years 1990-2000 3
3. The marriage rate dipped 43 % in the past four decades, from 87.5 marriages per 1000
unmarried women in 1960, to 49.7 marriages in 1996, leaving it at its lowest point in
4. Nearly half of people between ages 25 and 40 have at some point set up a joint
household with a member of the opposite sex outside of marriage.5
1 U. S Census Bureau, Internet, http://eire.census.gov/popest/archives/1990.php#household (January 2000).
2 Bookstave, Thomas, A., “Changes In Households,” Springfield News Leader, (May 15, 2001): 5.
4 The National Marriage Project, Rutgers Un