In an article posted today at CatholicExchange.com, How Co-habitation is a Sin Against Social Justice, Dr. Jennifer Robuck points to co-habitation as one of the greatest dangers to the physical and spiritual well-being of children, particularly when children unrelated to the partner are living under the same roof. Morse writes:
“…we know that a cohabiting boyfriend is the person most likely to abuse a child. From British child-abuse registries, we learn that a child living with his or her mother and a live-in boyfriend is 33 times more likely to be abused than a child living with his or her biological married parents. From a study of inflicted injury deaths in Missouri, we learn that children living in households with unrelated adults were 50 times more likely to die of inflicted injuries than households with both biological parents present. In 82% of the cases, the ‘unrelated adult’ was the mother’s cohabiting boyfriend.”
The issue is not primarily the fact that the man is biologically unrelated (as is clearly demonstrated by the fact that so many couples choose to expand their families through adoption). But when a couple lives together without the sacrament of marriage, the instability of the partnership has a profound affect of the children living within the home.
I would add a caveat to Dr. Morse’s observations, however. A single mother must consider carefully — and as objectively as possible — the type of man she is dating long before the question of marriage (or co-habitation) is raised. The sacrament of matrimony is not a magical panacea. An immature, selfish wolf won’t turn “sheepish” just because you put a wedding band on the fourth finger of his left hand.
In my article “Marriage and the Single Mom,” I address some of the red flags that can creep into a relationship, signaling that the man in question is not a suitable spouse.
I don’t need to look any farther than my own family circle to show what can happen to children when their mothers make an ill-advised match. (Thankfully, my sister and her daughter managed to escape her abuser, and she chose much more wisely the second time around.)
The mutual self-donation that is part-and-parcel of a sacramental union is made by the husband and wife for the benefit of their children — whether or not those children have a biological connection to their parents. If the woman’s future husband is willing to love her children without reservation, out of love for Christ, well and good.
If their mother has any doubts about this, however, she is wise not to risk the wellbeing of her children by tying her future to a man she cannot trust to love her children as his own. Her highest responsibility is her children, and her happiness is inextricably tied to theirs.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you will be alone for the rest of your life. Every life has its chapters and seasons, and the time may come when God brings the man who is worthy of your family into your life. Or, if you ask Him, He may also bring other people into your life who can give you the kind of encouragement and support you need right now.
Have you asked Him? Today?