Rightly understood, marriage is all about permanence. In a world of transitory experiences, events, and commitments, marriage is intransigent. It simply is what it is — a permanent commitment made by a man and a woman who commit themselves to live faithfully unto one another until the parting of death.

That is what makes marriage what it is. The logic of marriage is easy to understand and difficult to subvert, which is one reason the institution has survived over so many millennia. Marriage lasts because of its fundamental status. It is literally what a healthy and functioning society cannot survive without.

And yet, modernity can be seen as one long attempt to subvert the permanent — including marriage. The modern age has brought the rise of individual autonomy, the collection of populations in cities, the weakening of family commitments, the waning of faith, the routinization of divorce, and a host of other developments that subvert marriage and the commitment it requires.

Added to this list is the phenomenon of cohabitation. The twentieth century saw the phenomenon of cohabitation become the expectation among many, if not most, young adults. But the end of the century, the progression of intimacy (including sexual intimacy) was likely to follow a line from “hooking up” to cohabiting.

A new study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics suggests two very important findings: First, that cohabiting is now the norm for younger adults. Second, cohabiting makes divorce more likely after eventual marriage….

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