September 14, 2008

Tri-County Educational Service Center Literary Contest Ashland Graduate Wins First Place for Persuasive Essay

By Linda Hider

Each year students from area high schools participate in the Literary Contest sponsored by Tri-County Educational Service Center. In persuasive essay, first-place winner was Annah Bilkert, a recent graduate of Ashland High School.

"Search for a ..."

J.R.R. Tolkien once said that "the real soul-mate is the one you are married to."

Sara thought Daniel was her soul-mate when they began living together after 2 years of dating. The 20-year-olds were soon engaged and their relationship seemed perfect. After the wedding, though, Sara began to notice certain unpleasant qualities in her husband: "(his) cynicism, his emotional detachment, his stifling stability." The relationship deteriorated quickly and within 4 years they had divorced.

In 1997, over 4 million people lived together like Sara and Daniel, according to the United States Bureau of Census. Just as this couple's cohabitation is common, so is their divorce, as 40 percent of all couples ages 21 and older dissolve their marriages. In a test-drive society, many couples, like Sara and Daniel, are living together before marriage; however, this common practice fails to lower the potential for divorce and actually harms relationships.

Because life-long commitments tend to be the ideal goal in most relationships and unless love-at-first-sight truly exists for every couple, spending time with someone to get to know him or her intimately is the only logical way by which to discern whether or not that person is the one. Dinner and a movie and coffee house chats can be influential, but to learn who someone really is requires a more private setting. Living together prior to marriage allows for that " 'try before you buy' principle," testing the waters to decide if a marriage will last.

By cohabitating, couples have the advantageous opportunity to observe one another in a daily environment. Although some personal flaws may remain latent throughout the time living together, as Sara experienced with Daniel, couples can see many of the faults in each other and learn to work around them. On the opposite end, they may decide such imperfections are beyond compromise and end the relationship. The latter scenario clearly illustrates Witcher's observation that living together provides an escape from the problems of divorce.

If a girlfriend decides the boyfriend she is living with is not her future mate, she may end the relationship without the nuisance of messy legal disputes and high attorney rates. In this way, cohabitation does have some alluring facets -- couples can test their compatibility without the risk of divorce.

Amidst these perks of cohabitation though, lurk some ugly drawbacks. Those who live together before marriage are able to see options outside of marriage and can begin to change their view of life-long commitment. This change in perspective causes partners to experiment with relationships outside the confines of cohabitation and develop lax habits when it comes to fidelity, because vows have not yet tied them down.

This breach in commitment negatively impacts a person's perception of a stable, committed marriage relationship, and suddenly, "till death do us part" seems strict, confining and unappealing. Other issues arise in a person's ability to communicate in any type of relationship. According to "Pre-Nup Cohabitation""problematic interpersonal skills" and a tendency to avoid solutions can also become characteristics of those who choose to cohabit.

Without the permanence of marriage, couples may not be as inclined to put forth the time and effort to settle disputes, letting problems go unsolved and wounds unhealed. These snags support the argument that premarital cohabitation does not build the skills necessary for a permanent relationship and the observation made by Diagrazia, that most young adults "are ill-prepared to make adjustments" to a healthy married life.

These habits of loose relationships prevent individuals from learning how to deal with the inevitable dilemmas within a future marital establishment. Marriage is not a cure-all solution; the ring is not an all healing Band-Aid. But too many couples treat it as such, which means they consciously or unconsciously suppress issues. In this way, their future marriage becomes the quintessential excuse for avoidance.

Many couples, due to their slack relational skills, experience troubles both before and after the trek down the aisle. Witcher has reported that couples living together prior to marriage are less likely to ever wed at all. The higher rates of infidelity and other issues strain relationships and may push them to their breaking point before the license is signed.

For those few couples who do reach marital status after cohabitation, the harsh reality of marriage's false bandage quickly sets in. According to De Vaus, couples who cohabited are twice as likely to separate than those who did not following 5 years of marriage. The detrimental traits acquired while living together tear away at the solidity of the relationship, and because they have not learned to deal with problems before marriage, partners are not about to start exerting energy to solve them after marriage, leading them toward the treacherous and cowardly escape of divorce.

Marriage is a daunting endeavor -- no one denies that. In fact, Stephanie Coontz even asserted that "marriage is more work today ... but the payoffs of a good marriage are also higher than in the past." Marriage binds a man and a woman together, binding hearts and minds to form the beautiful creation known as "soul-mates." Although many couples live together for the purpose of easing into this creation, the consequences make wedded life harder than Coontz claimed it already is. The destructive nature of cohabitation has harsh consequences that can affect future relationships and stunt personal growth.

If a life-long commitment is the ultimate goal, individuals should not take actions that could severely harm relationships but rather take their time in discovering that soul-mate Tolkien spoke of in order to make sure that mate is the one they ultimately wed.

(c) 2008 Daily Record, The Wooster, OH. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.