When I find a good book review of a good book, I like to save it and pass it on. Such is the case with George Barna’s review of the book on Cohabitation by Mike and Harriet McManus. I learned from Smart Marriages that the McManus’ were surprised and delighted to hear that Dr. Laura is giving away free copies of the book on her radio show. I’d like to add my small part in promoting a good work. Here’s the review by George Barna:
You can see it in the declining number of people who get married. It is evident in the fact that the U.S. has the highest divorce rate among developed nations. You can sense its deterioration based on the effort to legitimize gay marriage. Even public opinion about the importance of marriage is slipping. This new book by Mike and Harriet McManus addresses a critical aspect of that problem: cohabitation.
Based on the McManus’s extensive experience with seeking to strengthen traditional marriages, this volume is a welcome addition to the practical literature on the subject, offering viable strategies for enhancing marriage as well as recent information about the state of marriage and cohabitation.
Early in the book you will read why cohabitation is something we should be paying attention to if we care about saving marriages. A useful tool is the list of myths about cohabitation. The book notes that people cohabit for a variety of reasons, but the result is generally the same, regardless of the motivation: a failed relationship, whether marriage ensued or not.
Among the reasons cited for the break-up of cohabiters are the mistrust of marriage, the lack of positive experience with marriage in their family of origin, the absence of male commitment, increasing cultural acceptance of both cohabitation and divorce, and financial benefits. Surprisingly few people seem to be aware of the risks inherent in cohabitation. Chief among those is the potential for experiencing violence. A different but no less significant risk is that of bearing children without a committed family bond. Economic hardship, rampant infidelity, legal entanglements and more are detailed with depressing clarity by the authors.
Depending on your faith perspective, of course, there are all kinds of arguments that can be made in relation to the cohabitation experience. It is biblically forbidden. It is historically ineffective. It pales in comparison to legitimate marriage as a satisfying or lasting relationship. But cohabitation has become an accepted way of life in America, despite its flaws and failings. What can be done?
The authors use the second half of the book to describe a variety of means that churches can implement to blunt the harsh effects of unmarried people living together. Drawing on their successful endeavors related to the Marriage Savers ministry, they offer a practical approach to counteracting cohabitation. Included among their detailed recommendations for churches are implementation of a premarital inventory; training and assignment of mentor couples; providing the skills to resolve conflict; establishing and supporting a church policy regarding cohabitation; and a process for educating couples about cohabitation and marriage.
Perhaps the most important step in this approach that is widely overlooked is the role of married mentors. While identifying and preparing married couples to be effective mentors is a challenging task, the impact of those mentors can be staggering.
This shouldn’t be news to us; coaching is critical in every aspect of development, from leadership training, the athletics to child development. Good coaches or mentors change people¹s lives! Why shouldn’t we expect that to be the case in marriage, as well? This book not only describes how to equip couples to be influential mentors, but provides the statistical back-up as to the difference such coaching makes in relationships.
The book concludes with a chapter about the Community Marriage Policy, the cornerstone of the Marriage Savers strategy enacted through churches. The brief explanation of the policy and its impact to date is compelling. In an age where marriage is under attack, churches are overwhelmed by the challenges related to marriage, and there is limited united and productive action undertaken across church lines, the Community Marriage Policy is something that every pastor should consider adopting.
This book doesn’t take long to read. But if you take the information and recommendations to heart, its impact will be long-lasting. GB