I believe one of the most important topics that the church has been silent on for far too long is the topic of cohabitation (i.e. "living together", "shacking up"). It has gone from something that was becoming more commonplace but still very "taboo" in my early 20's, to completely socially accepted and seen as a preferable, if not perfectly valid, substitute for marriage. Because our culture has completely lost any and all understanding of gender differences, gender roles, and a cohesive and biblical definition of marriage, we are facing a continual onslaught on the union of marriage. What God's word defines as a very unique union, given and blessed by God, called "marriage" is seen as completely Victorian and old-fashioned today. Relational unions in our culture are now defined by the preferences of the individual and pragmatism or "whatever works for you" reigns.
Into this picture, enter the book The Ring Makes All the Difference by Glenn Stanton. Stanton makes a strong and compelling case, based on years of sociological data compiled at many of our countries leading schools, that there is a strong difference between the relational quality of people who are married and those who choose to live together. The statistics and data given in this book are deep and hard to ignore. This is not a "religious" book based on "religious" statistics. Much of Stanton's data come from secular sociologists who have compiled data for over 20 years about relational quality, lifestyle practices, and relational satisfaction between those who have chosen the path of cohabitation versus those who have chosen marriage. Not all marriages studied were necessarily those of Christians. The results are not surprising, but overwhelming support that the marriage commitment makes a considerable difference for the better over cohabitation.
This book is a must read for pastors. This book is a must read for older teenagers and college students. This book is a must read if you have a person in your life that is either in a situation of cohabitation or is considering it. While some might think that the book has an overly "Christian" slant, it does not. While Stanton is a believer and does work for Focus on the Family, he saves his biblical argument until the end of the book after presenting a virtual mountain of secular data that support his thesis. It's time for the church to awaken and address this issue, and this book is a great way to do it.