by Fr. Pavel Gumerov
“Common-law marriage” can also be called a “school of irresponsibility”. Two people have come together with no obligations. If they don’t like it, they can walk out: the door is open to both of them. The partners came together for mutually irresponsible pleasure, and not in order to
“bear one another’s burdens.”
No one owes anyone anything, and the relationship itself does not offer any depth. Life in a “common-law marriage” can be compared with a joy ride on a bus, and the riders can get off at any stop.
But it sometimes happens that a “common-law marriage” turns into a sort of psychological slavery.
Of course, it is usually the women who suffer from “common-law marriages.” They often find themselves in a very degrading situation. It would seem that both are free to leave any time; but quite often, the woman finds it rather difficult to get of the “bus.” Women are by nature more dependent and less decisive than men, and their unconscionable cohabitants take advantage of this. Everyone knows that the vast majority of women who are in a cohabitation situation would like to legalize their relationship. Any woman would want stability and reliability for herself and for her children. But usually, the choice remains with the man. Some “slaves of love” end up suffering for years, waiting and begging their partners to marry them legally, but the latter only give them promises and pretty words about their “higher, informal relationship.”
Meanwhile, the years fly by like the birds—the best years, the young years. Then, at age 35, the woman begins to understand that her chances of getting married at all are decreasing, but she often doesn’t have the strength to get out of the relationship. She thinks: what if she doesn’t meet anyone else, and remains alone for the rest of her life? So it turns out that this abnormal, suspended state prevents her from building a normal relationship with her mate, or from perhaps finding true love, starting a family, having children, and being happy.
To expose the falseness and senselessness of their situation to people living in a “common-law marriage,” Orthodox family psychologist, I. A. Rachimova, invites couples to take a test: In order to prove their feelings, they should cease all physical relations for a period of time (say, two months). If they agree to this, there are usually two outcomes: they either break up—if their union was based upon passion—or they get married, which does happen. Abstinence and patience allow them to look at each other anew, and to fall in love without passion mixed in.
I give similar advice to people in that situation. I explain why cohabitation without marriage is a sin, and what consequences it can have, and then I suggest, “If you have no serious intention to marry, then it is better that you part ways. Your present situation will not lead to anything good. If the young people want to legalize their relationship, I advise them to cut off their intimate relations until marriage. After all, there is more to a relationship than that—they can be friends, spend time together, and express their feelings and attachment in other ways. Then they can truly get to know each other.
The majority of today’s young people, unfortunately, are out of the habit of thinking for themselves. They live by inertia, according to standards that are imposed upon them. As one popular Russian artist used to sing,
“What do we see, other than the television?”
Lady Gaga, or Madonna, telling us how to live?
Young people just go on consuming, and never think about the possibility that after having “taken all they can from life” by age twenty, they will be incapable of taking anything more in middle age. There will be neither health, nor normal family life, nor happiness. This is all very sad, because youth is the time to lay the foundation of a fulfilling life in the future. It is the time to receive an education, start a family, to have children. It gets much harder to do all that later, and for many, it is impossible.
It is easy enough to be like everyone else, to not stand out in a crowd, to run after the lemming masses. I recall a conversation I had with the assistant inspector of my seminary. After I had done something wrong as a student in theological school I tried to justify myself, saying,
“Well, everyone does it…” He asked me, “And if everyone jumps into the well tomorrow, will you jump in after them?” St. Barsanuphius of Optina said, “Try to live as God commands, and not like everyone else, because the world lieth en evil.”
He said this in the nineteenth century, but these words are even more applicable to our times.
The main thing to remember is that the path of licentiousness, depravity, and sin is the path to destruction, and it never leads to happiness. People who have made mistakes in their youth always suffer from them in their later life—first of all from the reproaches of their conscience, for this is God’s voice speaking in every person. There are not so many young people who preserve their chastity before marriage, but the Lord says,
fear not, little flock (Lk. 12:32)!
The spiritual and moral minority is always stronger and healthier than the slack and weak-willed majority, and can even have an influence upon the latter. We can see an example of this in the history of Christianity itself, when a small community of Christians was able to transform the consciousness of the Roman Empire, sunk in paganism and depravity. A reward awaits those who preserve themselves in purity for matrimony: joy, and God’s blessing and help in their marriage.
So, what should people do who have not preserved themselves in purity and chastity because they were deprived of faith and tradition? The Lord heals our wounds, if only we sincerely repent, confesses our sins, and corrects our life. A Christian is given the chance to change himself and his life, although this not a simple matter.
Having stepped upon the path of correction, we must not look back to the past, and the Lord will definitely help all those who sincerely turn to Him. Yes, and one more thing: If your chosen mate has had negative premarital experience, you must under no circumstances ever get inquisitive about his or her sinful past, or reproach him or her for it.
 Sadly, you will also find plenty of sites advocating sex education and denigrating the positive results of abstinence education. Data shows that the abstinence education programs must be administered continually in order to really take root and have a long-term effect on teenagers. Needless to say, sex education programs quickly lend approval to early sexual activity in teenagers; but data shows that they have not had any significant impact on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases or teenage pregnancy.
 The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Hetaerism) calls hetaerism the earliest form of social organization. This claim is now anthropologically obsolete, and is thefore called “theoretical.”
 Vladimir Vysotsky.