Living Together Before Marriage: Is It a Good Idea?1
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When it comes to couples living together before marriage...
- 63% of Americans believe living with someone of the opposite sex without being married is morally acceptable (2013 Gallup Study).
- 66% of Americans say it's okay for a sexual relationship between an unmarried man and woman (2013 Gallup Study).
- Today more than half of all people live together before getting married. In 1960, virtually no one did (The State of our Unions).
As a young pastor I meet many couples who live together before marriage. They usually justify their choice by saying the following...
- "We want to make sure we're compatible before getting married."
- "We want to make sure we are financially secure before we get married."
- "We want to make sure we are sexually compatible first."
Let me respond to these statements.
1) "We want to make sure we're compatible before getting married."
This response appears to make sense when you first hear/think it. When you live together, you see each other at their best and their worst. You share space and deal with each other’s annoyances.
The truth is, however, stats reveal that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage (The State of our Unions).
Even though you are living together and seeing each other in a different light, when you're dating, you're still putting your 'best foot forward' in the relationship. Until you commit yourself to the other person for a lifetime, you can't be yourself completely.
I've heard it said that when you get married, you're marrying a moving target. You and your spouse will change over the years. You will look differently, and your hobbies and interests might change. When you say "I do" on your wedding day, you're making a promise to your spouse that, "I am with you no matter what. No matter how you change and grow. No matter how I change and grow. I choose to be with you (Visionary Marriage)."
If you're living together before marriage, there is still a way out. When you or your partner changes, you can leave. When the lease is up, many couples begin to evaluate their relationship to see if they want to sign another year lease.
Marriage doesn't have year leases. Marriage keeps couples together when changes happen and tough times occur. Because you've made a lifetime commitment to your spouse, you can truly be yourself.
2) "We want to make sure we are financially secure before we get married."
Many young couples today want to have a good paying job and be financially secure before marriage. This is not a bad thing, however, the assumption is that marriage is a financial drain.
A study was done in the 90s that revealed individuals who were continuously married had 75% more wealth at retirement than those who never married or who were divorced and did not remarry. Married men have been shown to earn 10-40% more than single men with similar education and job histories (The State of Our Unions).
Studies show that spouses hold one another to greater levels of personal responsibility and self-discipline than a friend or other family members can.
When Stephanie & I got married, I had no money to my name. In fact, I asked her dad's approval when I didn't have a full-time job lined up (Thanks for trusting me, Darrell:)! In our 6 years of marriage, we have seen God provide our needs. As our family grows, I've had motivation to make more money to provide for them. Stephanie is also my best accountability partner when it comes to our budget.
3) "We want to make sure we are sexually compatible first."
Some people would argue, 'You wouldn't buy a car without a test drive would you?'
Rob Rienow says,
"This is an easy one to answer. If you are a male, and you are engaged to a female, or vice versa, you are sexually compatible. The parts will fit. God figured out all that stuff ahead of time. Using the gift of sexuality before you are married will damage your sexual future, not improve it (Visionary Marriage)."
The Bible tells us to have sex within marriage.
I Corinthians 7:1-3, 8-9 -- Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Hebrews 13:4 -- "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
Genesis 2:24 -- "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
Tim Keller says,
"Every sex act is supposed to be a united act...United means to 'make a binding covenant or contract.' They essentially merge into a single, legal, social, economic unit…The Bible says don't unite with someone physically unless you are also willing to unite with the person emotionally, personally, socially, economically, and legally. Don't become physically naked and vulnerable to the other person without becoming vulnerable in every other way, because you have given up your freedom and bound yourself in marriage (The Meaning of Marriage)."
It's very hard when you're dating or engaged with someone and not have sex. But, I will say, if you refrain from having sex before marriage, not only is it what God wants from us, but it will make the wedding night so much more beautiful and sacred.
If you are living together and not married, I encourage one of you to move out (based on the reasons above). If you are married but lived together before marriage, confess your past sins to God (if you haven't yet), rest in His grace, and love your spouse faithfully for the rest of your life (I John 1:9).