Think Before You Live Together
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2003 11 Aug
Living together before marriage – or even instead of marriage – has become commonplace. Many couples reason that living together will help them know for sure whether they’re compatible. It makes sense, they think, to try out sharing a household before making a lifelong commitment.
But statistics overwhelmingly support God’s view that couples should enter marriage without living together first. Tragically, many men and women who hope living together will protect them from future heartache learn that the arrangement actually leads to great pain.
So if you’re considering living together, take the time to consider these reasons why it’s wiser not to do so until you're married:
Many studies have substantiated the negative effects of living together. They show that cohabiting couples stand a much greater chance of divorce after they do get married, are more likely to suffer emotional and physical abuse, experience lower levels of happiness both before and during marriage, and are at greater risk of adultery. They also show that engaged couples who choose to live together are more likely to break off their wedding plans than those who don’t live together before marriage.
Cohabiting couples base their relationship on performance; married couples base their relationship on unconditional love. People who live together are auditioning each other to see whether they meet each other’s needs enough to make a lasting commitment. This constant uncertainty and stress of trying to meet expectations erodes the quality of the relationship. It is self-centered rather than other-centered, as God has designed love to be. And it destroys people’s dignity, since a person is not a product to use, but a human being made in God’s image to love. Don’t settle for a lesser love than one that is wholeheartedly committed for a lifetime.
Living together means setting yourself up for lots of unnecessary pain if things don’t work out. People who break up after living together experience guilt, shame, broken dreams, anger, feelings of failure and betrayal, a sense of being used, and financial consequences.
Premarital sex can cloud your judgment and fool you into marrying the wrong person. Sex, which God designed to be a gift for men and women who have already made a lifetime commitment to each other, stirs up emotions that can mess up couples’ perspectives. The emotions can overtake all other aspects of a relationship, causing people to mistake only sexual passion for the holistic connection that God intends. Couples who concentrate on building the emotional, relational, and spiritual aspects of their relationship first can see much more clearly whether they are compatible.
There are more effective ways to get to know a potential spouse than living together. You can start by asking yourself whether you’re ready to make an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. Then think and pray about whether you and your potential spouse share the three kinds of love: eros (physical attraction), phileo (friendship, common interests, companionship, shared values), and agape (sacrificial love that is willing to put another person’s interests above your own). Keep your relationship sexually pure so the emotions that sex stirs up don’t interfere with your judgment. Then seek the counsel of other people, especially those who are happily married and walking closely with God.
Couples who choose not to live together before marriage can celebrate much more at their weddings. Imagine how thrilling it would be to be able to stand before God, your family and friends, and each other on your wedding day knowing that you didn’t cheapen your relationship, but saved yourself for that moment. Imagine receiving God’s blessing, then experiencing your wedding night with lots of excitement and no regrets.
Adapted from "Before You Live Together," © 2003 by David Gudgel. Published by Regal Books (from Gospel Light), Ventura, Ca., 1-800-4-GOSPEL, www.regalbooks.com.
David Gudgel has more than 20 years of experience as a pastor, and currently serves at a church in Phoenix, Arizona. He has also served as an associate pastor of adult and youth ministries. During his years of pastoring, he has counseled many couples who are considering marriage or living together. He and his wife, Bernice, have three children.