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The Truth About Cohabitating Before Marriage

  • Chuck Colson Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries
  • Published Jul 19, 2005
The Truth About Cohabitating Before Marriage

LeRoy Sullivan is the pastor of the Bread of Life Church, a small African-American congregation in Kansas City, Kansas. Sullivan learned about Mike McManus's Marriage Savers programs and thought they made a lot of sense.

Many couples think that living together is a good way to find out if they're really compatible. But the truth is that living together is more likely to destroy a couple's chances of a good marriage. Almost half of all couples who cohabit break up before the wedding. And even if they do marry, couples who cohabit beforehand are fifty percent more likely to divorce.

They're also more likely to become victims of violence. The U.S. Justice Department found that women are three times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a husband. And a child living with a mother and her boyfriend is thirty- three times more likely to be abused than the child of married parents.

Finally, studies have shown that one of the best ways to eliminate childhood poverty is for parents to marry before having children.

Pastor Sullivan took a hard look at all of this evidence and then stared at his congregation. Seven couples were living together. He hesitated to confront them at first, because as he put it, "My biggest sinners were my biggest givers." The seven couples were tithers. Nevertheless, Sullivan took a deep breath and, from the pulpit, made a strong, biblical case for marriage. Living together, he told his flock, "is not part of God's plan. You need to marry or separate."

Most of the couples listened and tied the knot. But one cohabiting couple resisted.

At least, the man did. His girlfriend told Sullivan, "Sam won't marry me, and he won't move out."

One night Sullivan showed up on the couple's doorstep. "Hi, pastor, what are you doing here?" Sam greeted him.

"Lucinda tells me you won't marry her and won't move out either," Sullivan responded. "Now, that's not right." Glancing around the living room, Sullivan commented, "That looks like the most comfortable chair. I'm going to sit here until you move out. Now, where's the remote?"

Dumbfounded, Sam asked, "Pastor, you're not really going to sit there all night, are you?"

"Of course not," Sullivan cheerfully replied. "At midnight, Elder Jones is relieving me!" Sam moved out that night.

Sadly, taking such a strong stand on marriage is controversial within urban communities. According to Mike McManus, to many non-whites, promoting marriage sounds like a white man's message. But Pastor Sullivan knows that marriage is a big part of the answer to the social ills that plague America's inner cities; he believes the Church ought to be a force in building godly families. And that's why he's willing to go to such extremes to encourage it. His uncompromising stand has transformed his own church from one mostly made up of women and children, to one made up of married couples and children.

You and I need to make sure that our friends and especially our children have the facts about living together. Read Mike McManus's book, Marriage Savers. You'll learn why cohabitation -- so common in our culture -- sets up families for poverty, violence, and divorce.

Next week: Bringing Down the Divorce Rate.

Copyright © 2004 Prison Fellowship

BreakPoint with Chuck Colson is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the Internet. BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 1856 Old Reston Avenue, Reston, VA 20190.