Cohabitation is defined as, “sharing a living space and sexual intimacy without being married” and it is running rampant in our day and age. So, what does the Bible say about cohabitation?
To get a feel for how rampant cohabitation is today let’s look at some statistics/graphs produced from the Pew Research Center;
I’m not sure what happened in 2002 but cohabitation sky rocketed from about 4 million in 2002 to 8.7 million in 2016. That’s a 117.5% increase in 14 years and a 1,833% increase from 1960 to 2016!
I heard this quote from Connor Donovan in his article, “Millennials Navigate The Ups And Downs Of Cohabitation” that I found very interesting and goes along with the graph above;
“If you went to a wedding this summer there is a better than even chance that the happy couple was already living together. Today, more than 65% of first marriages start out this way. 50 Years ago, it was closer to 10%”
So, what are the top reasons couples give for cohabitating (Source: barna.com)?
- Testing compatibility (84%)
- Sake of convenience (9%)
- Financial benefits (5%)
Cohabitation and the Bible
It’s probably no surprise to you that the bible does not mention the word cohabitation in it anywhere. But there is a passage I believe speaks to this;
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 – It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before
There is footnote to the double underlined portion of verse four (4) that reads, “Or learn to live with your own wife; or learn to acquire a wife.” Let’s re-write that passage but use “learn to acquire a wife” and see how it reads.
“that each of you should learn to acquire a wife in a way that is holy and honorable”
Obviously if you are a female you can substitute the word husband, but I think when we read the passage in the original format or with the footnote inserted we see it’s clear where the bible stands on cohabitation.
Related Content: Is He/She My Soul Mate?
The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage
Meg Jay wrote an article in the New York Times entitled, “The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage” which spoke to the negatives of cohabitation. I wanted to pick out a couple tidbits to highlight along with some graphs from the organization, “ReThink Tank”;
Women tend to be taken advantage of in cohabitation
Meg Jay referenced research that showed that women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step towards marriage, where men see it as a way to test out a relationship or a way to postpone commitment. These gender asymmetries are associated with lower commitment levels and negative interactions even after the relationships progress to marriage. (Commitment vs. Convenience)
Sliding, not deciding, weakens bonds.
Meg Jay in her New York Times article asked a young lady, “How did this (cohabitation) all happen?” to which the lady replied, “It just happened.” Research has shown that couples are stronger when they make decisions together instead of “sliding” into situations.
You’ll do vs. I do
Meg Jay went on in her article to liken cohabitation to a new Credit Card you receive with 0% for the first 12 months. After the 12 months is up you’ve generally racked up a big balance and the interest has ballooned to 23%, thus making you feel stuck. This is what they call “Consumer Lock-in” in behavioral economics.
Lock-in is when we have a decreased likelihood to change or search for another option once a big investment has been made. The greater the set-up costs the less likely we are to move on to another, even better, situation. Meg says this is a lot like cohabitation. The people in the relationship think it’s an easy in and easy out process but research shows that is not the case. So, people will turn to the mentality of, you’ll do instead of I do.
Intimacy suffers without the No Out Clause (Marriage)
There is a beautiful thing about a no out clause and that is honesty. When we know the other person isn’t going anywhere it breeds a healthy environment in which we feel safe to tell the truth to the other person. One young woman from Meg’s New York Times article was quoted as, “I felt like I was on this multi-year, never ending, audition to be his wife.” Do you think this young lady is going to be honest with this guy if she feels she has to put on a show to win him over?
Kids suffer differently in cohabitation situations
There is a lot of new research coming out on the effects of cohabitation and kids. I believe the two (2) charts from “Rethink Tank” below sum up the research best. Sarah is a daughter of a cohabitating couple and Amanda is a daughter of a married couple.
Do Not Settle
You may be thinking, “this is a really cool blog post with nice stats/graphs but is cohabitation really that big of a deal?” Listen people, young people especially, DO NOT SETTLE. Choose God over a marriage test drive, choose God over relationship convenience, choose God over the financial benefits of roommates of the opposite sex! Why? Because God first chose you. He had his one and only son slaughtered to death for you and I. He paid way too high of a price for you and I to just randomly shack up and sleep with whoever walks into our lives. We owe that much to him, the author and perfecter of our lives.
If you are currently in a cohabitating situation there are three options facing you;
- Do we need to go separate ways?
- We need to go through a courtship living separately.
- We need to get married tomorrow!
I ask that you don’t wait any longer to have this conversation. Talk it over before the sun goes down or if you are reading this at night have the conversation before the sun comes up. Have the courage to ask and answer these hard questions. Take an honest look and above all else pray and ask God what he would love for you to do in your relationship.
What are some things that are keeping you from leaving a cohabitating situation?
What’s one thing you appreciate about marriage or that you look forward to appreciating in marriage?