As always, we should start with the biblical perspective. God's plan is for Marriage, between one man and one women. Marriage provides intimate companionship for life (Gen. 2:18). It provides a context for the procreation and nurture of children (Eph. 6:1-2). And finally, marriage provides a godly outlet for sexual desire (1 Cor. 7:2).
The Bible teaches that the act of sexual intercourse can have a strong bonding effect on two people. When done within the bounds of marriage, the man and the woman become one flesh (Eph. 5:31). But sexual intercourse outside of marriage also has consequences. Writing to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul said that when a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her (1 Cor. 6:16). Paul's admonition to us is to flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18).
Sexual immorality is condemned
in about 25 passages in the New Testament. The Greek word is porneia, a
word which includes all forms of illicit sexual intercourse. Jesus
taught, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts,
sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
All these evils come from inside
and make a man 'unclean'" (Mark
In the New Testament, believers are warned against persistent sin, including sexual sin (1 Cor. 5:1-5). The church is to keep believers accountable for their behavior. Believers are to judge themselves, lest they fall into God's hands (1 Cor 11:31-32. Sexual sin should not even be named among believers (Eph. 5:3).
Marriage is much more than a love partnership. It is a public event that involves legal and societal responsibilities. It brings together not just two people but also two families and two communities. It is not just for the here and now; it is, most newlyweds hope, 'till death do us part.' Getting married changes what you expect from your mate and yourself. Some would argue that "the marriage license is only a piece of paper" and that "if God knows the heart, then He knows the truth of the marriage" and therefore being "married" by the church or state is an imposition and irrelevant. We are, however, admonished to obey the laws of our government in Scriptures (c. Matt 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25), which requires us to have legal marriages. (Common law marriages are recognized, in varying forms, in only 16 states. Click here to see Texas Law )
Cohabitation is not the same as marriage. It is not
recognized as marriage by the state. And the participants are living
together because it is their intent not to be married, at least for the
Now, let's turn to some of the social and psychological consequences of cohabitation.
It used to be called "living in sin" or "shacking up." Today, it has been replaced by more neutral terms like "living together" or "cohabitation." Cohabitation has been defined as "two unrelated persons of the opposite sex who share common living arrangements in a sexually intimate relationship without legal or religious sanction."
Cohabitation is without a doubt changing the cultural landscape of our society. The proportion of first marriages preceded by cohabitation has increased ten-fold in the last few decades. And the increasing number of cohabiting couples sends a mixed message to our children. On the one hand, they hear parents and pastors proclaim the value of marriage. But on the other hand, they see a culture condoning cohabitation.
Cohabitation, as a lifestyle, is on the rise. Consider the
significant growth in cohabitation rates in the last few decades.
In 1960 and 1970, about a half
million were living together. But by 1980 that number was
1.5 million. By 1990 the
number was nearly three million.
And by 2000 the number was almost
America also appears to be changing its attitude toward cohabitation. George Barna has reported that 60% of Americans believed that the best way to establish a successful marriage is to cohabit prior to marriage. Another survey found that two thirds (66%) of high school senior boys agreed or mostly agreed with the statement "it is usually a good idea for a couple to live together before getting married in order to find out whether they really get along."
"Cohabitation is replacing marriage as the first living together experience for young men and women." And those who live together before they get married are putting their future marriage in danger. Those are some of the conclusions by sociologists David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead in their study for the National Marriage Project.
America's five million cohabiting couples live together to save money, to test-run a marriage, or to stave off loneliness. But the practice can cause significant harm to a marriage.
Sociologists David Popenoe and Barbara
Dafoe Whitehead released their study through the National Marriage
Project at Rutgers University. Their
study confirms earlier studies
about the danger of cohabiting, and adds additional detail.
Men often enter the relationship with less intention to marry than do women. They may regard it more as a sexual opportunity without the ties of long-term commitment.
however, often see the living arrangement as a step toward eventual
marriage. So while the
women may believe they are headed for marriage, the man often has other
ideas. Some men actually
resent the women they live with and view them as easy. Such a woman is
not his idea of a faithful marriage partner.
One study based on the National Survey of
Families and Households found that marriages which had prior cohabiters
were 46% more likely to
divorce than marriages of noncohabiters. The authors
concluded from this study and from a review of previous studies that the
risk of marital disruption following cohabitation "is beginning to take
on the status of an empirical generalization."
One study found that "living with a romantic
partner prior to marriage was associated with more negative and less
positive problem solving support and behavior during marriage."
The reason is simple. Since
there is less certainty of a long-term commitment, "there may be less
motivation for cohabiting partners to develop their conflict resolution
and support skills."
Living together outside of marriage not only violates biblical commands but it puts a couple and their future marriage at risk. In this article, you have seen sobering statistics about the impact cohabitation can have on you and your relationship.
If you want a good marriage ... A Marriage That Lasts ... don't do what society says, do what the Bible teaches us to do!
God has established the marriage relationship as an exclusive, special experience of relational intimacy which grows between a husband and a wife for life. Although not without problems, such a relationship is possible when a couple practices good communication motivated by the attitudes of love and respect found in the Bible in Ephesians 5:21-32.
The Foundation for those attitudes begins with a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. God wants the best for your marriage. Let him help you apply good communication of love and respect in your marriage. Perhaps the problems in your marriage seem overwhelming and impossible. You may have thought, "This is just too much for me to handle any more."
Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30).
Belief beyond proof is faith. Belief in spite of proof is folly.
Call or email me if you have questions.
Author & Webmaster: Preston
H. Hazzard, Sr.