Four Reasons to Not Live Together Before You Marry

Living together/cohabiting before marriage may seem like a logical decision. After all, it can be used as a test period to see how your partner handles stresses, routine, finances, etc. This logic seems like a valid rationale—but research does not support the logic. In fact, psychologists have learned through numerous studies that couples who live together before marriage “are more prone to marital troubles and divorce than those who don’t.” (Source)

In talking about this issue, two important concepts must be briefly highlighted. First, living together before marriage/cohabiting can result in what psychologists call the “cohabitation effect.” The cohabitation effect states that, “Living together before marriage may cause couples to value commitment less or to become less interested in marriage.” (Source)

The other phrase associated with this topic is “the inertia effect.” That is once a couple starts to live together before marriage, there is a move, whether you like it or not, toward marriage. And that momentum toward marriage happens whether one or both partners desire it. “The inertia effect is problematic when it drives a couple that would otherwise not have married, to become married.” (Source)

With that background, here are four reasons why partners should not live together before marriage.

#1 It devalues marriage

I have had the privilege of officiating nearly one hundred weddings. One of the most sacred parts of the ceremony is when I have the couple recite the vows after me. The vows are the couple committing to one another in good times and bad, in richness and financial struggle, and in sickness and health. These vows are made before God and those present. It is a covenant between the couple.

In living together, where there are no vows, no covenant, it is easy to walk out. Marriage is about honoring God and our spouse when life gets tough. It is a commitment that encourages longevity—and looking to God for strength and guidance. To live together communicates that you want all the perks of the relationship without the commitment. It devalues what marriage is.

#2 It can lessen the commitment toward one another

One of the reasons couples cohabitate is popularly called the “test drive theory.” This theory is about assessing whether the two of you can make it. It is about learning about the other’s living habits, etc to determine if it’s a wise venture to commit to a life-long decision.

But as mentioned above, this type of thinking does not produce longevity; in fact it is a good indicator for dissolution of the relationship, whether that is the marriage down the road or the cohabitation relationship. (Source) The reason it can lessen the commitment to one another is because there is nothing stable in saying or communicating, “Let’s test drive this relationship.” Stability and commitment comes from the attitude that says, “Because I love you, and I am willing to work through the good times and the bad. In fact I am even willing to work through your mother always stopping by.”

Cohabiting couples may be especially prone to relationship difficulties. A study of couples who had been married less than two years showed that those who had cohabited had more negative interactions during a laboratory conflict discussion with their spouses.” (Source)

#3 It creates an emotional and spiritual bond before you may be ready

In Genesis 2:24-25 the dynamics of marriage are introduced, noting that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, that the two would become “one flesh.” The word one is the Hebrew word, echad. Echad is one in the midst of unity. The Hebrew word for flesh is basar. The combination of these two words is the only time they are used in the entire Hebrew Scriptures. When these two words are combined, it paints the picture of this couple being united at the deepest level, not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. (Read the book, God Loves Sex)

God designed humanity with the ability to bond with one another, and for married couples He designed us to bond on multiple levels. (You can read about the power of sex and bonding HERE) In Genesis, it is as if we are reading that this bond of sex is spiritual, emotional, physical, and that the only force that can contain it is marriage. (Read the book, Loveology)

#4 It indirectly communicates I do not have self-control

When Caz and I were dating, one of the last things I wanted to do was meet in public places and only be at my home if my roommate was there. I had a beautiful Australian girlfriend I was extremely attracted to and…well you get the picture. Early on Caz and I made a commitment that we would wait until marriage to consummate our relationship. We dated for nine months before I asked her to marry me and then our engagement was another three months. On top of that we were both in our early thirty’s. And on top of that about fifteen years prior to us meeting, I made a commitment to sexual faithfulness. You can read the story HERE or watch the wedding clip HERE.

One of the most powerful comments Caz has ever expressed to me was that because I was able to follow through on my commitment to remain sexually faithful to her, she never wonders if I am going to cheat on her. The fact that we were both committed to one another and were strong at different times has built a mutual trust and confidence in the longevity of our marriage.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that living together before marriage/cohabiting has a higher likelihood of the relationship dissolving. Perhaps in another post I will elaborate on why that is but for now let me ask what are your thoughts.

 

What would you add to the list above?

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16 Comments on “Four Reasons to Not Live Together Before You Marry”

  1. Very thought provoking read. During the read, i was consistently examining my presuppositions regarding this blog. I have a few thoughts however, my initial question that I would like to pose is specifically related to faith. therefore, a preface is necessary in order to frame the question. In the context of an established, justified relationship with God, is this ideology a transgression, or rather a suggestion, based upon credited sources? This blog is an intriguing one, so thank you for your courage and boldness.

    TD.

    1. Travis, I appreciate your post! Very insightful! Yes, I do come with the presupposition of my faith, but what I have tried to accomplish is the blending of faith and secular academic sources to demonstrate that both presuppositions support the same view–it makes sense not to move in together.

      1. I see. The coupled pressupositions, working harmoniously, is fascinating.
        My next thought would be at what point is a couple considered “married.” Taking a look at the history of marriage is interesting because, as I’m sure you have studied, during the time Paul preached marriage was motivated for different reasons than today–the motivation was never because I love a person. Marriage was motivated for economic and political reasons. Often times, there was not even a ceremony or an audience present, although on other occasions there were. My interest I believe is in the technicalities of defining what legitimizes a marriage. In your first point of this article you stated that living together premaritally communicates that the two want the perks and not the commitment. However, suppose there is a couple who are married (assuming this is defined based upon how we normally go about it) and yet, they cannot stand to be in their covenant and absolutely hate each other. And still, there is another couple, not yet married, who love and cherish each other deeply, have excellent and mature communication and understand commitment, however they do not live together. Now because the married couple is in covenant they can have the perks while the unmarried cannot, even thought they are better prepared. I would love to hear thoughts on this! At what point is a couple considered married?

        1. The history of marriage is a fascinating topic. Maybe I’ll do a post on it one day. You’re right, marriage looks different depending on the era and culture. I think, to keep the topic on point, I am referring to our culture…where a couple falls in love, gets engaged, and then married.

          To be fair to the studies, engaged couples who move in together do not have higher divorce rates like those who move in together before marriage. I think the reasoning for that is because there is already a built in trust and support system. However, I think it is still better to build trust and wait because as you do that you are building a deep foundation before you ever live together.

          The words of Caz are constantly with me–that because I made a commitment and stuck with it, she has the utmost amount of trust in me. She doesn’t fear I’ll always cheat on her.

  2. Great article! I love the way you explain what the studies show and then what the Word of God actually says. I’m grateful for people like you in the church who are equipped and willing to talk about the topics that bridges a gap between the church and the world for my generation. This is a blog I’m excited to follow!

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