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Why Living Together Isn't a Test-Run for Marriage

Why Living Together Isn't a Test-Run for Marriage

Research shows how cohabitation sabotages lifelong intimacy
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Getting married is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. If marriage is a lifetime commitment, then why not have a "trial run" before making it official?

More than 50 percent of couples do exactly that. In fact, living together before marriage is becoming increasingly common, even among Christian couples. They reason that living together before marriage just makes sense. This is particularly a strong argument for those who are hesitant about a lifetime commitment. Having witnessed the pain divorce creates in many families, they know that a fairy tale wedding in a packed church doesn't guarantee happily-ever-after ending.

If your goal is to someday have a loving, stable relationship, living together before marriage is far more likely to sabotage life-long intimacy than be a stepping stone for it. Here are a few reasons why cohabitation isn't the wisest decision.

If your goal is to someday have a loving, stable relationship, living together before marriage is far more likely to sabotage life-long intimacy than be a stepping stone for it.

What the research says

In spite of those who say cohabitation is a wise test drive, the research indicates that living together before marriage may actually increase your risk for divorce in the future. Many experts believe that the "squishy" approach toward commitment represented by cohabitation sets a couple up for bailing on marriage when things get difficult. Holding sexual fidelity and the marriage covenant as sacred before God impacts your willingness to work through the challenges of life together.

Research also indicates that couples living together are more likely to experience sexual unfaithfulness, domestic violence, and higher levels of relational unhappiness. If you are living with your boyfriend with the hope to avoid heartbreak, you are likely setting yourself up for failure.

Cohabitation is intimacy on a man's terms.

Glenn Stanton, author of The Ring Makes All the Difference believes strongly that the growing trend toward cohabitation is putting women at risk. While women have great power in the marriage relationship, they have relatively little leverage as a live-in. Stanton argues that cohabitation puts men in the driver's seat. They get what they want (sex and companionship) without giving what they fear (commitment).

While this may be painting with a broad brush, I think Stanton is hitting on a fundamental truth. To a large degree, men are convinced to commit to marriage because they long for companionship and a sexual partner. When a woman makes marriage the condition for giving herself to a man, she may lose a guy who has no interest in commitment, but she will challenge a "good man" to take the step of a marriage covenant. Feminists tout that cohabitation gives women freedom and independence rather than being tied to a man. However, women are far more likely to flourish economically and emotionally within the stability of marriage.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional. She co-founded Authentic Intimacy (www.authenticintimacy.com) and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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Displaying 1–3 of 19 comments


August 22, 2014  10:30am

In our culture, we have mariage ceremonies. Not in the church but in front of the community of family and friends.. Long ago it was only when a boy was in love with a girl or if the parents arranged the marriage. In my cSe.. Sinilar to many new generations. When a girl gets pregnant. Which i understand is a sin for it is not right to have premarital sex. Anyway. The girl gets pregnant and so the boy goes and ask for forgivness from her family and also for her hand in 'cultural' marriage. They then live together from then on if the family allows it. I was raised in a christian family and a christian school. And i feel guilty that i am living with my childs father without having been married to him before God in the church. Is this something i should really be worrying about or not? am i going to hell because of this?

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Jen Marzen

August 19, 2014  5:25pm

Moved in, read something like this...decided to do it right, moved out, got engaged, then got married - both of us on board and thrilled. We were married in less than a year from the time we attempted living together. If we hadn't really got real, we'd still be shacking up and not nearly as close to each other, or committed or looking forward to the future together - we'd be waiting, wondering and evaluating. There's a difference, "playing married" and being married - very very different. There's a freedom in marriage. We both feel it and are so glad we didn't just do the easy thing.

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Jen Marzen

August 19, 2014  5:18pm

We were living together, we were in love and yet it was not right. We have been dating for 3+ yrs, & planned on marriage, but we'd been divorced before and had fears. So guess what... we confronted our fears, got counseled, talked out all the scenarios, shared thoughts and concerns, said the truth we'd held back and got REAL honest. I lived elsewhere briefly, we got engaged, then we got married. So maybe it wasn't the right order of things, and yet we got it in order by facing the truth of what we REALLY wanted, what our values were, looked honestly at our own weaknesses and decided to get strong or get out. Either we were to honor this love and live it out loud, get it right or be ashamed about our address and our shared non-marital bed. Now I don't have to wonder who I am in this relationship. I am his BELOVED WIFE. Not someday, now. I'm not a partner, fiancee, shack-up honey,roommate, and waiting.

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