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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 13 comments

Shawn Small

July 14, 2014  5:37am

I found the two article extremely interesting from both sides of the coin. I find both of them to be true. The one thing I look at is it depends on the people involved and if you are prepared to work work on it. Our Heavenly Father does tell us to keep ourselves for our husband and that is without a doubt what we are supposed to do. Unfortunately today we live the real world and 90% of the time that's not going to happen whether we like it or not. I believe that as woman of God our generation should have carried this over to the next. We have become so embroiled in the day to day of life we have little time for the most important in life and that is our spiritual side. On the other side of the coin I know people who have committed themselves to each other have an amazing family and have been together for 15 years and they not going anywhere else. If you are emotionally strong enough to handle this then I would say it's okay. It depends on circumstances as well. The ideal is to wait

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June 24, 2014  8:20am

I have lived long enough to observe that when men and women choose to obey God's will and way, they reap the blessing....when they rebel, they pay the consequences.....speaking generally. Just because society/culture says something is okay, does NOT make it okay...even Christians today seem to listen more to their societal norms than to the eternal Word of God. I counsel many young women who have given themselves to a man before marriage, and in every case that I have dealt with, there is regret, remorse and sorrow, even IF they go on to marriage. There is a level of distrust which is difficult to overcome because of previous behavior. God's way is what is best for us, as He is the Creator and knows what works!

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Helen Blake

June 23, 2014  8:54am

Interesting assumption that co-habitation is a sign of non-commitment and mainly on the part of the man! My husband and I have been married for 29 years and lived together as soon as we were able to; we were both fully committed to each other from the beginning. I was convinced that God had brought John into my life and that belief has never wavered. I couldn't see that our level of commitment would change if we married; my husband on the other hand was keen to marry me from day one. It wasn't until I attended the wedding of some old friends that I suddenly understood that getting married was about publicly declaring our love and commitment and entering into a covenant relationship before God. I felt the same when I was baptised! Marriage is easy, hard work, fun and as difficult as can be. I love the public recognition of our commitment that comes from being married but please don't assume that manly non-commitment is the only reason for cohabiting - loving commitment can be there too

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