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

Research shows how cohabitation sabotages lifelong intimacy
Why Living Together Isn't a Test-Run for Marriage

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.

Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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