The World and His Church
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Here you will find articles relating to the world we live in each day. You will find insightful articles that combat all the world throws at Christians, and inspiration from His recorded inspired Word, the Bible.

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Cohabitation Before Marriage
October 1, 2019

Cohabitation before Marriage

By:  Johnny O. Trail, MFT

            Recent studies suggest that people choosing to live together before marriage are growing as a demographic in our society.  Research presented by the Center for Disease Control offered the following figures in connection to this increasing trend:

Forty-eight percent of women interviewed in 2006–2010 cohabited with a partner as a first union, compared with 34% of women in 1995. Between 1995 and 2006–2010, the percentage of women who cohabited as a first union increased for all Hispanic origin and race groups, except for Asian women. In 2006–2010, 70% of women with less than a high school diploma cohabited as a first union, compared with 47% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher. First premarital cohabitations were longest for foreign-born Hispanic women (33 months) and shortest for white women (19 months). In 2006–2010, 40% of first premarital cohabitations among women transitioned to marriage by 3 years, 32% remained intact, and 27% dissolved. Nearly 20% of women experienced a pregnancy in the first year of their first premarital cohabitation.[1] 

 This trend is alarming from many different spiritual and social standpoints.

            First, and most importantly, this is a violation of God’s laws relating to sexual morality.  Most people who cohabitate before marriage will engage in some sort of sexual activity.  The Bible teaches that this is reserved for marriage and never before.  Hebrews 13.4 says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”  According to God, people are to be married to avoid defiling themselves.  Defile is defined as “to corrupt or ruin something.”  It is further defined as “to make something dirty or polluted.”

People who engage in any sexual activity without the benefit of scriptural marriage are guilty of fornication.  Paul addresses this very issue in some of his writings.  I Corinthians 7.1-2 says, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.   Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”  Simply defined, the word fornication means “sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not married, or any form of sexual behavior considered to be immoral.”  Paul makes it very plain that unmarried people are to have no sexual contact of any kind before marriage.

A chapter earlier Paul lets the reader know that fornication was a problem that many of the brethren in Corinth had repented of previously.  I Corinthians 6.9-11 says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  After repentance these people were “washed” or baptized so their sins could be forgiven (Acts 2.38).  Since fornication is included in this list, it is something that a person converting to Christ must stop doing prior to being immersed.

Still, there are those who live together and claim that no sexual activity is happening.  Let’s assume they are being completely honest about their living arrangements.  Does this make the situation okay?  Not necessarily!  A child of God must be careful about the influence that they exert upon other people.  Romans 14:13 says, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”

As one might expect, cohabitating couples are increasingly having children out of wedlock.  This has resulted in children who do not have the same advantages—economic, cultural, social, or educational—of children born into homes where the mother and father are married.  The CDC report reveals that,  

Cohabitation has become a more frequent site for childbearing. A recent report on fertility using the 2006–2010 NSFG showed that 23% of recent births among women aged 15–44 occurred within cohabitation, a significant increase from 14% in 2002. One-half of births to cohabiting women in recent years were unintended. Unintended births are associated with poorer social, economic, and health outcomes for both the mother and the child.[2]

Again, these arrangements violated God’s intentions for bearing and rearing children.  I Timothy 5.14 says, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”  Notice the order that is put forth by Paul.  They are to marry and to then have children.  Our society has changed God’s plan for the introduction of children into this world and it has had adverse effects. 

            Instead of being a trial run for marriage, most cohabitation arrangements do not end up with couples marrying.  The CDC reported that, “Forty percent of first premarital cohabitation transitioned to marriage by 3 years, 32% remained intact, and 27% cohabitations among women ended in the marriage being dissolved.”[3]  Thus, there is a greater probability of a couple remaining unmarried than of ever seeking the bond of legal matrimony.

            Furthermore, there is a greater risk of cohabitating couples divorcing than those who waited about living together before marriage.  The percentage of cohabitating couples who do end up marrying have about a fifty percent chance of divorcing.[4]  In essence, these individuals stand a greater chance of transgressing God’s marriage laws.  Matthew 19.9 says, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

            Some individuals are operating under the assumption that cohabitating arrangements are easier to dissolve than marital arrangements.  People who live together before marriage experience the same problems as those who divorce when the arrangement ends.  Baker avers,

Those who break up before marriage encounter some of the same emotional problems as those who actually divorce, and may will also find themselves back in another cohabitation arrangement in the future.  Living together does not enhance one’s success in a future marriage.[5]

Marriage is a covenant relationship with God at the very center, while cohabitation is not.  From the moment that a couple takes their vows before God, they are entering into a covenant agreement.  This covenant extends to the community, the church, to the spouses, and to Jehovah God as sealer and originator of the institution.  A sealer is one “…who attests or certifies conformity to a standard of correctness.”  One writer suggests,   

In cohabitation, covenant commitment is absent. In fact, the spirit that drives cohabitation is the opposite of covenant. You see, in covenant, when a man and woman are getting married, the spirit of the vows they are making is one of assuming responsibility to “love and to cherish” each other in a sacrificial manner.

The spirit of cohabitation is the opposite. The primary reason people choose to live together is to see how good someone is at taking care of them before they will commit. This is why the divorce rate is so high if they marry. From day one — self was at the center stage of the relationship.[6]

These facts make it blindingly apparent that living together before marriage is not a good idea.  Even though many people feel that it is a good testing ground for a potential marriage, it does not truly reveal with a committed, godly marital relationship is like.  Married people are sacrificial to one another in the covenant agreement.  Where no covenant exists there are no expectations of fidelity, sacrifice, or continuance. 

Works Cited

 

Baker, Mike (2010).  “Think Before You Marry.”  The Spiritual Sword.  Vol. 41, No. 3, Memphis,

Getwell church of Christ.

 

Cohabitation Increases the Chance for Divorce.  Marriage Today

http://www.marriagetoday.com/cohabitation-increases-chance-for-divorce/

 

Copen, Casey E, et al. (2013).  First Premarital Co-habitation in the U.S.:  2006-2010.  National Survey of

Family Growth.  National Health Statistics Reports, No. 64.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf

 

McMannus, Mike and Harriet (2008).  Living Together:  Myths, Risks, and Answers.  New York, Howard

Books.



[1] Copen, Casey E, et al. (2013).  First Premarital Co-habitation in the U.S.:  2006-2010.  National Survey of Family Growth.  National Health Statistics Reports, No. 64.  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Ibid

[4] McMannus, Mike and Harriet (2008).  Living Together:  Myths, Risks, and Answers.  New York, Howard Books.

[5] Baker, Mike (2010).  “Think Before You Marry.”  The Spiritual Sword.  Vol. 41, No. 3, Memphis, Getwell church of Christ.

[6] Cohabitation Increases the Chance for Divorce.  Marriage Today.  http://www.marriagetoday.com/cohabitation-increases-chance-for-divorce/

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