Choosing God’s Best for Your Relationship
I think it’s getting harder for people to pull the trigger on a covenant commitment to another person. The collective anxiety in our world about the instability of marriage screams “Don’t do it.” And people are listening. Cohabitation has risen dramatically. But isn’t cohabitation a good way to explore whether you can live with someone in marriage?
Actually, no, it isn’t.
There is a great deal of research today about the pros and cons of cohabiting. Of course, there is a spiritual side to this conversation related to sex outside of marriage, but let’s examine this matter from a secular viewpoint.
Research confirms that cohabiting couples:
Increase their risk of divorce by 50%
Value their independence rather than an interdependent relationship
Are less sexually trustworthy
Have more negative attitudes about marriage
Have lower religious commitment
Break up at a rate of 50% before marrying (unfortunately trial marriage often has a trial commitment)
Have lower marital quality and commitment if they do marry
Are tempted to “slide” into marriage (“We’re living together and sharing a bus pass, why not get hitched?”) instead of making a conscious decision to throw their entire selves into marriage
So, you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by cohabiting, but in the end, you are hurting things more than helping.
In addition, when kids are involved, cohabitation is not a healthy option for them. For children, the cohabiting stepfamily is a dangerous family structure. They face higher risks of abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) and lower psychological well-being.
Again, not a good idea; but there’s more.
Someone who pushes for cohabitation is, I believe, telling you about their fear. Since no one can guarantee them a lasting marriage, they are choosing to protect themselves with an arrangement that is marriage-like, but without the legal bonds, emotional risk, or vulnerability required in marriage. They actually prefer the ambiguity of cohabitation (“we’re together, sort-of”) to the risk of rejection or a poor marriage. Is that the kind of person you want to pursue?
Essentially, cohabitation is choosing second-best and then wondering why it didn’t work out for the best. Instead, choose God’s best for you. Choose to trust that God is trying to protect your heart from unnecessary pain. Date with intentionality, separate and apart from the confusion of sex and cohabitation, and your dating decisions will have much more clarity and wisdom.
Adapted from the book Dating and the Single Parent by Ron L. Deal. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
If you are currently living with someone, write down what you fear would happen if you decided to trust God’s protection and live separately. Begin praying for God to increase your faith as you consider walking in obedience.