5 Great Reasons to Live Together Before Marriage & 1 Better One Not To

The better question today is "Who isn't living together?"

It can take quite a bit to develop a new “norm” in culture.  Take the last 40 or so years of the way people listen to music for example.  With billions and billions of dollars to be made and musical and tech minds working around the clock, we’ve moved from vinyl (or gramophone) records for most of the 20th century to cassette tapes in the 80s to cds in the 90s to iPods carrying mp3s in the early 2000s.  It’s an incredible change when you think about it.  We’ve gone from having rooms dedicated to controlling the music we want to listen to, to now having portable, miniature music studios that file 100,000 miniscule song files that we can carry on our waistband as we work out.  We’ve come so far in 40 years that we almost have to consciously look back to realize what a change in “norms” it’s been.  And the current generation learning only the new “norm” might never know what a vast change it was. 

A similar argument could be made for the way intimate relationships are approached today in contrast to 40 years ago.  The most recent info I could find through a little digging (a USAToday.com article) indicated that 30 years ago there were less than 1 million couples “living together” in a non-married relationship.  In 2007, that number was over 7 million couples (or 14 million people) and at the time was expected to start going up at the rate of nearly a million per year.  Keep in mind this info reflects couples who are living together, not couples who have lived together or people who would be willing to live together with another person outside of marriage.  That number would obviously be significantly higher.  Non-married co-habiting couples now make up 10-20% of all opposite-sex U.S. couples.  Shrink the demographic down to those 40 and under and the percentage skyrockets.  Is it safe yet to say there is a new “norm”? 

How has this affected faith in America?  Well, let me ask you this, how many couples 30-40 years ago do you think would have been comfortable openly living together and then going and talking to a pastor and asking him to offer God’s blessing through a wedding in a church?  That would have taken some guts.  (Granted, there have always been plenty of proverbial “shotgun” weddings when young couples became pregnant, but that’s a different issue – that’s mistake and repentance vs. living in sin – apples and oranges.)  Today, if a couple comes in and sits down with me to talk about getting married, and I don’t know their background, I have to make an unfortunate assumption – there’s more than a STRONG possibility they’re living together.  It’s the new “norm” that kids are learning and society is totally okay with.  

And I guess I’d like to make one more statement of clarification here – when we say “living together” let’s not be so naive as to think there’s a possibility that a sexual relationship is not taking place.  “We’re regularly having sex outside of marriage and we’re okay with everyone knowing that” never really caught on as a way of describing it.  Understand, the terminology “living together” is somewhat the mind’s way of placating the conscience.  It’s like saying we’re “sleeping together”.  Really?!  What you’re doing together is more than an extended nap.  Call a spade a spade – you’re having “not God-pleasing” sex.  You call it “sleeping together” because when you honestly label it what it is, your conscience makes you uncomfortable.  Collectively, over time, a society’s conscience tends to numb. 

Obviously it’s a case by case basis, but one way that I deal with couples who are living together, rather than just say “they shouldn’t be doing that” – which is true, but can come across as me (or the church) trying to control their life, moralizing, or simply becomes an argument of my opinion vs. theirs – is that I begin by acknowledging that “living together” makes some good sense from the standpoint of logic.  Yes, I could make a convincing argument that people with the morals that tell you it’s okay to live together before marriage are consistently the same people with morals who think it’s no big deal to get a divorce, and this is the reason why studies reveal that those who live together before marriage indeed have a MUCH greater likelihood of divorce.  (If you’d like to take a look at other compelling logic of not living together pre-marriage, there’s a pretty extensive list at http://www.leaderu.com/critical/cohabitation-socio.html).  However, despite that logic, the couple could retort by making a number of arguments as to why co-habiting makes good sense.  Most of these co-habitors that I meet are intelligent, ambitious, friendly, likable people.  Dismissing their logic outright probably wouldn’t be respecting them as humans.  So, I start by agreeing – there are a bunch of “logical” reasons to live together before marriage.  I’ve narrowed it down to 5 here.  

Reason#1 – It’s financially responsible.  Where I live, an apartment can run you somewhere between $700 and $1400.  Dropping an extra $1000/month seems like throwing your money down the drain.  If you’re a particularly “committed co-habitor” (yep, I like the term too :)), you might even be building up equity in a home you’ve bought together.  Saving for retirement, paying off student loans, or who knows, maybe even giving it to charity all sound like considerably more responsible things to do with your money than pay double rent (not to mention utilities).  

Reason #2 – You spend all your time together anyways.  Like wasting money with rent, wasting time is equally frustrating.  You drive to each other’s places many times during the week.  You help each other with cooking and cleaning and laundry and bills.  Traveling back and forth, virtually living in two places, is kind of like the inconvenience of living out of a bag on a business trip.  It’s annoying.  If you want to be together, why all the running around?  

Reason #3 – It seems like a good next step in the relationship.  Consumers that we are in America, everything exists with a try it before you buy it clause.  Every infomercial promises that you can try it and return it in 30 days for a full refund.  And the bigger the purchase, the more you want to make sure it’s just right.  What kind of fool would buy a car before thorough inspection and testing?  Thankfully, marriage in our society today does, to a degree, maintain some semblance of “a big deal”.  Couples don’t want to rush into that.  Well, what about a “____ day money-back” transition period to see if this relationship truly feels right?  These test periods make sense in every other aspect of our lives, why not our relationships? 

Reason #4 – It’s so common.  By definition, nothing will make something seem like “not a big deal” faster than commonality.  I guarantee you know couples that are living together outside of marriage.  In fact, many of you, especially if you tend towards the younger generations, might know more couples that are living together than not.  It’s the age old, after-school-special argument of “How can it be that bad if everybody’s doing it?”  It was not, at least statistically speaking, common 40 years ago though.  Imagine that, after the sexually open-minded 60s, co-habitation was still considered fairly taboo.  People that lived together outside of marriage (particularly women – a strange double standard in our society that’s more appropriate for another article) developed reputations.  People don’t like bad reputations.  Regardless of ethnicity or religion, there is one word out there that young women don’t want to be called more than any other word.  Young people don’t call young girls promiscuous or even “skanky” anymore.  They call them this word – a word that will make a girl feel more worthless than any other – a destructive word that I guarantee is used at your child’s school.  40 years ago, living together with a man would earn a woman a label like this.  Not anymore.  In fact, if she’s only sexually active with one man, marriage or not, she’s virtually safe from labels today.  It’s just so common that it won’t warrant a subjective label like that.  

Reason #5 – We love each other.  Love is a funny word.  It’s a fascinating biblical word.  When a young couple chooses to live together because they love one another, I have no doubts that they truly do feel very, very strongly about one another.  I feel very strongly about many things in my life.  I love Diet Coke.  I drink it all the time.  I love good movies.  In fact, there are few moments, oddly enough, when I feel more like myself than when I’m engrossed in a nail-biting movie.  However, though I love them, I haven’t professed lifelong commitment to them.  I’m actually drinking Diet Mountain Dew as we speak, a tasty alternative that I’m not ready to give up.  I’ve only professed lifelong commitment to one person in my life.  Lifelong commitment would seem to indicate a greater love.  I have no doubt that many of the couples living together sincerely love one another.  I don’t doubt that they would even be willing to die for their partner.  It makes good sense to be with someone you love.  However, in a very non-committal world, if a couple is not willing to commit to a lifelong love in marriage, they either are misunderstanding what relational love truly is designed to be, or they don’t have it to the degree that they profess.  Moving in together might seem like a greater step in commitment, but young couples also need to recognize what it’s not – a statement that I’m willing to commit to love you for the rest of this life. 

I’ve heard all of these and many more as logical reasons for couples to live together.  I’ll admit, rationally speaking, I can see where they’re coming from.  However, I’d like to throw in just one better reason NOT to live together.  

Only Reason Necessary – Living in sin paves a road to eternity in hell.  It’s interesting to me that when I sit down with couples or email with them I don’t usually have to lay out 20 passages from Scripture that indicate that premarital sex is not okay in God’s book.  I do for some.  By and large though, most already understand from the God-given moral law written on their hearts that “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer (i.e. married people having sex with someone who isn’t their partner) and all the sexually immoral (i.e. unmarried people having sex with anyone, since they don’t have a marriage partner yet) (Hebrews 13:4).  Unfortunately though, and largely due to the logical reasons listed above, many couples just don’t seem to think God will actually do what he says he’s going to do – judge those who dismiss his will, and therefore Him.  We are a people that are so myopic, so engrossed in instant gratification, that we often fail to think about the consequences of our actions – a sign of immaturity in general as well as spiritual immaturity.  The Apostle Paul writing about a group of people who were clearly struggling with the issue of premarital sex, said in 1 Corinthians 7:9 “if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”  Notice the interesting double entendre – “burn with passion”.  If it’s not clear, I’ll spell it out: 1) lusting for immoral behavior, 2) burning in hell for repeated willful sin that kills faith.  Sometimes God’s law is simply to (pardon the expression) “scare the hell out of us”.  

Couples that are “living together”, being okay with the regular abuse of God’s gift of sex, are in danger.  Premarital sex is not the unforgivable sin, but willful sin is not compatible with faith.  When Jesus appeared to convert a murderer of Christians named Saul, who became a faithful Christian named Paul, he said to him, “I am sending you to them (unbelievers) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:16).  God wants us to turn from our disobedience to his will and he wants to personally forgive us for our sins.  However, if we’re not repentant of our sins, but living happily in them, faith is clearly not there, nor then is the hope of eternal life.  Another way of putting that is……hell awaits.  Brutally harsh.  No one wants that.  And if you truly love your partner, how can you contribute to that for them too? 

If you know someone stuck in this sin, pray for them.  Let them know how much you love them and care for them and want to exist in relationship with them forever.  Let them know that you’re certainly not perfect, that you’ve made many mistakes, but that you’ve asked God for forgiveness and are so thankful for Jesus love and payment for your sins that you don’t ever want to fall into them again.  

If you happen to be someone reading this who is caught in this sin or was caught in this sin and hasn’t yet confessed it, forgiveness is sitting right there and waiting for you.  And then the sin is gone forever.  The angels in heaven love to sing glorious songs over repentant sinners.  God loves to welcome home his lost children.  Simply pray, “Lord Jesus, I’m sorry.  I want to be with you in heaven.  I need your help right now in this life to get me out of this.”  Forgiveness awaits.  Heaven awaits.  The eternal marriage of Christ and his bride, his believers, awaits. 

18 thoughts on “5 Great Reasons to Live Together Before Marriage & 1 Better One Not To

  1. Kathleen Glende says:

    One of the best written documents I have seen dealing with the subject of “living together.” We see so many people we know in this situation. They definately know better but have all kinds of reasons that in the end it will be OK with God…this article is convincing that “NO” it is not OK. You have been blessed with a tremendous gift from God – being able to put God’s Word out there in a non-threatening and yet very, very true and convincing way. I know your parents. Also read the blog about your wife’s accident…It will put a different thought in my mind next time we are delayed by traffic. Thankful your wife is OK. Blessings on your ministry!

    • Mary Ann says:

      I’m living with my boyfriend for over a year and we both Love God. I have a wedding dress in the closet, he knows I want to marry him. I prayed to God and I told him I don’t want to be in this sin anymore. I’m living with my boyfriend out of survival where I am struggling to find a job. Praise the Lord, a friend of mine from 2 states away is coming to visit and she’s bringing me back to my parents house.


    Ive read your article, and I must say I eagerly awaited to see any scriptural reference tieing singles living together before marriage, to them having sex prematurely. Ive read it more than once and I havent found any. What connection can you truly make? Be careful not to cast judgement and assume that they are having sex. Often times when singles have sex, they dont have a place to live at all, so the living together isnt the problem. Moreover, this article seems like its more of your opinion because you provided no biblical basis behind singles not living together.

  3. Hi Leondre,
    For starters, if you’re looking for a passage in the Bible that says “premarital sex” is a sin, you won’t find it. And yet, every respected Bible scholar out there will tell you that the Bible clearly indicates that premarital sex is a sin. Hebrews 13:4, included in the article, applies to both married and unmarried (“adulterers and sexually immoral”), as does the 6th Commandment (in which God is forbidding any sexual sin – “adultery” is merely the application of a bigger principle in the same way that “honoring your parents” is an application of the bigger biblical principle of respecting our authorities).

    Singles don’t need to live together to have sex….OBVIOUSLY. However, when two people live together before marriage, 99.99% of the time they are having inappropriate sexual relations. Please don’t be so naive as to think that’s not the case. Common sense and every statistic on America’s sexual practices out there indicates that is the case. And even for that 1/100 percent of the time it’s not the case, I’d argue that it is not a particularly good witness to the world – because most will assume that you are having a sexual relationship if you’re living with someone whom you are supposedly in love with prior to marriage.

    The Bible does say “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41) and “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity” (Eph 5:3). Common sense suggests that living together with someone whom you are dating 1) would likely put you in tempting situations, and 2) lead others to believe you have gone the way of the world in terms of extramarital sex.

    I have trouble seeing this as something that a couple can do to glorify God. Please be careful not to buy into something as acceptable merely because it’s common.


    Make no mistake sir, I fully agree that sex before marriage is a sin, hints the term “immorality”. I myself am a bible scholar. I myself am merely saying that a couple living together may subject themselves to sexual temptation, but can also successfully resist that temptation. You have distorted Gods word in this article by saying the two are in automatic unison. How come it is not said then that one should not be with his/her significant other after late hours as well? Or tha the should not see each other too often because it may subject them to temptation. It can not be said that if they live together they shall *surely* fall to sexual sin as implied in this article. You started off talking about living together, but ever scripture thereafter only talked about sexual sin. God in all of his soverign knowledge knew there would be couples living together, but made no mention in his word? In my exprience, thats not Yahweh. Wouldnt it be all the better to say, “Living with a person before marriage may subject you to sexual temptation.” From what I read sir, you rather have taken a scripture and tried to make it fit your views of this particular issue. Nowhere that ive ever read or studied in the bible is it even suggested that its sinful in nature because of societies views. I also know that we as Christians must worry about our witness, but to the 10-20% of Non married couples, it would seem as if they wouldnt see this as a problem. Even as you say, most dont see it as a problem. Make no mistake, i dont live with my fiancee currently, but had I felt the unction, it would not be sinful. Gal 1 7:9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! My intentions arent to be divise but rather urge you to be sure that as a man of God, Holy Bible teacher, and Pastor that the only thing that you preach be the word of God. Sir my bible makes no mention of living together, nor is it suggested. As a minister myself, we are called to preach the word of God and nothing more. Your title puts you in a powerful place and your words are very influential. It would be better to say that it would be harder to sustain, if you didnt live with that person your atracted to, rather than say they are guaranteed to fall to sexual sin. Owning a Gun doesnt make me commit a crime, though it DOES increase my chances. Driving a car doesnt make me speed, which is sinful for breaking the laws of the land, but it does increase my chances. I understand your concern and can see your heart, however you cannot push this as a command from God because it is nowhere forbidden, or suggested in HIS word. If you yourself can not provide scriptural basis to what you say is the word of God, it can not be God.2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Your Job is to preach the Gospel and make it plain, not create scripture unless God has expressley told you so. In closing, by your own admission, theres no mention of living together in the bible, and my own that its nowhere suggested. You are a man of God none-the-less, and I respect you and applaud you for doing as you were called. Blessings

  5. Leondre,
    Thanks again for your thoughts. I certainly appreciate your concern for adding to, subtracting from, or changing God’s Word (Rev 22:18). This is an enormously important topic for preserving sound doctrine. You’re absolutely correct in that.

    However, your argument that God would have mentioned “living together” as a sin if it really was a sin and if he knew it was going to be a problem…….well, that argument really doesn’t work. Here’s one example: God, in his sovereign knowledge, knew that eventually internet pornography would be a problem for people too – yet he chooses not to mention it in Scripture. Since the Bible doesn’t call internet pornography a sin by name, does that mean that I can’t make that obvious application of a biblical principle?

    The Bible is not a list of every possible violation of God’s will. It instructs on principles of godly living and encourages us to run to our Savior for forgiveness when we violate these principles. In repentance, we then flee the sin and its temptations.

    Sexual immorality, fleeing temptation, and lack of concern for causing offense (i.e. bearing a potentially unchristian witness) are all clear principles of Scripture that God encourages me to make applications to my life about. “Living together” outside of marriage dances dangerously close to a violation of all of these principles. For that reason, as a pastor, out of love for the people I minister to, I would naturally guide them away from this societal norm.

    And when I meet with couples who are “living together”, the first thing we talk about is not the fact that they happen to spend their nights under the same roof. That’s not my chief concern. We talk about God’s will for their lives as a couple. We talk about God’s gift of sex as something designed specifically for marriage. If the couple mentions this has indeed been an issue (which as studies suggest, it almost always is), we talk about repentance. And if/when that sin is repented of, we talk about what the appropriate fruits of repentance for that specific sin is, which almost invariably involves moving out or getting married. 1 Corinthains 7:9 “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

  6. Collins says:

    As far as i had seek some information which was base on what is going on people life everydays.
    There can be no sin if man and woman understand under circumstances. Earlier period, jesus allowed even his aposte to break sabbath or fasting day.
    It can be sinned if one person has not agreed on relationship.

  7. Mel says:

    I am seeking some clarification. If i were to live with my boyfriend and not have sex, would it be wrong to christians? personally I choose not to have sexual relations because I feel my life is complicated enough, and wish to remain a virgin until marriage, mostly without religious reason. However, my parents are more religious than I, and I am trying to figure out how to discuss the situation with them. I understand that it would be very tempting and all that to succumb to sex, but as long as we didn’t, it would be ok in terms of the bible right? Also, any tips on how to bring it up? I’m 21 and in college if that helps.

    • Hi Mel, thanks for the question. Christians are not to add to or take anything away from God’s Word. You can scour the pages of the Bible and you won’t find anything about two people living under the same roof being a sin. However, that doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t offer us any guidance here.

      For starters, extra-marital sexual behavior of any sort is forbidden for Christians. Christians are also to be wise in not putting themselves in tempting situations. It’s possible that you might not be too sexually tempted living with your boyfriend. Admittedly, some people’s drives and internal physiological wirings are different than others. However, your boyfriend, if he’s like most boyfriends, might very well find the situation to be enormously tempting. My personal experience and every statistic I’ve ever run across suggest that 99.5% of couples who are living together are having some form of sexual relations together. My guess is that the other .5% are lying or don’t want anything to do with one another physically, both of which could be potential problems in a relationship. Let’s say I’m being overly cynical and the other .5% really are remaining pure. The fact remains that the other 99.5% are not and the rest of the world knows that. Therefore, the assumption is that a couple living together is having a sexual relationship. Many Christians would view this testimony being given to the world as out of line with the witness that they want to be giving to the world.

      So, in summary, while I can’t unilaterally draw a line saying “sin” or “no sin,” I will say that I would never encourage a Christian couple to live together because of 1) the temptation it will present, and 2) the potential message it might send to the world. Make sense?

      I’m not exactly sure what the best way is to broach the subject with your parents. But, if they’re Christians, they love you and want what’s best for you. If they’re Christians, they also believe what’s best for you is a relationship with Jesus that guides all of your other relationships in life, including the decisions you make regarding your romantic relationships. And finally, if Jesus your Savior, the one whom the Bible says has loved you more than any other, becomes your greatest love, decisions regarding your romantic relationships will become startlingly and brilliantly clear. No one will love you more than him and no one will teach you more about love than him.

      Thanks for the question, Mel! God bless!

  8. Patty says:

    Pastor James, although I agree with you on being a witness & the message that living together portrays, makes people assume sexual immorality is the case, and takes the focus away from what matters the most, sharing the gospel, Gods love & forgiveness through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. However, your reasoning holds no water. You said that cohabiting before marriage places us in a situation of temptation to have sex before marriage, but I know that its just as tempting IF NOT MORE, to want to have sex when you are living separately!! A quicky before I have to leave and go back to my own place. Or whats a better date than lets do the wild thing at your place tonight and switch it up and tomarrow do it at my place. This makes it more exciting and keeps the fire burning. What everyone needs to understand is that Jesus calls us to live pleasing unto God, listening to what His Word and the Holy Spirit teaches us in our hearts. If we listen to that and obey as He calls us too, we will not have sexual immorality wether we live together or separetely. Thats why God doesnt have to waste His words saying, Thou shalt not live together before marriage or Thou shalt not have internet..etc. All He has to say is, Dont be sexually immoral!! THAT COVERS EVERY AREA AND LEAVES IT AS A MATTER BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR LOVE AND DEDICATION TO HIM!! No need to add your man made rules. If God doesnt feel the need to add such details, then who do you think you are that you should rise above that and add as you stated in your article that living together is a sin and needs forgive

  9. Lee says:

    My daughter is now 25 with a great job and a place of her own. My husban and I are christians but did not grow up in a christian home We have always gone to church as adults, had devotions and prayed at bed time while the children were growing up. We really did not have a close relationship with God (even though we were christians) until going through a major crisis in the past 2 years not related to our marriage. My husband and I are very close to God now. I am very concerned for my daughter who is now living with her boyfriend and has just told us. We told her it was biblically and practically wrong and even though we love her very much we can not condone this. She has come to dinner 1 time with out the boyfriend because she knows her father will have a talk with him. She seems ok with just not discussing it. How should we approach this? She said she became a christian when she was young but I now think it was only because she was going to a small christian school at the time. How can we get her to stop and have the boy move out? I dont think he is a christian and is very shy and quiet. Short of praying (which I know God hears and can do miracles), what can we do? I dont want to loose our relationship with her by coming on very strong but I am also sick with concern for her spiritual health. Do I need to risk loosing her so that God can work in her life? Right now our lives feel like Job’s in that all other aspects have been turned upside down but God has been faithful through it all. Please tell me what to say to her or should we say very little and just keep praying.

    • Mary Ann says:

      Ask your daughters’ boyfriend to marry her and if he doesn’t then hopefully your daughter will see that he doesn’t see she’s worthy enough for marriage. Then remind your daughter that her boyfriend thinks she’s good enough for his virtue.

  10. Karen says:

    She is 25, and adult, and is able to make her own decisions. If the worst thing she does in her life is live with a boyfriend, she is better than most people her age.

  11. Michael says:

    Hey how do you explain away Esther and Abraham? Fact is they had sex outside of marriage and didn’t burn in hell. In fact one is the father of the Jewish people and the other is one who saved the Jewish people from slaughter in Babylon. God didn’t damn them did he?

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