Is temporary cohabitation OK?

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Is temporary cohabitation OK?

Jun 02, 2008 |John Thomas
Question

I am wondering if temporary cohabitation is OK. My girlfriend is moving from one town to mine and needs a place to stay. Both of us are Christians and don't want to sin before we get married; we are engaged.

She doesn't know anybody and wants to be close to me. After she moves in with me I will help her find her own apartment in town. I know of one landlord who goes to my church and will talk to her about available apartments. While she is with me I will be sleeping in a separate bed and she will have her own also. I will give her privacy to change and stuff.

I plan on taking her to church, and going on dates outside of the apartment. I've promised her that I will be a gentleman while she stays with me.

In this case is cohabitation acceptable?

Answer

I understand where you're coming from, but no, it's not acceptable for several very important reasons. As strongly as I can do it in a column, I urge the two of you to not make this mistake. You'll do damage to your relationship.

First, I don't care how strong your moral fortitude, you will be opening a door for sexual temptation so wide it will be very difficult to resist. Sexual purity before marriage is difficult enough when you're living apart. Living under the same roof will be like throwing gasoline on the flame.

At least one reason married couples live together is because physical proximity matters. One of the ways a couple "becomes one" is by shared living space. That ultimate sharing is the same bed, but that's certainly not the only place where it matters.

Shared couches, dishes, bathrooms, sinks, dinner tables, living rooms, kitchens, etc., are all spaces and places where "oneness" happens. The cornerstone of that shared space is the bedroom, and the cornerstone of that room is the bed — the "marriage bed" as Scripture refers to it. All of the other space is connected like a web to that bed, and despite your best efforts, that cornerstone will continually call to the both of you. That's the way God made it, and you'd be fighting against His design every day.

Second, you'll have no accountability for your actions. Your relationship will take place "behind closed doors," out of view from public. In marriage, some privacy is necessary and good. In courtship and engagement, that same level of privacy is not good. You need public accountability, which is simply not practical nor possible when living together. By living together you will be battling all the force of God-designed human nature to remain pure before marriage, and will have removed one of the most important components of that battle: accountability. Why would you want to do that?

Third, you have no idea how long "temporary" is. This could stretch out for weeks, and the longer it goes on, the more likely you will grow comfortable with it. You'll think, "Well, it seems to be going fine. We're saving money by not having two rent payments, and heck, we've done it for this long, so what difference will a little longer make?" Every day that passes will make it a little easier to justify doing it one more day. If it's morally acceptable for a week, why not two? Why not a month? You'd be no different than the vast majority of cohabiting couples — most view their cohabitation as temporary.

Fifth, consider the message you're sending to those around you, especially younger Christians who know that the two of you are Christians. It's not like you'll be able to explain your situation to everyone who sees the two of you living together. The assumption will be that you are sleeping together. A Christ-following couple who lives together out-of-wedlock is not "setting an example … in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity," even if you're not sleeping together, even if it's temporary and even if you're engaged.

And finally, you'll be stealing from your marriage. Part of the excitement and mystery of being newly married is starting a home together, finally sharing space together, learning how to interact with one another in that shared space, waking up in the same home together, sitting across from one another at the breakfast table. Every moment is an adventure in life together, a new discovery about the person God gave you as a gift. By jumping ahead out of context, by "playing marriage" as it were, when the real deal finally comes, it's no big deal — a shoulder shrug. We return from our honeymoon to?! — the apartment we already lived in together. Been there, done that. Big yawn.

If I still haven't convinced you, check out the great work being done by Rutgers sociologists David Popenoe and Barbara DeFoe Whitehead in their report, Should We Live Together? PDF report is here. Among other notable facts, they found that:

  • Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage.
  • Living together outside of marriage increases the risk of domestic violence for women, and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children.
  • Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and wellbeing than married couples.

Given all the reasons why this is a bad idea, it might serve you well to explore some other options.

There is bound to be a family in your church, a single elderly woman, or a single girl or group of girls who would be willing to let her stay with them until she finds an apartment. That would also lend itself to finding a place quickly, rather than letting her get settled at your place and "getting around to it when you can." Pray and ask God to lead you to the right people and places. I think you'll be amazed at how He'll intervene if you invite Him to guide you.

If there is no other place for her to stay, she needs to wait until you find an apartment for her before she moves to your city. Talk now to the landlord you know, rather than waiting for your fiancée to move to town. Finding an apartment shouldn't take that long, and however long it takes, the wait will be well worth the payoff down the road.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

Copyright 2008 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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