Is it Wrong to Live Together Before Marriage?

Q:  I have been in a live-in relationship for a number of years. We have recently been following your love and respect advice because of a crisis, but we are not married and have no marriage plans (due to a lack of trust issue regarding a one-night stand that my boyfriend recently committed). I am a New Believer and am wondering from a spiritual standpoint as to how my relationship is viewed by God’s Word. My boyfriend feels that splitting up is not necessary, but I am not sure. Can you shed any light on this for us?

Is it Wrong to Live Together Before Marriage?

Dr. E says:  Thank you for honestly sharing your situation and your heart.

I’m glad you asked about how this is viewed by God’s Word. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'”

Jesus is saying that Abba Father is there and He has spoken.

What does God say?

The question is simple. If God is there and He has spoken, has He revealed His heart on your situation?

Note what God is saying in His revelation to His people in the book of Hebrews:

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

Notice the two words: fornicators and adulterers.

Adultery is understood to be sex between two people who are married to someone else.

Fornicators are those who are not married and are having sexual relationships, which includes those living together and having sex. That is not approved by Abba Father and He will discipline according to Hebrews 13:4.

This does not touch God’s heart in a positive way.

Research supports the Bible.

Not surprisingly, research supports what the Bible says. God, in his infinite wisdom, gives us commands not to burden us, but to help us. He wants what is best for us. When God says “No” he means, “Don’t hurt yourself.” He is not saying no out of meanness or a desire to punish. He is saying no because it is for your own good and for the good of your relationship.

So what does the research say? According to a new report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, individuals who have multiple sexual partners and those who live together before marriage report poorer marriage quality. The study suggests that “a relationship based on immediate sexual gratification may hinder people’s ability to assess the quality of that relationship.”

Additional research studies also support this conclusion. Researcher Jason S. Carroll, Ph.D. writes an informative article on Slow But Sure: Does the Timing of Sex During Dating Matter? He refers to his study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology. They found that couples “who wait until marriageto have sex report higher relationship satisfaction (20% higher), better communication patterns (12% better), less consideration of divorce (22% lower), and better sexual quality (15% better) than those who started having sex early in their dating.”

These percentages are significant! Yet, more people live together before marriage than those who don’t.

Is anyone listening?

The National Marriage Project report also reveals that “couples who did not make a clear commitment to marriage prior to moving in together were less likely to report high marital quality. This may be because cohabitors are more likely to ‘slide’ into marriage, rather than making a firm decision to wed.” The longer a couple lives together, sharing housing, belongings, pets and friends, the more daunting a break-up can be, “sliding” them into a marriage that is more one of convenience than one of real commitment.

The culture changes but God doesn’t.

Many of these studies cite trust as being an issue in cohabitation. That’s not surprising. If a couple is not willing to commit to one another in marriage yet can have sex, why should they be faithful to one another? This could be playing out in your situation since your boyfriend has had a “one night stand.” Women especially think that they can love a man into wanting them exclusively. But if the commitment isn’t there before sex, what is the likelihood it will develop after sex?

The research is not in your favor.

God, in His infinite wisdom, has warned us. When there is conscious and willful sin, the Spirit of Christ is quenched and grieved which results in God’s loving discipline.

Yes, we live in a culture that treats marriage lightly and even laughs at holy matrimony. But, God has not changed His mind.

God loves you and wants to bless you!

God loves you just as you are – don’t doubt that. But God loves you so much He refuses to be indifferent to your present condition.

He intends to speak to you about changing.

I recommend you seek out a group of believers in Christ who can mentor you and come alongside you as you grow in your new faith. God wants to bless you!

Emerson

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29 thoughts on “Is it Wrong to Live Together Before Marriage?

  1. I am bummed that this is not actually addressing cohabitation, but rather premarital sex. Two people living together does not equate to them being sexually intimate. This article gives great statistics and Bible versus relating to premarital sex but not cohabitation alone. I wish it addressed what it said it was going to address as I have an interest in hearing about that.

    • If you have some secret knowledge about unmarried couples living together that do not have sex then please enlighten everyone to their unheard of self-control. I’ve never had any of my dozens of friends that have cohabitated prior to marriage remain celebate and have never found a study on the topic. I’m of the opinion that your interest in the cohabitation is not a real interest because the situation you describe does not exist. Again, get whoever you are referring to as a cohabitating couple that is celebate on international news because billions of people would like to know their secret.

      • I wasn’t saying that is a common thing for people to accomplish. But there are people who do it/have done it successfully. Therefore, I think that it is reasonable for me to have interest in knowing about the topic at hand. Especially when that is what this article is titled. I was quite surprised to get such a demeaning, arrogant and sarcastic response to my comment on an article that is discussing how to live as a Christian. You could have easily disagreed with me workout representing yourself the way that you did. It is also very egocentric for you to think that just because you don’t know anyone who has refrained from premarital sex while cohabitating that that would mean nobody has done it. I think that a fitting quote for this scenario is, “Your understanding of another person is limited by what you think you already know.”

        • Ashley, i agree the before comment could have been worded better. Hopefully this will help.

          Co-habitating without having sex is not ‘sinful’ but it does raise 2 issues the bible does touch on.

          1: It does create temptation, and i know i could not control myself so co-habitating would have resulted in premarital sex (even not co-habitating almost resulted in premarital sex, but luckily we both where strong enough to make it to our wedding day and enjoyed and undefiled wedding bed!). You will need SERIOUS accountability and never be alone together if you proceed with this, with brothers and sisters who will keep you accountable. We are told to flee youthful lust and temptations, it’s wisdom.

          2: It creates an appearance of evil and can temp weaker brothers and sisters to sin. If you indeed are strong enough to keep celabit, another couple who isn’t as strong may see you and “well, if they can do it, we can do!” and they may not be as strong and may fall into temptation. Paul talks on this in reference to eating meat sacrificed to idols, although nothing wrong it may tempt those who are weak to that. We are always to put others above ourselves.

          That being said, i can never recommend cohabitating, because i know how the enemy likes to temp, and how our culture has already corrupted all of us through the media and other things. I would see if someone can house your significant other instead, or move up wedding plans. It is not a sin to marry sooner, if both are dedicated to God then a marriage will last. My parents housed my wife (girlfriend at the time) when she moved up from Oklahoma to Wisconsin so we could be together, and it allowed us to stay out of sexual immorality till we got married, and we have the most blessed marriage.

          I hope this finds you well! Remember the enemy is a prowling lion, waiting to devour, do not let any defenses down.

        • Ashley, yes, it is possible. It is not ideal. In the case where circumstance created a temporary need, very mature individuals I know have managed to live, travel, and otherwise be alone in situations that could have been tempting if both parties were not set on their decision to respect each other’s relationship with God first. Not everyone will trust their words on the matter, however, and therein lies the problem. It is not the best witness. That is the main drawback.

      • I believe that is very true. When two people love each other so much, they want to be intimate so how could they not indulge? I also believe that it is a good Christian witness to others that shows the couple who love each other desire to please God and thus God will bless the upcoming marriage.

    • While it might be POSSIBLE to live together without being sexually intimate it is not very likely and there would be a lot of temptation. It is never wise to put yourself in a situation where you will be tempted. I don’t really feel like you need statistics. Let’s compare the male and the female to that of magnets…..the closer the magnets are together the stronger their “draw” towards each other. It takes a lot of effort to keep the magnets away from each other if they are in close proximity. It would be much healthier for your relationship if you did not live together before marriage, regardless of whether you had premarital sex or not anyways.

  2. This it is a tough one to hear but I know God also wants the best for me. I am living with my fiance and have been contemplating moving out this weekend… This spoke to me.

    • I wish you favor and blessings on making the right decision for you.

      The topic of marriage, sex, and cohabitation can be a very difficult topic to discuss outside and within the church. Over the decades, parents and church leaders haven’t fully discuss God’s design for marriage and answer the “WHY” question thoughtfully and without judgement (we enrage instead of engaging out of love and respect) based on Research, Reason and Bible Truth.

      In fact, Christian households and the church can be very silent on the topic, but this is a huge mistake culturally in today’s culture of situational ethics and relative truth. We all need to understand the full “why” and as parents find the right words to share with our children to prepare them for the absolute best that God has designed for them in relationships… I hope we all keep searching for the right answers to make thoughtful, informed decisions.

  3. I had to learn the hard way and I teach my students in recovery. If you have dessert first (sex) and do not take the baby steps of a relationship you are going to have nothing but a sugar rush. After many heartaches and pain I am going to do it God’s way. When someone is interested in going out I tell them I will meet them at the restaurant or movie. They look at me like I am retarded.

    • Right on. Thanks for saying that. What you did, what happened to you, and what you are doing is exactly what I did, what happened to me, and it is now what I am doing too. I am glad to know that you have the same experience which is a great encouragement. Thank you. Keep up the good work.

  4. I am in a situation where I was not faithful to my wife before marriage. So when I read this I became worried… Is there any solution? I knew that I sinned against God. Will God judge me for not being faithful to him?

    • Of course there is a solution (Jesus)! He died so when we do commit sins he covered them once and for all. This is the good news! Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

    • Hi Patrick, the Bible tells us in 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — Have you confessed this to the Lord and repented of it? If this happened a long time ago and you have not been unfaithful since then this is not something you want to continue to carry around with you but you should confess it to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. Hope this helps.

    • Well I think it’s good u have a repentant heart and as long as you commit your self to God and ask for forgiveness, definitely u are forgiven cos d bible says “let us come boldly to the throne of grace and obtain mercy…”

  5. I share the words in the link and I shared it on my facebook profile .I’m praying for a lot of people that they will live with God and his only Son on earth and in heaven.They shall know that GOD hates sin but he loves the sinner and HE is waiting for them with open arms.When the sinner repents and becomes a believer he’ll be forgiven.But GOD doesnt tolerate sin .And hIs whole WORD is true .CHRIST is the only way to LIVE and to survive this life… This world has a FATHER !!!!!
    (The last sentence is said by W. Lüthi) I love this sentence. My facebook friends who aren’t yet Christians shall know your valuable thoughts and all the accompanying words of the HOLY BIBLE: Your books are valuable presents for so many people. I love ‘LOVE AND RESPECT IN THE FAMILY’, too.

  6. Sexually transmitted diseases are non-existent if you follow God’s plan from the beginning…….monogamous sex. One partner for life.

  7. I remember reading in my bible that fornication is an abomination to God and I wish I had been taught that when I was growing up…and it is written in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 3…For this is the will of God, that you should abstain from fornication.’…so my advice is “repent of all sin daily in the name of Jesus”…get married and then you can enjoy all the sex you want with your wedded wife or husband…staying true to one another…woop woop!!

  8. I actually lived with a year and a half with my husband before we got married ……WITHOUT SEX. But make no mistake. I do not suggest it to anyone. It was incredibly difficult to be so disciplined, and unnecessarily so. We were sharing all the other husband/wife duties but sex so there was no release or enjoyment/bonding to make it worthwhile.
    We divorced 3 years after marrying. You may not have a specific verse to draw from but know that God wants us to honor him in the best ways, not just what we can get away with…because inevitably the scars of sliding by will hurt you too.

    Blessings.

  9. Firstly…so awesome that you have accepted Christ!! Welcome to God’s family!!! As Emerson stated, yes it is. When situations are tough, it is an opportunity to grow ones’ faith and trust God to find a way for you (which will be the best way, but not necessarily the way you want). In and of itself, honoring God is more important than the relationship. Regardless of plans to marry or not, you are not married. Secondly, the dude cheated…peace out boy scout!

  10. Ashley, I believe that if you are both believers, and cohabiting together “purely”, then maybe the situation would then fall under being a possible “stumbling block” to those who are weaker in their faith or even to those who are non-believing but under God’s conviction. “Better a millstone be hung around the neck and drowned then to cause another to stumble”.
    If you have a heart to reach lost friends, this can be a stumbling block as they will never believe you are being pure, based on their own possible struggles and experience, so they may think God accepts the practice you are living in, because in their minds why would Christians live together if God didn’t approve.
    We are teaching God’s Word to the watching world by the way we live. In your heart you have to pray and ask God to guide your decisions because right or wrong everything we do as Christ-followers we will have to stand before Him and give an account for what chose to do…that being the case, regardless of what Emerson or any other person would say, what would Jesus tell you to do? Act on that truth, not some man’s opinion. Sometimes we have to lay aside what we want to do (even pure behavior) for the best interests of someone else…because at times their salvation could be hanging in the balance.

    • WOW! What an awesome reply Faith! That definitely had to be divinely inspired. Ashley I can concur with everything Emerson said and what Krys said. My husband and I lived together for 5 years before marriage and had moved across the country together. After nearly 20 years together (over 14 married), he had a long term affair and wants out even though he said we shared a wonderful life together and I have been good for him. He emotionally disconnected. A year after we got engaged, I was diagnosed with incurable brain tumor so he has said he felt trapped and obligated to marry me. So even though you are not sexual, take into consideration Krys testimony which supports the research and Emerson;s reference to it in the book. I seriously had absolutely NO foresight on this as unfaithfulness did not at all seem his character and I thought he was someone I could fully trust. While I am and was a believer when we met, I did not know the bible that well and just took it lightly giving more credence to what the world was doing… Sadly my sister has followed in my footsteps and has been living with her boyfriend for 10 YEARS! I ask God continually to forgive me for that sin and SOMEHOW redeem and correct the situation for her… It also caused family strife on many levels too (parents and grandparents and who knows who else that poor decision affected).

  11. Hi Ashley, I hope this may help you and if Dr. Emerson does not agree, I wholeheartedly apologize and accept any correction.

    The answer to this question depends somewhat on what is meant by “living together.” If it means having sexual relations, it is definitely wrong. Premarital sex is repeatedly condemned in Scripture, along with all other forms of sexual immorality (Acts 15:20; Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes complete abstinence outside of (and before) marriage. Sex before marriage is just as wrong as adultery and other forms of sexual immorality, because they all involve having sex with someone you are not married to.

    If “living together” means living in the same house, that is perhaps a different issue. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with a man and a woman living in the same house—if there is nothing immoral taking place. However, the problem arises in that there is still the appearance of immorality (1 Thessalonians 5:22; Ephesians 5:3), and it could be a tremendous temptation for immorality. The Bible tells us to flee immorality, not expose ourselves to constant temptations to immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). Then there is the problem of appearances. A couple who is living together is assumed to be sleeping together—that is just the nature of things. Even though living in the same house is not sinful in and of itself, the appearance of sin is there. The Bible tells us to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22; Ephesians 5:3), to flee from immorality, and not to cause anyone to stumble or be offended. As a result, it is not honoring to God for a man and a woman to live together outside of marriage.

  12. Bang on line with the theology, there, Emmerson. There are debates among “intellectuals” about the biblical standpoint on this issue. But the Greek word for “fornication” silences all those arguments. it’s plain, obvious, and clear.

    My biggest concern (being a person who ministers to singles, divorcees, people who have been through this and experienced the hell this results in) is the fact that the boyfriend has already been unfaithful. There are 2 things that come out of this.

    (addressing the Lady, now)

    1) The fact that the relationship is not that strong. It’s not just a “one night stand”- its adultery, in reality. Call it what it is- don’t soften it with words. This is a SERIOUS breach of trust. You have to face this issue head-on discuss it deeply with counselling and make a sound judgement as to whether or not your relationship is viable or not. Jesus cites adultery as the only legit reason to divorce someone- nothing else! No “irreconcilable differences”, money, stress- not even abuse. In the eyes of God, Adultery is worse than all of that in the context of marriage. Move out NOW. Get out of the emotional environment to a place where you can think most rationally. Go stay with family, whatever. Just separate. Then when you feel you can make a make a sound judgement, go for some counselling. Its painful now but it will be 100000 times more painful if you divorce in, say 10 years. Don’t throw your life away. Make a good choice now.

    2) This is what “Living together” results in. Imagine if you had been married- your boyfriend had made a vow to stick with you through thick and thin for the rest of your life. He may not have been unfaithful because he would have had that vow to keep him strong against temptation. That’s what marriage is there for. As humans, we are sinful creatures. We lie, we make flippant commitments. So many people poo-poo marriage these days. And I’m not going to be naive enough to say its the perfect answer- I’ve seen plenty of horror stories. BUT- Its a heck of a lot more stable than no marriage! No commitment. Everything just running on emotion and “how the relationship is doing”. Either partner can walk out at any time. How insecure is that? Thats scary! It’s insanity- really. Already, you have experienced massive heartbreak, no doubt, just over this. Imagine you lived 10 years more and got to really “be one” and then one of you walks out. The other is devastated! Smashed to 1000 pieces! I know so many people like this and it’s not pretty. Most divorced women over 45 never remarry. It’s loneliness for the rest of your life. It’s pain, it’s anger and bitterness and hard work supporting yourself and kids… Need I say more? There is much more I could say. But imagine the same relationship with the strength of marriage vows to keep it together? If the relationship ends, the pain is the same, whether married or not. It’s the depths of hellish depression. But if you are married, there is a hugely bigger chance that it WON’T END. That’s the point! If you ave made that that ABSOULTE VOW then you are ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED to make it work! And so you get to work instead of giving up. And so many marriages have turned around because of that vow. It’s hell for a while but they come through- especially with the help of teachings like Emmersons. And so many become beautiful again and so much stronger for that “mount everest climbing” commitment that marriage brings.

    Its so great that you have come to God- the source of life. His word is true. Just obey it. Even if you don’t understand everything and your life will become awesome.

    Hope everything works out.

  13. Wow, am so happy to be a part of this wonderful family, am yet to be married, i find every word of advice and encouragement here very beneficial because i used to live a life of pleasing a man to make my relationship work out but at the end they still walk away leaving me to crash land until i met and joined a believing group, and since then my life has a new turn.
    I appreciate everyone here who has contributed immensely to this great family, may God Almighty bless us all, amen.

  14. I am so happy to read ths article and i fully agree that living together having sex is a sin. I was once in that situation and experience all that but when I turned to God I saw it was not what He planned for my life. We ladies sometimes go extra mile for our boyfriend like staying together and they still hurt us becos we disobeyed God!