God Versus Culture: Marriage and Cohabitation
Is it Acceptable to Live Together Before Marriage?
by Richard Mansel
via Forthright Magazine
When we become a Christian, our perspective changes from the will of the flesh to the will of the Father in heaven. The old ways of pleasure cease to be the guiding light of our days. We have a higher calling based on new criteria.
Men use the standard of culture to make their decisions. The culture factors nothing into its decisions except popularity and pleasure. It is shallow and filled with frustration and hopelessness.
God's will bases its commands on holiness but includes health and happiness. Christians lead a happier, healthier life than their carnal friends.
Sex outside of marriage and cohabitation are rampant in our world today and illustrative of the flesh versus holiness dilemma. Cohabitation is living together in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Marriage is rapidly decreasing in the United States as cohabitation increases. "Cohabitation has increased nearly 1,000 percent since 1980, and the marriage rate has dropped more than 40 percent since 1960." "About two-fifths of children are expected to live in a cohabiting household at some point." "The majority of couples marrying today have lived together first (53% of women's first marriages are preceded by cohabitation)."
The fleshly idea is that cohabitation is necessary for couples to "get to know one another" before marriage. Whatever the motivation, it is contrary to God's will. Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." All sex outside of marriage is sin. Fornication refers to any sexual activity with someone whom you are not married to. Adultery is when a married person has sex with someone outside of their marriage.
Adultery and fornication exclude men from the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 5:9,10; I Corinthians 6:9). They come from an evil heart of unbelief (Matthew 15:19). They corrupt the beautiful gift of sexuality given by God only to married couples.
Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher's excellent book entitled, The Case for Marriage, focuses on the many reasons why those who are married are better off than those who are cohabitating. Waite and Gallagher have forty pages of end notes and bibliography. Both are highly esteemed in their field.
Those who are married [as opposed to cohabitating] have better health. Studies show that men and women engage in much less drinking and drugs when they are married. "The evidence from four decades of research is surprisingly clear: a good marriage is both men and women's best bet for living a long and healthy life."
Married couples have better mental health than those who are cohabitating. "Married people were also about half as likely as singles or cohabitators to say they are unhappy with their lives."
Couples who were married were more productive in their work, generate much more wealth, and are better parents with happier children.
One myth about cohabitation versus marriage is that the latter is most often sexless. However, the numbers paint a much different picture. Sexual satisfaction among the married is much higher than those who live together. Cohabitating men were also four times more likely to cheat than married men and cohabitating women were eight times more likely than married women. Married men and women both report greater satisfaction with their sex lives than those who are cohabitating.
Another myth is that marriage is a breeding ground for physical abuse. Yet, "the evidence is overwhelming that being unmarried puts women at special risk for domestic abuse."
Finally, divorce is higher among those who cohabit before marriage than those who do not. "Cohabitators who marry each other may be as much as 46 percent more likely to divorce than people who marry but have not cohabited first."
A cost benefit analysis clearly establishes marriage as superior to cohabitation. God's plan for marriage is proved right again (Genesis 2:18-25).
4/ Linda J. Waite, Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage (Broadway Books: New York, 2000).
5/ Waite, Gallagher, 54,59-60.
6/ Waite and Gallagher, 64.
7/ Waite and Gallagher, 67.
8/ Waite and Gallagher, 92-93.
9/ Waite and Gallagher, 82-83.
10/ Waite and Gallagher, 154-155.