Why It’s A Mistake to Live Together

I just came across a citing of a CDC study that reported that 60% of couples who live together won’t get married. Sorry ladies, he’s probably not going to get down on one knee just because you’re sharing rent (or letting him freeload). He’s probably already getting what he really wants – and it’s not a relationship with you. It’s just sex.

The same study indicated that for the minority who actually do get married, there is no greater likelihood that they will stay that way. So, let’s imagine 10 hypothetical co-habitating couples… If the averages hold true, only 1 or 2 of these couples will still be together in 15 years. (Some studies put it at only 1 couple still together after only 5 years.) While the numbers of couples living together before getting married has increased over the past several decades, the success rate of marriages has not. This leaves me to think that at least one of these two possibilities is true – and probably both:

  1. At least one of the parties involved in the couple that lives together doesn’t really intend to ever get married to the other in the first place. They’ve slid into the living arrangement by default because it was easy, not because they’re actually working to grow the relationship.
  2. This social experiment we’ve called co-habitation (because that sounds so much more sophisticated than ‘shacking up’) has failed. This practice has not led to more stable relationships in any way, shape, or form.

The goals of marriage aren’t just sex and expediency. Marriage is about developing intimacy – deep & lasting relationship. Living together before marriage seems to be creating no positive movement toward that goal. Living together before marriage is not good “practice” for marriage. (Actually, with all the emotional & financial entanglement that has to be sorted out on moving out day, it’s more like training for divorce.) It’s not a good “test drive” of married life at all because it is void of the commitment that actually makes a marriage thrive.

So why am I writing about cohabitation on a youth ministry blog? The high school and middle school students that you know probably aren’t living together (though there may be a few who are). But about half of them think it’s a good idea to live with someone before getting married. You know… so you can get to know if you’re really compatible and stuff. But it’s not a good idea. While this has almost become a rite of passage for young people, it’s a practice that is leaving young adults broken and scarred and scared to relationally give themselves fully to another.

Expedience comes at a cost.

Why are we so resigned to letting our next generation pay that cost? There’s a better way.


Be sure to check out the follow up post to this one: God’s Grace Is Bigger Than Our Stupidity.

5 Replies to “Why It’s A Mistake to Live Together”

  1. I feel like to a lot of adults and especially parents, marriage and relationships are an uncomfortable subject to broach to young people, partially because the parents want to pretend their little boys and girls aren’t really approaching that stage in life, and because the other adults in their life feel it’s the parent’s responsibility.

    It’s good to see someone not afraid to tackle this conversation and I think it’s definitely one our students need to hear more from the adult leaders in their life.

  2. “Shacking up” has become an unspoken peer-pressure value for many in America under the age of 30. That makes it very much a teen issue. Research shows that couples that live together prior to marriage have a 35% high chance of divorce in the first 5 years as opposed to those who don’t cohabitate prior to marriage. After over 20 years to counseling couples my conclusion is that when a couple lives together first, just like those that don’t, they are building the foundation of the more permanent marriage relationship. Whether cohabitating couples realize it or not they have built into their foundation a “back door” that is available. Without the covenant relationship “built” into the foundation it’s not there. The cohabitating couple always have in the back of their mind that there is a way out, a back door. That back door does not automatically get shut just because they “finally decided to do the paperwork”.

    God really does know what’s best for us. A real covenant marriage begins with just that…a real covenant.

  3. My back door leads to the patio….where me and my wife of 19 years like to hang out together! 🙂 Thanks for the post Mike! I thought a non-family member should chime in….even if it is just a sarcastic comment!

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