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How to Decide Whether to Live Together Before Marriage

Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.

persuasive speech outline on living together before marriage

Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at Yeshiva University’s clinical psychology doctoral program.

persuasive speech outline on living together before marriage

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Living together before marriage was once considered taboo; however, it has become more common and accepted over time. If you’ve been seeing your partner and things are going well, the thought of moving in together may cross your minds.

Moving in with your partner is a significant step because it marks a major progression in the relationship, says Sabrina Romanoff , PsyD, a clinical psychologist, and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City.

This article explores some of the factors to consider while deciding whether to live with your partner before marriage, as well as some potential advantages and disadvantages of this arrangement.

Factors to Consider

Below, Romanoff lists some of the factors to consider while deciding whether to live with your partner before marriage.

Your Reasons for Wanting to Live Together

The first factor to consider is your motivation for moving in with your partner. Partners who move in out of financial convenience or to test their relationship may be less satisfied with their decision in the long run and in turn, may not end up getting married.

This is in contrast to couples who decide to move in together out of their genuine desire to spend more time together and deliberately fuse their lives. You should want to learn more about your partner and progress your relationship.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Remember the importance of choosing your partner because you want to be with them, and don’t let your decisions be made out of fear or convenience.

Your Age and Stage of Life

Age and stage of life are other important considerations. It can be helpful to give each other space to live alone or with friends before taking this step, so that each partner is able to experience a range of independent and peer living situations before committing to living with each other.

Once people have experienced these varied living arrangements, they tend to appreciate their partners and don’t feel as if they are missing out on experiences their peers are having.

Your Conversations With Your Partner

It’s important to make the deliberate decision to move in together instead of casually easing into cohabitation. Sliding into cohabitation can be risky because it bypasses important decisions and conversations that will cause more problems down the road.

For instance, you may slowly start to spend more time at one of your homes and think it makes sense to move in together out of convenience or financial incentive. You may then consider marriage because you’ve lived together for so long, already invested so much time into your partner, and think you might not be able to find someone else at this point in your life.

Instead, it is important to consciously decide to move in together and have conversations with your partner about financial arrangements, who will be responsible for maintaining what, and how space will be allocated to incorporate both people’s values and beliefs.

Implications of Living Together Before Marriage

Moving in with your partner can have significant implications for your relationship. Romanoff outlines some of these below.

Increased Commitment

Before you move in, there are more opportunities for refuge. If you have a fight, are annoyed, or are frustrated with each other, you can always return to your own space .

Moving in means committing to the good and bad in each other and in your relationship. You each are committing to show up and stay together on the good as well as the bad days.

Increased Investment

Moving in together means that you are investing in the relationship in a more substantial way. The next progressive step after moving in is usually a more formal commitment like marriage or alternatively, if things do not work out, a breakup.

Breakups after moving in together are significantly more complicated because you must separate your lives, which tend to become blended in elaborate ways.

Increased Trust

Living together also means that you’re pledging to show each other the parts of yourself that may have remained hidden up until this part of your relationship. You risk vulnerability and exposing all of your little rituals or quirky habits.

You have to trust your partner and make this commitment with the confidence that your relationship will not only survive but will become stronger after knowing these parts of each other.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Romanoff shares some of the advantages and disadvantages that people commonly experience when they decide to live together before marriage.

Advantages of Living Together Before Marriage

The advantage of living together before marriage is the opportunity to learn how you would navigate a life together, without the internal and external pressure that comes with marriage.

For many, marriage signifies a commitment that cannot be easily undone. The weight that comes with that commitment, especially from family members or friends, can skew problems or conflicts that may arise in a relationship.

The benefit of living together pre-marriage is that you can learn more about each other, strengthen your joint ability to problem-solve, and reinforce your relationship and ability to navigate stressors, which can instill more confidence in your decision to get married.

Disadvantages of Living Together Before Marriage

The downside of living together before marriage relates to the tendency for some couples to make less of a commitment to each other or feel less content with their arrangement.

Individuals who decide to cohabitate may have different expectations than their partners about the move. It can lead to challenges if one partner has more unconventional ideas about marriage and might grow complacent in this arrangement, whereas the other partner might expect marriage to follow this step.

It is important to consider the meaning of the move to each partner, especially if this move is motivated as a way to postpone making a commitment for one partner. And that meaning should be communicated to and by each partner as well.

Additionally, standards for cohabitating with a partner are usually lower than standards people have for marriage, which could cause some people to regret the time and energy spent on cohabitating if it does not ultimately lead to marriage.

A Word From Verywell

If you and your partner have been going steady and you’re starting to think about living together before marriage, you should be sure of your motivations before you move in. You should genuinely want to spend more time with your partner and learn more about them while being open to exposing yourself to them.

It’s also important to discuss finances, responsibilities, expectations for the future, and other important aspects of your relationship with your partner before you move in, so you’re both on the same page before you make this commitment.

Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends Project. Views on marriage and cohabitation in the U.S .

By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.

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Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D.

Are Couples That Live Together Before Marriage More Likely to Divorce?

Times have changed, but maybe not completely..

Posted January 27, 2021 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

  • The Challenges of Divorce
  • Find a therapist to heal from a divorce
  • Cohabitation before marriage or without plans for marriage is on the rise in the U.S.
  • Early research on cohabitation identified it as a risk factor for divorce
  • Despite now being a cultural norm, cohabitation is still a risk factor for divorce

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In the 1970s, only a tiny fraction of the U.S. population—less than half a percentage (0.2%)—lived as cohabitating romantic partners at any given time. Today, that number is about 15% in the 18-34 age bracket (Gurrentz, 2018). Putting this into context, nearly two-thirds of women today (64%) have cohabitated at some point (Hemez & Manning, 2017), with some evidence suggesting the total is as high as 70% (Rosenfeld & Roesler, 2019). These numbers are more than double what they were in 1987. In other words, what once was an extraordinarily rare living arrangement for a dating couple is now commonplace.

When the rate of cohabitation began to climb, researchers examined its pros/cons by looking at its potential effect on subsequent marriage stability. Not everyone who cohabitates plans to marry, but many do, and those who do sometimes use it as a "trial" period before they fully commit to marriage. The idea of a "trial" suggests that cohabitation could increase marital stability: Those whose trials were successful continue, those whose trials did not work avoid divorce ; they simply break-up. So, maybe cohabitation reduces the risk of divorce.

Early Research Linked Cohabitation and Divorce

The preponderance of evidence from the 1980s showed the opposite: Cohabitation was associated with increased divorce risk (e.g., Bennett, Blanc, & Bloom, 1988). This robust finding has emerged again and again, making cohabitation a true puzzle. But this was also a time when the path towards marriage was socially normed differently than it is today. Cultural guidelines proscribed living apart, dating, getting married, then moving in together. Perhaps the way we think about and progress towards marriage today has altered this link.

New evidence shows that emerging adults today may have different ideas about what cohabitation means for couples (Bagley et al., 2019). They tend to believe that cohabitation prior to marriage protects against divorce, and is a smart "trial" run. (This belief is not as strongly held among older adults.) Their belief that cohabitation helps marital stability may reflect a growing change in how people move from single to married.

Cohabitation Is Still a Divorce Risk

Despite changing norms and perceptions, premarital cohabitation still appears to be a risk factor for divorce (Rosenfeld & Roesler, 2019). This does not mean that every couple that lives together prior to marriage later divorces; nor does it suggest that not living together first guarantees stability. It simply looks at the group data at large and shows a trend between living together prior to marriage and subsequent separations. Across all years examined in this study, the odds of divorce were 1.31 times higher for women who cohabitated prior to marriage.

Cohabitation may confer "short-term benefits" in the sense that divorce risk is lower for these couples right after the wedding (within the first 6 months) and slightly lower in the subsequent 6 months. During that initial year, couples that did not live together first are at higher risk for divorce. Maybe cohabitators have less of an abrupt transition after marriage, and this gives them an initial advantage. However, the tide turns after that first year, and people who cohabitated before marriage end up having elevated risk relative to those who did not.

Cohabitation Is Common and Normative, but Still a Risk Factor

There's no doubt that American culture views cohabitation differently now than it did 50 years ago, and that cohabitation is on the rise. This rise may reflect changes in stigma towards premarital sex , delays in the age of first marriage, and high housing expenses that make cohabitation a good financial decision. As much as cohabitation is now normative, it remains a risk factor for divorce. ( See potential reasons why, including the inertial effect, here .)

Facebook image: G-Stock Studio/Shutterstock

Bagley, L. A., Kimberly, C., Marino, A., Clark, P., & Pomeroy, C. (2019). Beliefs About premarital cohabitation: Do individuals believe living together helps divorce-proof marriage?. Contemporary Family Therapy , 1-7.

Bennett, N. G., Blanc, A. K., & Bloom, D. E. (1988). Commitment and the modern union: Assessing the link between premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability. American Sociological Review, 127-138.

Gurrentz, B. (2018). Cohabitation is Down for Young Adults. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2018/11/cohabitaiton-is-up-marri…

Hemez, P., & Manning, W. D. (2017). Over twenty-five years of change in cohabitation experience in the US, 1987-2013. Family Profiles.

Rosenfeld, M. J., & Roesler, K. (2019). Cohabitation experience and cohabitation's association with marital dissolution. Journal of Marriage and Family, 81, 42– 58

Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D.

Theresa DiDonato, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and a professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland.

persuasive speech outline on living together before marriage

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A Speech on “Is It Better to Live Together Before Marriage or To Wait?

Moving in with your partner or cohabiting is never a bad choice; more than disadvantages it has always satisfied couples with more advantages that stop them from making the wrong choice or end up in divorce due to choosing a partner earlier without much knowledge. In my opinion, living together before marriage could be a good decision to maintain a healthy married life. 

Cohabiting at such an early age is a mistake, but in an appropriate age above 25 could be beneficial. It’s practically an age where both men and women focus on life seriously and take wise decisions for their future. More than 52 percent of the people follow and support cohabiting in the United States, and day by day it has been increasing. The most often disadvantage that involves what the family would say or the shame that one has to face in society has reduced rapidly and is still reducing nowadays. Here are few fun perks on why cohabitation is a better choice before marriage;

Gives a better understanding on what married life will be with your partner. Marriage is not just about the romance, it’s also about the hardships of life that both of them face in a day to day manner. You pretty much have a boring life daily, and with a partner, you get to be boring together and experience the fun behaviors and explore opinions and ideas and much more. You get an opportunity to cross the honeymoon period and see life with it’s seriousness and then tie the knot to a fine new beginning.  

Helps to find out if your living habits are compatible. Practice over the lifetime of living together under the same roof is always a major benefit. Helps to realize each other’s tolerance level as well as the peaks of getting upset in various situations caused due to the differences between each other. Helps to maintain or understand easier ways to adapt and balance each other’s behaviors, habits, and time schedules in an early manner.

Learns to share Responsibilities, Chores and keep track of spending habits. Married life is a huge responsibility that is a necessity which has to be followed or tried to adapt by both of them. Being strangers and not knowing much of each other could make it hard to blend in. Sharing household chores like cooking, laundry and cleaning or sharing other responsibilities like budget management, running errands and working together could be learned much faster and could be for a good new start after marriage. Handling money which includes saving, negotiating and spending for right things could be learned when spending more time together. Acquire and insight on each other’s sexual desires. One of the important parts of married life. Through spending more moments together, both will end up sexually intimate everyday, if they like. Each would learn to respect and value each other’s sexual tastes and find a good balance in terms of the frequency for a good sexual life.

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Living Together before Marriage

Updated 19 August 2021

Subject Love

Downloads 30

Category Family ,  Life

Topic Divorce ,  Marriage ,  Relationship

The shift is unavoidable in this day and era. The complexities of a marriage and partnerships have also evolved over time. Around 50 years ago, there was a very negative mentality about the way partnerships, families and divorce were discussed. That mentality has not changed, and today there is a much more reserved attitude about the manner in which these matters are preceded (McNulty et al 2016). Another subject that has lately attracted interest is the question of live-in partnerships. Couples, who are planning on getting married someday, should cohabitate first because it will provide a better perspective about their partner, get them accustomed to each other’s lifestyle, and change in the gender role. Personally, I prefer that people who want to get married should live together first so that they could get to know what they are getting themselves into and if they are ready for it. Ideally, there are views both in favor and against this idea of life in relationships but I think that cohabitating before marriage outweighs all arguments against this. (Berrington, 2015). The first reason is that living together before marriage is the fundamental test. It is at this time that people who want to be married get to understand if they can still love each other even after acknowledging that it is not going to be a joy ride. The love that people have for each other will be tested fully when they live together before marriage. Most of the times, in any prospective romantic relationship, it is tough to have an idea about the way that partner is going to turn out (McNulty et al 2016). Marriage is pretty much like a legal contract, and they proceed in such a long-term commitment with someone just by few meetings is somewhat a huge gamble (Berrington, 2015). On the other hand, if two people live together for a considerable period, then there is a likelihood that they would get to know each other at a more personal level (McNulty et al. 2016). Not only, but they would also be sure that how that other partner is going to turn out if something does not go right at every level. The statistics have also shown that that person who goes into marriage straightaway after romantic relationships, the divorce rate is higher by about 30 % in those cases. On the other hand, couples that know each other are much likely to stay together (Berrington, 2015). The other aspect that has to be taken into consideration is the fact that how committed people are into the relationship (McNulty et al, 2016). These days, the level of commitment that is going to be witnessed among each of the partners might vary. Thus, if one person jumps into the marriage while the other one is not comfortable with it is the critical fact that is needed to be taken into the reckoning (McNulty et al 2016). When the level of commitment is not the same in both the partners, then there is a likelihood that the marriage is not going to work out. Having a better understanding of your partner is one of the prime reasons to which marriage or long-term commitment must be done after living together for a while (Berrington, 2015). The second reason is that people who live together before marriage form a stronger bond as a team thus will be able to plan their future. They will be able to plan their careers, relationship, and financial system together. This will give them the experience and wisdom of how to raise a family if they end up getting married. Through this, both of them will be able to understand each others’ priorities and values and if it aligns with theirs before getting married. Once you start living with that person, you realize how the spend the rest of the day (McNulty). Some people might be charismatic when one gets to spend a short amount of time with them, but once that initial phase is over, persons/partners personality may become more reserved in the relationship (Berrington, 2015). As the relationship evolves, one becomes more aware of their partners values, beliefs, and goals. For instance, how soon they want the kids to happen, or whether they want kids at all (Rhoades). When people are living together, they can develop an insight about the way this relationship is going to work and what is the perspective of people with regards to the way things are going to be working out. The third reason is that a couple’s passion and intimacy life will be tested before getting married. Couples will get to understand more if they will be comfortable with each other and can be able to plan if they can be able to have babies in the future. Argument supporting living together before marriage An April issue of the Journal of marriage and family that was presented early to the Council involving contemporary families’ states that recent studies have wrongly overstated that living together before marriage triggers divorce highly. An assistant professor at the University of Carolina, Arielle Kuperberg supports cohabitation by arguing that living together does not really result to divorce in marriage later on. The professor goes ahead to say that it depends on what age the couple decided to start living together. It, therefore, suggests that people that used to live together but got divorced after marriage are the ones who did not choose compatible partners who are suitable for them. This is in contrast to what the US Attorney Legal services which says that couples that lived together before have a 49% chance of getting divorced while those that never lived together have a 20% chance. Basically, divorce can be influenced by many factors like career. Careers, like dancing and bartending record the highest rate of divorce therefore living together, does not primarily mean that your marriage will end up in divorce. When people are dating each other, they only meet for a limited amount of time, and during that phase, they tend to be presentable which is not the case most of the times when they are living in the vicinity of their homes (Berrington, 2015). Research proves that when you are conversating to someone you like, everything from your body language and the tone of your voice changes (Boyce, 2016). That is not going to be a case when one person is living with their partner for a more extended period because it is going to allow for better reflection of that person (McNulty). Things are bound to change when people start to live together. For instance, how organized the person is when it comes to the daily chores, how are the financials and the living style of the person (Berrington). These are the little thing that might not matter if one is meeting for a brief period (Boyce, 2016). The greater the level of communication is, the greater the likelihood that the marriage is going to be successfull (Boyce et al, 2016). If these things are not cleared out, they might cause unnecessary expectation on each other. Communication is an important part of understanding in the marriage process (Boyce, 2016). With the passage of time, there has been a definitive change in the way gender roles are defined. Previously, women were content to stay home, and they had no career aspirations at that point in time (Boyce et al, 2016). Now, more and more women are entering the professional field. There are two reasons for it: One is the fact that the inflation rates and other factors have prompted women to come into the professional arena (Rhoades, 2015). Their communication is needed in order to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. The other factor is the rise in the wave of the feminism (Boyce et al, 2016). People are becoming more and more aware of the facts that there is no need for stereotyping of the genders. As women are entering the professional fray, they form new relationships, and, as they move away from home and to another city, those relationships are not lasting. In the early age, the preference for them is not to settle down, and instead, work towards a more prosperous and sustainable career. At times, men are not comfortable with their women working they prefer for their wives to be a homemaker (Boyce ).Modern women on the other hand, are not comfortable staying home (Boyce ). It is important that these conversations are held on a regular basis because and these concerns are needed to be addressed before one goes into a marriage (Rhoades). Marriage is a long-term commitment, and divorce is something that is much harder to get away from versus cohabitating (Boyce). The church will argue that marriage is a lifelong commitment and should not to be dissolved or broken. Commitment means being determined that the couples will stick it out no matter what the future brings. When there is an agreement without commitment it is easy to give up. When there is a commitment ahead of time, you hang-tough through good times and the bad and don't bail out at the first sign of trouble. According to the Bible in the New International Version, Eph. 5:31 it states that a man shall leave his parents and he shall become one with his wife. In Romans 7:2-3, the Bible also says that a husband must not divorce his wife Vis a Vis. In hindsight, it can be seen that the idea of living together before marriage is a good one in current day and time (Rhoades, 2015). The dynamics of relationships are changing at a very rapid pace, with mass urbanization, the rise of feminism as a force at the global level are some of the few reasons that gender dynamics have changed. This change is one of the main reasons why people in relationships should live together before deciding to tie the knot. Conclusion In conclusion, cohabitation or living together does not necessarily lead to divorce like most arguments say. I, therefore, support that people should live together before getting married. Works Cited Berrington, Ann, BriennaPerelli-Harris, and Paulina Trevenna. “Commitment and the changing sequence of cohabitation, childbearing and marriage: Insights from qualitative research in the UK. “ Demographic Research 33 (2015): 327. Bible. New International version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan House, 1984. Print. Boyce, Christopher J.,Alex M. Wood, and Eamon Ferguson. “For better of for worse: The moderating effects of personality on the marriage- life satisfaction link. “ Personality and individual differences 97 (2016):61-66. McNulty, James K., Carolyn A.Wenner, and Terri D. Fisher.”Longitudinal associations among relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and frequency of sex in early marriage.” Archives of sexual behavior 45.1 (2016):85-97. Rhoades, Galena K., et al. “Can marriage education mitigate the risks associated with premarital cohabitation?.” Journal of Family Psychology 29.3 (2015):500.

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Should You Live Together Before Marriage? Real Talk From Experts

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But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. As with most relationship issues, when it comes to deciding whether you should cohabitate before marriage, it all depends on the individuals involved. So to help you weigh the pros and cons, I chatted with two relationship experts. Here’s what to know.

Living together before marriage definitely comes with some advantages.

“Going from living on your own terms to sharing a place with someone can be simultaneously fun and extraordinarily challenging,” says Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., a sex and relationships expert in NYC. “Sharing a space can bring up a lot of issues and put your relationship to the test: You get a crash course in cooperation, negotiation, your ability to put someone's needs and tastes above or equal to your own. These are all relationship experiences that you should have prior to getting married.”

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Megan Fleming, Ph.D., an NYC-based sex and relationship therapist, agrees, adding that living with someone and spending nearly 24/7 with them means you'll have a chance to really, truly see their priorities and values, as well as how those line up with yours . It’s like a practice run for what your everyday life might be like if you do decide to get married down the road.

Another important point it brings up: how you align on the topic of sex. “It gives you a sense of how attuned you are to each others’ sexual needs , in terms of both frequency and quality,” Fleming says. “Sex is a small part of a relationship when it’s going well. When it’s not going well, it’s a big part of a relationship.”

One study also shows that people who cohabitated with their S.O. self-reported higher physical and mental health than those who didn’t live with their lover (married couples also reported higher health) . So check off the box for cohabitors being happier with their bodies and mind, too.

What are the disadvantages of living together before marriage?

Levkoff doesn't list any major cons to cohabitating with your partner pre-marriage—she’s a big proponent. But Fleming mentions that marriage usually means more of a commitment than living together, which likely translates to people putting in more of an effort with that level of loyalty compared to simply sharing a shelter.

On the other hand, when you’re dating and you do start to intertwine your lives by moving in together, it’s more difficult to break it off if you need to, Fleming says. This could be one of the reasons research shows that although living with your partner before marriage leads to more success in the first year, down the line, it can actually increase the risk of divorce .

Researchers aren’t sure why this is, but Fleming says it could be that after you move in together, you may realize it’s too tough to cut ties, so you get married instead. Years later, you might decide it’s not for you and bam, divorce . So the key to avoiding divorce down the line could be figuring out your level of commitment to the relationship even before you share a front door.

Fleming also says this research could be outdated, particularly since it’s more acceptable nowadays to live with your partner before marriage than it was years ago (although the research was published in 2018, it's based on data from 1970 to 2015). So many factors play into these divorce rates, too—including age, religion, whether it’s your first marriage, whether you lived with someone before, and so on.

And to top off the confusion on the science, the research looks at the success of a marriage as simply staying together, when of course what really matters is happiness in the marriage , Fleming says.

“Statistics can be helpful in some ways, but really, you have to know yourself,” says Fleming. “Relationships are an effort, so you have to work at it,” whether you’re living together sans rings or married.

Is there anything else I should know before deciding to live with my partner?

Well, you might want to have a convo about why each of you wants to move in together, Levkoff says.

“ It's always important to know if you are on the same page ," she adds. "And if you are not, at least you can manage your own expectations accordingly."

Bring up the convo as soon as you feel ready and you’re up for the discussion. It doesn’t necessarily matter how long you’ve been together (though, LBH, month one seems a little early)—just as long as you feel ready to talk about it. You can also make it super-casual, asking things like, “Have you ever lived with someone?” or “Have you ever wanted to live with someone?” These Qs will at least start the discussion.

Keep in mind, you likely want to consider living together a true commitment—a pledge from both parties that you’re in this relationship and ready to work on it—rather than a convenience, says Fleming. In other words, don’t let your bank account drive your decision to cohabitate . “It’s more important to make your decision based on your partner, rather than rent,” Fleming says.

You might also want to chat about a few things before you sign that lease, like your individual expectations of a shared living space—things like who might need more alone time or privacy (say, if you’re an introvert and your partner is not), as well as cleanliness (a common source of tension).

The goal for these discussions: Figure out your non-negotiables—what you can deal with on the daily, and what might lead to a break up , says Fleming.

Ask yourself, “What do I want from my partner and my life?” And then talk to your partner about your answer to figure out if you envision your futures playing out similarly. “You want to help each other grow as a couple, but also as individuals,” Fleming adds. To do that, you need to devote more time and energy to making things work, rather than just moving in together on a whim and seeing how things go.

So, should you live together before marriage?

Ultimately, experts say you and your partner should just do you, because everyone is different.

Just remember: A shared roof may not take the place of a marriage license, says Levkoff. “Moving in shouldn't be a replacement for marriage, if marriage is what you want. It should be a stepping stone,” she explains. That means if someone is saying yes to living together just to put off marriage talks, that doesn’t necessarily bode well for the future. So talk about it.

Moving in with someone, especially if you both have hopes of getting married, is all about blending your lives and bringing together things you both enjoy—creating a “couple identity,” as Levkoff says. So just make sure everyone is on the same page about what the next step means, before you sign the housing papers .

Headshot of Mallory Creveling

Mallory Creveling, an ACE-certified personal trainer and RRCA-certified run coach, joined the Runner's World and Bicycling team in August 2021. She has more than a decade of experience covering fitness, health, and nutrition. As a freelance writer, her work appeared in Women's Health, Self, Men's Journal, Reader's Digest, and more. She has also held staff editorial positions at Family Circle and Shape magazines, as well as DailyBurn.com . A former New Yorker/Brooklynite, she's now based in Easton, PA.


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Focus on the Family

Living Together Before Marriage: How to Have a Conversation With Someone Making the Wrong Choice

  • By Jessika Schmit
  • April 7, 2021

two women talking about living together before marriage

Many young couples are living together before marriage for one reason or another. How can Christians talk to friends or family members who are making this decision?

The country was midway through the pandemic when my younger brother announced his plans to move out of my parents’ house. My family was astonished when we found out his plans involved moving out of state and in with his girlfriend after dating long distance for just under a year.

As a Christian household, we experienced a multitude of emotions. When someone we love or care deeply about makes a decision we fundamentally don’t agree with, we can easily react in anger, shock or maybe even grief.

But the words that follow are usually neither constructive nor edifying. Romans 15:14 tells us that we should be “filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”

So how do we “instruct” or counsel a loved one against a decision that runs counter to God’s Word? The first step is to seek knowledge.

My Christian upbringing had taught me that living together before marriage was bad, but this situation inspired me to look to the Bible for myself to find out what exactly it has to say about living together before marriage. I found one story that specifically speaks to cohabitation — it’s the story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman.

How Jesus confronted cohabitation

John 4 gives us a perfect example of how Jesus lovingly interacted with a person who chose to cohabit. In this passage, Jesus was passing through a Samaritan town on the way to Galilee. There He meets a woman at the well drawing water, and He asks for a drink. She is obviously surprised by this request since, in the culture of the time, Jews and Samaritans rarely spoke or interacted with one another. 

In this story, three things stand out about how Jesus approached the conversation in a loving, edifying way.

Jesus engaged the culture

Jesus and the Samaritan woman first strike up a conversation and discuss issues of the time, both social and spiritual. For example, the woman asks, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (verse 9) and “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” (verse 12). Jesus moves the conversation gradually to the spiritual: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (verse 14).

Framing your conversation in the culture of today is important. More families, including Christian families, are cohabiting before marriage than ever before. Living together before marriage is the new normal for many young adults in their romantic journey.

An article on the Institute for Family Studies website reports on research from the National Marriage Project. The article says that the most common reasons given for couples cohabitating are “convenience, financial benefits, or to ‘test a relationship.’ ” These reasons can be attributed to shifts in culture, so framing your discussion with the current culture in mind is helpful.

Jesus pointed out the sin

When asked about her husband, the woman replied that she had no husband. In verse 18, Jesus confirms and points out the truth of the situation, saying, “for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.” He certainly didn’t shy away from pointing out the sin she was caught in.

The Scriptures may not explicitly talk about living together with your significant other, but using God’s commandments and instructions, we’re able to deduce that sexual immorality is a big deal to our Savior. 

Jesus lovingly corrected

Instead of condemning or shaming the woman living in sexual sin, Jesus offered her grace and compassion. In response, the woman went about town proclaiming the works of Jesus, and the Bible says that many “believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39).

Jesus spent more time developing a relationship with this woman and intentionally revealing Himself and the Gospel to her than He did dwelling on her sins. Only one sentence is devoted to calling out her sin; the rest is all about hope, redemption and forgiveness.

The beauty of the Gospel is that we are not stuck in sin, but are given the chance to repent, turn away from it and be forgiven. We must not forget that, as Christians, we’re ultimately ambassadors of God’s grace.

God's Blueprint for a Healthy Marriage

What the bible actually says about living together before marriage.

If we are to lovingly counsel someone in God’s grace, what does the Bible actually say about living together prior to marriage? There are no verses that explicitly use the word “cohabitation” (or the ancient language equivalent). Instead, we can look at what God does mention. 

In Genesis, when God is creating and ordering the world, He looks at His creation and says that it was good . You know what God said was not good? For man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). So He created woman and the marriage covenant, saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24) and that was good . 

Don’t let that escape you. When God was creating a perfect world, He counted marriage among the good and perfect things that he had made.

Then came the fall of man, and sin entered God’s perfect design. Satan offered a distortion of God’s good plan, seducing and tricking Adam and Eve into seeking wisdom on their own terms — outside of God’s good and perfect plan.

Satan presented a counterfeit of God’s covenant. That’s ultimately what living together before marriage is — a counterfeit — instead of the perfect covenant of commitment God offered to His beloved creation.

As scholar Galena Rhoades writes , “But by living together already, both parties have likely developed a thought pattern of ‘what if this doesn’t work out,’ thinking you could just move out and move on, which can undermine that sense of commitment that is essential to a thriving marriage.”

An example of loving instruction

God is likened to a bridegroom and the church as His bride. God modeled the marriage vow, His perfect covenant of commitment, to His people again and again throughout the Scriptures. He did not walk out on His people when they misbehaved or turn away when things got hard.* His grace didn’t walk away from the woman at the well living with a man who was not her husband.

We’re all capable of falling for Satan’s counterfeits, including the temptation of cohabitation under the guise of financial responsibility or convenience. The good news is that God does not allow us to sit in our sin forever.

He offers redemption and grace. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

We have hope, and so do our loved ones who have fallen into temptation and immorality.

*Focus on the Family is dedicated to bringing healing and restoration to couples who are struggling in their marriage. But God’s design for marriage never included abuse, violence or coercive control. Even emotional abuse can bruise or severely harm a person’s heart, mind and soul. If you are in an abusive relationship, go to a safe place and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit them online at thehotline.org .

© 2021 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Originally published on FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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  • Topics: Biblical Sexuality , Living Together , Preparing for Marriage

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Jessika Schmit

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