Cohabitation: A Conversation Starter

August 22, 2016

Brad Hambrick

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Brad Hambrick

When dating or engaged couples are preparing for marriage they often ask questions like this one:

My fiancé and I are getting married in a few months, but have been living together for a while. When we were doing our pre-marital counseling we were told living together before marriage was wrong and that we should live separately until we’re married. We want to honor God, but don’t understand why this is a big deal if we love each other and will be married in a few months anyway. We’re not trying to be rebellious, but we want to understand why a change like this would be necessary.

That’s a good, honest question. Let me start by saying if you’re thinking about marriage that’s a good thing. Marriage can be one of God’s greatest earthly blessings. But statistics and the Bible both indicate that living together before marriage decreases the quality and longevity of marriage. Secular studies (meaning those without a “Christian bias”) consistently show several things.

(1) The divorce rate is higher among couples who live together before they marry. Consider these statistics…

  • … about 50% of all marriages end in divorce.
  • … but 67% of couples who cohabit before marriage divorce.
  • … while only 30-40% of first marriages who don’t cohabit before marriage end in divorce.

That means living together before marriage makes divorce twice as likely for a first marriage.

(2) Even the health and financial benefits commonly associated with marriage are less for couples who cohabit before marriage.

(3) And the sex life of couples who cohabit before marriage is not as strong as those who don’t.

(4) The only “benefit” from cohabiting found in secular studies is that live-in boyfriends do more housework, on average, than married men.

There are many sociological reasons for these statistics that could be discussed but these statistics point to a deeper spiritual reality – God created marriage and assigned living together and sex as special privileges that come with marriage. From the very beginning of creation God gave the pattern for marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

Furthermore, in John 4:18 when Jesus was having a conversations with the woman at the well, one of the things He pointed out to call her to repentance was that the man she was living with was not her husband.

The Bible is clear that God made marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life. God created marriage, and it is when we follow His pattern that we experience the blessing God intended marriage to be.

Note: This article is excerpted from a video presentation by Brad Hambrick; see

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How have you responded to the question about cohabitation in your ministry to singles?

Brad Hambrick

About Brad Hambrick

Brad is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in Durham, NC. He also serves as an adjunct professor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Brad has been married to his wife, Sallie, since 1999.