I remember the inner conflict. On a winter night, after staying up late talking and watching TV, the last thing I wanted to do was put on my coat and walk back to my apartment in the cold. That following summer, the pull toward moving in with Meifung grew even stronger.
Our wedding was set for August 12, but my lease ended July 31. For those last 12 nights, I lived in a corner of my church that was under construction. There were supplies and debris spread out all over the room, and in the center of the room was a bucket to catch water leaking from the ceiling. I would have preferred to stay at my fiancée’s furnished and homey apartment. No one even had to know.
You love your partner. You enjoy each other’s companionship, and you’re thinking about moving in together. Even practically speaking, it makes more sense when you look at your budget and see how much money you both could save. In a place like New York City, where I live, moving in together could save you thousands of dollars. Maybe it’s just more convenient to live together.
But what does the Bible have to say about this? While Scripture doesn’t explicitly mention cohabitation, it offers guidelines for our modern age, when living with a partner before marriage is now commonplace. If you’re thinking about moving in with your partner, consider these four facts.
1. Cohabiting places you in the path of temptation.
Living together can be very intimate. You snuggle and prepare for bed together every evening. You wake up side by side and share your first cup of coffee each morning. Cohabitating naturally brings two people closer together.
If you move in with your partner, that closeness will intensify the allure of sex. The Bible makes clear that sex was created for one man and one woman to share in the context of marriage (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5). I wouldn’t have trusted my ability to resist the temptation of premarital sex while cohabitating. As Paul tells us, “Flee from sexual immorality.” (1 Cor. 6:18). In order to flee sin, I needed to stay in my apartment until we were married.
Consider also how you might be a temptation to your partner. Jesus says, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes” (Matt. 18:7). Even if you believe you can handle the temptation, would moving in bring unnecessary temptation to your partner?
Jesus calls us to take drastic steps to avoid sin: “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire” (Matt. 18:8).
2. Cohabiting endangers your relationship.
Among cohabiting adults, 23 percent say they’re living together because they want to test the relationship, a Pew Research study found, but studies show that cohabiting before marriage increases your odds of divorce. The same Pew Research study found that married couples also have higher levels of relationship satisfaction and trust than unmarried cohabitating couples. Statistics are clear: cohabitating before marriage can harm your relationship. This is part of why the Bible says we can wrong each other by not abstaining from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3–8).
Statistics are clear: cohabiting before marriage can harm your relationship.
Your friends may think that if you’re contemplating marriage, you should move in with your partner. If you care for your relationship, you won’t risk committing to each other without first knowing if you’re compatible. But the conventional wisdom doesn’t hold up to the Bible or research. Compatibility is important, but the vow to be with each other “as long as we both shall live” is what cultivates a healthy, lifelong friendship. As Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
3. Cohabiting hurts your witness.
In the summer of our wedding, I picked up a second job as a shift supervisor at a restaurant to make some extra money for the ceremony. I remember one time when a new server I was training found out I was to be married in a couple months but wasn’t living with my fiancée. He was astounded. He didn’t understand why I would plan a marriage without first “testing the relationship” by living together. He was concerned that I was making a mistake and tried to persuade me to rethink the wedding.
My decision to live apart until marriage gave me an opportunity to share my faith with him. Jesus calls us to live differently than the rest of the world and in so doing to direct the world to him:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14–16; cf. 1 Pet. 2:11–12)
Even if you’re able to resist the temptation of sexual sin, if you’re living with your partner, your friends will assume you’re engaging in sex. When we wait to live together until we’re married, it’s a witness to our friends, family, and coworkers. It demonstrates that Christ is our King, and that what he says matters to us. Our life can offer a compelling reason to follow him.
When we wait to live together until we’re married, it demonstrates that Christ is our King, and that what he says matters to us.
4. Cohabiting dishonors marriage.
Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
We honor our elderly grandmother for her surpassing wisdom. The Nobel Prize was created to honor “those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” We honor people who have a remarkable quality. Likewise, to honor marriage is to treat it as a special relationship.
Marriage is a profound union, so much so that a husband and wife are said to become one flesh (Gen. 2:24). It’s the most intimate of human unions, and we’re meant to admire its beauty. There’s something to be said about keeping marriage as distinct from dating as possible. The more our dating relationship begins to look like marriage, the less special marriage becomes.
One of the most wonderful changes to being married was never having to say goodbye at night again. I no longer had to leave Meifung to go home because my home and her home were now the same. Waiting to live together made marriage all the more meaningful for us.
If you and your partner love each other, maybe the way you can honor marriage is by getting married.
If you and your partner love each other, maybe the way you can honor marriage is by getting married. Ask your pastor to meet with you both for premarital counseling. If you’re committed to each other and there’s nothing holding you back, why not set a date?
Jesus and His Bride
As you consider these points, let them send you to the One who fulfills them perfectly on our behalf. We all fail to flee temptation in one way or another. Only Jesus was tempted in every way and yet never sinned (Heb. 4:15). Often, instead of witnessing to our friends, we turn them away from God. We dishonor marriage in our lustful thoughts, our crude jokes, and our provocative actions. But Jesus so honored marriage that he gave himself up for his bride, so that she might be made holy and beautiful for the ultimate wedding day (Eph. 5:27).
Jesus’s love for the church—love that went to the point of death—is our example and our salvation. As you think about moving in with your partner, consider what best honors him.