Cohabitation: The Problem With Living Together as an Engaged Couple

Updated December 29, 2023

Before we tackle this topic, we want to quickly mention this (and hopefully save ourselves some DMs): we're guided by Biblical principles for marriage. If you've stumbled across this post from a Google search or it was shared by a friend, first of all, hey! We're so glad you're here. At Love Your First Year, we're passionate about helping engaged Christian couples prepare for marriage. Whether you're a Christian or not, we hope you can find some value in this post. But please understand we'll be using scripture to support our stance on this topic.

Okay, let's jump in.

We can likely make a few assumptions about you and your current situation:

  1. You're engaged (or maybe seriously dating).
  2. You're considering living with your fiancé before you get married.
  3. You desire what's best for your relationship and your future marriage.

Did we get those right?

For many couples, the idea of living together is appealing. After all, a majority of society views living together before marriage (or "cohabitation") as acceptable (Pew Research), you're able to split your expenses, and spending lots of time together sounds fun.

So, what's the problem?

Let's start with the research.

We'll get to scripture in a moment, but let's first start with what research says. Research about cohabitation and marriage shows:

  • Couples who live together before marriage are 1.31x (or around 70%) more likely to get a divorce than those who don't (Psychology Today).
  • Couples who are married show a higher level of relationship satisfaction than those who cohabitate (Pew).
  • Married couples are more likely to feel close with their partner than those who cohabitate (Pew).

You can read more in the articles linked above. But whatever you read, without even bringing a biblical worldview into the conversation, the conclusion is clear: cohabitation is generally not a good choice for couples who desire a lasting, satisfying, and intimate marriage.

What does the Bible say?

Proverbs 19:8 says, "The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper." We just showed that research suggests living together isn't a good idea. If you decided to ignore that wisdom, well, we're not quite sure what to tell you.

Let's first back up and understand what marriage is in the first place. The Bible describes marriage as a lasting commitment between a man and a woman who leave their parents and create a new family (Genesis 2:24). This new family unit is defined by "oneness" (Matthew 19:5). In a physical sense, becoming one means having sex with your spouse. It's the physical union of two people.

Now, you might stop there and think, "Cool. We're saving ourselves for marriage. What does that have to do with living together?"

Well, the reality is, "oneness" means being one in everything you do. It means being physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and relationally one before God.

If you've decided to live together before you're married, even if you aren't having sex, you've essentially said, "we're good with being physically one after we get married, but we want to be one in all the other stuff now."

Friend, it doesn't quite work like that.

Marriage is where two become one in all areas. You don't get to pick and choose the areas you want to become one now and the areas you want to become one later.

Jesus speaks about living together.

In John 4:15-18, Jesus actually touches on the topic of living together while speaking to a Samaritan woman. Jesus references the fact that the woman was living with a man who was not her husband and makes it clear that he's not approving of that situation.

Fleeing from sexual immorality.

We hear this from couples often, "We're planning on living together, but we won't be having sex!" Let's break that down just a bit... your future spouse is someone you're physically attracted to, you have the potential to see them in a lot of intimate situations (in bed, in the shower, etc), you are living alone with no accountability, and you're spending a lot of time in close proximity.

That doesn't exactly seem like a recipe for not having sex.

The Bible frequently talks about fleeing from temptation and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Ephesians 5:3; Acts 15:20; Colossians 3:5). A major part of that instruction means not putting yourself in a situation where you could be sexually compromised or tempted.

Even if you say you won't have sex, chances are, you will. Why not avoid that temptation in the first place?

Being a good witness to others.

Lastly, as Christians, we have an opportunity to draw people to Jesus by the way we live and conduct ourselves. Colossians 4:5 says, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity."

Most people outside of the Christian faith are aware Christian couples don't live together (see scriptures above). If you are living together, you're likely to tarnish that witness to those around you.

But what about...

If you've reached this point in the article, thanks for sticking around! Again, we love that you want to build a marriage that honors God. You might also be asking, "But what about...?" So, let's just address those things head-on.

Below are some objections or thoughts you might have around this topic. We'll address the concern and offer a few alternative solutions for you.

We're only a couple of months from marriage. We're so close. Who cares?

You're almost there! You've made it this far, why not finish strong and head into marriage well? Trust us, we know it's not easy. Marriage is so close and it's normal to want to step into marriage early.

Along those same lines, you might also be thinking...

My lease is up a few weeks before the wedding. Why can't I just stay in our new place?

This is another common challenge. Maybe your lease is up shortly before the marriage and you just want to move into the new place together. If that's the case, here are a few alternatives you might explore:

  • One of you moves in permanently, while the other moves your non-essential items in and stays elsewhere.
  • Stay with a friend or family member for a few weeks.
  • Depending on how much time you have, stay at a local AirBnB or VRBO.

We don't have the money to live separately.

Finances are a major concern of couples who live together. We totally get it. But think about this for a second: if the goal of living together is to split your finances, can't you do that with a roommate (or multiple roommates)? You don't have to live together to save money on living expenses. If this is a concern for you, here are a few suggestions:

  • Live with another roommate or roommates for a bit. You'll still save money on living expenses.
  • Live with your parents for a couple of months.
  • If neither of those is an option, it may be wise to consider asking if you're financially ready for marriage.

BTW, we have whole section on finances in our online premarital course.

We just want to try it out before we live together. Who knows if we'll be compatible?

Well... let us ask you this: does it matter? For starters, research (above) shows this isn't necessarily a helpful or accurate view of living together. Not to mention, you should likely already have an idea about your future spouse's living habits anyway.

Bonus resource: we have a list of over 60 questions you can ask each other about living together. Questions about cleanliness, bedtime habits, and more. Click here to read.

If you're asking this in regards to sexual compatibility... again, does it matter? If you get married and find out your partner isn't very good at sex, there are so many things you can do. You can tell them what you like and learn together, you can go to a sex therapist, and more.

Can we be candid for just a sec? You're asking this because you want to "test drive" marriage. You essentially want to enjoy the benefits of marriage without the commitment of marriage. We love you enough to tell you this isn't a healthy view of the lifelong, covenantal relationship God designed.

We're already living together, what do we do?

If you're already living together, whether you're one day or one year from the marriage, you can still correct course. Here are the steps we'd encourage you to take:

  1. Confess your sin to one another (James 5:16).
  2. Immediately stop living together (yes, tonight). Even if you don't have it all figured out, stay with a friend or family member tonight.
  3. Get a plan for what you're going to do. Can one of you stay put while the other lives with a friend or family member? Do you both need to move out? Where will your stuff go?
  4. Stick to the plan by getting accountability from a pastor or trusted third party.

God seems like a jerk.

Friend, we want to remind you that our God is a good father who desires to give us good gifts. One of the best gifts He's given us is marriage (and sex and companionship). Because God designed marriage, He sets the rules. Not to make us angry, or to annoy us, or to make life hard, but because He loves us and wants to protect us.

Like everything else, sin has corrupted this gift of marriage and sex. These boundaries allow us to enjoy the fullness of marriage as God intended it.

We know it's hard, ya'll.

Here's a prayer you can use: God, show me your purpose for my marriage. Teach me how to honor you with my body and with my relationship. Thank you for the beautiful gift of marriage. Would you equip me with wisdom, guide me with gentleness, and shape me into the spouse you desire me to be.

We love you. We're rooting for you. And we're so proud of you for investing in your future marriage.

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