Standing in line to board a plane, in Sydney, Australia, to return to the United States, I got talking to a young, American businessman. He had just finished an assignment for his company ‘down under.’ In the course of our conversation, he shared with me about his girlfriend. He was wrestling with the question of whether to move in with her (i.e. cohabit) and he asked my opinion. I told him the simple concept of ‘renting’ versus ‘buying.’ More about that later.

When we think of a major indication of the moral decline of our society, we usually think of the legalisation of gay marriage. There is, however, another sign that is probably just as powerful. In the eroding of Christian marriage, it is cohabitation that has become the new norm.


In the period of time, since the counter-culture movement of the 1960’s, we have come to the position where the majority of adult Americans believe in cohabitation. According to the Barna Report, ‘the majority . . . believe cohabitation is a good idea.’ Two-thirds of adults (65%), either strongly or somewhat agree that it is a good idea to live with one’s significant other before getting married. Compare this with one-third (35%), who either strongly or somewhat disagree. Religious groups are the least likely to consider cohabitation as a good idea. Also, Barna points out that millennials (72%) are twice as likely as elders (36%) to believe cohabitation is a good idea. Then too, liberals with a more progressive ideology, are more than twice as likely as conservatives to believe cohabitation is a good idea.

There are many reasons that this is happening today in our secularised society, where, for many, marriage has been delayed.

The reasons given by the people surveyed by Barna were –

9% Convenient, Practical
5% Cheap Rent
2% Other
This leaves the biggest, single reason for cohabitation to be to test compatibility.

On the other side, the reasons against cohabitation are –
34% Religious
28% People who don’t believe people should have sex before marriage


“America is well beyond the tipping point when it comes to cohabitation,” says Roxanne Stone, editor in chief at Barna Group. “Living together before marriage is no longer an exception, but instead has become an accepted and expected milestone of adulthood. Even a growing number of parents-nearly half of Gen-Xers and Boomers, and more than half of Millennials-want and expect their children to live with a significant other before getting married.

“The institution of marriage has undergone significant shifts in the last century,” continues Stone. “What was once seen as primarily an economic and procreational partnership, has become an exercise in finding your soulmate. Where once extended families lived within a handful of miles from each other, now the nuclear family often strikes out on its own. Such shifts placed a new emphasis on marriages as the core of family life and revealed fault lines in many marriages. These pressures, along with a number of other social phenomena-including women’s growing economic independence-led to unprecedented divorce rates in the second half of the twentieth century. As a result, many of today’s young people who are currently contemplating marriage, see it as a risky endeavor. They want to make sure they get it right and to avoid the heartbreak they witnessed in the lives of their parents or their friends’ parents. Living together has become a de facto way of testing the relationship before making a final commitment.”


Leaving aside biblical reasons for the moment, the answer is No!

The article, ‘Reasons Shacking Up Before Marriage is a Bad Idea,’ (Charisma News) quotes statistics that ’80 percent of shacking up relationships end before marriage or in divorce after marriage.’ Why is this so?


The answer is simple. It is like living in a house which you are either renting or you are buying. Renting allows you the freedom to just walk away at any time. It is not a commitment. Buying, on the other hand, requires you to make a major commitment. It costs you something not just to buy a house but also to take care of it.

A relationship that does not involve commitment will not last. Marriage is one of the biggest commitments you can ever make.


Katherine Kersten, in an article in the Minneapolis Tribune, entitled, ‘Live Together? It’s not all it seems to be,’ quotes a report from the Rand Corporation. It confirms that women and men tend to have significantly different expectations of cohabitation. “52 percent of cohabitating young men indicate uncertainty about whether their relationship will last. More than four in ten men say they are not ‘completely committed’ to their partners, compared with only 26 percent of women.”

Cohabitating means a lack of commitment. As James Taronto notes in the Wall Street Journal, “the tendency is for women to be more committed than men, which suggests that many women would settle for cohabitation, when they would prefer marriage.”

All this has meant that there is no longer a period of courtship leading to marriage; a time when people can grow together as friends, building a strong and solid foundation to their relationship.

Also, as Kersten notes, “Children are the big losers. Children who reside with their mother and her boyfriend are about 11 times more like to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused and six times more likely to be neglected, than children living with there married, biological parents.”

All round, cohabitation is not a good idea.


I haven’t enumerated the Biblical reasons against cohabitation in this article. Simply to say that they are obvious. The Bible has a high view of marriage and the beautiful relationship between a man and a woman that flows through the whole Bible.

In the midst of the world that is increasingly rejecting biblical ideals, we, both as Christians and the church as a body, need to reject the standards of the world and seek to live faithful lives that will be a testimony for Jesus.