Where’s the line on living together?


Some time ago I wrote a post highlighting an article I had read titled, “Five Non-Religious Arguments for Marriage over Living Together“.  I found it an interesting article because it so often the whole argument for not living together tends to be focused more on a religious or moral basis and the author posted some more practical reasons as well.

This week I received an email from an individual who contacted me after reading this article with a question of their own and I asked and obtained her permission to post her question here.  I’ll post my response later this week but thought I’d check out how some of my readers might respond.  So where would you draw the line?  What’s your response?

I am not asking you to approve of my situation but I wanted to ask you a question as a religious leader out of curiosity. I was wondering if the biblical stance on living together is primarily based on the fear of a sexual relationship out of wedlock or if living with someone and not having sex was also violating religious text?

My fiance and I have been a couple for 9 years and we are waiting to have sex until marriage. We were not planning to live together before marriage but I was abroad for a year as part of my job and had to return suddenly when the friend I was with fell seriously ill in a different country…. she almost died. When she was well enough to travel we returned home. Physically she made a complete recovery but we were both emotionally drained. I had to leave my job abroad and had no income, my fiance and I knew we were going to get married within the year, we had a date set. It didn’t make a lot of sense economically for me to have my own place and living with my parents again wasn’t an option.

Since living together we have maintained our promise to wait for sex. I am not saying our lifestyle is right. It wouldn’t work for everyone but I felt it was the best option for us. We were not putting off marrage, our long relationship is due to the fact that we got together when we were only 16 and wanted to finish school, travel some and develop the maturity to enter into marriage fully aware of the commitment we were making. As I said I am not defending my lifestyle, just trying to explain where I am coming from. So again is there any biblical passage that goes against living together before marriage without sex being the concern?

[Photo from 10ch]

  1. Well I didn't get much response to this post – so I guess I'll just post my answer here in a comment rather than a full post.

    Short answer to the question, "is there any biblical passage that goes against living together before marriage without sex being the concern?" – I've given some thought to this and based on what I've read (and remember) no, there is no explicit biblical passage that goes against living together before marriage without having sex. With that said however, there are a couple questions/comments I have that I think are relevant. Keep in mind, I'm not trying to be dogmatic here – just giving my opinion.

    1. What prompted you to ask this question in the first place? I'm a strong believer that followers of Christ have the Holy Spirit who will prompt and convict on what is right and what is wrong. Usually, not always, but usually when I get these kinds of questions, the Holy Spirit has already been telling you what to do but it means doing something hard and so we'll look for other ways to make what we really know we probably shouldn't do, okay. With that said, what is it you think the Holy Spirit is saying to you about this? IF you are feeling uncomfortable about this arrangement, there's a reason for that!
    2. I commend you and your fiance on making the commitment to each other to save sex for marriage. But I'm wondering, "9 YEARS!" Wow! that's a loooong time to wait! Living together is going to put a real strain on that commitment – my advice? What are you waiting for! Get married already!
    3. Don't think because you've been a couple for 9 years that everything will be the same when you get married. It won't be. I require every couple that ask me to officiate at their marriage to go through pre-marriage counseling. Why do I do this? Because finding out after you're married that there's problems you need to deal with is a lot harder than doing so before. It's interesting how many questions couples DON'T ask each other before they are married because they think it really doesn't matter and then they find out AFTER they are married it does! Pre-marriage counseling helps you ask those questions and deal with the answers.
    4. I really urge you to find a creative way to remain living apart until you are married. When you get married, there's something special about the whole moving in and starting life together as husband and wife that will be missed if you've already lived together as boyfriend and girlfriend (even though you may have successfully skipped the sex part – which if you live together for any length of time I doubt you'll be able to do). If you really do this, then move up your wedding date! Paul says, "It's better to marry than to burn with lust!" (1 Corinthians 7:9 NLT)
  2. Thank you for posting this article. "Living together" is a very important issue for young adults today. It is also an issue for the rest of us who are related in some way to those couples. I read somewhere that over 50% of the "Christian" young adults surveyed did NOT feel that co-habitation -outside of marriage- is a sin before God.

    I agree with you on most of this issue – especially #2. It would be very unlikely that any couple could remain celibate under those conditions.

    I also agree with your statement in #1 that generally people who ask such questions are already feeling bad about the issue. However, the Holy Spirit is not the only source of such "conviction." Our society and peer pressure can also cause one to feel very uncomfortable if we do not comply with their "norms."

    I do not condone co-habitation outside of marriage. However, the issue is much deeper than the simplistic "If you do, you will burn in hell" attitude that some have expressed.

    Here is an example: What would be the "right" thing for an unmarried couple who were ship-wrecked on a deserted island for multiple years – 100 years ago? I specify 100 years ago since such an event would be very unlikely today but not back then. And God's laws have not changed over that period. You see, the "right" thing is not clear to us.

    Thank God that HE is the Judge – not me! It is His job to determine what is "right" and acceptable. Only He knows the thoughts and intents (motives) of the heart – so He is the only One who is qualified to judge.

    Again, thanks for posting this contemporary question. And thanks for your non-judgmental attitude. It is refreshing.


  3. Thank you Darren and Ray for your comments. I must say I am impressed. When I posted this question I was a little worried about getting a "you're going to hell speech" (not necessarily from you Darren but possibly some of your readers). A year ago I would never think of posting such a question on a religious site. I grew up in a church with people who seemed to spend more time sitting in judgment than they did anything else.

    While looking for a place to get married my fiance and I found a wonderful church that encourages discussion and thoughtfulness about God's love and sharing that love with others. Finding that church has been wonderful for us and has reassured me that there are kind people who live as Christians not to judge others but to share God's love.

    I wanted to share that I asked this question out of a genuine sense of curiosity. While I respect the guidance of the Bible there are plenty of awful things people can do that are not "technically" considered sinful in the Bible. If something feels wrong it generally is but to me living with my fiance does not feel that way.

    We have been living together for over 6 months now and we have stayed true to our commitment to wait for marriage. It is not that temptation does not exist but that we have waited so long already that we are fully committed to our promise to each other to save certain intimacies for marriage. We are getting married before Thanksgiving of this year and we are both very excited!

    I agree that there are certain societal pressures and stigmas attached to our lifestyle. Sometimes we are hesitant to tell others we are living together because they are quick to make assumptions about our relationship. Most of our close friends know about our choices and they marvel at our control and respect our decision. My own lifestyle and choices reminds me daily not to be too quick to judge others because things are often not as they seem and it is rare that a person fully understands the position of another.

    I do agree that living together is part of the fun of getting married, that was one of the reasons we were hesitant to move in together. However we still have lots of fun just going to the grocery store together or making dinner. For four years of our relationship I was away at school and for a while I was on the other side of the world so just being in the same room together is a treat for us. I think being together will still be just as exciting on our wedding day. I'll let you know how we feel after the wedding. Thanks again.

    1. Hello Kate, I am a new believer as of the 21st of December. My girlfriend and I have been living together for 15 months. We are going to marry and this question of living together before marriage concerns me. We made the decision to not engage in "activity" until married and I just today asked our pastor his thoughts because we have children from earlier relationships and dont have the money necessary to move me out til we are wed.. The pastor told me that I should move out until we are married and said that through the community at church we could move ahead. He had referenced a bit of scripture alluding to the appearence of sin and as he said "Travis, you are having lunch with me confessing your new found faith, how does it look to the body of Christ as well as anyone else that you are living together before marriage. He didnt say it was sinful but he did say the bible says we should appear to others I think 1Thes 5:2 .. In anycase now I must contimplate a move I did not forsee.. I just want to do the right things from now on and if moving out for a short time outwardly shows my obedience then shouldn't I? I would appreciate your thoughts. thanks Travis

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