Vol. 11 No. 8 August 2009
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
For those who acknowledge the authority of God and His sacred Word, the above Scripture describes what is best for relationships. Marriage is ordained of God, and best not only for those who enter a relationship, but the children that become part of such, and even society as a whole. The current trend, however, involves couples living together before marriage, if marriage is entered into at all. A recent survey showed upwards of 70% of U.S. couples cohabitate before marrying. That same survey, however, showed that such practices can be problematic for relationships, including those who eventually marry.
Those who moved in together before engagement or marriage reported significantly lower quality marriages and a greater potential for split-ups than other couples. The research suggests cohabitation itself can result in “lousier” marriages, and whatever reasons were used to justify moving in together impacts the relationship quality. For example, those who said they moved in together before marriage to “test out our relationship” were also more likely than others to be involved in negative communication in their relationship, along with lower confidence in the quality and stability of their relationship.
Other studies report similar findings. A Columbia University study found those who live together before marriage are the least likely to marry each other. Other studies have reported they have higher separation and divorce rates than those who don’t live together before marriage, due to no lasting feelings of commitment or responsibility to each other. They can also have more difficulty resolving conflicts, having a greater amount of distrust and lack of respect for each other. Cohabitating parents also have great difficulty establishing moral guidelines for their children, especially when they reach the dating age.
No matter how society tries to justify itself, those actions that violate Scripture will not provide a positive substitute for living by the principles God prescribes in His Word. As our Creator, God knows what is best for us, not just in marriage, but in every aspect of life. Scripture points out pursuing wealth can lead to grief and problems (1 Timothy 6:10), yet it doesn’t stop many from trying to find happiness in it. How many have been hurt by the effects of alcohol, when Scripture reminds us drunkenness is wrong (Proverbs 20:1)? Time and time again, sin has been shown to be a poor substitute for the righteousness of God, for today and certainly for eternity.
“Until death do us part” has been replaced by “as long as I’m happy,” but happiness based in sin is fleeting and elusive at best. Sin never delivers what it promises, but God does. The world would be amazed at what it would find in living for God, but will continually be disappointed as long as it listens to the desires of the flesh. We need to make sure our will is shaped by the will of God, if we are to have an abundant life (John 10:10). “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:20-22).