Cohabitation – A Violent Attacks Against the Family

We all know cohabitation destroys families, right? Clearing a person needs a shiny carbon rock and a scripted set of specific vows to create value and shelter life. All these heathens living without such things can possible be as strong as a Christian, heterosexual family?

ChapterTK - Is cohabitation destroying families?

Why People Think Cohabitation is Wrong

I once agreed that cohabitation was wrong, not for any religious reasons, but because studies seemed to prove cohabitation increased the likelihood of divorce. That’s not to say I thought it wrong or sinful. I simply thought God was looking out for me. The reason I was told to avoid cohabitation was because God didn’t want me to get divorced.

Well, turns out that’s not completely true. The reality has more to do with age than cohabitation. Couples who start living together after the age of 23, regardless of vows exchanged before moving in together, are more likely to stay together than younger, cohabitation couples.

Cohabitation isn’t contributing to the divorce rate at all. Why isn’t someone complaining about young marriage? Why aren’t religions condemning all young marriages for contributing to the divorce rate?

Traditional Marriage

Why am I asking these questions when the answer is obvious? Marriage has traditionally been perfectly okay from a religious perspective, so long as the couple is heterosexual. Laws against child marriage are pretty new to the history of humanity and there are still places in the United States where it’s legal for children as young as 15 to be wed with parental consent. Religion has no problem with that.

But, no, let’s talk about the evils of cohabitation, or the one evil: sex. I have heard a million reasons why sex before marriage is wrong and not one has convinced to me. There’s a lot worse a human being can do than act on one of their brain’s main urges (if you’re wondering, the other two are sleep and food). That isn’t to say I don’t have any morals when it comes to sex. There are things I think are right and wrong when it comes to sex, but it’s not my place to judge, condemn or control.

The fact is, only 3% of Americans are virgins when they get married. If you click on that link, it will take you to a site promoting the wait until marriage and, like they claim, that 3% still amounts to many people*. Still, The 97% of Americans who are not virgins are far more people. I have a hard time believing that many people are evil people damned to hell.

(*EDIT: as this comment pointed out, my description of that link is incorrect. That site does not promote waiting until marriage, but aims to support people who choose to wait for marriage.)

The Evils of Premarital Sex

As I go on about virginity, something dawns on me. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s technically okay for a man and woman to live together and even sleep together before marriage, so long as they don’t have sex. Cohabitation isn’t really the evil this priest attacked, but the assumption that people who cohabitate are sexually active.

Maybe I’m wrong. Someone more religious than I am can help me out here. Is cohabitation wrong or just the premarital sex that tends to come with it?

In either case, I cringed when the priest said cohabitation in the same ominous voice he did the rest on that list. After 6 years together, my boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together this spring. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to make this move. It’s enough that the time feels right, the finances are right and where we both are in life is right.

Sure, I’m a little fearful, as well. Change always comes with a bit of risk. By far, my biggest fear is my parent’s reactions. I expect anything from acceptance to disownership of me as their child. I’d like to say I’m joking, but there is a part of me that really wouldn’t be surprised, especially if my parents took that priest seriously.

…because disowning your child for making a decision you disagree with is how good Christian family protect and hold sacred the lives within them, right?

Defining Family

Those are my own fears, though. Really, it’s not fair to throw them in with this debate.

I guess I just don’t see what the big evil deal is with cohabitation and how it equals an attack against family. Family can be whatever you want it to be. Religion does not get to decide how I define family. I know of a number of loving families where a wedding ring isn’t in the picture and many families where a wedding ring makes little difference.

It seems to me there are far bigger problems in the world than two people who love each other living together. Maybe we should focus less energy on judging each other and more on trying to lend and helping hand to our fellow human beings.

Have you ever cohabitation with a lover before marriage? Was it a positive or negative experience for you? Do you think this priest saw cohabitation as a problem, or was he only concerned about premarital sex? What are your views on cohabitation as it relates to the divorce rate?


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43 thoughts on “Cohabitation – A Violent Attacks Against the Family”

  1. I’d say cohabitation is even a good thing before getting married. Why? Often a romantic relationship is killed by facing every day life. Everyone has habbits other won’t handle that easily and I think it’s better to know these before getting married to see if one can stand or even really likes them. Without cohabitation one of the habbits might be the first step to divorce which often leaves more problems behind than breaking up a realtionship before marrying.

    1. When I worked as a self-proclaimed online dating expert, I found studies claiming people who live together before marriage were more likely not to get married. While that might bother people, I couldn’t help but wonder if those people simply weren’t meant to marry. Marriage is hard and what we expect out of that bond today is far more than we used to expect.

      All that is to say, I agree.

  2. I’d say cohabit a number of times so that a person can gain the understanding of a number of personality types and thus gain a better insight on the diversity of behaviours. I’ve cohabited with a neat freak, a mess monster, a controlling individual with mental health problems and someone who was very clingy. You have a better understanding of how you will react under testing circumstances or things that become real deal breakers. The fact that myself and my wife only cohabited for two months prior to getting married was made much easier by our previous cohabitation experiences with others.
    There is also the aspect of joint ownership, irrespective of marriage once you enter into joint debt for a mortgage you have an even more complex set of binding legal requirements than that of marriage paperwork.

    1. I think a lot of people do cohabitate a lot, at least with different roommates, before they get married. Even though I’ve never lived with a love, I’ve lived with enough people to have an idea of the balance needed.
      Joint ownership is the reason I tell my boyfriend we absolutely must be married before we buy a house. Once things that large start being bought, there’s just too much risk to both of us without marriage. Now, people may disagree because people have different comfort levels. I know people who never want to marry. That’s fine, but for me, a legal marriage is important for a lot of the activities involved in growing in family and in the relationship.

  3. My friend, I can see the priest has really upset you. What were you doing in a Church anyway?

    I don’t know why some people (deemed authoritative) make a big issue out of premarital sex. I believe sex before or after marriage proves nothing. The bedrock of all relationships is, I think, honesty.

    Couples can obey all the religious rules as regards marriage and still end up in a relationship rut or even divorce if they are not honest with each other.

    1. I was in church because I respect my parents and when I go visit them, I go to church with them. I know it’s important to them for the family to be together and that’s part of it. I usually don’t mind. They are usually very good. This guy surprised me with his offensive words.

      What you say is why I don’t understand why the things he list are the attacks on family. A better analysis would be to see what often breaks up a religiously married heterosexual couple. You have a hard time convincing anyone that is the only way to be when that way is, as you say, often flawed.

      1. Consider that nudist escapee story of Adam and Eve, did they ever marry in church? Yet, in the story, we were told they lived happily as husband and wife.

        Whenever my mother tells me to go to church, I politely tell her reading the bible is enough literature. I think one must show honour to her parents and family by going through some customary marriage rites (which means a lot to society) but not necessarily through grandiose church wedding.

        Marriage is a highly personal affair. There is a huge difference between what we call “God” and religion. Religion is a man-made thing.

        1. Oh believe me, I won’t be having a Catholic wedding. I will make it mine. But, for the once every few months I am with my parents on a Sunday, I don’t mind going to church. When I was younger, and we would visit friends who lived far away and happened to be a different religion, we would go to their church. We didn’t stay in their home by ourselves or separate to go to our own church, so, to me, it’s respectful to simply go with them. Like I said, it’s usually nice enough. This priest was just out to spread hate. He was an oddity because most priest aren’t like that (and I’ve met quite a few).

  4. Statistics can be found to bolster ANY argument. If you look hard enough you will find the stats. I lived with my wife before we got married. We lived together for almost a year. We are still married almost 15 years later.

    A religion that worries about who you live with, who you love, and how you choose to love has no room in the real world. A god that cares that much about sex and not enough about curing diseases has no room in the real world.

    Sad to see that families get ripped apart over this.

    1. I agree. That’s how I look at it. No God worth worshiping would worry so much about these petty things. In my opinion, the divine cares more about people being generally good people than about what religions and rules they follow.

      1. And that’s where I always have to ask the logical follow up question: how does anyone know what the divine cares about?

        To know this is to know the mind of the divine, right?

        1. I don’t think there’s an official answer to that. I would say you could meditate and focus on the divine/the light/ your life force (or whatever you want to call it) to get closer, but there’s no way to no for sure. At the end of the day, you have a gut feeling and go for it.

          But maybe that’s why so many people turn to religion to define the Divine. provides a definitive answer. Answers you get on your own never seem as certain.

  5. “Maybe we should focus less energy on judging each other and more on trying to lend a helping hand to our fellow human beings.” – Truth!

  6. You might want to check out ‘The Psychology of Fascism’ by Willhelm Reich, it deals a lot with Religion using sexual no no’s as a powerful and very effective means of social control. Esp when it comes to the Catholic Church.

  7. “Is cohabitation wrong or just the premarital sex that tends to come with it?”

    Well, the official answer (not that I agree necessarily) is that even if you’re not having sex, you still shouldn’t cohabitate because you will “cause scandal” meaning set a bad example.

    Of course, in my experience with anyone who uses that phrase, “cause scandal” is really just a verbal club to mean “do or say whatever I want you to, or else.” A tool similar to “check your privilege” but in a different context.

    Anyway, I made the case elsewhere that in an era where divorce is possible, people who get and stay married are generally self-selected members of a population with good relationships (generally). So any statistics comparing married people to any other group is bound to show that married people have it pretty good. That doesn’t mean that marriage made them that way, though – it says more about what type of person gets and stays married.

    1. You also have to figure in the fact that many people who didn’t cohabitate before marriage and stay married AREN’T in good relationships, but they stay anyway because the same belief systems that say “No cohabitation!” also say “No divorce!” That’s where a lot of the stats suggesting that cohabitation “causes” divorce come from.

    2. No one has ever said “cause scandal” but I’ve heard it said differently. I have a cousin who has a committed boyfriend. They have children and are a family, though they never plan to marry. My father talks about how wrong it is because of all the problems it could cause. Well, marriage could cause just as many problems, too.

      Your theory on marriage is interesting. There is a lot out there that says happily married couples have it pretty good. All the same, there are plenty unhappily married couples. Honestly, I think relationships are too different and personal to be compared to each other in a specific sense. When can make generalities, but even those won’t apply to everyone.

      1. There are plenty of unhappily married couples, true. But like I said, as divorce becomes less stigmatized, we’re moving to a point where a greater proportion of married couples are happy. In theory, anyway.

  8. I lived with my ex for 1-1/2 years before we got married. I knew exactly what i was getting myself into and we stayed married for 25 years. I am a firm believer of a pre-marriage trial period of living together. It is so much easier to untangle that relationship if things don’t work out.

    1. I’m not sure where I stand on thinking it’s a good idea for all couples. I think it depends on the intention. Living together as a step toward marriage is one thing. Living together to “test” the relationship means you already have some doubts. As far as untangling goes, I think it depends on a period. Untangling without marriage after living together for a year or so will be easier than if a couple lived together for a decade. I suppose in either case, it would still be easier than having a marriage contract involved.

  9. Cohabitation before marriage? Uh yeah! 10 years baby & going strong! It’s always been positive for J and I. Even the arguments end in sorries, kisses and cuddles. And of course we rarely ever remember at the end what the argument was about. Eh, young love. It’s blinded by disagreements and strengthened by common ground.

    I think this priest is concerned about both cohabitation and sex. I went to high school with a boy who was going into the priest hood and from what I gather it’s a whole lot of, “These are the rules. God wants this from you. You need to dedicate your life to everything in this book verbatim.” Lol, yeah because the King James Bible is sooo close to the original Bible, right? Not like some douchebag King who didn’t like his wife went through and changed/altered things to suit his own purpose and then ordered everyone to only follow his new Bible. Nope! That certainly was never a thing. Anyway… people who live together aren’t going to affect the divorce rate much since most of us aren’t married. When those of us who chose marriage do get divorced, I just can’t see how living together before marriage was one of the major factors in the decision.

    1. I don’t think that was a thing actually, the King James bible was a serious attempt to translate the bible while preserving meaning as well as poetic style. Not that that makes anything it says true of course.

      On cohabitation, I personally cohabit with my partner and will never marry. I don’t think this decision is a violent attack on anyone or any other form of relationship! However, I note a lot of people suggesting cohabitation is a good thing to do in preparation for marriage. I wonder: why marry at all? Although I suppose as an atheist it’s no surprise this debate doesn’t seem salient to me.

      1. Gah. Apparently I got King James and Henry VIII mixed up. Although Henry VIII didn’t rewrite the Bible, he just seized Roman Catholic property in England and close monasteries because they disagreed with him getting divorced.

        King James, according to the research I’ve just carried out on the subject, had the Bible translated into English for political reasons and the translators he appointed didn’t even understand how to read Koine Greek which the New Testaments were written in, as it was a dead language by that time.

        Also, he wasn’t all about preserving meaning. From what I’ve found he disliked the Geneva Bible, the Bible used by the Puritans, because he believed that some of the commentary in the margin notes did not show enough respect for kings. James’ new translation was to have no commentary in the margins.

        Thanks for pointing our my historic inaccuracy and mistake of identity. I think I actually got that false info of King James from a movie. lol That’s what I get for quoting facts from movies!

        As far as marrying goes, I’m actually going to elope cuz I don’t do religion. From what I understand, most people do it to party with their friends and family and celebrate being in love. Also, free money and presents! You can never have too many blenders, amirite?

      2. I know you’re replying to TotallyTrips, but I wanted to address the “why marry at all.” I’m not religious, but I’m not atheist either, so that might be part of it. In either case, marriage is a big deal to my family and to people in my boyfriend’s family. I want the symbolism of uniting these families together. Additionally, I feel a lot more comfortable about joint bank accounts and home ownership with marriage involved. The last reason, honestly, is because I want to get married. It’s the same reason I do anything else in life. Why I chose my college, my apartment, my job and my goals. Because it’s what I want for my life. Which, of course, does not mean anyone else should feel it is necessary to live life the way I do.

        1. Thanks trips – i’m not surprised to learn there was some corruption/politics in the King James edition! The translation of the bible into rhe vernaculer was a hugely controversial issue, and a lot of that was down to power – if you can control the message you can control your people. At this time the catholic church refused to allow the bible to be translated out of latin, and all mass was in latin, the thought being that if the commoners didnt understand it then they would have no option but to respect the priesthood’s interpretation. The protestants with their translations were an improvement, but their leaders were not, as you establised, truly altruistic!

          TK – i jusg reread my comment, and i suppose i didnt make clear, those are just my personal views on marriage. I have a lot of married friends, and my parents are married and I respect that everyone has their own reasons for chosing their own life. When i was younger i always believed i would get married, but living in a long-term cohabitation i have concluded that I don’t want to, for a number of reasons (not being religious, inherent sexism in marriage customs, and the incongruity of imposing legal/contractual relations onto a romantic relationship.)

          But i think your reasons for wanting to marry are sound, and i’m far from not being sympathetic.

    2. I agree. If anything, if you get divorced after living together, maybe you just weren’t meant to be. It’s just like that stat that says the longer a relationship last, the less likely you are to get married. Well, maybe people just figure out that they’re not meant to be together. Maybe if everyone who got married after two years just lived together without marriage and dated that long, they would have broken up. BUT since they got married too soon, they don’t break up, they get divorced.

      There’s just so much. There’s really no way to say that any one thing is the cause of a positive or negative marriage.

  10. “If you click on that link, it will take you to a site promoting the wait until marriage and, like they claim, that 3% still amounts to many people.”

    Actually, no, that site DOESN’T “promote” waiting till marriage. I know that because I’m one of the site administrators. We’re a support site for people who have CHOSEN to wait till marriage, not one that’s out to convince people to wait if they don’t want to. We’re not at all claiming that 3% of the public “still amounts to many people.” We’re simply trying to make the waiting easier for those who want to wait. That’s why we’re upfront about facts like the 3% figure, but will also point out that if you want to wait, that’s not an impossible figure – they are still out there.

    1. I’m sooooo sorry for misrepresenting your site! I’m going to edit it as soon as I finish this comment.

      I think this is a great thing to support. I remember reading an article about a woman who was 20-something and a virgin. Now, she wasn’t really waiting. She just hadn’t come across a person she wanted to have sex with yet. People treated her like an oddity. That’s not right. In a free country, with freedom of belief and freedom to live as we want, we should feel free to choose what we want out of our sexual lives. Wanting to wait until marriage is just as legitimate of a choice as wanting to have sex before marriage. I don’t think people should feel so much pressure to lose it before a specific age. Like everything else in life, we should feel free to take that step when we feel we want to.

      1. No problem! Thanks for visiting the site, by the way! I’m glad you found the article useful (written by the site founder, so I can’t take any credit for it!)

  11. I just have to say that, well, that priest’s views shouldn’t have been spoken out loud. Because as you say, he’s judgmental and nowhere in the Bible you can find a consent to judge the other. Love is the word and thing that should prevail.
    According to the Catholic religion living together without sex is also a sin. But to be honest, I don’t think it’s soooo deadly to live with a person one loves or to have premarital sex. The Church in general dwells on tradition and some of the rules may be outdated. The idea, I think, that premarital sex is wrong derives from a) the fact that ‘sex is supposed to give you children’ and b) it is assumed that having premarital sex will lead to a couple splitting up and finding another person to sleep with and so on and so forth.
    I hope I’ve shed some light on the matter.

    1. Yeah, I know all that. Still crazy that’s what they focus on, though, as if living with the person you love is the worst thing you can do, while there are so many other evils in the world.

  12. Hi! You, in your other blog identity, liked my post, and after some looking around I have ended up here. I have been cohabiting for 18 years 9 months, and we have two children together. I am an Episcopalian, and for several years beginning we first began to consider living together, I prayed for guidance, basically inviting God to show me it was wrong and make me understand. I had done this when I started having sex, too, and when I started being polyamorous (having multiple partners at once with everyone’s consent)…and in every one of these situations, not only did I not get condemnation from God, but I got every sign that I was doing the right thing! The right thing for me, anyway. I did have some trouble with my parents, so I am about to click through and read about your worries about your parents and see if I can help there. Here are my two articles on this subject:
    <a href="http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org/2009/11/13/why-arent-we-married/&quot; Why aren't we married?
    <a href="http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org/2013/07/01/but-why-should-your-tax-status-be-based-on-your-sex-life/&quot; Why should your tax status be based on your sex life?

    1. That makes sense. I’ve done something similar. I think a lot of people just blindly follow the rules without thinking of whether they are right or wrong. Problem is, religion is man made and I think it’s a bit ignorant to assume we know exactly what God wants. I think we each have different paths and different things that are right and wrong for our unique life. What is right for one person may be wrong for another, and that’s okay.

  13. I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments on this post. I am right with you, TK. I have not thought about cohabitation too much in regards to myself, but I feel like if I gave it a lot of thought, I’d want to live with someone before marrying them. Thankfully I feel like my friends and family would be supportive of that.

    I actually have a really good friend who wants to live with her fiancee before they get married…without sex. They are still waiting until marriage to have sex. So, that’s an interesting twist, huh? (I have my doubts about living together and being able to resist the urge, but assuming they were able to do it, what would churches find wrong with that?)

    1. If that’s what your friend wants to do. I really think we do every couple a disservice by assuming there is one right way to have a relationship. We’re all different, so it makes sense that we all have different relationships. It makes even more sense, then, that those relationships would also be very different.

  14. I pretty much agree with the majority of people here; living with someone before committing to them with the much stricter contract that is marriage is probably better than diving headfirst into the biggest financial and moral commitment of your life.

    1. Agreed, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say a couple should or must live together first. Every relationship is different. As my boyfriend and I prepare to move in together, we’re realizing just how much needs to be done. I think we’re both a little afraid on some level, but also have faith that our relationship is strong enough to overcome whatever comes our way. I mean, there’s inevitably going to be some adjusting. The more I think about it, the more I very much dislike the idea of getting married first and moving in together second.

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