Four Myths of “Living Together”

I still remember the week of my wedding. I had just graduated from seminary and needed to move out of student housing. So, Jay, my then-fiancé, moved me into the home he had just rented for us. My family was in town for the wedding, and after an evening in our home of dinner, laughter, and storytelling, Jay said his good nights as he prepared to leave for his parents’ house where he was living.

A family member was surprised. He didn’t understand where Jay was going and why we were not staying together. Our response was: “Because we’re not married yet!”

A young woman named Sydney recently wrote an article defending her decision to move in with her boyfriend. They have purchased a house together, and are using this time to get to know each other in their journey towards marriage. Sydney professes to be a believer, and the message of her article, as indicated in its subtitle, is “You may not agree and that’s fine, but it works for us.”

More than likely, you know someone who is in a cohabiting relationship. (Perhaps that someone is you.) Analysis of current census studies by Pew Research indicates that the number of adults cohabiting with a partner continues to rise. Interestingly, while the largest number of cohabiters is in the 18-34 age range, the largest percentage increase is seen in those 50 and over.  And many of these, like Sydney, are professing Christians.

As a woman who is a follower of Christ, is it ever okay to live with your boyfriend as a precursor to marriage?  After all, if you are going to get married anyway, what’s the harm?

Before answering those questions, for our purposes, let’s define what we mean by cohabitation before marriage: Cohabitation is living together as a couple, with the full marital privileges of a husband and wife, without being married.


Myth: Cohabitation is a new thing and the Bible does not speak against it.

Answer:  Cohabitation is nothing new. Remember the encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman in John 4? He confronted her about her many marriages and even called her out on the fact that the man she was currently living with was not her husband. The Bible may not specifically say “Thou shall not live with thy boyfriend before marriage.”

But, like many things today, we must take the biblical principles and apply them to a practical outworking. Scripture does declare that if you are unmarried you are to remain devoted to the Lord without distraction and to avoid sexual immorality. Even Sydney indicated this tension in her article when she states “I’m aware that we didn’t follow the bible, and that does bother me.”


Myth: Cohabitation is okay for Christians as long as we are not having sex.

Answer: Technically, it is not a sin for a man and woman to be living in the same household if they are abstinent. But, Scripture does warn that as believers, we are to abstain from every form of evil … even from the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22; Eph 5:3). When we meet a couple who is living together, there is an assumption that they are sharing the same bed. Even so, if a couple has remained abstinent, as a couple grows closer together, the temptation to become physically intimate grows stronger. Even the most mature of believers can fall in this area right before a wedding if not vigilant. How much more so if you are sleeping in the same space? Instead, we must, as Scripture directs, flee temptation (2 Tim 2:22-24).


Myth: Cohabitation allows us to discover if we are compatible in daily life.

Answer: You do learn a lot about someone when you live with him. But, that is one of the purposes of dating. You do not have to live together to learn what foods he likes, what music he enjoys, whether someone is a morning person or a night owl, whether he is a neat freak or messier. The dating and courtship phase of any relationship is important. This is where you talk about dreams for family, children, and goals. It’s where you learn how each other celebrates holidays and what are each other’s family traditions. The truth is, you never stop learning about your spouse after you get married. Saying that you must live with someone to know if you are compatible is a false premise to rationalize a wrong decision.


Myth: Cohabitation ensures that we are sexually compatible before we commit to a lifetime.

Answer: The wonder of discovering the physical pleasures of the marital relationship is part of the mystery, fulfillment, and journey of marriage. But marriage is more than sex and sexual fulfillment. When I was in a serious relationship with a guy in college and we began to talk about marriage, I was encouraged to make sure we were physically compatible before we said, “I do.” Today, now married to a different man for over two decades, I am thankful I did not take that advice. Through the ups and downs of life, health scares, and daily challenges, I rest in the understanding that, while the physical sexual act is wonderful part of marriage, my marriage’s fulfillment, satisfaction, love, and pleasure is anchored in so much more than just the physical.

Here is the bottom line for Christian women and cohabitation:

  • Cohabitation before marriage stands in direct opposition to the Bible’s teaching on marriage and defiles the marriage bed. (Heb 13:4)
  • Cohabitation no more prepares you for marriage than changing the diaper on a baby doll prepares you for motherhood. Marriage is a great mystery, and the coming together as one flesh is an emotional, spiritual, and physical act that can only be fully understood when you are in a committed, covenant relationship. (Eph 5:31-32; Gen 2:24)
  • Any physical, sexual intimacy outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sin. (1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:3; 1 Thess 4:3)

Jay and I have now been married 26 years. We chose not to live together as a premarital experiment. These years have been wonderful and hard. They’ve been full of highs and had their lows. Yet, at the end of the day, they have been worth every minute. It is not easy to stand firm today, but the rewards of building a relationship with that special man and going in to marriage the way God meant it to be are so great, that it is hard to put in to human words.

My sister, if you are living with a man outside of marriage, even if you see this as a step in the journey towards marriage, this is not God’s ideal nor His plan for you. That little nagging feeling and voice is the convicting tug of the Holy Spirit.  And, like the woman at the well in John 4, it is not too late to make things right and to choose to stand on the side of not compromising holiness.

God can redeem, God can restore, and God can help you build a solid marriage relationship built on trust, love, respect, and commitment, if you will seek to do it His way. Cohabitation is never justified in the life of a true follower of Christ.


Click here for more on a theological perspective on this topic. If you are a ministry leader, find out how to communicate these concepts to others effectively.

8 thoughts on “Four Myths of “Living Together””

  1. Laura says:

    Hey, so, thanks for the post! I was wondering who the original article writer was. I looked at this one and the one on Theological Matters and they seem so similar but neither reference the other as the source. Did you collaborate?


    1. Katie McCoy says:

      Hi Laura,

      Terri Stovall wrote this post, while Evan Lenow wrote the article for Theological Matters. While we coordinated about the topic, the two authors wrote their article independently. All of that to say – any similarities can be attributed to the Holy Spirit! 🙂

      Thanks for reading! We hope you continue to find material on BW that edifies, equips, and encourages you!

      Katie McCoy
      Editor of

      1. Laura says:

        Thanks! 🙂 <3

  2. LaVerne says:

    And does not the Bible say “judge not”? I’m so thankful that as an Episcopalian we believe there is no sin that God doesn’t forgive, and He and only Him makes the final judgement. Shame on anyone who judges and possibly turns another completely against any religion. Isn’t judging God’s choice. I don’t agree with so many things that go on in today’s world and don’t find it necessary to be bussam buddies with those I don’t agree with, especially if I feel it is against what the Bible teaches, but remind myself almost daily that they are the ones who look at themselves every morning but on the final judgement day God is the judge. Do you believe in prison ministries? If so, do you tell the prisoners they are bound for hell because of what they did to land there? Hope not as the Bible says there is no sin that can’t be forgiven if only you sincerely ask.

    1. Laura says:

      Hi LaVerne, I just happened to see your comment after following up on my own. I don’t know everything but I thought I would add…

      I think in many ways, you are right. Self-righteousness is a sin just like pre-marital sex is a sin. They have different temporal consequences but, ultimately, on Judgment Day, they will carry the same weight before God. The Bible advocates us to look at another person’s sin with out judgement – i.e. condemnation, because we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory!

      However, the Bible also tells us to encourage each other so that we may not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). It gives us protocol for correction ( Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Thess 5:14, 2 Tim. 3:16). If we truly love someone, it would be wrong to NOT tell them the truth (Pro. 27:6) but that should always be done in love (Eph. 4:15); otherwise we are just multiplying the sin.

      This comment is too long, lol! But the bottom line, we shouldn’t condemn others – judge them in God’s place, but we should, we must, encourage those we love to know and obey God’s word; which I think is what is happening in this article 🙂

      Thanks for taking the conversation to a new level!

  3. Karen P. says:

    Hi Laura,
    Agreed. It is with utmost love for us that God instructs us on what His best is for us…not to judge us…but lovingly so we can miss the pain that comes from disobedience.
    So now then should we not do the same for others that we care about and love as well?
    We must be careful that we are not confusing judgment with the spoken Truth of God’s Word that has the power to change all of us and our decisions. In my profession, the manner in which I share Truth is so very important, it is essential, but we must offer it with grace. Would I want to know that my choices ahead could reap harmful consequences? Absolutely
    Thanks for sharing your above comments!

  4. RK says:

    Hi Laura,

    My boyfriend and I are both Christians and have been in a relationship for 4 years. He was married 16 years ago (arranged marriage) when he was very young but the marriage did not prosper after 4 months. We met a few years back and now that we are nearing 40, we wanted to get married but we cannot because the divorce papers might come in uncertain number of years. We had started with the papers two years ago but there are thousands of pending cases filed before ours can be acted upon by the courts. Will it still be a sin to live together when the option to get married sooner is left to slim chances?

  5. Tony says:

    Okay first let me state that I am not a women but a Christian man and I am happily married to by best friend for 26yrs. I agree with what Laura has said about not living together before you are married and with what Jesus told the women at the well in John Chapter 4 “the man you are with now is not even your husband” We are to Flee from the vary appearance of Evil just as Joseph did with Potiphars wife in Genesis Chapter 39-41
    People have a tendancy to forget about what God had said about the nation of Israel in 2Corinthians 6:17 “Therefore: Come out from among them. And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you”
    When God commands us to “come out and be separate” from whom are we to be separate? The World and anything that they do that is even the appearance of evil. I would say because the World widely accepts living together before marriage as the norm, that it’s not something a believer should not be doing because you risk looking like the world and compromising your witness to Christ and the Kingdom of God. I am not passing judgment here each servant stands or falls to his or her own master as it says in Romans 14:4 but something to consider is also Romans Chapter 14 all of it. Yes its talking about wether a man should eat vegetables or not. But it’s talking about doing things that your not sure you should be doing because of Doubt. Being fully convinced in your mind that something is right or wrong is the same as having Faith in something, like God’s word and what He has said, we know He will do what He has said that’s Faith. We must do the same in all decisions that we make, if we doubt at all in the decision wether it’s right to do or it’s not right to do and we do it anyways then for us it’s Sin because it’s not done in Faith. Please carefully consider your decision in light of God’s word. I say this out of Love as a brother in Christ.