Cohabitation (“Living-in,” “Shacking Up”)

Thirty years ago about one million US heterosexual couples lived in cohabitation status – without the benefit of marriage. Today the number is about 6-7 million – a drastic increase in a few short years. Consequently, about 10% of all heterosexual couples cohabit. Not only does this affect the population at large, but it also affects the Church. A generation ago, it would not have entered the mind of a pastor giving marriage counseling to ask the couple if they were cohabiting. Now, it has become a standard question.

Why This Dramatic Change?:
Since the 1960’s there has been a dramatic change toward sex in general. Old mores and attitudes have been replaced with an “anything goes” mentality. This is reflected in cultural indicators such as movies, videos, magazines – and especially the internet which is totally without scruples. World War II era morality was certainly not puritanical, but it was not blatantly amoral. There was still a cultural overhang of biblical ethic which gave some restraint to sexual behavior. Now, however, the biblical cultural overhang has largely caved in and has little relevance for our modern US culture.

One of the first movies to normalize cohabitation was “Love Story” – a popular 1970 Arthur Miller flick which glamorized an Ivy League cohabiting couple. By implication, marriage was unnecessary and was not to be considered. Love was all that was necessary.

The Major Argument for Cohabitation:
Cohabiting couples will usually say they do not need a piece of paper (a marriage certificate) to live together. And they will usually say this piece of paper wouldn’t make any difference regarding their relationship. They love each other. Isn’t that enough? Without actually saying it, the cohabiting couple is trivializing marriage as something totally irrelevant and meaningless. Who needs it?

The Major Argument for Marriage:
Commitment is the key word. When there is a recognized personal, lifetime commitment of a man and a woman legalized by the state, witnessed by family and friends and solemnized before God, there is a solid foundation for life. The contract is sealed publically -- both written and spoken! All of life follows from this beginning -- always knowing one’s mate will be there – being comfortable with the daily commitment of one who loves you and no one else. Then, the children who become a part of this marriage always have the stability and faithfulness of parents which launches them into life – following in the example of what they have observed in the love and loyalty of their parents.

What foundation is there when the man or the woman can run off at any time? If there never was any stated, recognized commitment, then there is nothing restraining the separation. Sometimes cohabitation is spoken of as “trial marriage;” however, there is no such thing as “trial commitment.” The woman is especially vulnerable without marriage. When the man leaves, she is essentially “used merchandise” -- the man having used her for his own sexual pleasure without any cost to him. In essence, she becomes a “cheap prostitute.” What does she think of herself? What sort of self-worth does she have? She has been dropped for someone else and has nothing to show for it except her loss of virginity. The man is now free to engage in further conquests with no responsibility for her -- or for any further consequences she might suffer.

The Foundation of Marriage:
Although evolutionists tell us otherwise, marriage did not just happen! This assertion strains credulity just as much as their insistence on the happenstance of creation – and life itself. Marriage is perfectly created by God for the stability and permanence of human life – the basic building block of society. Throughout time human society has functioned on the basis of family life – husbands, wives and children. Each culture may have its own traditions, but the result is the same.

Jesus takes us right back to Genesis:
“’Haven’t you read,’ He replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,’ and said, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’” Matthew 19:4-6.

When this Scripture is read at church wedding ceremonies, it’s not just some traditional trivium! It is the very revelation of God for the proper functioning of family life! It is the master plan for all of life! No one would think of building anything without a plan. The results would be chaotic. These days some think they can devise new and different so-called “family” plans. The results of these ill-conceived ideas are always chaotic. And it is always the children who suffer even more than the adults when families disintegrate because of novel and untried plans.

Just because there is an ever-increasing amount of cohabitation in the US – even more in Europe – that is no reason to follow suit. As can be seen above, the advantages of marriage are immense. The disadvantages of cohabitation are devastating. To choose cohabitation is foolish and destructive and it puts one at the risk of experiencing tragic consequences.

To choose the way of Christ in marriage today is to swim against the current. One is reminded of the salmon which must swim upstream to carry on God’s pattern for the continuance of life -- not the easiest way-- but the most rewarding. Cohabitation or commitment? Decide to obey Jesus Christ and follow God’s pattern for marriage and family. After all, who knows better what marriage and family should be! The right choice is commitment under God in accordance with His eternal Word.

Cohabitation Nation - By Janice Shaw Crouse - The Washington Times