Does Living Together Prepare You For Marriage
Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. of Marriage Builders.com
"Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (Heb. 13:4)."
The number of unmarried couples living together has increased dramatically over the past few decades, and I expect that it will continue to increase. The rationale is simple: "By living together before marriage, we'll know how compatible we are." Presumably, if a couple can get along living in the same apartment before marriage, they will be able to get along with each other after marriage.
It's a tempting argument. After all, a date tends to be artificial. Each person is "up" for the occasion, and they make an effort to have a good time together. But marriage is quite different from dating. In marriage, couples are together when they're "down," too. Wouldn't it make sense for a couple to live together for a while, just to see how they react to each other's "down" times? If they discover that they can't adjust when they live together, they don't have to go through the hassle of a divorce. Besides, isn't it easier to adjust when you don't feel trapped by marriage?
The problem with those arguments is that marriage changes everything. If couples that live together think that after marriage everything will be the same, they don't understand what marriage does to a couple, both positively and negatively.
In my experience and in reports I've read, the chances of a divorce after living together are huge, much higher than for couples who have not lived together prior to marriage. If living together were a test of marital compatibility, the statistics should show opposite results -- couples living together should have stronger marriages. But they don't. They have weaker marriages.
To understand why this is the case, I suggest that you consider why couples who live together don't marry. Ask yourself that very question. Why did you choose to live with your boyfriend instead of marrying him?
The answer is that you were not ready to make that commitment to him yet. First, you wanted to see if you still loved him after you cooked meals together, cleaned the apartment together and slept together. In other words, you wanted to see what married life would be like without the commitment of marriage.
But what you don't seem to realize is that you will never know what married life is like unless you're married. The commitment of marriage adds a dimension to your relationship that puts everything on its ear. Right now, you are testing each other to see if you are compatible. If either of you slips up, the test is over, and you are out the door. Marriage doesn't work that way. Slip-ups don't end the marriage, they just end the love you have for each other.
What, exactly, is the commitment of marriage? It is an agreement that you will take care of each other for life, regardless of life's ups and downs. You will stick it out together through thick and thin. But the commitment of living together isn't like that at all. It is simply a month-to-month rental agreement. As long as you behave yourself and keep me happy, I'll stick around.
Habits are hard to break, and couples that live together before marriage get into the habit of following their month-to-month rental agreement. In fact, they often decide to marry, not because they are willing to make a lifetime commitment to each other, but because the arrangement has worked out so well that they can't imagine breaking their lease, so to speak. They say the words of the marital agreement, but they still have the terms of their rental agreement in mind.
Couples who have not lived together before marriage, on the other hand, have not lived under the terms of the month-to-month rental agreement. They begin their relationship assuming that they are in this thing for life, and all their habits usually reflect that commitment.