Living together before marriage

The second topic I’d like to broach in the thorny issues of religion is living together before marriage.  Almost all the friends I have do and have lived together prior to marriage.  That being said, I also have friends and acquaintances who strictly believe that couples should not live together before marriage, and this extends to some of the blogs I read.  And most interestingly, it seems to be a really black or white issue.

Firstly, there’s the religious point of view.  I have known for most of my life that my mother met my father, and lived with him prior to marriage.  This fact made my parents not very well liked by one set of my (religious) grandparents in the early years of the relationship/marriage.  For this reason, I think I’ve always known that my parents would not be hypocritical on the issue when it arose with their own children.

I sit around with boxes on my head only occasionally, but only without a face on it via

I sit around with boxes on my head only occasionally, but only without a face on it via

When I moved into my first year of university accommodation, run by the church, I was reminded that male visitors were not permitted in the house after 10pm.  Naturally, I bristled at the bias – it seems if I was a lesbian, I would have no problem having my ‘friend’ stay the night according to the rules.  But clearly studying beside a male past 10pm resulted in the resident assistant to knock of my door and send us out and about to find a new place to cram for exams.  Honestly, in that instance, there wasn’t a glimmer of romance!

Naturally, I stand on the side that thinks living together before marriage is a good idea.  Reflecting on the first few months living with the BF, I struggled to adjust back to compromising! I was used to living alone.  There were definitely some times when we thought that perhaps we’d done the wrong thing.  In Australian society, for our ‘relationship’ to dissolve after living together would still be far less gravitas than should the ‘marriage’ fail.  Basically, living together with a partner, and breaking up with them is par for the course, more so than divorcing a spouse.

Religious friends remind me of the statistics of de facto relationships that result in failed marriages.  I wonder how many de facto relationship result in relationships ending?  How many non-de facto couples remain married?  And to be honest, is the simple metric of ‘did they live together prior to marriage’ act as the CAUSE of the relationship breakdown?  Let’s be honest here, while moving in with a partner is stressful, so are many other things.  Or perhaps the statistic is touted to prove that living together destabilises what a marriage without living together can create?

Bahahah... an engineer says 'it's twice too big' via

Bahahah… an engineer says ‘it’s twice too big’

I wholeheartedly stand by marriage as something to be worked on, and to some extents, above and beyond what other relationships might endure.  Standing up before your community (ie your chosen guests) but also legally, obliges and commits you to working things out.  I suppose I hold the institution of marriage very highly.  I’m under NO illusions that marriage fixes anything, but I think it asks the wider community to respect and support the union.  The commitments and obligations in a marriage are assumed by all those outside, looking in, and help to keep both married parties on course.  At least, this is how I see it.  For this reason, I’m incredibly reluctant to have children and perhaps even shared debt, prior to the commitment of marriage.   I suppose the follow on to this is that I more or less stubbornly see divorce as ‘not an option’ (unless in cases of abuse).

Right – so where does this leave me?

I can see why in past times, and still in current times, there’s a lot of financial stability to be found in a marriage, particularly for women who traditionally earn less (or nothing).   But that doesn’t ring true of me now.  I can support myself financially.

The situation today has changed—70% of all women aged 30 to 34 have lived with a boyfriend, according to Kuperberg, and many of them are educated and wealthy. (via)

Then there’s the curly cow/milk discussion.  I don’t it’s prudent to hasten marriage due to the hormonal responses of the two parties.  If anything, I think the intimacy component of a marriage is a tiny percentage of the overall structure and foundation of the entire relationship.  I think it’s despicable that women’s honour can be ‘ruined’ by their sexual promiscuity, but ‘boys will be boys’.  I also think that it’s foolish to reduce men to ‘not wanting to buy the cow if the milk is free’.  Sure – yay for free milk!?  Honestly though, I go back to – it’s such a small component of the value derived in a partnership, in my opinion.

I don’t judge those who chose to remain sexually pure until marriage.  Unfortunately, I think they clearly find fault in those who chose otherwise.  What further saddens me is knowing that sexual restraint in the vain hope of marriage can result in a life half lived.  Why should marriage be the ‘goal’ of a single woman’s life, and sexual satisfaction?  If Christian faith accept that people sin, and praying for forgiveness is all that is asked, then why can’t it be accepted that Christians have sex, and then pray for forgiveness?  We are not willfully seen as ‘evil’ when we don’t love others as ourself – each week (or more often) we pray for to absolve our shortcomings.  So why can’t other sins be ‘prayed away’?

Finally, I strongly agree that families are the foundations of societies, and marriages help to strengthen families by having two parents to support any children. However, I cannot clearly see how living together prior to marriage, and having intimate relationships destablises the foundation of marriages.  Surely it answers more ‘what ifs’ than the alternate path in life, such as ‘what if I was better suited to someone else?’.

What are you thoughts on the matter?  I’m more than happy for you to disagree with me, politely, and I would love to know if I’ve missed some points that you think are critical in this discussion.


This entry was posted in Issues

12 Responses

  • This is a good one, Sarah! I grew up in a strict Catholic family. I left home after university and moved across the country with my boyfriend. My parents didn't disown me, but they thought I was living in sin, and it was embarrassing for them. I was an active member of the church in my new community, and wanted to be in their good graces. So we solved the problem by quickly getting married. Interestingly, we hadn't had any significant conversations about marriage, children or the future – we just wanted to be together, and not ruffle any feathers. Needless to say, it was a mistake and barely lasted a year. My parents were apologetic and now feel that partners are better off living together, if no children are involved!

    The next time round, I kept my own apartment for a few months, and did have all those proper conversations about marriage, children and the future. We bought a house together because we were both on good financial footings and there didn't seem much point in renting. So we lived together for a few months while planning a wedding. You know how that turned out. In retrospect, I do think it was a valid marriage for the right reasons, and living together first had no impact on the eventual outcome.

    After that I resolved not to live common-law with anyone again. I thought the best solution for mature folks with assets and children would be to maintain two separate residences until they were absolutely certain a marriage would work. Or if not, just keep their own places. Probably the biggest sticking point is that in early days, you want to be together all the time, and want the convenience of not having the logistics of "visiting" each other. But is that a good reason to share a home or be married? I don't know.

    My "separate residences" theory dissolved when I met Rom whose immigration to Canada was eased by spousal sponsorship. It is very difficult to live common-law with someone who has only a visitor visa to your country, and will get sent back! We both have an unusual view of marriage, though. Essentially, we have a legal contract with each other which we entered into willingly. If either of us were to "want out," our legal partnership would be dissolved and we would have to take the consequences. Neither of us would fight madly against the other who, in clear conscience and after deep reflection, truly did not want to be there. We just don't think that will happen 🙂

    As a side note, although this doesn't apply to me, there seems to be a growing trend toward open marriages and polyamory.

    • Thank you for taking the time to share so much more about your personal history and relationships. On one of the first dates with the current BF he found out I was reading a book on polyamory. I'm surprised it didn't scare him away!

      I can only agree with you though, in those early days, you're right, the shuttling back and forth is a killer, especially when you both want to spend every minute together (OK the girls often do at the very least). I couldn't be happier after a year, to be living with my BF, but I still know it's not the norm in all cultures.

  • Interesting topic! I didn't live together before getting married – I lived in a series of houses with friends, then finally as I got to late twenties, got a place of my own. At the time, I was really concerned to have a 'room of my own'. I thought it might be hard extricate myself from a relationship if we were living together. That said, all my friends and I were constantly going away on holidays together, 'staying over' etc. I know most people probably don't feel this way but I think I would do the same if I had my time over again. I liked being in a position to say, 'It's over' easily if things were not working out.

    • It is definitely scary to think of a relationship dissolving after living together. For me, at least, it gives me another reason to dig deeper and work harder – which implies I wouldn't if we lived separately, but perhaps it's just that there is more at stake.

      Did you have a tough adjustment in that first year of marriage, as you adjusted to living with one another?

  • Mr. G and I lived together (and had sex) before marriage. Adjusting to living together took us about 3-4 months and it was ridiculously hard compared to our expectations. But working through that as a team made us more certain that we wanted to continue our relationship and get married. Some people weren't fond of our decision. They assumed that if we were moving in together that must mean we were having sex – and I think the sex before marriage part was actually what bothered them.

    • Glad to hear I'm not the only one who had some adjusting to do! I agree, there's great concerns about sex before marriage in some circles, but socially (like on TV and movies) it's incredibly common.

  • I would not want to marry someone who had "saved" themselves for marriage. I don't want someone who has put this ridiculous moral overtones onto sex. As if it was something so special it had to be withheld. I have no jealousy or prurient interest in my husband's partners prior to me, and he likewise has none about mine. Number nor skill nor attraction. We are happy together but both happy knowing the other has had sex with others.

    Sex before marriage – tick (and with others). Living together prior to marriage – tick. Happily married with no desire for others – tick. Raised happy and morally sound children – tick.

    See, morals important for me are not exploiting others, being honest, being autonomous and not following the mob, caring for others and the environment, valuing education and hard work. Morals are not dependent on keeping one's legs closed and living alone. And my advice to my sons re sex – have it as long as you are physically safe, don't coerce the girl into anything and don't be blackmailed by it. In fact, I'd rather my sons have sex than get married. Respect, love and fun. Save commitment until you are older.

    But then , as you can guess from my comments, I'm not a Christian.

    • I think I agree – a saved man (or woman) would be strange to me, and I would have a lot of questions!!

      It sounds like you've raised real gentlemen. I often wonder what my brothers are like as partners. I certainly trust that they'd be kind, and non pushy. I agree, if it was either a marriage (loveless particularly) or some extra marital hanky panky and being single for life, well I think the latter is more enjoyable.

      You don't have to be a christian – that word even makes me bristle!

  • I agree with you 100%! I know that my parents lived together before marriage, and my fiance was the product of a 16 year old girl and a 19 year old boy at a lookout point, so if anything I'm being more pressured for grandkids than I am into living "a pure life" before we get married. We had both been sexually active before we met, and we both lived with other partners before we met. The only real thing that slowed me down from living together earlier than we actually did was our houses. It's less of a commitment (in my corner of the world) to let go of a rental apartment than it is to sell a house, so I wanted to be sure the relationship was going somewhere before I sold mine. He wanted to live together before we got married, and I wanted to know we were getting married before I was willing to move in, so I basically moved as soon as we got engaged. Do I think the simple act of living together before the wedding is going to result in higher odds of us getting divorced? Not a chance! Marriage is a conscious act between two people who can wake up and decide every day whether or not they're going to put in the effort a married relationship requires. Living together before marriage doesn't change that fact. If someone wakes up and decides they're not going to put the effort in anymore, or they decide they're going to put that effort towards someone else, that's a different issue, and not one that is tied to being sexually unaware of other people.

  • lethalastronaut October 4, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Great topic – and I'm new to your blog, BTW.

    Divorce is more common among the religious than the non-religious. Here's just one of the sources I found for that: but there were many others across the net.

    So that kills that I guess 😉

    If people have their own reasons for marrying without living together that's their business, but if they go all judgey on people who *do* live together (and I've seen a fair bit of this) then they're stepping out of line. People should be able to live as they wish.

    • Welcome! It's been a long time since I've welcomed a reader.

      I'm shocked to hear the religious to divorce more, that's very interesting…

      I agree, judgement shouldn't be made, especially when it doesn't affect the judges at all!

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