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.
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?
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.