Yep, Living Together Before Marriage Really is a Bad Idea

That is why a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Marriage is honorable in every way, so husbands and wives should be faithful to each other. God will judge those who commit sexual sins, especially those who commit adultery. Hebrews 13:4

Since leaderhelps is a website committed to Jesus Christ and His model and purposes, we don’t require evidence that obeying Him is a good idea.

Still, Scott Stanley’s data is refreshing and enlightening.

Stanley is co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies, which he founded at the University of Denver with Howard Markman.

In study after study, Stanley and his colleagues have drawn one central conclusion: Living together before marriage hurts marriage. Couples have shorter, less dedicated marriages when they live together first. (One of Stanley’s books is A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage.)

Stanley’s research often starts with one key question: “What are the odds you’d be in this relationship if you weren’t living with your boyfriend or girlfriend?”

According to a piece in the New York Post:

The answer is: You wouldn’t be. He says he first started to wonder about this question in the mid-’90s. In a survey of couples married less than 10 years, he found that men who lived with their wives before marriage “rated themselves considerably lower in dedication” — what Stanley refers to as their “intrinsic motivation to be with this person.” In fact, he did other surveys and found the same was true for women, though to a slightly lesser degree.

On the other hand, couples who have more traditional separate pre-marital relationships tend to have more committed marriages that last longer.

Many young adults might be surprised to hear that the best chance for a happy lifelong marriage is to keep your options open when you’re young, but that seems to be the message here. The more you can get to know your possible life-mate without locking yourself in, the better chance you have of breaking up with the wrong person and finding the right one. This used to be called “dating.”

Stanley’s research, along with the multiple studies that show that adult evangelical Christians are just as likely to be sexual active before marriage as non-Christians (see below), implies an alarm for the future of Christian marriages.

In Stanley’s white board animation that follows, he unpacks the biology that explains why “shacking up” is just a bad idea all around.


Why Are Young Evangelicals Almost Just As Sexually Active As Non-Believers?