Monday, June 23, 2008

Why Living Together Doesn't Add Up

I might be just a voice in the wilderness on this point but I'd like to share some thoughts about the idea of couples living together outside of marriage. There is a lot I could say but a few thoughts are enough for today.

People often point to the Bible or the church as being restrictive when it comes to sex out of marriage. Absolutely. And for good reason. It doesn't take long in counseling people to see the variety of destruction and fallout that comes from getting things out of order relationally.

For example, when two people live together the idea behind it is that they want to try things out to see if marriage will work. But the very nature of living together defies the ability to see what marriage is truly like. Why? Because people live together as independent agents under the same roof - more like roomates than husband and wife. They live with the knowledge that any time the other person can walk. Money isn't pooled. They often keep their own schedules, jobs and friends and children are off limits (though they manage to sneak in there at times - complicating things). This is not marriage folks. This is not becoming "one flesh" unto death. There's no way to simulate that.

The sad thing is that the longer people live together the more they ingrain an independent lifestyle into their relationship and so, if they do proceed to marriage, they undermine the marriage with independence. No wonder more marriages fail after people live together than without living together.

My point here is that a stance against living together is not prudish but practical. It forces people to seriously reflect on the viability of a relationship and actually work on it to prepare themselves for such a huge commitment rather than moving in together to "see if it works". I understand the fear that our younger generation has in light of divorce...but this is not the solution. In many cases it's just a matter of convenience and economics. But that's not the way to approach relationships that last. I've never seen high quality evolve from taking the cheap and convenient way. The best things in life take a high level of sacrifice and investment. There are no shortcuts.

It's not always true but too often men like living together for its low commitment and easy escape plan and women look to it hoping that men will "see the light" and ease the man into marriage. But why would a woman want to enable a man like this? That's a dangerous pattern to lead to marriage. I can tell you where that train is headed. She should be calling for greater commitment, not less, even if that scares him away.

I'm sure there are exceptions out there...stories where disaster was averted, fears were overcome, etc. I realize that. There are always exceptions that don't fit a generalization. But just because disaster was averted doesn't mean it's the best way and the marriage that exists today is as strong as it could be had a couple not lived together.

I don't say these things to cast judgment. I don't think less of people who make this choice. I just think our culture has duped people into thinking this is wise and harmless. It is neither. And so I say these things simply as a caution to young couples that trip into living together thinking that it's no big deal because everyone does it. But there are consequences, many that are irreversible. So, please, count the cost if you are considering this move.